14 February 2021
Series: Rise Up
Topic: faithfulness , hope
Book: 1 Peter

Embrace Your Indentity

Bible Passage: 1 Peter 2:4-10

Rise Up and Embrace Your Identity

1 Peter 2:4-10

Check out our Discussion Guide: Living as Exiles.

Imagine you’re a young married man who’s Jewish. You grew up in a Jewish community on the banks of the Black Sea in a Roman province called Pontus.

Every Saturday you looked forward to attending synagogue to worship God with your family and friends. It was there that you not only fell in love with God and His Word, but your imagination ran wild hearing all about the amazing Temple in Jerusalem. A city filled with Jews and over a millennium of Jewish culture and heritage. A city literally on a hill that had stood the test of time. A city that was now under Roman rule but was still the center of Jewish life.

Every day 1,000’s of people enter the temple in Jerusalem to worship God. The God who called Abraham out and started your people; the God who raised up Moses to establish them as a nation, the God who raised up Joshua to conquer and claim the land promised to Abraham. The God of the prophets who sent fire, healed the waters, and hid the sun. The God who kept his prophets from being consumed by fire in a furnace. The God who shut the mouth of the lions and kept them from eating Daniel. The God who not only led his people out of captivity in Egypt but did it again with the Babylonians and Assyrians.

Time after time God had testified that the Jews were His people. You are one of His people. You are proud of who you are, proud of your heritage, proud of your community and you love the God who has given you all these reasons to be so proud!

One morning as you were preparing to fish you decided it was time to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was time to see and experience everything firsthand. It was time to let your wife bask in all the glory of being God’s people.

But to get there would take almost two months of travel, so you don’t go there to stay a few days. This was no small task. People who did this had to save money for years to be able to do it. It would mean making a huge sacrifice. It would take tremendous planning. It’s an absolutely huge commitment to make this pilgrimage and still be able to return back to your friends and family in Pontus. To return and still have a business and a home. But you knew you had to do it so you spent 10 years saving money and making preparations.

As time went by you and your wife had a few children which meant you had to work even harder to save enough money and develop the relationships that would sustain your business while you were gone.

But after 10 years the day came. You set off on the almost two-month-long trip with your wife and three young children.

You are going to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the greatest tradition of all the Jewish traditions and customs: PASSOVER. It’s the remembrance of God bringing the Jewish people out of slavery and establishing them as a nation. You’re going to take in the entire week and stay until after the celebration of the first harvest known as Pentecost.

After almost two months you arrive just in time, but as you enter the city you find an odd conversation taking place. Someone else has entered the city that day as well and people are claiming he might be the Messiah.

Your excitement level goes through the roof. Every Saturday in the synagogue you have prayed for this to happen. You rush your family to the temple to offer sacrifices and prayers. As you interact on the temple grounds you inquire about what you are hearing.

The booth where you purchased some doves to offer gave you some info, the person where you purchased a lamb gave you some other info. But you notice there is a disdain in their voice. A resentment that this person is not the Messiah because he is doing nothing to mobilize them to overthrow the Romans.

A few days later you hear a huge crowd of people shouting to crucify somebody. And it turns out they are going to crucify the guy many were just praising as the Messiah. You find yourself broken-hearted that he’s not Messiah. But, you’ve heard of others who claimed to be the Messiah and weren’t so you get over it and stay focused on why you came. To celebrate the Passover.

After a little more than a month your time with your family in Jerusalem has been amazing but it’s drawing to a close. You’ve sat in the temple and heard all kinds of teaching from famous rabies. You’ve toured holy sites, worshiped every day in the temple with your family, visited some of the famous pools to purify yourself before God. And today is the final day before you pack your family up and head back to Pontus.

On your way to the temple for one last celebration called Pentecost, you hear the strangest sound you’ve ever heard. You and your family stopped dead in their tracks with a little fear of what was happening only to see a group of people proclaiming the mighty works of God in every language of every person standing there.

You heard these works proclaimed in the native language of Pontus while the guys beside you from Egypt were hearing them in his language. You and everyone else stood there bewildered at how in the world this was happening.

Then suddenly a burly looking fella stood up. He appeared to you to look just you, a Jewish fisherman. His skin wore that leathery look of being in the sun too long. His hair and beard bore black and blonde streaks bleached by water and sun. His hands were scarred from working the nets. In this huge crowd, this fisherman stands up and somehow seemingly speaks directly to you.

He is preaching God’s Word, quoting many of the Scriptures and Prophecies that you have learned and meditated on throughout your life. The Scriptures of the promised one, the Messiah, the Kingdom of God, the new Covenant where we would know Him and He would write his law on our hearts. Where we would know Him and He would know us!

His sermon goes beyond your ears and straight into your heart. The emotions stir and build and then climax as he reveals that the man you heard about when your first arrived was indeed the messiah. That your religious leaders had him crucified, but three days later He rose from the grave.

That man they were talking about is the Christ. He is the eternal Son of God! Right then and there faith overwhelms you and your family. You, your wife, and your children all begin rejoicing and praising God!

Songs of praise break out. People dance and shout and then begin to disperse and tell others.

Every day you gather together to hear these 12 men who knew and followed Jesus tell everything He taught. You gather in people’s homes who lived in Jerusalem. You hang out in the tents of other pilgrims. Every day you devoted yourselves to praying together, fellowshipping together, and learning more and more of what Jesus taught, who He is, and what He did!

This goes on for weeks! And the massive crowds of people continued to grow as they met literally every day. But many of the pilgrims started running out of money. So people started selling whatever they had and taking the money to the Apostles to purchase food and distribute it. Everybody was willing to do whatever was needed to keep gathering to worship God and learn all about Jesus.

Until one day. The day a man named Saul arranged the trial and death of one of the men making sure the widows were being provided for.

You had heard this young man Stephen proclaim the Gospel. He did it with such power and anointing you knew God had raised him up and you had seen his efforts. But he was drug out and stoned to death like some murderer.

The temple leaders then commissioned Saul to round up every Jew who proclaimed Jesus was the messiah, that he had risen from the grave, and that God had fulfilled his promise.

It made no sense why they were doing this. You don’t understand it but you know you have to protect your wife and children. So you gather your things and make the long hard two-month journey back to Pontus.

Along the way, you recognize some of the people you had been worshiping with. People who professed Jesus is the Christ just like you and your family. You journey to Pontus together and vow to continue meeting to reflect on and encourage each other with all that you learned.
You all agree that as soon as you get back you will go to the synagogue and share this awesome news with the rabbis and elders. To share it with everybody in your Jewish community. The one they have prayed for every Saturday has come!

Some grabbed hold of the truth and believed, but others became furious! They shouted and wanted to know what the purpose of the temple was now. What are these sacrifices for if Jesus is the final sacrifice for sin? And how in the world could we dare invite people into our community who weren’t Jewish?

The majority of your friends and family become furious with you. But you pray for them and love them nonetheless. Then one day the Chief Elder of the community calls all those together who profess that Jesus is the Christ.

You are no longer welcome to attend synagogue and you can no longer live or do business in their community. From this day forward you will be treated like a gentile. You will be treated as one who no longer existed.

You are banished. Exiled.

You gather your things, your boats, and nets and move into a gentile community. You and all the other Jews find shelter in various places.

Life is hard. The gentiles weren’t fond of Jews to start off with. They already lacked trust and respect. But as those exiled by Jews, it became even worse. The Gentiles assumed you must be awful people to not even be accepted by your own Jewish brothers.

You still know how to catch fish but selling them is another matter. You and your family find yourselves in utter poverty. You and all those who had grabbed hold of the most awesome news you had ever been told.

You and your new-found friends meet every evening to share the little food you had all been able to gather up that day. You meet to praise God and remind each other of what you had learned in Jerusalem. Those who hadn’t been there eagerly listen to all they had missed! You pray for each other, but you do so cold and hungry and wonder if you have been abandoned by God.

You’re an exile to your people living among strangers who would rather you not be there. Lost, lonely, hurting, and scared. Your face that once gleamed with excitement and optimism has now grown dreary and depressed, aged and stressed, worried and dull.

You’ve lost family and friends. you’ve lost your ability to provide for your family. Your wife is starting to get bitter. Your kids are starting to feel left behind. Division is starting to creep into your family.

But then one day a person arrives in your daily gathering of believers. He is carrying a letter from the fisherman you heard preach in Jerusalem – the Apostle named Peter. It’s a letter he has personally written and addressed to you and the other believers in your part of the world. A letter that opens with an acknowledgment of your condition. That you are living as exiles.

Wow! This Peter knows the mess we are in. And he loves us enough to write and send this letter on a two-month journey from Jerusalem.

As the man who delivered the letter read it every word is like honey to your lips. Every word is water to a dry and scorched soul. Red meat to your starving spirit. You hang on to every word the guy reads, not wanting to even breathe loudly so you don’t miss anything he says.

But when you hear these words you can no longer contain your joy. Tears begin to flow and you find yourself clapping your hands and praising God so much that the person reading has to stop for a minute. The emotion overwhelms you as you hear these words of God from Peter.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

You really don’t hear anything after that. You know you’ll all be reading that letter for a long time to come so your outward emotional exuberance turns to an inward reflection.

You tactfully moved around so you could look down on the letter and see those words again. As you read them, you recognize scripture passages you had learned in the synagogue and begin to ponder the depth of what Peter had said.

You realize Peter has given you three reasons to never mope around again. Three reasons to hold your head up high. Three reasons to rise up from your despair and doubt and worry and fears.

Three reasons to rise up and stop feeling like an outcast.

Unlike the proud religious people that reject you, your worship is actually acceptable to God. (2:4-5)

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You went to Jerusalem to see this amazing spectacle called the Temple. Every stone handcrafted and placed there to give glory to God. Every stone put there by the intense labor and sacrifice of the Hebrew people. Every stone a testament to the gracious and merciful faithfulness of God to the Hebrew people!.

Every stone was meant to house the work of the Lord. To create a space for the priests, the men that all of Israel looked up to and trusted, to make an offering on their behalf that God would accept. Even one made by the High priest once a year for the sins you didn’t even know you committed.

But Peter just said you as a person are a stone. And not some kinetic object that can only sit there. You are like a living stone! Rejected by your Jewish brothers and sisters, no longer allowed to be a part of the great heritage and history that the temple in Jerusalem encapsulated.

But nonetheless, you are chosen by God. You are precious in His sight! He is the master builder who went to the quarry. And He wasn’t just looking around for any old stone, but He went to the quarry specifically to find you – a stone rejected by all the other builders. God had already decided before you were even rejected that He was coming to get you.

He chose you not to build a temple in a city, but a living breathing family. And you no longer offer up animals but your lives. Lives that have been washed white as snow not by their religious fervor or deeds but by the precious blood of Christ.

This expression, commonly phrased as “the priesthood of all believers,” refers to the community of priests and means that every true Christian is a priest in the household of God (see v. 9). “It is a singular honour, that God should not only consecrate us as a temple to himself, in which he dwells and is worshipped, but that he should also make us priests.” The adjective holy signifies that the priesthood is dedicated to God and separated from the world.1

God’s temple does not build itself, neither does man build it, but it is the sole work of God. The Spirit of God quarries out of the pit of nature the stones that are as yet dead, separating them from the mass to which they adhered. He gives them life and then He fashions, squares, polishes them. And they, without sound of axe or hammer, are brought each one to its appointed place and built up into Christ Jesus.2

Priesthood meant in Israel that these men were set apart to speak with God on behalf of the rest of the congregation. They had to offer the daily sacrifice and kindle the fire of the incense. Now, you who believe in Christ are all priests—priests for mankind, to speak for them to God. As man is spokesman for a dumb world, so are you intercessor for a sinful race.3

We offer spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the literal. There were sacrifices of bulls and goats under the law, as you know right well, yet the Lord never cared much for them, for the Holy Spirit when He spoke by men of old frequently set these things in the place of small esteem. In an evangelical frame of mind, deeply penitent for sin, the patriarch David was able to see the inefficiency of the legal offerings, and he wrote, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would give it. With a burnt offering you are not pleased” (Psa 51:16). You and I bring no lambs or bulls, but we present a real sacrifice that is far more pleasing in His sight, for it is written, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psa 51:17). The text that I have just quoted shows what our sacrifices are, for we imitate our Lord and say, “I delight to do your will, O my God.” This is the true sacrifice. Had not the Lord aforetime spoken by Samuel and said, “To obey is better than sacrifice; to give heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22)?4

Although you have no honor with religious people, you are eternally honored by God! (2:6-8)

6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

In this pair of sentences, Peter emphasizes the believers, so that in the Greek he says, “you, you who continue believing.” He strengthens the readers of his letter and encourages them to place their confidence in Jesus.5

These proud religious people have shamed and dishonored you, cast you out of the community, and no longer even acknowledge that you exist. These proud religious people talk about how dumb you are to believe in Jesus and how shameful of a person you are to do something so offensive to your family. They are constantly trying to heap shame on you. They continually attack your character and integrity and make you feel like the lowest piece of trash on this earth.

They did the same thing to Jesus.

But God responded by raising Jesus up and placing him at His right hand and giving him the name above every name so that at His name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD. In the same way, even though they heap shame on you, God heaps honor.

Jesus is the promised Messiah. The capstone. The cornerstone that the entire family of God is held up by. The Jenga piece that the entire structure is dependent on.

Just as they rejected you, they did the same and worse to Him. But, the Father resurrected the Son to be who He has always been. The Cornerstone and Capstone. The stone in the most important, exalted, and honored place!

They rejected him as that. But the Father has honored him forever as who He is. The eternal Son!

Likewise, He has done the same to you. He doesn’t hide His face from you. He ran to you and found you! He doesn’t turn his face from you in shame. He will never forsake you.

Literally, nothing you can do, nor nothing this world can do can separate you from the active, open, and boastful love of God for you.

Forever.

Unlike the arrogant religious people who see you as ignorant, you actually properly preach and proclaim the excellencies of God! (2:9-10)

You well remember the scribes and Pharisees walking around Jerusalem with all their garb on. All their expensive clothing and garments that made them stand out from everybody else.

They were all educated in the finest schools by men that everybody respects. They were treated as more important than everybody. People waited on them hand and foot. People sought their favor and approval. People looked up to them and dreamed of being just like them. People hung on to every word they taught and took it all as truth. They based their lives on it.

You are disregarded by them, looked at as ignorant and foolish. You have no importance to them at all. Ironically you didn’t have any before you gave your life to Christ but now you really don’t! You are as far away from their status and level of respect as humanly possibly.

But, Peter, this guy who looks and sounds just like you that spent three years walking around with Jesus, just wrote you a letter and said.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

Peter calls all believers a “holy” (v. 5) and “royal” (v. 9) “priesthood.” This means that every Christian is the ultimate insider. We are not merely representative of God’s place in the world; we serve as God’s priests before the world. No wonder Peter closes verse 10 with the words, Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. What an encouraging word for those who were identified in 1:1 as “exiles.” The ones who struggled with the sense of being outsiders now see in a fresh way that they are very dear to God indeed.6

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 hallmark upon you: that you are “a holy nation.” This is the true token of your nationality that you are holiness unto the Lord, “a people for God’s possession,” 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 people for God’s possession.”7

In the kingdom of priests (compare Exod. 19:6), there is a king. In fact, the Messiah is both priest and king, as Zechariah prophesied: “He will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne” (6:13; also see Heb. 7:14–17; Rev. 1:5–6). Whereas Zechariah prophetically portrays the Messiah as the royal priest, Peter reveals that believers are priests in a royal priesthood8

Peter portrays God’s people as a holy nation, which means that the citizens have been set apart for service to God.9

Challenge:

How prepared are you to be an alien? How prepared are you to no longer be excepted by America but rather be resented and rejected?

If you never strike the worldly person as being a strange person, if you never get the mocking laughter of the ungodly, if they never slander you, if you never detect any difference between yourself and them and they never discover any between themselves and you, it must be because you are not a genuine child of God.10

We have enjoyed a favored nation status in this culture. That status is coming to an end.

Christians who reject biblical morality and the exclusivity and authority of Jesus will be seen as acceptable/tolerated. But all who don’t will be seen as a threat.

This has been the case since Christ’s ascension, minus some short term exceptions, and it is increasingly becoming the case in the United States. The heart of liberalism is devaluing God as our authority, as well as his existence, and replacing Him with men (Romans 1)!

This set us up for next week. Christians can no longer see themselves as simply individuals who follow Jesus, but also as a part of the family of God. We must stop seeing ourselves as individuals who only need ourselves to follow Jesus. We must see ourselves as a part of a nation. As a people who not only are eternally valuable to God as individuals but also as a family that belongs to Him!

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Footnotes

  1. Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 86–87). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  2. Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.) (1 Pe 2:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  3. Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.) (1 Pe 2:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  4. Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.) (1 Pe 2:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  5. Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 89). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  6. Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: sharing christ’s sufferings (p. 76). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
  7. Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.) (1 Pe 2:9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  8. Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 92). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  9. Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 92). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  10. Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.