Who Are We? God’s People

exodus_8284cHow do you respond if someone asks, “Just who are you”? How would you respond if someone were to ask that about us as a church? 1 Peter 2:9-10 gives a good answer.

You are God’s people. You are his people because he chose you. Hosea had warned Judah that because of their sins they were becoming Lo Ammi (not my people), Hosea 1:9. That sin culminated in the rejection of the Cornerstone, 1 Peter 2:4,8. Hosea foretold the coming Day of the Lord, in which the people would become Ammi (my people) once again, Hosea 2:23. Peter tells you that you have become God’s people, God’s “folk,” in Jesus Christ. But the idea of the people of God is older than Hosea. In a real sense you can trace it back to the Garden of Eden. It becomes explicit in the promise to Abraham, that the Lord will make him into a great nation. That unfolds as the Lord delivers his descendants, a slave people, from Egypt, and covenants with them at Sinai to be their God and they to be his people. As we will see next week, in the New Testament this people takes on a new form, it is called the church, and it is connected directly to the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ. The term “church” ecclesia, [from which we get our word, ecclesiastic], can mean any assembly, Acts 19:41, but refers to the body of believers, both on the local and broader levels, Acts 8:1; 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 8:3—note the geographic breadth of Saul’s persecution. Church applies to God’s people on the local, regional, national, and even universal level. It’s roots lie in the Old Testament assembly (qahal) of God’s people in his presence, Numbers 14:5; see Exodus 19. You have come to the heavenly assembly, Hebrews 12:22-24. You belong to God because he has chosen you, Ephesians 1:3-6; Isaiah 43:10,20,21; 44:1,2.

You are God’s people because you have received mercy. You once stood outside God’s favor and love. By nature you are an enemy of God. Hosea not only had a son named Lo-Ammi (not my people), he also had a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah (no mercy), whose name was later reversed. In order to understand what it is to be the people of God, you have to recognize your sin, your inability. Whether or not you use the term, you have to recognize the idea of total depravity–even if it is expressed simply in the cry of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Your position is all due to God’s undeserved favor. The initiative in the four titles of v. 9 is all God’s. The credit and glory belongs to him as well. The mercy you receive is yours in Christ. “. . . how incomparable is God’s goodness towards us; for he sanctifies us, who are by nature polluted; he chose us, when he could find nothing in us but filth and vileness; he makes his peculiar possession from worthless dregs; he confers the honor of the priesthood on the profane; he brings the vassals of Satan, of sin, and of death, to the enjoyment of royal liberty.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the First Epistle of Peter).

If that is who you are, what should you do? How should you live? Be the people you are! Your are God’s chosen people. Live out your calling. You are a royal priesthood. As priests you bring your worship and service to God, Revelation 1:6; 5:10. Be alert for opportunities to serve your Lord by serving those around you. Diaconal ministry (which is really the work of the whole church) is an essential part of the church’s ministry, Matthew 25:31-36. As God’s priests you are royalty. In C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series children fight as kings and queens. You have become a holy nation. Christians may appear to be a scattered, fragmented people. But you are not only a nation, but one that is holy, set apart to God. That unity must come expression. You are a light and witness to the world around you. “Christian witness that is limited to private religious experience cannot challenge secularism. Christians in community must show the world, not merely family values, but the bond of the love of Christ. Increasingly the ordered fellowship of the church becomes the sign of grace for the warring factions of a disordered world.” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, p. 16). You are God’s special people, belonging to him. That gives you confidence and boldness in serving him. You live in a culture that is becoming increasingly intolerant of those who belong to Christ. Be prepared!

Proclaim the praises of your God. God called you from darkness to light. Therefore, praise God! Praise him by your words. He made you his people so that you could praise him. Praise him by your life. The privileges and titles of verse 9 carry responsibility with them. Remember that God has chosen you to reflect him. Live as a royal priesthood, offering yourselves as a thank offering to God. You are a holy nation. Remember that you are set apart to God–and your life has to look like it (see verses 11-12). But the process of growth in holiness is both individual and corporate. You need other believers, and they need you. Because you are a people treasured by God he uses you to bring honor his name throughout the world.

As you worship today, give thanks for what God has made you–his chosen people. And now reflect that throughout this week.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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