This Is What You Are (III)
1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In our previous post we started to look at 1 Peter chapter 2 verses 9 and 10 where we read: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.
I mentioned that those verses provide answers to three questions:
What are we?
How are we what we are?
Why are we what we are?
We concentrated on thinking about what answer those verses give to the first of those questions: “What are we?” We saw that believers in Christ, as a collective whole, are “God’s people” because we are chosen by Him, we’re servants of Him, we’re set apart for Him and we belong to Him. As such, we are the spiritual fulfilment of the promises that God made to the nation of Israel in Old Testament times.
Having seen what we are, let us move on to see what answers we find in these verses to the other two questions: “How are we what we are?” and “Why are we what we are?”
So, let’s start by seeing how these verses answer the first of those questions:
How are we what we are?
In other words, to clarify the question, we could ask “by what means have we become God’s people?” How has that been brought about?
I was searching online recently and came across the following quotation from The Guardian newspaper. It reads: “Sir Alex Ferguson may have the coveted Christmas number one spot with the record-breaking sales of his memoir, My Autobiography. But not even celebrity memoirs are likely to match the publishing sector predicted to grow exponentially in 2014: self-help books”. Why are self-help books so popular? Well, I suggest that people like self-help books because they tell us that, although we might need a little bit of help, basically we can do whatever is necessary for ourselves and so they boost our egos. Yes, we might need pointing in the right direction. We might need a few helpful hints and tips, but, when all is said and done, they tell us that we have what it takes to do things for ourselves. So, self-help books encourage and confirm people’s sense of self-sufficiency and people like to hear that. They like to be told that they’re capable of doing everything for themselves because that means that they’re not dependent on anyone else.
When it comes to answering the question “by what means have we become God’s people?” the answer that many would like to give is “I’ve done it myself” because we are naturally very self-centred and like to think of ourselves as being self-sufficient and capable. They would like to think of the Bible as being a self-help book that God has written for us. It points us in the right direction, gives some handy hints and tips and then leaves us to get on with it. However, in contrast with that popular and self-sufficient view, we find that the answer that Peter gives to the question “How are we what we are?” certainly doesn’t confirm such a sense of self-sufficiency. His answer cuts right across any notion of self-sufficiency. What is Peter’s answer? We see it where he speaks of “Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. You see, the emphasis here isn’t on anything that we’ve done. The emphasis falls on “Him who called”. That is, the emphasis is on God Himself and what He has done.
We’ve already seen that Peter says that the initiative lies with God in that He has chosen His people.
Remember from last time that Peter described us as being “a chosen race”. Now we see that God’s choice didn’t just remain as a notion in the mind of God. It was worked out in practise. It led Him to do something. He called those whom He chose.
At that point you might think to yourself that if we are God’s people because He called us to be His people then we must still have done something. We must be God’s people because we’ve responded to that call. Now, although there is some truth in that, we need to be clear that this call is much more than just an outward call. We mustn’t think of it as simply being an open invitation that we can either accept or decline as we wish. If that was all it was sinful human beings would naturally decline the invitation every time. We would never respond to the call. No, it’s very evident that this is a powerful and effective call that actually accomplished something in us and for us.
We see something similar in Romans 8v28-30 where we read: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”.
Saying “those whom he foreknew” is another way of saying “those He chose” and Paul, like Peter, then went on to say that those that God chose “he also called”. Notice that Paul didn’t stop there. He didn’t say “those whom he foreknew he also called” and now it’s over to you. Now you decide what to do. No, he continued by saying that this being called then led on to being justified and being glorified. It doesn’t say that some responded to the call and were justified and glorified. No. All who were called in this way were justified and glorified. So, it wasn’t just an outward call. It was powerful and it achieved something.
In Romans 8, what this powerful, effective call brought about was justification and glorification. In our text in 1 Peter chapter 2 we see that what this call actually achieved is spoken of as God having actually brought us “out of darkness into His marvellous light”. It’s hard to imagine a more absolute contrast than that between darkness and light because darkness is the complete absence of light. They are as diametrically opposed to one another as life and death. But, we must notice that there’s not just a marked contrast here, there’s also a marked change. You see, Peter spoke of having been called “out of darkness”. That immediately tells us that, prior to that call, we must have been in darkness. Paul suggests exactly the same in Ephesians 5v7-8 where we read: “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”.
What did Peter mean by this darkness?
We can perhaps think of it as being akin to the “futile ways” that Peter said we “were ransomed from” back in verse 18 of chapter 1. We were in the darkness of a futile way of life but we’ve been brought out of it.
Then notice that Peter didn’t stop at saying that we’ve just been brought “out of darkness”. He went on to say what we’ve been brought into. What have we been brought into? Have we been brought out of darkness into a sort of gloom or semi-darkness? No, Peter says that we’ve been brought “into …… light”. That’s in keeping with the way in which Paul describes believers in Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5v4-5 where he says: “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness”. You see, we’re no longer in darkness because we’re now “children of light”.
The next thing to notice is that Peter wasn’t just saying that we’ve been brought “out of darkness into light” but that we’ve been brought “into His light”. That is God’s light. In Acts 26v16-18 we read Paul’s account of the commission that he received from the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus: “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’”. You see, Paul was sent “so that they may turn from darkness to light” and that is then equated to turning “from the power of Satan to God”. So, to be in darkness is to be under the power of Satan. To turn to the light is to turn to God. It’s nothing less than God’s light that we’ve turned to.
Then notice that Peter didn’t just say that we’ve been called “out of darkness into light” but “out of darkness into His marvellous light”.
You see, it’s not just light; it’s marvellous light and it’s marvellous because it’s His light. I remember that there was a Christian rock band back in the sixties called “Out of Darkness”. They’d obviously taken their name from 1 Peter 2v9 but I can’t help but wonder why they chose “Out of Darkness” rather than “into His marvellous light”. Of course, it’s a great thing to have been brought out of darkness but that’s just a first step. How much better still to have been brought “into His marvellous light”!
How are we to understand “His marvellous light”?
I suspect that when Peter spoke of having been called “out of darkness into his marvelous light” he could well have had the words of Isaiah 9v2 in mind. They say: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone”. Now, in the immediate context, which we read together earlier, that was referring to a return from exile. You see, verse 1 begins by saying: “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish”. That’s a promise from God to one that was in anguish that their anguish would come to an end.
Who was that referring to?
Well, there’s further explanation as the verse continues by saying: “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali”. That’s referring to God having punished the northern territories of Israel by having them deported by the Assyrians. So, it’s the northern territories of Israel that were “in anguish”. Then the verse says: “but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations”.
What’s that talking about?
Well, “The way of the sea” was a highway that ran from Damascus in Syria in a south westerly direction through Capernaum and eventually on to Caesarea on the coast. It’s the highway that returning exiles would need to follow. Saying that God had “made glorious the way of the sea” was saying that the exiles would return – hence “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish”. That return was the immediate fulfilment of that promise. However, the passage is clearly a Messianic passage. We read in verses 6 and 7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this”. So, it’s pointing to a time even further in the future when, through this promised child it could be said that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone”. When and how would that be?
We find out if we look at Matthew 4v12-17.
“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand””.
You see, Matthew starts by simply stating that Jesus moved to Capernaum which was in the north in the territory of “Zebulun and Naphtali”. Matthew then asserted that to be the fulfilment of what Isaiah had said in Isaiah chapter 9 about those “who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone”. That light was Jesus. As we read in John 8v12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life””.
We read something similar in 2 Corinthians 4v6: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.
So, how are we what we are? By being powerfully called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light which shines in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For our next post we will see how the verses answer the second of those questions:
Why are we what we are?
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!