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(Some rough notes on 1 Peter 2:9)

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

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.

The first and last clauses in 1 Peter 2:9 come from Isaiah 43:21:

Isaiah 43:18–21 (ESV)

            18         “Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

            19         Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

                        I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

            20         The wild beasts will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches,

                        for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

                        to give drink to my chosen people,

            21         the people whom I formed for myself

                        that they might declare my praise.

 

In referencing Isaiah 43, Peter brings the salvation of the Christians into an eschatological focus. Young states that the “new thing” brought about God “is the wondrous redemption that was wrought for His people when the promised Messiah died upon the Cross of Golgotha” (156). That is true – but it is not the end of what God is doing.

Delitzsch writes:

He [Isaiah] knows that when the suffering of the people of God shall be brought ot an end, the sufferings of creation will terminate; for humanity is the heart of the universe, and the people of God (understanding by this the people of God according to the Spirit) are the heart of humanity (197).

This is the point of Paul in Romans 8 speaking of the adoption of the sons of God:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18–25 (ESV)

The redemption wrought by Christ is the beginning of the transformation of the entire physical creation. Christ has not merely wrought salvation as an escape from the world – rather, Christ’s work has utterly transformed the entire nature of everything.

Smedes comments (Union With Christ):

God wanted a new creation with people in it who were His people, and this was His election. He elected a kingdom with a King, a body with a Head, a people with  a leader, a universe with a Lord, and sinners with a Savior. He elected in the comprehensive Christ, the Christ who was – in faith – first defined as “Lord of All.” (90).

The purpose of this work – this choosing and creating – is worship:

Israel is to recount, not its own merit, but God’s praises. It is His grace and love they are to declare, not their own works and achievement. Herein is stated the purpose of Israel’s election; they are to be a people that will praise their God (Young, Isaiah, vol. 3, 158)[1].

Indeed, as Calvin notes, salvation is given to glorify God:

This people have I created for myself. The Prophet means that the Lord will necessarily do what he formerly said, because it concerns his glory to preserve the people whom he has chosen for himself; and therefore these words are intended for the consolation of the people. “Do you think that I will suffer my glory to fall to the ground? It is connected with your salvation, and therefore your salvation shall be the object of my care. In a word, know that you shall be saved, because you cannot perish, unless my glory likewise perish. Ye shall therefore survive, because I wish that you may continually proclaim my glory.”

John Calvin and William Pringle, vol. 3, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 344. Our salvation is thus anchored in God’s desire for his glory. And it is for his glory that we will persevere – and for his glory that we will exist. Thus, our salvation glorifies God – and our praises which naturally flow from the recognition of our salvation glorify God.

The middle section of 1 Peter 2:9 derives from Exodus 19 and the making of the covenant with Israel at Sinai:

Exodus 19:5–6 (ESV)

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

It is of interest that Peter quotes a conditional promise, “If you will indeed obey my voice ….”  One great purpose of the OT is prove that Israel did not keep the command of God. Indeed, the promise of Isaiah hinges upon Israel being driven from the land due to their disobedience. How then can this promise be granted if the condition has failed?

Peter’s entire framework assumes the New Covenant. Yes, the Old Covenant failed, but God has raised Jesus from dead and granted us hope. He has redeemed us from the curse. We have been sprinkled with the blood of Christ – which recalls the sprinkling of Moses to institute Old Covenant (Exodus 24:8).

Paul’s language in Galatians 4 draws out the significance of Peter’s argument:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV)

The law brought its curse – but Christ came redeemed those born under the curse of the law. And not only did he redeem those so cursed, but he even extended adoption.  In Romans 8, Paul writes that the full extent of the adoption will be the restoration of the physical order. Peter quotes Isaiah 43 which shows that the culmination of the return from exile will be the transformation of the physical order (deserts, beasts, water). And while certainly such images help us picture the spiritual restoration of redemption – there is no reason to think that spiritual restoration will not entail physical transformation of the very  stuff of creation (especially when it is explicitly so promised).

The comprehensive work of God – physical and spiritual – extends from the incarnation of Christ (note Peter’s very physical and transcendent Christ: was “made manifest”, he bled, he died, he was physically resurrected – and “he was foreknown before the foundation of the world”).  Since the transformation is not merely “spiritual” it rightly claims our entire life.

Thus the “rules” of this new life (set forth by Peter) rightly extend to our entire life. Moreover, the difficulty of the rules does not lie in the things required – but rather requiring them in a world cursed by sin.  The difficulty with the law lies (in part/in whole?)in its conflict with the present age. Certainly living as one who belongs to the age to come will create conflict with the present age (and those who are not part of the new creation).

Accordingly since the structure of life must be aligned to the dawning age, our strength to obey must be fetched from the age to come.  There can be no holiness in this age without hope of the age to come. Holiness is an eschatological orientation. Hope fetches holiness

 


[1]

This brings us back to the main proposition of the chapter, namely, that Jehovah had not only made them what they were, but had made them for the purpose of promoting His own glory, so that any claim of merit on their part, and any apprehension of entire destruction, must be equally unfounded.

 

John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Carl Wilhelm Eduard Nägelsbach et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Isaiah (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 470.