A Chosen People…

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

We have referenced our Verse of the Day on previous occasions. Yet, each time I read it and meditate on it, I experience a fresh impact on my thoughts regarding relationship with God through Christ. This is such an affirming verse for believers! We find the foundation of these assurances of election in the Old Covenant. So, I thought it would be good to look at those and see how Peter applies them to believers as partakers of the New Covenant:

Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (NIV)

6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. 7 The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (See Also Deuteronomy 14:2)

Isaiah 42:5-7 (NIV)

5 This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 49:5-9 (NIV)

5 And now the Lord says— He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him; and that Israel might be gathered to Him – for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— 6 He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have preserved. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to Him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

4 As you come to Him (Jesus), a living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Citing Isaiah 28:16) 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”(Citing Psalm 118:22) 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Citing Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

For the prophetic application, we can see the OT references captured in the passage authored by Peter. Here Peter asserts that those who once upon a time were NOT a people have now become the people of God. Before, Gentiles had not received the mercies of God, but now we have received His mercy through Christ Jesus. In Christ, we have become “chosen” people. We have been chosen IN Him and set apart (made holy) as a nation gathered under its king. We have become God’s special (treasured) possession because we abide in the Son He loves us.

What I appreciate most is that Peter provides for us the reason or purpose that God has shown us such great mercy and chosen us: “that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light!” This is what God expects from His people – praise and worship – in Spirit and in truth! (Cf. John 4:23-24) We are being built into a spiritual house to be a “holy priesthood” in order to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Does this remind you of another verse we have studied? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Cf. Romans 12:1) And, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Cf. Hebrews 13:15-16)

Jesus is the living Stone … the chief cornerstone … the Rock upon which we as living stones are being built into a temple of the Spirit. Collectively, we are the Body of Christ in whom the Spirit of God lives. We are His House … we are His Church … the “Called Out Ones” or Ecclesia (Latin). Believers have been called out of the world. In this connotation, we have been chosen out of the world and placed into Christ (His Body).

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17:5-7; 14-18 (NIV)

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

When we peer into the depths of who we are in Christ, it is evident to me that believers have been separated out by Father God, the Creator of the universe Himself, for a special purpose! This calling out … this setting apart … this sanctification … is effectuated through our faith in Jesus Christ. And God has revealed to us His purpose for doing so: “That we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light!” Yes, we were chosen for this very purpose … to be a royal priesthood unto God … a holy people unto God … not for our own sake but for His glory! As the Apostle Paul affirmed, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So, I pray that each of us will see ourselves as part of the greater purpose for which God the Father has called us out of the world. Yes, I hope this short study helps you to see connections in the Scriptures that you might not have seen before. And I pray it encourages you to know how deeply God loves you … and why He has saved you out of the darkness in which we once live and brought us into the marvelous light of His Son. (Cf. Matthew 4:12-16; Luke 2:25-32) It is because of His mercy that we have been drawn to His light … to be born of God and to become His treasured possession. So let us praise Him who called us! Let us worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth! Let us offer Him spiritual sacrifices as a priesthood of the New Covenant … under the authority of our great High Priest, Christ Jesus! Yes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Rock of Ages – Stumbling Stone

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our Verse of the Day captures a portion of Acts 4; however, I think it best to go ahead and include a little more of the context so that you get a better sense of the declaration that Peter made to the people.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter today, though.  It’s good stuff!

Acts 4:5-12 (NIV)

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ SEE NOTE  12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

NOTE: Here, the Apostle Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit) is boldly quoting Old Testament Scriptures which the Jewish rulers and elders would have been familiar.  We can find the references to this spiritual metaphor in Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 28:16. And it is prophesied in Zechariah 10:4 that the “cornerstone” would be a descendant of Judah.  Even Jesus quoted this passage; and this is recorded in the three Synoptic Gospels at Matthew 21:42-43; Mark 12:10-11; and Luke 20:16-18.  And Peter later quotes and discusses in his first epistle as shared below:

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

As you come to Him (Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion,  a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Cf. Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The theological significance of Psalm 118:22-23 and what Peter is sharing cannot be underestimated.  References to God as a “Rock” or a “Stone” abound in the Old Testament.  The metaphor speaks to the power of God; His steadfastness; His unchangeable character; the secure, unmovable nature of His love; a place of spiritual refuge; and His salvation.  This metaphor is first used of God in Genesis 49:24 as Jacob blesses Joseph before his death. Moses uses this imagery of God in Deuteronomy 32:4 affirming,God is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” This theological construct is developed further in the remainder of Chapter 32, and I advise you to read it beyond the excerpt I share below. 1 Samuel 2:2 states: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 2 Samuel 22 captures a Song of Praise written by King David that begins, “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge….”  And many of the Psalms make similar references to the Lord as “my Rock” and is it paired with the Lord my Savior or Redeemer.

So I believe it is safe to say that when Jesus quoted Psalm 118; the Jewish rulers and leaders understood its theological implications. (Cf. Luke 20:19) Likewise, when Peter quoted the same Scripture to the Jewish rulers and leaders, the focus was on their “rejection” of the Stone or Rock … their crucifixion of the Messiah … Jesus the Son of God. As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (Cf. John 1:10-11) Yet, rebellion against the revealed will of God is nothing new for man in general … or Israel in particular.  And what is amazing is how much indifference we find in people – even ourselves – after we have experienced first-hand the supernatural power of God in our lives.  You will find the same historical “hardness of heart” recorded centuries before in Deuteronomy 32:

Deuteronomy 32:15-20 (NIV)

They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 16 They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because He was angered by His sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” He said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.

Surely the Pharisees knew the references … and the application should be a forewarning to us!  As Peter declared: “Jesus IS ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  What is Peter saying here? When you reject the Rock, you reject God! The Jews and unbelievers today have not only rejected the “Living Stone”, the “Rock of Salvation”, and the “Rock of Refuge” … they have refused to accept that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone”!  Everything is built upon Him! There can be no other plausible conclusion.  When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter professed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And how did Jesus respond? 

Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, (the Greek word for Peter means rock) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

You see, “rock” represents something solid … something you can depend on to not fall or fail when weight or pressure is exerted upon it.  In this context it represents a trustworthy, pillar of truth upon which to build our lives.  Christ Jesus has been building His Church on this foundation of all Truth: He is the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  He is the cornerstone on which the rest of the building … His Body – the Church is set … square and plumb … true and level.  Jesus is the head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior. (Cf. Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19) So we need to understand this is the ultimate question every human ever born or to ever be born MUST answer regarding Jesus.  Jesus testified, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So now, each of us has to answer Jesus when He asks us: “Who do YOU say I am?”  And the answer people give determines if Father God embraces them as His own … or if God hides His face from them as unfaithful children.  And it is this question to which we have been called to urge everyone to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For Jesus IS the stone that causes people to stumble and fall if they do not obey the message and come to Him to receive salvation and eternal life….

Father God, I pray even now, that each of us would let this bold sermon from Peter penetrate our hearts and minds.  Convict our hearts, Father God, and any who are not fully persuaded that You are the Rock … the chief cornerstone … the foundation of ALL light and truth! Bring us into submission and the obedience of faith – for you have appointed Jesus as the head over every power and authority in heaven and on earth.  Keep us within you … and abide in us … that we might be faithful children to declare your praises because you have called us out of darkness into the wonderful light of your Son.  Thank you, Father God, for your everlasting mercies … and may the mercies of your love and salvation be the rock upon which we continue to build our lives! May we always be living stones … laid upon the sure foundation of your Son.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 3:11) Amen.

Well, I think that I will stop here….  I feel a bit carried away at the moment because I believe so strongly that we need to hear and share this message!  Jesus is the stone the builders rejected … but to those who believe – who have come to faith in His Name … Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we must be saved!  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  We need to reach out to those who “stumble and fall” through unbelief in the message.  Remember, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17) This is the rock-solid truth upon which the Kingdom of God has been forged! Jesus IS the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  Upon this rock the Church – a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession – is built and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!