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Tuesday
Oct262010

Chosen Race

What should be the solution to all of the world’s racial animosity is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially in the idea that God has chosen a race to be his own. The sweet truth about that is that everyone can subscribe to that chosen race, without exception.

I. The Living Stone

    A. Coming to Christ

        1. Peter addressed this first canonical letter “To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:1-2).

            a. there is so much doctrine in that greeting, that the greeting itself sometimes is overlooked

            b. these exiles were residents of an area north of the Taurus Mountains in modern-day Turkey, an ethnically diverse, but Hellenized region of the Roman empire

            c. it was a region where most of the readers probably would have been Gentiles and former pagans, rather than Jews from birth

        2. thus, Peter is using terms that once applied only to Jews to describe the church of Christ, which even then was expanding its reach among Gentile peoples

            a. like Israel of the Old Testament, they had become the elect, chosen by God through the preaching of the gospel, not personal merit (Romans 9:14-16; see also Deuteronomy 4:37)

            b. like the Exodus pilgrims, suddenly these disciples of Christ were spiritual exiles upon the Earth, citizens then of heavenly country, where their treasures were being laid up in Christ (see Philippians 3:20, Matthew 6:19, Genesis 23:4)

            c. Diaspora was a technical term for Jews who lived outside of Palestine, but when applied to these readers, it indicated the far-flung nature of the new kingdom that had burst its Judean boundaries and was already becoming a worldwide venture (see Colossians 1:6)

        3. this change of relationships was accomplished according to God’s foreknowledge and through the shedding of his son’s blood on the cross, setting them apart from sinners among both Jews and Gentiles when they obeyed Jesus Christ (First Peter 4:16-19)

            a. Peter’s language is similar to Paul’s in his letter to the Ephesians where the plan of God to save even the Gentiles alongside the Jews is revealed as a mystery no longer, even though it was always according to God’s plan (Ephesians 1:3-14, 3:1-6)

            b. it is also reminiscent of Peter’s visit to the home of Cornelius, where the apostle watched his Gentile hosts receive the Holy Spirit and then he baptized them just as he had the Jews on Pentecost (see Acts 10-11)

 

    B. The Chief Cornerstone

        1. Gentile Christians had come to the Lord in spite of a racial reason not to, even as many Jews forsook the Law and the Prophets to reject a messiah who didn’t meet their expectations (First Peter 2:4-8)

        2. Jesus is described as a “living stone,” the chief cornerstone of God’s spiritual house, a temple built not with hands and which cannot be toppled by Roman generals

            a. Peter pulls together prophetic ideas from the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:11-15, 28:14-16)

            b. the temple then standing in Jerusalem was the third and, although it had been constantly under construction and improvement for decades, it had only years left to stand at all (Acts 4:8-12)

            c. the temple that God intended to construct through the body of Christ has lasted now nearly two millennia and has become clearly superior to any physical structure, but still people stumble over it

        3. the body of Christ – the crucified form of flesh that is metaphorically transformed into the church of the saints – is God’s temple (Ephesians 2:19-22)

        4. those who enter its service and do not stumble because it is difficult or different become a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people and sojourners and exiles on Earth

            a. “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you” (First Peter 2:9, THE MESSAGE).

            b. we are surely not called out of the world just to be like the world

 

II. The Church of Christ (First Peter 2:9-12)

    A. Chosen Race

        1. God chose the Israelites to work through on his way to revealing a saving plan for everybody; they were chosen for that purpose and protected to that end: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

        2. our modern racial problems sometimes reflect the separation of Jews and Gentiles in ancient times, and today as well, but racial distinctions – especially the ones that trouble Americans – are without any basis other than pride and foolishness (Acts 17:24-28)

            a. God has made from one blood every nation on Earth; humankind is of one species, not evolved from animal life, but endowed by its creator with humanity and spirituality

            b. with God, there is no respect of persons or nations (Galatians 3:27-29)

        3. the chosen race is the company of Christians, regardless of skin color, continent, language or custom

 

    B. Royal Priesthood

        1. the transformation is furthered as spiritual Israel becomes a royal priesthood of believers, independent of the tribe of Aaron, and dedicated to offering up acceptable, spiritual sacrifices to God (Revelation 1:5b-6)

        2. “Under the old law, sacrifices were dead, bloody, burned with fire, smeared with fat, carnal, temporal, and salted with salt …. By contrast, in the church, sacrifices are spiritual, living, clean, pure, holy, and acceptable to God. They are described as ‘better sacrifices’” (Coffman).

        3. acceptable, spiritual sacrifices include the fruit of our lips, the treasure we lay up in heaven by being rich toward God, and the time and energy we expend in blessing our neighbors (Romans 12:1-2)

 

    C. Holy Nation

        1. although it is hard to accept, God’s special nation is not Israel, and neither is it the United States of America; it’s Premillennial to focus on Israel and patriotic to embrace America as divinely situated, but there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that God has any more special nation than the church that belongs to Christ across political boundaries and continental divides

        2. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

        3. our emphasis should be upon the holiness

            a. “[W]e exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (First Thessalonians 2:12).

            b. holiness is the result of that sanctification of the Spirit and while it does not indicate flawless perfection, it does demand conscious effort and consistent growth (First Peter 1:13-16)

 

    D. Peculiar People

        1. Christians are “a people for his own possession,” worshippers and evangelists in Peter’s mind; “a peculiar people” in the old King James Bible

        2. peculiarity is not exactly strangeness and yet to those who remain in the world or who compromise the New Testament to get along with the world, the disciples of Christ are an odd bunch

        3. the real meaning of the phrase is that we become a people for God’s own possession, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (First Corinthians 6:19-20).

        4. abstaining from popular pleasures like alcohol, dance, ribaldry, immodesty, and fornication will make you seem peculiar, just as eschewing denominational names and creeds and instrumental music in worship and insisting that immersion is essential to the believer’s salvation, but the people of God’s possession have always stood upon those convictions (First Peter 3:13-17)

 

    E. Sojourners and Exiles

        1. those early Christians were sojourners and exiles in their Gentile lands, just as Moses and Israel had been in the wilderness, and yet there is hope for the pilgrim who is faithful (First Peter 1:17-19)

        2. it is the process by which we remain in the world without becoming of the world (Second Peter 1:3-4)

        3. Jesus warned that the devil would continue to try to deceive the elect, to scare the sojourners into ending their pilgrimage, returning to the Egypt of their enslavement to regain the modern version of leeks and cucumbers – whatever passion or appetite or habit that continues to exert itself upon our hearts

        4. we just cannot afford to terminate our pilgrimage before we reach the destination (Hebrews 11:13-16)

 

Conclusion

How worthy are we to be called a chosen race, holy nation, royal priesthood, or special people? So much of that depends on how committed we are to remaining sojourners and exiles upon a corrupted earth.

 

Questions For Review

  1. What forms the foundation of the church of Christ?
  2. Where is the Christian’s citizenship?
  3. What was the mystery that Paul revealed in the Ephesian letter?
  4. Why do so many stumble over the church’s cornerstone?
  5. What is God’s chosen race?
  6. What sacrifices should be offered by a royal priesthood?
  7. What does it take to be a peculiar people?

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