1 Peter 2:9-10 Commentary

1 Peter: Trials, Holy Living & The Lord's Coming
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Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll - click chart on right side

1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, a royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: humeis de genos eklekton, basileion hierateuma, ethnos hagion, laos eis peripoiesin, opos tas aretas exaggeilete tou ek skotous humas kalesantos (AAPMSG) eis to thaumaston autou phos

Amplified: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God's] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people dedicated to God, a nation for him specially to possess that you might tell forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his glorious light (Westminster Press)

Phillips: But you are God's "chosen generation", his "royal priesthood", his "holy nation", his "peculiar people" - all the old titles of God's people now belong to you. It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him who has called you out of darkness into his amazing light. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: But as for you, you are a race chosen out, king-priests, a set-apart nation, a people formed for [God’s own] possession, in order that you might proclaim abroad the excellencies of the One who out of darkness called you into participation in His marvelous light, 

Young's Literal: and ye are a choice race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people acquired, that the excellences ye may shew forth of Him who out of darkness did call you to His wondrous light;

BUT YOU ARE A CHOSEN RACE: humeis de genos eklekton:

But you (see discussion of the importance of terms of contrast) - You is emphatic in the Greek which sets up a dramatic contrast with those Peter has just described who stumble over the Corner Stone into a Christless eternity.


These are wonderful epithets that are here heaped upon believers. May we have the grace to be able to appropriate them, and to expound them in our lives!

Oh, the dignity which Christ has put upon the meanest believer! What a high office, and, consequently, what a solemn responsibility is ours!

Ye are a chosen generation - Hear this, ye believers, drink in this precious truth. See God’s election, making you to be a people born of the Holy Ghost: “a chosen generation,”-

There is the contrast between the disobedient and all true believer. “Ye” have the chosen Savior to be the chief corner-stone, upon whom “ye” who are living stones are to be built up into “a spiritual house,” which is to be the abiding place of the Most High God. (1 Peter 2 Commentary)

Chosen (1588) (eklektos) is a word which ultimately speaks of the grace of God. It should be emphasized that the proper conclusion (interpretation of the meaning) of "chosen" (eklektos) in each NT use depends on the context.

Eklektos means those selected or picked out and in the Scripture usually defines one who is the object of choice or of divine favor. Although it is difficult to understand with finite minds, it is important to note that the fact that some are chosen does not imply the rejection of those not chosen. God does not predestine some to eternal death.

In the Old Testament God did not choose Israel because they were a great people, but because He loved them. Moses instructed Israel to separate from and even destroy the pagan influences around them when they entered the promised land, the reason being that…

you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession ("a peculiar people" - Lxx uses periousios, same word used in Titus 2:14 click for that discussion) out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

The concept of God's choosing a "race" is seen again when Moses addressing Israel explaining that…

on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 10:15)

The Psalmist writes

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own (whose?) inheritance. (Psalm 33:12). Spurgeon's Comment on Psalm 33:12

Israel was happy in the worship of the only true God. It was the blessedness of the chosen nation to have received a revelation from Jehovah. While others grovelled before their idols, the chosen people were elevated by a spiritual religion which introduced them to the invisible God, and led them to trust in Him. All who confide in the Lord are blessed in the largest and deepest sense, and none can reverse the blessing.

And the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance. Election is at the bottom of it all. The divine choice rules the day; none take Jehovah to be their God till He takes them to be His people. What an ennobling choice this is! We are selected to no mean estate, and for no ignoble purpose: we are made the peculiar domain and delight of the Lord our God. Being so blessed, let us rejoice in our portion, and show the world by our lives that we serve a glorious Master.

Jesus declared

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you (our privilege), that you should go and bear fruit (our purpose, our responsibility), and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. (Jn 15:16).

Christians are not "better" people than any other man or woman but they are "blessed" people. As such they are a distinct "kind" of human being, almost like a separate "genetic variety". They have been specially "chosen" by God for His own very specific purposes. Their privilege as the chosen also brings responsibility. A child of the King of kings should bear a family likeness, so that others will come to know Him as the King of kings.

Race (1085) (genos from gínomai = become) refers to offspring, posterity, "kin", family or lineage, stock. The NT frequently uses genos (as in the present verse) to refer to a race or division of mankind possessing traits that are transmissible by descent (Who's line do you belong to - Adam's or Christ's?) and sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type. Believers should be recognizable as "a distinct human type". Race defines a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics.

Matthew Henry writes that…

All true Christians are a chosen generation; they all make one family, a sort and species of people distinct from the common world, of another spirit, principle, and practice, which they could never be if they were not chosen in Christ to be such, and sanctified by His Spirit.

A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD: basileion hierateuma:

Peter's concept of a royal priesthood originates from Exodus 19 Jehovah declared to Moses His message for Israel…

Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession (peculiar treasure - KJV) among all the 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 sons of Israel." (Ex 19:5,6)

Royal Priesthood - Guzik writes that "The offices of royalty and priesthood were jealously separated in Israel, but Jesus, who is our King and Priest, has brought them together for His people."

Spurgeon - “Ye” are to be like Melchisedec, in whom the two offices of priest and king were combined in one person. More then that, “ye” are to be like your Lord, in respect to his royal priesthood. That he should have “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father,” seems to be an honor which is far too high for us. It appears to bring us almost too near our Lord, yet it is not So, for Peter wrote, under divine inspiration, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,” (1 Peter 2 Commentary)

Royal (934) (basileios) is used only here and refers to that which belongs to, is appointed to or is suitable for a king. The idea is "fit for a king". It describes one of of kingly ancestry or that which is relating to, or befitting a king, queen, or other monarch. This verse is the only NT use of basileios, which is found in the Septuagint (LXX) translation of Exodus 19:6 (quoted in part by Peter) and Exodus 23:22.

MacArthur writes that basileios "generally describes a royal residence or palace (cf. Luke 7:25), but it can also refer to a sovereignty or monarchy

Moulton and Milligan have found it used in the phrase "the palace of the satrap Saitaphernes.

What an incredible privilege NT believers possess in Christ. In the OT, even the kings of Israel did not serve as a priest, and the one who tried was judged by God (read about it in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21). No so for NT believers who are of royal lineage in Christ the King of kings.

Priesthood (2406) (hierateuma from hierateúo = to officiate as a priest; used only here and in 1Peter 2:5) describes the priesthood as a fraternity or as a body of priests. The spiritual house he mentioned in 1 Peter 2:5 [note] turns out to be a royal house, the dominion of a royal family.

Peter says all Christians are priests to God "a holy priesthood (who can now) offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (see notes 1 Peter 2:4-6)

Our holy priesthood is made possible by our “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (see note Hebrews 4:14), therefore we have complete and full access to the Father. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (see note Hebrews 4:16).

Later in his epistle the writer of Hebrews adds this exhortation - Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (See notes Hebrews 10:19; 20; 21; 22) (Comment: NT believers are not to go to God through any other human, but only through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ [see 1 Ti 2:1-8] Who is forever seated at the right hand of God in glory, interceding for us.)

You may be saying "It's wonderful to be a royal priest." but this truth has little impact on your life. Although believers look like everyone else, our speech and actions should cause others to ask, "What's different about her, about him?"

Although speaking to the remnant of Israel who would be saved by faith in Messiah, Gentile believers are now included in Jehovah's promise that…

you will be called the priests of the LORD. You will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. (Isaiah 61:6)

In the NT John writes that Christ

has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (see note Revelation 1:6)

Thou hast made them (men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation) to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (see note Revelation 5:10)

And not only are we priests today with access to the King, but one day soon in the coming kingdom of Christ we will reign with Him for 1000 years (see Millennium) John exclaiming…

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (see note Revelation 20:6)

In God's eyes we are royalty!
Have you pondered the privilege you have
to be counted as a member of God's royal family?

This is a far greater privilege than even belonging to the British royal line, although we often lose this eternal perspective. Indeed, what a privilege but also what a responsibility! Every day we represent "the King of kings" Who is the "ruler over the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:6-note). Let us determine that our conduct demonstrates our "royal bloodline" and gives a proper opinion to the "commoners" of our King Who desires to also be their king!

A child of the King of kings
should bear a family likeness.

Living Like Royalty - In the fall of 1997, I had my first closeup look at royalty. Zeeland, Michigan, the small Dutch town where I was born, was celebrating its 150th anniversary, and Princess Margriet and her husband honored the city with an official visit from the Netherlands.

Her Highness looked regal in her crisp red suit as she walked behind the wooden-shoed Klompen dancers and smiled and waved to the crowd. She moved with a quiet gracefulness and dignity. But without her entourage and a police escort, she could have passed for just another Zeelander blending into the crowd.

Believers in Jesus Christ are also royalty. We have been spiritually reborn into the family of the King of the universe. Peter called us a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). John declared that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we are “kings and priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1:6).

We may look like everyone else, but as Christians our speech and our actions should cause others to ask, “What’s different about her, about him?” We’re royalty, of course! What a privilege to be members of God’s royal family. What a responsibility! Every day we represent One who is the “ruler over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). Let’s make sure our conduct shows it. - Dennis J. De Haan

For Further Study
If we are to live like God's royal priesthood,
what behavior should we put aside? (1Pet. 2:1,11).
What things should we do? (1Pe 2:2,12).

A child of the King of kings should bear a family likeness.

A HOLY NATION: ethnos hagion:

Peter is quoting from Exodus 19:6 where God says to Israel " you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”  God had commanded Israel to "to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean" (Lev 10:10) but they refused to be different and thus disobeyed God. Israel forgot that she was holy unto the LORD, and that her holy privilege conveyed responsibility to be holy as God was holy. She began to make profane choices that broke down the walls of separation that made her special and distinct. By using this phrase HOLY NATION Peter is reminding the believers that they are to be separate from the world. While he does not continue the analogy with the nation of Israel, we know that because Israel did not maintain her separateness from the profane, godless world, it cost her dearly with national defeats by foreign nations (722 BC Assyrians and 586 BC Babylonians). Israel proceeded to become like all the corrupt idolatrous pagan nations around them and this profaning ultimately led to their loss of usefulness to God and to their destruction (but not to their annihilation). So Peter's emphasis is for the church to be holy. As someone has well said "The body of Christ, the church, is of most value to God when it is least like the world in which it exists to be an ambassador of reconciliation." 

John MacArthur on HOLY NATION - "Peter continued to refer to the Old Testament in support of the privileges God has granted believers. Here he alludes to Exodus 19:6 (“you shall be to Me … a holy nation”) when he declares that believers are separated to Christ as a holy nation. The word nation translates ethnos, which means “people,” as an ethnic group (Luke 7:5; 23:2; John 11:48, 50–52; Acts 2:5; 10:22; Rev. 5:9). Holy (hagios) means “separate” or “set apart.” It was common in the Old Testament to call God’s covenant people a holy nation (cf. Lev. 19:2; 20:26; Deut. 7:6; Isa. 62:12). However, because of sin and unbelief Israel forfeited (Deut. 4:27; 28:64; Ezek. 16:59; Hos. 9:17; Zech. 7:14; Rom. 11:17, 20) her great privilege (Gen. 12:2–3; Deut. 33:29; Rom. 3:1–2; 9:4–5) of being God’s unique people. But what was a tragedy for Israel became a blessing for believing Gentiles (cf. Rom. 9–11). Israel will not enjoy again the privilege of being God’s holy people until the nation finally turns in faith to the Messiah (cf. Ezek. 36:25–31; Rom. 11:24, 26). God sets apart believers primarily to have a relationship with Him, and service to Him flows out of that relationship. (1 Peter Commentary) (See also MacArthur's sermon - 1 Peter 2:9 The Believer's Privileges = Separation, etc Pt 6 - Sermon)

Hiebert - Peter’s third designation, “a holy nation” (ethnos hagion), is also drawn directly from Exodus 19:6. “Nation” (ethnos, cf. the English “ethnic”) means a community of people held together by the same laws, customs, and mutual interests. The term, as Morgan notes, involves “two ideas, those of government and mutual interrelationship.” It is a common biblical term, especially in the plural, “for the Gentiles as distinct from the Jews or Christians.” At times the term was also used of Israel as the people of God united by their covenantal relation to Him, making them distinctly His nation. It is in that latter sense that Peter applied the term to the church, which forms a unique international nation having a common spiritual life from God and committed to His rule. “Holy” indicates its separation from the nations of the world and consecration to God and His service. Its position of separation demands that the members must not, like Israel of old, stoop to the sinful practices of the world (1 Peter 1:15–17). (1 Peter Commentary)

J Vernon McGee on HOLY NATION - We are “an holy nation.” The nation Israel was never holy in conduct, and the same can be said of the church. Israel’s failure is glaring; the church’s failure is appalling. Yet we are holy in our relationship with Him because Christ is our righteousness. If you have any standing before God, it is not in yourself; it is in Christ. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that today I stand complete in Him. What a joy it is to be a member of a holy nation, which is a new nation in the world today. (Thru the Bible)

Jack Arnold - “A HOLY NATION” - This is a quote from Exodus 19:6. “Nation” refers to a multitude of people of the same nature. “Holy” means “to set apart” or “to consecrate.” Christians form a spiritual nation of people set apart to God. “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (Israel) and be given to a nation (Church) producing the fruit of it”   (Matt 21:43). Christians are in every physical nation on earth and spiritually they now form a distinct, holy, superior nation. The universal Church is a supernatural people because it was brought into existence by supernatural acts of God. Because Christians are a supernatural people belonging to God, they are pilgrims and strangers among the earthly nations. The universal Church of Christ is also supra-national. It transcends all political, economic, military and cultural differences. The Church has a King to rule over them, Jesus Christ. It has laws to govern them, the Bible. It has a national purpose—to glorify God. It also has a national anthem, “Saved, saved by the blood of the Lamb.”  (1 Peter 2:9-12 Duties of Aliens and Strangers)

Spurgeon - An holy nation, a peculiar people - You have national privileges. God reckons you not as a mob or a herd of men, but as a nation, and a nation with this peculiar hall-mark upon you, that you are “a holy nation.” This is the true token of your nationality that you are “holiness unto the Lord,” “a peculiar people” belonging to God alone, marked off from the rest of mankind as peculiarly his. You are not, and you are not to be as other men are, you are “a peculiar people.” Your road is not the broad one where the many go, it is the narrow one which the few find, your happiness is not worldly pleasure, but pleasures at the right hand of God which are for evermore, You are “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2 Commentary)

Regarding the words nation (ethnos) and people (laos) Vincent remarks that "The distinction between these three words cannot be closely pressed. Race emphasizes the idea of descent; nation, of community. Laos, people, occurring very often in the Septuagint, is used there mostly of the Israelites, the chosen people. The same use is also frequent in the New Testament; but it is employed in a more general sense, as by Luke 2:10. (Vincent, M. R. Word Studies in the New Testament)

Peter H Davids on HOLY NATION - Furthermore, they are a “holy nation.” The idea is not their moral holiness (although it is a call to that; cf. 1 Peter 1:15–16), but their separation to God. God has set Christians apart to be his people just as Israel was in the OT. This is underlined in the final phrase, “God’s own people” or “the people of his possession,” which indicates that they belong particularly to him (indeed, he has bought them, 1 Peter 1:18; cf. Acts 20:28+, which uses the same Greek verb). (NICNT-1 Peter)

David Walls -  A holy nation emphasizes that God has set apart the church for his use and that individual believers have a valuable contribution to make to his church.

Norman Hillyer - As members of a holy nation, all believers are set apart for God (the sense of holy), but without geographic boundaries or without being limited to particular cultures, ages, or ethnic groups. 

Thomas Schreiner - Peter also replicated the exact words of Exod 19:6 in identifying the church as a “holy nation” (ethnos hagion; cf. Exod 23:22, LXX). The church of Jesus is a people now set apart for the Lord, enjoying his special presence and favor. (NAC - 1 Peter)

Holy (40) (hagios = set apart ones, separated ones, sanctified ones, holy ones) is literally a holy one and depending on the context refers to whoever or whatever is set apart (sanctified) for a special purpose.

New Testament believers are holy ones both in character and conduct having been set apart by God to be exclusively His, to be dedicated to Him and to manifest holiness of heart and conduct in contrast to the impurity of pagan unbelievers.

Jesus declared…

And for their sakes I sanctify (set Myself apart unto God) Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified (may be set apart for holy service to God) in truth. (Jn 17:19) (NLT renders it "And I give myself entirely to you so they also might be entirely yours.")

Paul writes…

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus, called (with a purpose) to be saints (hagios - holy ones) together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1Cor 1:2)

Hebrews explains that…

By this will (the Father's will) we have been sanctified (set apart, made holy) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (see note Hebrews 10:10)

Comment: Sanctified is in the perfect tense which speaks of a past completed action -- the moment of our salvation -- with permanent or lasting effect --we are forever set apart). As an aside, the permanence of this tense undergirds the NT teaching that the believer once saved is eternally secure. Believers will never need to be justified again. Their position in Christ is forever righteous, forever secure and forever holy.

In the Old Testament many things and people were divinely set apart by God for His own purposes. The Tabernacle and Temple and all their furnishings-supremely the Ark of the Covenant and the holy of holies-were set apart to Him. The tribe of Levi was set apart for His priesthood, and the entire nation of Israel was set apart as His people. The tithes and offerings of the people of Israel consisted of money and other gifts specifically set apart for God. Under the New Covenant, however, such holy things as the Temple, priesthood, Ark, and tithes no longer exist. God’s only truly holy things on earth today are His people, those whom He has sovereignly and graciously set apart for Himself through Jesus Christ. The new temple of God and the new priesthood of God are His church, which Peter here refers to figuratively as a holy nation.

Hagios is used throughout the New Testament to speak of anyone or anything that represents God’s holiness: Christ as the Holy One of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, holy Scriptures, holy angels, holy brethren, and so on. The secular and pagan use pictured a person separated and dedicated to the idolatrous "gods" and carried no idea of moral or spiritual purity. The manmade gods were as sinful and degraded as the men who made them and there simply was no need for a word that represented righteousness! The worshipper of the pagan god acquired the character of that pagan god and the religious ceremonies connected with its worship. The Greek temple at Corinth housed a large number of harlots who were connected with the "worship" of the Greek god. Thus, the set-apartness or holiness of the Greek worshipper was in character licentious, totally depraved, and sinful.

The Bible writers could not coin new terms since they would not be understood, and were therefore forced to use those already in use. However, while the technical and root meanings of this pagan religious term was taken over by the writers, yet by the use in the NT, the moral and spiritual character was changed and elevated by the gospel.

Kenneth Wuest writes that "The believer in the Lord Jesus is set apart for God by the Holy Spirit, out of the First Adam with the latter’s sin and condemnation, into the Last Adam (Christ) with the latter’s righteousness and life. Thus, the worshipper of the God of the Bible partakes of the character of the God for Whom he is set apart. This is positional sanctification, an act of God performed at the moment a sinner puts his faith in the Lord Jesus (1Co 1:2). The work of the Holy Spirit in the yielded saint, in which He sets the believer apart for God in his experience, by eliminating sin from his life and producing His fruit, a process which goes on constantly throughout the believer’s life, is called progressive sanctification (see 1Thessalonians 5:23-note). When our Lord sanctifies Himself, He sets Himself apart for God as the Sacrifice for sin (Jn 17:19 see He 10:7-note)."

The idea inherent in hagios is the taking something filthy, washing it and setting it apart as something brand new, useful for a different purpose, which is a picture of salvation for we who were filthy with sin were washed in the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, and set apart to now be God's own possession.

Believers are now a holy nation who have been set apart from the world…

The fundamental ideas of a saint include…

  • One who is separated from sin (Romans 6:11; 12; 13; 14-see notes Ro 6:11; 12; 13; 14)
  • One who then has the responsibility to choose to consecrate themselves daily to God as "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1-see note Romans 12:1)
  • One who is devoted to His service
  • One who is a partaker of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4-note)
  • One who continually chooses to abstain from worldly defilement (1Th 4:3, 5:22, 2Ti 2:19, 1Pe 2:11see notes 1Thessalonians 4:3 1Thessalonians 5:22, 2 Timothy 2:19, 1 Peter 2:11)

Although the saint lives in the world, he or she must always in one sense be different from the world and continually choose to separate himself or herself from the world. His standards are not the world's standards. (click note on Romans 12:2 regarding not being squeezed into world's mold) He is "in the world" but not "of the world".

A saint is like a boat -- the boat's purpose is fulfilled when it is in the water, but it's function and usefulness deteriorates when water gets in the boat. So too for saints when too much of the world gets into them. Saints must keep their "vessels" in the water of this word but not let the water of the world get into their "vessel"! Paul has a parallel thought writing to young Timothy to take of the truth that

if a man cleanses himself from these (things, people that have an unholy influence), he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified (hagiazo - verb form of saint), useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (see note 2 Timothy 2:21)

The term saints does it refer to a condition after death, for these "saints" were very much alive at Philippi. Although you may have been taught that saints are a special, higher order of Christians who accomplished extraordinary good deeds and lived an exemplary life, the Bible teaches that sainthood is not an attainment but a state into which God by grace through faith calls men and women of all stations of life, whether under the Old or New Covenant. So now next time you meet a believer, address then as "Saint so-and-so" and watch the reaction! It goes without saying however that we often do not think or act like saints, in the popular sense. But hagios speaks of our identity (or our position) in Christ. We are holy ones in our Lord, even when we are unfaithful and act unsaintly. Being a saint has nothing at all to do with one’s degree of spiritual maturity or rank. It refers to any person who is saved, who is set apart by God for Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. Because God sees us as He sees His Son, as "those who have been sanctified (consecrated, purified, made holy) in Christ Jesus, saints by calling." (1Co 1:2) Like all other believers, the Christians at Corinth were not saints because of their spiritual maturity (cf. 1Co 3:1–3), but because they were “saints by calling,” a reference to their call to salvation.

Wuest adds that "The word "saint" is the translation of a Greek word meaning "to set apart," in its verb, and "set apart ones," in its noun form. The pagan Greeks set apart buildings as temples, consecrating them for non-secular, and therefore, religious purposes. These became the objects of veneration and reverence. Thus, saints are believing sinners set apart from sin to holiness, set apart from Satan to God, thus being consecrated for Gods’ sacred fellowship and service. The word "saint" as a designation of a Christian, brings at once to our attention the duty of every believer, that of living a separated life. The words, "saint, sanctify, holy," are all translations of this same Greek root. They all speak of the absolute separation from evil and dedication to God, that must always be true of the Christian believer." 

Nation (1484)(ethnos gives us our word "ethnic") in general refers to a multitude (especially persons) associated with one another, living together, united in kinship, culture or traditions and summed up by the words nation, Gentiles (especially when ethnos is plural), people (much like "people groups" in our modern missionary vernacular). In somewhat of a negative sense ethnos conveys the meaning of godless (generally idol worshipping) pagans (heathens, cp Eph 4:17, Mt 6:32), foreign nations not worshipping the true God (Mt 4:15). Often ethnos stands in clear contradistinction to Jew (Ioudaios) (Gal 2:14). Ethnos sometimes refers to Gentile Christians (Ro 11:13, Ro 15:27, 16:4, Gal 2:12). Ethnos is used in the singular of the Jewish Nation (Lk 7:5; 23:2; Jn 11:48, 50-53; Jn 18:35; Acts 10:22; 24:2, 10; Acts 26:4; 28:19). Plato used ethnos of a special class of men, a caste, tribe. In the Septuagint ethnos was used for nation, people Ge 10:5; non-Jews, Gentiles Ps 2:1.

UBS Handbook on HOLY NATION - Holy nation is also from Exodus 19:6. As in 1:15 and 2:4, holy characterizes the church’s unique relationship to God: it is holy because it is consecrated to God and set apart for his service. (Compare NEB “a dedicated nation”; JB “a consecrated nation”; also Mft, Knox.) In Exodus 19:6, the TEV translates the same expression as “a people dedicated to me alone.” Holy nation may be rendered as “the nation dedicated to God” or “the nation dedicated to serve God.”

What the Bible Teaches on Holy Nation  - This expression is also from Exod 19:6 and other Scriptures such as Lev 19:2; 20:26; Deut 7:6; Isa 62:12. Aaron and his sons were separated from the people for the ministry of priesthood. As a mark of that separation they were given special garments to wear. Before they could function in the holy office they must be separated to God for it. The NT believer-priest does not wear special garments nor bear special titles as a mark of office. Instead, he is to be marked by his separation to God, an "holy" nation. The nations of earth are separated by boundaries, and borders. Language and culture and often physical distinctions divide them. This holy nation however knows no such barriers; it overflows all borders; it overlooks mere physical differences; it overcomes culture and language. This glorious unifying victory of grace will be the theme of the new song of praise to the Lamb in glory, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5:9-10). No doubt, such Scriptures will bear a special significance and provide a singular authority to the remnant of Israel brought out of the great tribulation into millennial blessing and service among the nations of the earth (Isa 60; Zech 14:16-19). (What the Bible Teaches – 1 Peter through Jude)

Some like amillennialist A T Robertson comment that HOLY NATION is "from Ex. 19:6, but here applied, not to the national Israel, but to the spiritual Israel of believers." This type of comment leads one to the say that God is finished with the nation of Israel, which is absolutely not true (see replacement theology). The nation of Israel is in 2019 the nation of Israel and it will continue to be a nation until the Second Coming of Christ. The Church has not replaced Israel, which is a teaching that has gained momentum in the church in recent years. 

John Piper on HOLY NATION - You have been chosen and pitied and possessed by God; and therefore you are not merely part of the world anymore. You are set apart for God. You exist for God. And since God is holy, you are holy. You share His character, because He chose you, pitied you, possessed you. You are holy. If you do not act in a holy way, you act out of character. You contradict your essence as a Christian. For your identity is holiness to the Lord: you are holy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 Christian Identity and Christian Destiny)

Thomas Constable comments that "All the figures of the church that Peter chose here (1 Peter 2:9) originally referred to Israel. However with Israel's rejection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:7) God created a new body of people through whom He now seeks to accomplish the same purposes He sought to achieve through Israel but by different means. This verse that at first might seem to equate the church and Israel on careful examination shows as many differences between these groups as similarities." (Constable's Notes on the Bible"

Blum comments that Peter's description in 1 Peter 2:9 "does not mean that the church is Israel or even that the church replaces Israel in the plan of God. Romans 11 should help us guard against that misinterpretation. . . . The functions that Israel was called into existence to perform in its day of grace the church now performs in a similar way. In the future, according to Paul, God will once again use Israel to bless the world (cf. Ro 11:13-16, 23-24)."

Related Resources:

PEOPLE FOR GOD'S OWN POSSESSION: laos eis peripoissin:

This phrase is variously rendered as…

literally a people for possession, acquisition or purchase (i.e. "a peculiar property")

[God's] own purchased, special people (Amplified)

a special people (BBE)

people who belong to God (GWT)

that belongs to God alone (ICB)

a people God means to have for Himself (Knox )

a purchased people (Montgomery)

the people who belong to Him (Moffat)

a people to be a personal possession (NJB)

His own special people (NKJV)

peculiar people (KJV, Phillips, Macent)

you are God's very own (TLB)

a people belonging specially to God (Weymouth)

a people acquired (Young's Literal)

Compare the OT passages which teach a similar truth about Israel…

Exodus 19.5 “my own possession among all peoples” (RSV)

Malachi 3.17 “my special possession” (RSV)

Isaiah 43.21“The people whom I formed for myself” (RSV)

UBS Handbook emphasizes that…

The word for people here is laos, a term used for Israel in the Old Testament to describe its intimate relationship with God; this term is now used of the Christian community. What is being emphasized here is that the Christians now have a relationship to God which is different from that of non-Christians: they are God’s people and are completely dedicated to him. (The United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series)

Possession (4047) (peripoiesis from peripoieomai = literally means to make around oneself and then to acquire or purchase) means that which is acquired by purchase with the corresponding idea of preservation of that which is purchased.

In Hebrews 10:39 (note) the meaning of peripoiesis is that of experiencing of security, keeping safe or preserving.

In 1Thessalonians 5:9 (note) and 2 Thessalonians 2:14 the thrust of peripoiesis is to describe a gaining or obtaining of something, respectively salvation and glory.

The root verb peripoieomai is used by Paul in his charge to the Ephesian elders exhorting them to…

Be on guard (command to continually be holding one's mind towards something, giving heed, paying close attention, watching out - present imperative) for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased [peripoieomai - acquired, gained, paid the price for, gained possession of] with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Vincent explains that the phrase eis peripoiesin literally means

a people for acquisition. Revised Version = a people for God’s own possession. Wycliffe = a people of purchasing. Cranmer = a people which are won. See Isaiah 43:21 (click for multiple translations) (Septuagint - LXX), where the kindred verb (peripoieomai) occurs: “This people have I formed for myself (English of the LXX = My people whom I have preserved [peripoieomai] to tell forth My praises.)

Peripoiesis is used 5 times in the NT…

Ephesians 1:14 (note) who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

1Thessalonians 5:9 (note) For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 Thessalonians 2:14 And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:39 (note) But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

1 Peter 2:9 (note) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Peripoiesis is used 3 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT), Malachi's use paralleling a similar use by Peter. Jehovah speaking through His prophet Malachi describes the Jews who will be His own possession declaring…

And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day (most likely at the beginning of the 1000 year reign when the remnant of Jews who believed in their Messiah are ushered into His earthly, millennial kingdom) when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure) (LXX = peripoiesis). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him. (Amplified Version Malachi 3:17) (Comment: Here peripoiesis translates the Hebrew word segulla/cegullah and means a treasured possession, a valued personal property, that which is owned by someone or that for which the owner has special affection or holds to be of special value. Here segulla/cegullah is a technical expression describing the people of Jehovah as His treasure or property, those who are rightly His by virtue of redemption.

The immediate context (the preceding verse) explains that God's treasured possession are "those (Malachi is speaking primarily to the Jewish remnant who believe in Messiah) who feared the LORD (and who) spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name." (NASB, Malachi 3:16)

Christians are a special people because God has preserved them for Himself. we are His possession now:

Marvin Vincent writes that "peculiar" (KJV) is literally…

a people for acquisition. Wycliffe = a people of purchasing. Cranmer = a people which are won. The word occurs 1Th 5:9, rendered obtaining (Rev.); Eph 1:14, God's own possession (Rev.). See Isaiah 43:21 (Sept.), where the kindred verb occurs: “This people have I formed for myself (Vincent's Word Studies)

Vance Havner on "a peculiar people"…

God's people are "a peculiar people" (I Peter 2:9) which means "a purchased people." The Greek word here carries the idea of making a ring around something to mark it as one's own. Christ has made a ring around us and claimed us for Himself. We hear these days about "cheap grace" and how it doesn't mean much to be a Christian. But salvation is the costliest item on earth. It cost our Lord everything to provide it and it costs us everything to possess it.

We are a generation of cheap Christians going to heaven as inexpensively as possible; religious hobos and spiritual deadbeats living on milk instead of meat, crusts of bread instead of manna, as though we were on a cut‑rate excursion.

In a day when tragedy has become comedy, we play fast and loose with eternal issues. The pearl of great price is not cheap! I have read that years ago in that part of Africa where diamonds in the rough were plentiful, a traveler chanced on boys playing. Closer investigation revealed that they were playing marbles with diamonds! God forgive us today that we handle His treasures as though they were trifles and the coinage of the eternal as though it were play money. It is no time to play marbles with diamonds!

A Special People

As newsman Clarence W. Hall followed American troops through Okinawa in 1945, he and his jeep driver came upon a small town that stood out as a beautiful example of a Christian community. He wrote, "We had seen other Okinawan villages, … down at the heels and despairing; by contrast, this one shone like a diamond in a dung heap. Everywhere we were greeted by smiles and dignified bows. Proudly the old men showed us their spotless homes, their terraced fields, … their storehouses and granaries, their prized sugar mill."

Hall saw no jails and no drunkenness, and divorce was unknown. He learned an American missionary had come there thirty years ear­lier. While he was in the village, he had led two elderly townspeople to Christ and left them with a Japanese Bible. These new believers stud­ied the Scriptures and started leading their fellow villagers to Jesus. Hall's jeep driver said he was amazed at the difference between this village and the others around it. He remarked, "So this is what comes out of only a Bible and a couple of old guys who wanted to live like Jesus."

The great power of God's Word leads to salvation through faith in Christ, creating a "special people," a community of believers who love one another, exhort one another, and serve God together. We need to pray that our churches will be an example of God's power to a watch­ing world. —H. V. Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The world at its worst needs the church at its best.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States speaks of all people being" created equal "and that we are endowed with certain" unalienable rights. "The Constitution guarantees that the government will protect those rights for all its citizens. These two documents clearly reveal that the nation’s freedom depends largely on a strong constitution.

The Bible is a more far-reaching "bill of rights "than either of these documents. It originated with God, who backs it with His justice, His concern for all people, and His sovereignty. And it is the only charter that guarantees freedom from sin’s penalty and power.

A man went to a clergyman to get some advice about religious virtue and the freedom it brings. "What must I do to attain holiness? "he asked. The pastor replied, "Follow your heart. "Then he added, "To follow your heart you are going to need a strong constitution. "Which constitution? "asked the man. "The Bible!" said the pastor.

Peter said that Christians, as "a holy nation, "are to“ proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light”(1 Peter 2:9). There we find true freedom. When we live by our“ constitution, "we will be able to enjoy our rights and fulfill our calling. — Dennis J. De Haan

God’s changeless Word will change our lives,
But we must do our part;
When we live out its principles,
We’ll keep it in our heart. —Sper

The best constitution in the world is the Bible.

THAT YOU MAY PROCLAIM THE EXCELLENCIES OF HIM WHO HAS CALLED YOU OUT OF DARKNESS: hopos tas aretas exaggeilete (2PAAS) tou ek skotous humas kalesantos (AAPMSG):

  • 1Pe 4:11; Isa 43:21; 60:1, 2, 3; Mt 5:16; Eph 1:6; 3:21; Phil 2:15,16
  • 1 Peter 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

That - see discussion of importance of observing terms of purpose or result (so that, in order that, that, as a result).


See where you once were, and see also to what you have been called by God’s grace: “out of darkness into light.” That is not all: into His light. Even that is not all: “into his marvellous light.” The light of the gospel is full of wonders. As common light is made up of many colors, so the light of God’s grace is made up of many marvellous colors, — the colors of all the attributes of God.

God’s grace has been bestowed upon you in order that you may show forth his praises, or, as the marginal reading puts it, his “virtues.” Note what the Lord has done for you he has called you “out of darkness” into light, into his light, “into this marvelous light.” There are three thoughts there that are beautifully blended into one. What marvelous light that is into which God calls us! Try to measure it by the darkness in which you were; try to measure it by the deeper darkness into which you were going; try to measure it by the eternal darkness which would have fallen upon you if you had died in the dark. God has graciously brought you into his marvelous light.

You are to be advertisers of the praises or virtues of Christ, not only to know them, and to be glad to know them, but to make them known to others. Beloved, how far are you doing this? I put the question personally to each one of you, for you were chosen by God on purpose that you “should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. (1 Peter 2 Commentary)

Proclaim (1804) (exaggello from ek = out + aggéllo = messenger… who speaks and acts in place of one who has sent him) describes a complete proclamation, for as Vines says those verbs (like exaggello) which are compounded with ek often suggest what is to be done fully. Exaggello therefore means to tell forth, to tell something not otherwise known, to make widely know, to report widely, to proclaim throughout and to tell everywhere.

Exaggello can even mean "to advertise". Therefore because the world is “in darkness” people do not know the “excellencies” of God; but since we have "Christ in us the hope of glory", they should see Him in and through our attitudes, actions and conversation. Each citizen of heaven is a living “advertisement” for the excellencies or virtues of God and the promises and blessings He bestows on believers now and throughout eternity. Our lives should radiate His “marvelous light” which now even indwells us as the Spirit of Christ.

The only NT use of exaggello is here in 1 Peter 2:9 but exaggello is used 10 times in the OT in the LXX (the Septuagint = Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) (Ps 9:14; 56:8; 71:15; 73:28; 79:13; 107:22; 119:13, 26; Prov 12:16). The following examples parallel and amplify Peter's charge to all saints of all ages… (click links to read context of these great verses describing the proclamation of God's excellencies)

Ps 9:14 That I may tell (exaggello) of all Thy praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Thy salvation. (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 71:15 My mouth shall tell (exaggello) of Thy righteousness, and of Thy salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 73:28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell (exaggello) of all Thy works. (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 79:13 So we Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture Will give thanks to Thee forever; To all generations we will tell (exaggello) of Thy praise (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 107:22 Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, And tell (exaggello) of His works with joyful singing. (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 119:13 With my lips I have told (exaggello) of All the ordinances of Thy mouth. (See comments by Spurgeon)

Ps 119:26 I have told of my ways, and Thou hast answered me; Teach me Thy statutes. (See comments by Spurgeon)

In this verse Peter clearly leans heavily on OT truths to emphasize the position and privilege of NT believers.

Get on your knees and talk to God about men and then go out on your feet and talk to men about the excellencies of God.

Excellencies (plural) (703) (arete) describe any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military) or quality by which one stands out as excellent. Arete is a term denoting consummate ‘excellence’ or ‘merit’ within a social context. In classical Greek, arete spoke of "god" given ability to perform heroic deeds. To the Greek philosophers, it meant “the fulfillment of a thing.”

Arete describes that quality makes someone, in this case God Almighty, stand out as excellent. For example you might consider studying and proclaiming the excellencies of the Attributes of God or the majestic, wonderfully rich Names of the LORD.

Arete never meant cloistered virtue or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life. (Let His life shine forth through your earthly body, His temple!)

MacArthur writes that arete

can imply the ability to perform powerful, heroic deeds. Contrary to what it might indicate in English, the term refers more to those kinds of actions than to some intrinsic royal attributes or qualities. Christians have the distinct privilege of telling the world that Christ has the power to accomplish the extraordinary work of redemption (Acts 1:8; 2:22; 4:20; 5:31, 32; Rev. 15:3; cf. Ps 66:3, 5, 16; 71:17; 73:28; 77:12, 14; 104:24; 107:22; 111:6, 7; 118:17; 119:46; 145:4; John 5:36; 10:25 regarding God’s amazing acts). (MacArthur, J. 1 Peter. Chicago: Moody Press)

When anything in nature properly fulfills its purpose, that fulfillment was referred to as “virtue' or "moral excellence.” Land that produces crops is “excellent” because it is fulfilling its purpose. The tool that works correctly is “excellent” because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do. A believer demonstrates moral excellence or virtue by living the way He now has the potential to live (possessing everything necessary for life and godliness, His precious and magnificent promises, partaker of His divine nature).

Vine adds that arete

"properly denotes whatever procures preeminent estimation for a person or thing; hence, “intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue,” (Vine, W E: Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. 1996. Nelson)

In Moody's Today in the Word we read…

When the secular world tries to define what is "Christian," the result is often a bad case of confusion. Two recent surveys verify that fact. In one study, people suggested that the most widely read "Christian" magazine is the Reader's Digest! In another survey, the respondents said the most listened-to "Christian" radio programs were a popular newscast and a well-known conservative political talk show. We should not be surprised by such thinking from the secular world. But the sad reality is that the Christian world often seems to be similarly confused about what makes believers distinctive…

There's nothing like a brightly shining light to drive away the darkness and dispel confusion. The unsaved people around you may not have their theology straight, but it's hard to overlook or deny the witness of your life as it's lived for Christ. Is there something about your life that cannot be explained apart from the power of God working in you?

Maclaren comments that…

THE Revised Version, instead of ‘praises,’ reads excellencies — and even that is but a feeble translation of the remarkable word here employed. For it is that usually rendered ‘virtues’; and by the word, of course, when applied to God, we mean the radiant excellencies and glories of His character, of which our earthly qualifies, designated by the same name, are but as shadows.

It is, indeed, true that this same expression is employed in the Greek version of the Old Testament in Isaiah 43:21 in a verse which evidently was floating before Peter’s mind. ‘This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise.’

But even while that is admitted, it is to be observed that the expression here does not merely mean that the audible praise of God should be upon the lips of Christian people, but that their whole lives should, in a far deeper sense than that, be the manifestation of what the Apostle here calls ‘excellencies of God.’

Note the preceding words, in which the writer describes all God’s mercies to His people, making them ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation’; a people ‘His own possession.

All that is done for one specific purpose — ‘that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness.’

That is to say, the very aim of all God’s gracious manifestations of Himself is that the men who apprehend them should go forth into the world and show Him for what He is…

… Just as when you put a bit of leaven into a lump of dough, each grain of the lump, as it is leavened and transformed, becomes the medium for passing on the mysterious transforming influence to the particle beyond, so every one of us, if we have been brought out of darkness into marvellous light, have been so brought, not only that we may recreate and bathe our own eyes in the flooding sunshine, but that we may turn to our brothers and ask them to come too out of the doleful night into the cheerful, gladsome day. Every man that Jesus Christ conquers on the field He sends behind Him, and says, ‘Take rank in My army. Be My soldier.’ Every yard of line in a new railway when laid down is used to carry materials to make the next yard; and so the terminus is reached. Even so, Christian people were formed for Christ that they might show forth His praise.

Look what a notion that gives us of the dignity of the Christian life, and of the special manifestation of God which is afforded to the world in it. You, if you love as you ought to do, are a witness of something far nobler in God than all the stars in the sky.’ You, if you set forth as becomes you His glorious character, have crowned the whole manifestation that He makes of Himself in Nature and in Providence. What people learn about God from a true Christian is a better revelation than has ever been made or can be made elsewhere.

All that I have been saying thus far refers to the way in which the very fact of a man’s being saved from his sin is a revelation of God’s mercy, love, and restoring power. But there are two sides to the thought of my text; and the one is that the very existence of Christian people in the world is a standing witness to the highest glory of God’s name; and the other is that there are characteristics which, as Christian men, we are bound to put forth, and which manifest in another fashion the excellencies of our redeeming God.

The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say that they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ. ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image’ nor any likeness of the Divine, but thou shalt make thyself an image of Him, that men looking at it may learn a little more of what He is. If we have any right to say that we are a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, God’s ‘possession,’ then there will be in us some likeness of Him to whom we belong stamped more or less perfectly upon our characters; and just as people cannot look at the sun, but may get some notion of its power when they gaze upon the rare beauty of the tinted clouds that lie round about it, if, in the poor, wet, cold mistiness of our lives there be caught, as it were, and tangled some stray beams of the sunshine, there will be colour and beauty there. A bit of worthless tallow maybe saturated with a perfume which will make it worth its weight in gold. So our poor natures may be drenched with God and give Him forth fragrant and precious, and men may be drawn thereby. The witness of the life which is Godlike is the duty of Christian men and women in the world, and it is mainly what we are here for.

Nor does that exclude the other kind of showing forth the praises, by word and utterance, at fit times and to the right people. We are not all capable of that, in any public fashion; we are all capable of it in some fashion. There is no Christian that has not somebody to whom their words — they may be very simple and very feeble — will come as nobody else’s words can. Let us use these talents and these opportunities for the Master.

But, above all, let us remember that none of these works — either the involuntary and unconscious exhibition of light and beauty and excellencies caught from Him; or the voluntary and vocal proclamations of the name of Him from whom we have caught them — can be done to any good purpose if any taint of self mingles with it. ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may behold your good works and glorify’ — whom? you? — ‘your Father which is in heaven.’

The harp-string gives out its note only on condition that, being touched, it vibrates, and ceases to be visible. Be you unseen, transparent, and the glory of the Lord shall shine through you. (See Maclaren's sermon on 1 Peter 2:9 - Mirrors of God)

Called (2564) (kaleo from kal from which derives our English words “call”, “clamor”) (see discussion of "the called" kletos in Romans 1:6) first means to speak to another in order to bring them nearer, either physically or in a personal relationship. Call is used occasionally in the NT in the sense of to invite, particularly to a banquet such as the wedding feast (eg, Jesus told the parable of a king who

sent out his slaves to call (kaleo) those who had been invited (kaleo) to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come" Matt 22:3)

In the present context, kaleo means to call into the kingdom of God and to the duties, privileges, and bliss of the Kingdom life here and hereafter. With Peter and also with Paul, the calling referred to is more than a mere invitation. It is an invitation responded to and accepted.

The called are those who have been summoned by God… called

  • by grace (Kaleo - Gal 1:6)
  • through the "gospel" that we "may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Kaleo - 2Th 2:14)
  • to salvation (Kaleo - Ro 8:30-note)
  • saints by calling (Kletos - 1Co 1:2)
  • brought "into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Kaleo - 1Co 1:9)
  • both Jews and Greeks (Kletos - 1Co 1:24)
  • not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Kaleo - Ro 9:24-note)
  • according to His purpose (Kletos - Ro 8:28-note)
  • to walk worthy (Kaleo - Ep 4:1- note)
  • (to proclaim His excellencies) out of darkness into His marvelous light (Kaleo - 1Pe 2:9-note)
  • for this purpose (to suffer… follow in His steps) - (Kaleo - 1Pe 2:21-note)
  • heavenly calling (klesis) (Heb 3:1-note)
  • (a holy calling) having been called (kaleo) "with a holy" calling (klesis) (2Ti 1:9-note)
  • to be holy yourselves in all your behavior - (Kaleo - 1Pe 1:15-note)
  • to inherit a blessing (following Christ's example) - (Kaleo -1Pe 3:9-note)
  • to His eternal glory in Christ (Kaleo - 1Pe 5:10-note)
  • and return in triumph "with Him" at the end of this age (Kletos - Re 17:14-note).

These magnificent truths on "called" should cause all the "called of Jesus Christ" to cry out "Glory!"

Darkness (4655) (skotos from skia = shadow) can refer to physical darkness (as when Christ was crucified - "Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour." Mt 27:45), but more often is used by the NT writers figuratively to refer to moral or spiritual darkness. Skotos is the essence of darkness or of darkness itself and therefore as applied to sin is the essence of sin. Skotia, the related word for darkness, describes the consequence of darkness.

As an example of the figurative use of skotos, Jesus declared

"And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness (skotos) rather than the light; for their deeds were evil."

Darkness refers to the time when Peter's readers were in unbelief, ignorant of God’s provision of salvation, blinded to the truth in Christ, shrouded in darkness

Isaiah prophesying of Messiah's coming wrote that…

"But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land. The light will shine on them." (Isaiah 9:1-2 quoted by Matthew and fulfilled by Jesus in Mt 4:16)

"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you." (Isaiah 60:1-2)

Jesus instructed Paul concerning his privilege and purpose of…

delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness (skotos) to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:17-18)

Paul writing to the saints at Ephesus instructed them to not become partakers with the "sons of disobedience"

for you were formerly darkness (skotos), but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness (skotos), but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret." (see notes Ephesians 5:8; 5:9; 5:10; 5:11; 5:12)

As Paul taught the saints at Colossae, God…

delivered us from the domain (right and the might) of darkness (skotos), and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (see notes Colossians 1:13; Colossians 1:14)

Again using the metaphor of darkness Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica

But you, brethren, are not in darkness (skotos) that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness (skotos); 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (see notes 1Thessalonians 5:4;5:5; 5:6; 5:7; 5:8; 5:9; 5:10; 5:11)

Believer-priests should live so that their heavenly Father’s qualities are evident in them, as they surrender to His Spirit and allow Christ Who is their life and the Light of the world to shine forth through them into the spiritual darkness of this present evil age. Then as we "proclaim" with our lives, God will give us open doors to proclaim with our lips to those who sit in darkness.

Believers should live like lighthouses that make no noise yet warn of danger by radiating a bright beacon of light to those in darkness!

Each of the four descriptions of NT believers in 1Peter 2:9 emphasizes the importance of unity and harmony. We belong to one family of God and share the same divine nature. We are living stones in one building and priests serving in one temple. We are citizens of the same heavenly homeland.

Jesus Christ is the source and center of this unity. If we center our attention and affection on Him, we will walk and work together. On the other hand, if we focus on ourselves, we will only cause division. Unity does not eliminate diversity. Not all children in a family are alike, nor are all the stones in a building identical. In fact, it is diversity that gives beauty and richness to a family or building. The absence of diversity is not unity; it is uniformity, and uniformity is dull. It is fine when the choir sings in unison, but it is far more beautiful when they sing in harmony. As Augustine once said…

In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

It is indeed sad that in spite of this beautiful quotation, Augustine unfortunately misinterpreted Scripture, "spiritualizing" Israel as the New Testament Church! The church is not Israel and Israel is not the church. See the related discussion on the interpretation of the phrase Israel of God in Galatians 6:16.

As Ryrie notes…

The church possesses blessings similar to those Israel had, though it has not become the new Israel. Similarity does not per se mean "identity." (The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers)


Proclaiming His Excellencies - Roddy Roderique had served 17 years of a life sentence and was appealing for an early release before the high court in Montreal. His pastor, Charles Seidenspinner, was testifying on his behalf.

"Why should this man be released?" asked the Crown Attorney.

"Because God has come into his life, and changed him, and will hold him steady," replied the pastor.

"What do you mean 'God has come into his life?'" asked the judge. He listened thoughtfully as the pastor shared in detail how Christ transforms a life. The judge then asked a loaded question: "Suppose this man is released. Would you want him for a neighbor?"

"Your Honor," said the pastor, "that would be wonderful! Some of my neighbors need to hear the same message that changed his life." Roddy was released, and today he's living for the Lord and is active in his church.

As forgiven sinners, all Christians are "ex-cons" who praise the One who has called us out of darkness (1Pet. 2:9). When our lives are characterized by honorable conduct and good works, they are strong evidence for truth to those who speak against us (v.12).

Lord, may my words and actions convince people in my neighborhood of their need for Jesus. --D J De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

You are called with a holy calling
The light of the world to be;
To lift up the lamp of the gospel
That others the light may see. --Anon.

Jesus can change the foulest sinners
into the finest saints.

INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT: eis to thaumaston autou phos:

  • Isaiah 9:2; 60:1,2; Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79; Acts 26:28; Romans 9:24; Ephesians 5:8, 9, 10, 11; Philippians 3:14; Colossians 1:13; 1Thessalonians 5:4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • 1 Peter 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

See Spurgeon's sermon on Marvellous Light.

Marvelous (2298) (thaumastos from thaumazo = to marvel, to wonder at) describes that which causes one to marvel.

Synonyms include wonderful (that which excites the feeling of wonder), extraordinary (very unusual or remarkable, outside the normal course of events, going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary), astonishing.

Marvelous speaks of the highest kind or quality (splendid), of that which is notably superior or of that which causes or excites great wonder or surprise.

Thaumastos is used to describe God and/or things relating to God and thus which are beyond human comprehension (See some of the representative uses in the Lxx below)

Thaumastos refers to what is unexpected and worthy of notice the amazing thing

pertaining to being a cause of wonder or worthy of amazement, wonderful, marvelous, remarkable

Thaumastos is used 6 times in the NT

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes '?

Mark 12:11 This came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

John 9:30 The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.

1 Peter 2:9 (note) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

Revelation 15:1 (note) And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.

Revelation 15:3 (note) And they sang the song of Moses the bond-servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations.

Thaumastos is used 26 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Ex 15:11; 34:10; Deut. 28:58-59; Joshua 3:5; Jdg 13:18; Est. 5:2; Job 42:3; Ps. 8:1, 9; 42:4; 65:4; 68:35; 93:4; 98:1; 106:22; 118:23; 119:129; Pr 6:30; Isa. 3:3; 25:1; Dan. 8:24; 9:4; 12:6; Amos 3:9; Mic. 7:15)

Exodus 15:11 "Who is like Thee among the gods, O LORD? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, Awesome (Hebrew = yare' = fearful, dreadful; Lxx = thaumastos) in praises, working wonders?

Deuteronomy 28:58 "If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome (Hebrew = yare' = fearful, dreadful; Lxx = thaumastos) name, the LORD your God,

Joshua 3:5 Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders (Hebrew = pala = surpassing, extraordinary, marvellous, wonderful; Lxx = thaumastos) among you."

Psalm 68:35 O God, Thou art awesome (Hebrew = yare' = fearful, dreadful; Lxx = thaumastos) from Thy sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God! (Spurgeon's Comment)

Psalm 98:1 A Psalm. O Sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful (Hebrew = pala = surpassing, extraordinary, marvellous, wonderful; Lxx = thaumastos) things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him. (Spurgeon's Comment)

Psalm 118:23 This is the LORD's doing; It is marvelous (Hebrew = pala = surpassing, extraordinary, marvellous, wonderful; Lxx = thaumastos) in our eyes. (Spurgeon's Comment)

In his pithy introductory remarks in his sermon Marvellous Light, Spurgeon says that…

Everything about a true Christian is marvelous. He is a marvel to himself, and a marvel to all who are round about him. Mere professors-men-made Christians-people who have made themselves Christians by their own free will apart from the Spirit of God, have nothing marvelous about them. You can make professors of that sort by the score, and you can see them dissolve by the score, for what man made, man can unmake, and what is merely natural has its season, like the leaves on the trees; and, by-and-by, it withers away because its time to fade has come.

But a true Christian is a God-made man, a twice-born man; and he is a partaker of the divine nature. He is a mass of marvels, for he is dead, and yet he is alive; he is one who lives here, and yet his life has gone away up yonder; he is one who is a citizen of earth, and yet his citizenship is in heaven. He is a true man, but he is more than a man, for God has lifted him up above the level of other men, given him a life which other men do not possess, revealed to him secrets which others do not know, and prepared for him a place into which the ungodly can never enter. The longer he looks at himself, the more he wonders at God’s grace, and at what God’s grace has done, is doing, and will yet do for him.

He is a riddle to himself,-an enigma made up of a thousand enigmas. Probably, he does not fully understand all that has happened in any single day of his life, and there are certain days in which God’s dealings with him quite stagger him; and though faith seeth all things to be plain, yet, to mere human reason, things often appear to be in a snarl, and intertwisted, and he knows not what to make of them.

Everything about a true Christian is marvelous, as angels know, who often desire to look into the things which concern them., and as he knows who is our Leader and Commander,-who was a Man wondered at, and whose faithful followers are all wondered at still He himself is the greatest marvel of all; and among the many marvels that surround him is the marvelous light in which he dwells. Those of us, who are now in Christ, lived at. one time in the gross darkness of ignorance. I mean even those of us who were brought up in Christian families, and knew the letter of the gospel well. We did not know its inner meaning, and we never felt its power. We were in darkness; though, indeed, there was a certain measure of light which had come to us, which made us responsible for our wrongdoing; yet, still, our heart remained in gross darkness.

And, by-and-by, this darkness was attended with much misery. There came to us a little light, just sufficient to make our darkness visible; so that we perceived the darkness in which we dwelt, and we began to sigh and cry, like prisoners shut up in an underground dungeon, to whom light and fresh air cannot come. Then everything about us seemed to blacken, and the gloom around us deepened. We were in the dark as to our apprehensions of the future. We knew that we must die, yet we feared to die. We clung to life; yet, sometimes, we did not desire even life itself, but said, with Job, “My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.” The prospect of annihilation would have seemed almost like heaven to us, if we could, thereby, have got rid of our sinful, sorrowful being, clouded with apprehensions of the wrath of God, and of judgments yet to come upon us. I know that I am talking about something, which many of you understand. It was a thick Egyptian night in which you were then enveloped, a darkness that might be felt; and you tried your utmost to escape from it, but you could not, for it was in you. Your soul was in darkness, the light within your spirit was quenched, and all around you seemed to darken, and darken, and darken, as though an eternal midnight were surely descending upon you.

Well, at that time, it happened unto me, and I know that it also happened unto some of you, as it did to Peter, that the angel of the Lord suddenly smote us on our side, and a light shone into our prison-house, and we arose, scarcely knowing what we were doing, but we girded our garments about us, and followed our angelic leader, while the prison gates, which had formerly shut us in, opened before us of their own accord, and we found ourselves to be free, and in broad daylight, too; although, for a time, we. could scarcely realize those blessed facts. We saw what we had never seen before; we enjoyed what we had never even hoped to enjoy. Ay, as in an instant, we possessed what we thought must for ever be denied to us, and we scarcely knew how to contain our joy; but we made our way, as fast as we could, to the house of Christ’s disciples who had prayed for us aforetime. And how we gladdened them as we told them the story of God’s delivering and enlightening grace, and so showed forth the praises of him who had called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Truly, it was marvelous light to us at that time. Many day have passed since then with some of us, but it is marvelous light still; and as we look upon it now, it is not any less marvelous than it was at the very first. It is of that marvelous light that I am going to speak; and as I tell of my own experience of it, I pray God to grant that some of you, who have never known its power in your own souls, may be made to rejoice in it.

Spurgeon then goes on to explain why the God's light is marvelous

I have already touched upon the first point., of which I want now to speak somewhat more fully; that is, This Light Appears Marvelous Because Of Our Former Darkness. Out of darkness, light comes not. Out of our dark nature no marvelous light ever shone. This light came from above; but how marvelous it was! Imagine, if you can, the condition of a man who has lived all his lifetime in a coal mine. Suppose him never to have had a brighter light than his flickering candle; and then, after a while, to be brought up the shaft, and to see the brightness of the sun at mid-day. I can scarcely picture his amazement; you may fancy what it would be like, but you can hardly realize it. Or suppose a worse case still, that of one born blind, who had heard of a thing called light, but who could never imagine what it was like till a skillful oculist took away the film that was blinding him, and his eye was opened so that he could perceive the light. It would be very difficult to describe all the emotions of one who had never enjoyed the light before; but, certainly, such a person would be full of wonder and amazement. It would be, indeed, marvelous light to him…

Secondly, we perceive that it is marvelous light When We Consider Its Origin. Our text tells us that it is God’s light: “who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” What is God’s light? Can you imagine how that light existed before he made the sun or the moon?…

Thirdly, this is marvelous light, Because Of Its Excellence Over All Other Light, this light, which God gives to his people, is far superior to the light which comes of education, or of meditation, or which can be produced by any human effort…

Fourthly, this is marvelous light Because Of What It Reveals, for that man, who has the light of God shining in his soul sees that which is invisible…

Fifthly, this light is marvelous, Because Of What It Produces. I have already shown you its marvelous character in that it reveals a new world to a man, a world he once despised,-and it makes him value it, and live worthy of it. Thus it produces a great change in that man, for it makes him love the things he once hated, and hate the things he once loved…

Lastly, it is marvelous light, Because It Will Never Go Out. As it is the light of God, the devil cannot blow it out. If all the devils in hell were to try to blow out one single spark that is in a true believer’s heart, they might puff till they died of puffing, but they would never put that spark out. God has lit it, and they cannot quench it…

(I encourage you to read Spurgeon's discussion of each of these four points in Marvellous Light - then you will indeed marvel beloved!)

1Peter 2:4-10

Pastor Steven Cole

Life can be hectic. I thought you might enjoy this story: “It all began when the dental hygienist, who was scraping tartar off my teeth, asked, “Do you spend about four minutes each time you brush your teeth?” With a gurgling tube hanging from my lip, I responded, “A liddle lessth than that.”

“You really should,” she said, “or you will lose your teeth.” I vowed to myself that I would floss, pick, brush and rinse as instructed.

“At my annual physical examination the doctor asked, ”How often do you exercise?” “Do you limit your salt intake?” and “Does your diet contain much cholesterol?” I thus began an intensive fitness program, which I checked off on the daily “Personal Maintenance Schedule” on the refrigerator door. “I then made an appointment for a beauty makeover. “When is the last time you had a facial?” the cosmetologist asked. “Never” didn’t seem like the right answer so I hedged with,

“It’s been a while.”

“You should have a facial more often. You’ve already got some wrinkles around your eyes,” she warned. Mentally I added “Get facial!” to my personal maintenance schedule.

“I soon learned personal maintenance was not all that I had to worry about. At the appliance-repair shop, the clerk examining my coffee maker asked, “Do you run white vinegar through it each month?” This began my “Home Maintenance Schedule,” which took its place next to my personal maintenance schedule.

“Several other appliances, too, began demanding my attention. When I discovered that the tape deck in my car, the VCR and the disk could keep up this rigorous program. I was sleeping four hours a night, had lost touch with my husband and children, and had no social life, not to mention no room left on the refrigerator door.

“It all came crashing down one night when I was reading an article entitled: “Are You Endangering the Lives of Your Loved Ones by Failing to Dust Your Smoke Alarms Regularly?”

“I ran to the refrigerator and tore the schedules to shreds. In their place I have established a policy in which I respond to all questions about my behavior by taking the Fifth Amendment.” (Lynne F. McGee, Reader’s Digest [2/89], p. 198.)

In the rush of modern life, it’s easy to lose sight of our priorities. Under pressure, we tend to focus on the urgent, but not always on the important. So it’s good to be reminded occasionally of our priorities as God’s people.

The believers to whom Peter wrote were under pressure-- probably not from being busy--but pressure from persecution. Scattered as aliens in a pagan world (1Pe 1:1), it would have been easy for them to lose sight of their priorities as God’s people. The pressure easily could have

driven a wedge between the Jewish and Gentile members of the church, leading to church splits. Peter wanted them to see their priorities clearly so that they could fulfill the glorious purpose to which God had called them. Thus he closes this first major section of his letter by showing that our salvation must be lived out by being built upon Christ, in Christian community, with witness to the world: God’s people must keep God central, be built together as His people, and proclaim His excellencies to others. You will hear me emphasize these three priorities often. They sum up the Great Commandment (to love God and neighbor) and the Great Commission (to win and disciple the lost). They help keep us in focus when pressures build.

1. God’s people must keep God central.

Our relationship to God must be at the center of all we do, both individually and corporately. If God is not central, we are off track.

If our devotion for Him is lacking, we’re just playing church. You will recall how the Lord rebuked the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). They worked hard for the Lord. They had persevered through trials and had not grown weary. They had stood for the truth against some false teachers in their midst. They were doctrinally sound. And yet the Lord said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Love for Christ must be central! Peter mentions two ways to do this:

A. We keep God central by continually coming to Christ and building upon Him.

“And coming to Him” (1Pe 2:4). Of course we come to Him in salvation when we first put our trust in Him. But that is not what Peter has in mind here. The present tense participle means coming to Christ repeatedly. It does not refer to our conversion, but to our daily communion with Him. We must come to Christ repeatedly and build our lives on Him.

Peter calls Him a “living stone.” That is an oxymoron, a seeming contradiction in terms (like “efficient bureaucracy”). But the dissonance of the term should grab our attention. That Christ is a stone means that He is a solid foundation on which to build our lives. As Peter goes on to state, He is the cornerstone of the church. Just as when you build a house or building, you want to make sure the foundation is solid, since everything else rests on it, so with our lives. Jesus Christ is the only solid foundation for time and eternity. Thus you can put your trust in Him and know that you will not be disappointed or “put to shame” (1:6).

But Christ is not just the stone on which you can build everything in life. He is a living stone. He is living in that He died for our sins, but was raised from the dead, triumphant over sin, death, and hell. He is the author and giver of life, able to impart spiritual life to all who believe in Him. That He is living means that Christianity is not a religion of going through dead rituals. It is a relationship with the living Lord of the universe! We come to Him and commune with Him daily,

building everything in our lives on who He is and on what He has provided for us in His death and resurrection.

Verse 6 (a quote from Isa. 28:16) shows that we build on Christ by believing in Him. To believe in Christ, I must let go of my own works as the means of my salvation. I must not trust in myself or what I do as the way to approach God. Rather, I rest completely on who Christ is and on what He did for me when He died on the cross in my place. Once you’ve trusted Christ as Savior, the entire Christian life is a process of discovering all that He is to you. As Peter puts it (2Pe 1:3), God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” Christ is our sufficiency. As we commune continually with Him by faith, we learn that our primary need in life is to “know Him” (Phil. 3:10). Because I love you I’m going to tell it to you straight: If you are not consistently taking time to come to Christ in personal devotion to build your life on Him as revealed in His Word, then your priorities are wrong. You’re building your life on the sand. If we as a church do not keep God central by continually coming to Christ in all we do, then our priorities are wrong. We’re building a work on the sand. Christ is choice and precious in God’s sight. He must be choice and precious in our sight as well.

B. We keep God central by offering spiritual sacrifices to Him through Christ.

As we come to Christ, we also, “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pe 2:5). This is the central text on the great doctrine of the priesthood of every believer.

There is no such thing as a Christian priesthood of just a few who are ordained to ministry. In the Old Testament, only the priests could draw near to God by offering sacrifices and incense on His altar. Only the High Priest, and that only once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people. But now, Christ our High Priest has offered Himself once for all as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As believer priests, we all have direct access into God’s presence through Christ, our mediator (1Ti 2:5). We need not go through any human priest. We need not bring a bloody sacrifice, since Christ’s offering of Himself once for all is sufficient. But we offer up to God other spiritual sacrifices as priests.

What are these sacrifices? Romans 12:1 tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. This means that everything we do can be done to God’s glory (1Cor. 10:31). In Romans 15:16, Paul says that he was “ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that [his] offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable.” Thus sharing the good news of Christ is a sacrifice we can offer to God. The Philippian church took up a collection and sent it to Paul to meet his needs. He calls their service “an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18; also Phil 2:17). Hebrews 13:15-16 instructs us, through Christ, to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

This relates to all you do in your Christian life. Everything you do should be a thank offering to Christ. Do you work with our young people? Help with socials? Help at a church work day? Usher? Call on or take a meal to the sick? Give money? Sing? Pray? Lead a Bible study? Counsel? Whatever you do should be done as a sacrifice to Christ. It ought to be done by asking yourself the question, “Lord, does this please You?” Your motive is not human recognition, but gratitude to the Lord.

Our first priority is to keep God central by continually coming to Christ and by offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Him.

2. We must be built together as His people.

When I do weddings, I usually explain that marriage is like a triangle, with God at the apex and the partners at the other two points. As the partners each grow closer to God, they grow closer to one another. What is true in marriage is also true in the local church. As the members grow closer to God, they grow closer to one another. Our text has a distinctively corporate flavor. Peter wants his readers to see that Christianity is not an individualistic thing, where we each have a relationship with God, but not with each other. We are being built together into a spiritual house or temple in the Lord.

This truth is especially important in our increasingly fragmented, mobile, impersonal society. If you’re like me, you’ve got relatives that you haven’t seen in years. I probably wouldn’t know some of my cousins if I saw them on the street. It’s not uncommon for grown children to move thousands of miles from parents. With the high divorce rate, some children rarely see their own fathers or mothers. Since God made us to be connected with other people, there’s a high felt need for community. God designed the church to meet that need. Much could be said, but I must limit myself to two observations:

A. We are built together to the extent that every believer exercises his priesthood under the headship of Christ.

The church isn’t a building; the church is God’s people. The church may meet in a church building or in homes or outdoors. But Peter pictures God’s people, the church, as a building (or temple) in which each member is a living stone, being fitted and built together upon and by the living corner stone, Jesus Christ. How do you think this church building would look if the builder had left out a few stones here and there? I wouldn’t want to stand under the roof! And God’s church, which is His people, will only be complete and strong as every member fits in and functions in the way that the Builder designs. There ought to be no such thing as a believer just “attending church.” We don’t go to church; we are the church! We must minister one to another in the church.

It’s a mistake to think of ministry in exclusively formal terms: teaching Sunday School or serving on a church committee, etc. These are ministries. But ministry is the overflow of a life that is full of Jesus Christ. If He is central in your life (Priority One), then you will be ministering to people when you have contact with them. Ministry takes place through relationships. Thus we should gather as believer priests, looking to build up one another because Christ is filling our hearts to the brim. Ministry is Christ slopping over from you to me and from me to you.

B. We are built together to the extent that we live in line with our identity as a distinct people.

Note the terms that Peter piles up to paint a corporate identity for his readers as the people of God. All these terms come from the Old Testament: A chosen race (Isa. 43:20); a royal priesthood (Exod. 19:6); a holy nation (Exod. 19:6); a people for God’s possession (Exod. 19:5). In verse 10 Peter draws from Hosea 1:10 & 2:23 to remind his scattered readers that formerly they were not God’s people, but now they are. Formerly they had not received mercy, but now they had. Peter wrote this because his readers were scattered fledgling churches under persecution. To keep from falling apart, they needed to see their identity as God’s people. Since they had come to the Living Stone who, though choice and precious in God’s sight, was rejected by men (2:4), they could expect that they, too, though chosen and precious in God’s sight, would be rejected by men. But in the long run, they would not be put to shame, but rather would share the honor with Christ (1:6b-7a). Thus the way to endure rejection by men is to see our new identity as the chosen people of God. God never intended that we live as Lone Ranger Christians. (Even he had Tonto!) I was in a gathering of Christians from different churches. We were going around the room telling what church we were from. One woman described herself as “a Christian at large.” I thought, “What a violation of biblical truth!” There’s no such thing! We all must be connected with a local church where we are being built together with other believers.

Thus, we must keep God central and be built together as His people. Finally,

3. We must proclaim the excellencies of God to others.

God has called us out of the world as His people so that we can go back into the world and proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (2:9). Gathered as the church, we worship our great God by proclaiming His excellencies to one another and we build up one another. Scattered into the world, we proclaim God’s mercy and light to those who are still in the darkness. It would be great to think that everyone who doesn’t know God would be responsive--just waiting to hear and believe. Some are; but the Bible is clear that we can expect some to reject not only the message, but also us. The temptation is to tone down the message so that people will not reject it (or us). In fact, evangelicals are going out of their way to present an unoffensive Christ to the world. Often Jesus is marketed as a nice, non-judgmental man who wouldn’t upset anyone, who will meet a person’s every need and desire. He makes them feel good about themselves. He helps them to be successful in whatever they choose. I’m not suggesting that we be rude and insensitive in presenting Christ to people. We shouldn’t blast people with God’s judgment. Our Savior was kind to sinners and yet He spoke plainly about sin and judgment. We should always be gracious (Col. 4:6). But having said that, we must remember that the biblical Christ is going to offend many people, for at least two reasons: First, the cross of Christ is offensive (1 Cor. 1:23). The cross humbles human pride. It tells people that their own good works will not get them into heaven. It tells them that they are sinners who have offended a holy God. People don’t like that. Second, Christ’s lordship offends people. Everyone likes the idea of an Aladdin’s genie-Jesus, who will fulfill their desires. But a Christ who is Lord, who confronts sin and demands obedience--that’s another story! If you proclaim Christ crucified and Christ as Lord, some will believe and be saved. But others will reject Him and you. Be prepared!

Note that the dividing line is belief versus unbelief (1Pe 2:7).

Believing or not believing in Jesus Christ separates people into two distinct camps. Believers are joined to God and His people and one day will be exalted with Christ in heaven. Unbelievers who do not repent are in the darkness, headed for God’s judgment. Jesus Christ is the central issue in belief or unbelief. Either He is the corner stone on whom a person puts his faith and builds his life; or, He is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense over which a person falls.

What does Peter mean when he says that unbelievers “stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this they were also appointed” (2:8)? Are some appointed to perish? Peter’s purpose here is to encourage believers under persecution. Thus his point is that the raging of the wicked is under God’s sovereign control, so that believers need not fear (Ps 2:1-6). Those who disobey God will not somehow thwart His eternal purpose. He will someday be glorified in His saving His elect and in justly condemning the reprobate. We are assured that

the wicked will be punished.

And yet, those who are disobedient are responsible for their sin, even if it is in line with God’s predestined plan (Acts 2:23)! But, they need not remain in disobedience and rebellion. God offers them mercy and forgiveness if they will turn to Christ. He has “shut all up in disobedience that He might show mercy to all” (Rom. 11:32). No one has piled up more sin than God’s mercy can cover. Christ’s death is sufficient for the chief of sinners. All may come and receive mercy at the cross.


I would ask each of you to examine your priorities. First and foremost, have you truly believed in Christ as Savior and Lord? Is He and His death on the cross precious to you? If so, is He central in your life? Are you coming continually to Him and building your life on Him? Are you offering your life as a spiritual sacrifice to Him? Second, are you seeking to be built together with His people or do you just attend church? You may need to commit yourself to this local church. Third, are you seeking to proclaim His excellencies to those in darkness, that they, too, may come to know the Savior? Those are our priorities as God’s people who have received His mercy.


1. What has helped you most to make God central in your daily life?

2. How can a Christian know where he/she is supposed to serve in the church?

3. Why are we more comfortable with “formal” rather than “relational” ministries? How can we change this?

4. Is it wrong to “sell” Jesus to lost people? How confrontational must we be to remain true to the gospel?

(Used by permissions - see Pastor Cole's sermons by Book)

1 Peter 2:10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: hoi pote ou laos nun de laos theou, hoi ouk elehmenoi (RPPMPN) nun de eleethentes. (APPMPN)

Amplified: Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God's people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

Barclay: you, who were once not a people and are now the people of the Lord, you who were once without mercy and have now found mercy. (Westminster Press)

Phillips: In the past you were not "a people" at all: now you are the people of God. In the past you had no experience of his mercy, but now it is intimately yours. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: who at one time were not a people but now are God’s people; who were not subjects of mercy, but now have become objects of mercy 

Young's Literal: who were once not a people, and are now the people of God; who had not found kindness, and now have found kindness.

FOR YOU ONCE WERE NOT A PEOPLE: oi pote ou laos:


Who were you, and what were your ancestors when the apostle wrote these words Our forefathers were, in Peter’s day, uncivilized and barbarous tribes at the utmost end of Rome’s dominions. We “were not a people,”

Look back to what you were before your conversion. Whenever you are tempted to be proud of your present standing, remember the horrible it and the miry clay out of which sovereign grace alone has plucked you. When you are on the throne, recollect the dungeon from which the grace of God uplifted you. When you are in full possession of your spiritual faculties, and are rejoicing in the Lord, do not forget the time when you lay sick, even unto death, until the Great Physician passed that way, and healed you.

What a great change conversion is! And how great a change conversion Works! HOW wonderful is the effect of regeneration! We had not obtained mercy, but now we have obtained mercy; we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.

How the apostle delights to set forth these contrasts between the past and the present of the Lord’s chosen people! By remembering what we were, we are made to appreciate and enjoy more what we now are. We may well praise him who has wrought this wondrous change in us. We were not his people, we were sinners of the Gentiles, not the chosen Hebrew race. In times past, we were not worthy to be called a people, but we are now the people of God. We had not obtained mercy, we had not even asked for it; some of us were so blinded by our self-righteousness that we did not know what we needed God’s mercy, or did not want it; but now we have obtained mercy.

We may well leap for joy, we who once had not obtained mercy. We sinned against the Lord, but he was long-suffering, and now we have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2 Commentary)

In Hosea we read of God's temporary rejection of Israel for…

"the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God. (Literally "I will not be ‘I am’ to you") Yet (this judgment on Israel was only temporary for) the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it will come about that, in the place where it is said to them (this will take place at the Second Coming of Christ), "You are not My people," It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God." (Hosea 1:9,10)

If Hosea 1:9 were the only verse in the Bible, one would be force to agree with the amillennial teaching that says that God is through dealing with the nation Israel. But Hosea 1:10 makes it very clear that God is not through with Israel. God applies this truth to the Gentiles. So while in Hosea it is Israel who is not God's people; in (see notes Romans 9:25; 9:26) Paul applies Hosea's words to the Gentiles. Here in 1 Peter Hosea's words could apply to either unsaved Jews before they met their Messiah or pagan Gentiles before the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

What an incredible salvation Peter is unfolding. Before we were saved, we live a "futile way of life inherited from our forefathers" (see note 1 Peter 1:18) and without any eternal significance, for as Peter says here we once were absolutely not people (ou laos = literally "absolutely not people"). But once again the Holy Spirit again mercifully inspires one of those great soteriological but now's that takes us from the brink of the pit of utter, eternal destruction to the bright day and delight of those now recognized as citizens of God's glorious kingdom.

To paraphrase Jim Elliot we are just a bunch of nobodies who can now praise and magnify the only One Who is Somebody.

This truth also would have been germane to Peter’s initial addressees, for many of his readers were "second class citizens" in the Roman Empire, but now they had a "citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (see note Philippians 3:20) and this new found citizenship infinitely transcended the Roman citizenship that had been their highest aspiration before the Spirit drew them to salvation.

Directing similar comments to the Gentile believers at Ephesus, Paul explained…

"Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands--remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." (see notes Ephesians 2:11; 2:12; 2:13; 2:14; 2:15; 2:16)

BUT NOW YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD: nun de laos theou:

But (de) - Always pause to ponder this important term of contrast (and this one also has an expression of time = "now") which marks a change "direction" so to speak. Ask what is the change?

Because of their unfaithfulness to Him, He said He would no longer have pity on them and that they would no more be His people (Hosea 1:6,10). But the casting aside of Israel was not final, for the Lord also promised that in a future day, Israel would be restored in Hosea recording Jehovah's promise that…

I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'Thou art my God!' (Hosea 2:23)

No one should conclude from this passage in Peter that because the church is now God’s people, He is through with Israel as a nation.

Neither should one assume that the church is now the so-called "Israel of God".

Nor should one falsely conclude that the promises made to Israel have been "forfeited" and now apply to the church.

Israel and the church are separate and distinct entities, and an understanding of this distinction is one of the most important keys to accurately interpret prophecy.

Israel was God’s chosen earthly people from the time of the call of Abraham (Ge12:1) to the coming of the Messiah. The nation’s rebellion and faithlessness reached its awesome climax when Christ was nailed to the cross. Because of this crowning sin, God temporarily set aside Israel as described for example in Hosea. And so during the present age, God has a people represented by the true believing church, the body of Christ. The Church age forms a "parenthesis" in God’s dealings with Israel (as shown from study of Hosea 2:23 where church is not described - see study of Daniel's Seventieth Week). Most conservative commentators feel the church age will culminate with the rapture of the Church, at which time God finalizes His dealings with Israel during the seven year period known as Daniel's Seventieth Week. The last three and one-half year of this seven years Jesus referred to as "the Great Tribulation" ("then [when antichrist is revealed - see Matthew 24:15] there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." Matthew 24:21 ) or as described in the OT, as the time of "Jacob's distress" ("'Alas! for that day is great. There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob's distress, But he will be saved from it" Jeremiah 30:7). Then one-third of Israel (alive at that time and who put their faith in Messiah) will become God’s people again and enter into the Messianic Age, the Millennial reign of Christ.

The final fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy is therefore still future and will take place at the return of Christ to earth. Israel that rejected the Messiah will

“look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

Then repentant, believing Israel will receive mercy and will become God’s people once more. The complete and final fulfillment will take place when

“the Deliverer will come from Zion” and “remove ungodliness from Jacob” (see note Romans 11:26).


  • Hosea 2:23; Romans 11:6,7,30; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 4:16
  • 1 Peter 2 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

The Greek text has a subtle nuance, for in its fullest sense the last clause reads,

You had not permanently received mercy, but now you have started receiving continuing mercy.

Received mercy (1653) (eleeo from eleos = ) actively means to help someone because of pity or great concern for their condition of need. Passively it means to receive the outward manifestation of pity and be shown mercy.

Mercy refers to the outward manifestation of pity and assumes need on the part of those who receive it and sufficient resources to meet the need on the part of those who show it.

MacArthur (ref) writes that…

Mercy is synonymous with compassion and essentially involves God’s sympathy with sinners’ misery and His withholding from them the just punishment for their sins… The words of one writer appropriately express how all Christians should feel toward such divine compassion:

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost,
In wonder, love, and praise.

See related resources: Commentary notes on "Blessed are the merciful" Matthew 5:7; Lesson notes on study from Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the Merciful: Matthew 5:7; The Mercy of God by A. W. Pink, notes on God's Attribute of Mercy.

Eleeo is passive voice in both uses in this verse and thus emphasizes the fact that believers make no contribution towards this mercy. Note the negative aspect (not receiving mercy) is in the perfect tense which describes our permanent condition outside of Christ. And then comes the Cross, the dividing line for this verse. The positive aspect (receiving mercy) is aorist tense which describes a past completed action at the time of our salvation.

Robertson comments on the tense change…

Change to first aorist passive participle from “the long antecedent state” to “the single event of conversion which ended it” (Hort).

Guzik is probably correct writing that…

In our culture, with its Christian foundations, we don’t understand the tremendous sense of privilege and relief that came to Gentiles as they were able to share in the New Covenant with the God of Israel. Peter’s message is nonetheless wonderful: “You didn’t used to belong, but now you belong to God and among God’s people.”