One of the downsides of living in the west is our tendency to think individualistically instead of corporately. This can lead to downplaying or ignoring the significance of the corporate emphasis found in the Scriptures. God’s purpose has always been to have a people for His own possession (see Ex. 19:5–6; Eph. 1:14, 18). Peter uses some of these corporate designations from the OT and applies them to the new people God has formed in Christ in 1 Peter 2:9. Let’s look at how he describes the church with some help from J. Vernon McGee in his Thru the Bible commentary.     

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Pet. 2:9

He is saying several very wonderful things about us here. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people of His own—not a “peculiar people.” God’s people are not supposed to be oddballs or crackpots or ready for the funny farm. Some folk seem to think that is what “peculiar” means. It is more meaningful to use the translation: a people of His own.

A Chosen People

We are a “chosen generation,” that is, an elect race. Back in the Old Testament God chose, Israel as His people, and in the Scriptures there are two elect groups of people: the nation Israel, called an elect nation, and the church, called an elect nation and an elect people.

Now keep in mind that Peter is writing to his own people, the Diaspora, Jewish Christians who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire and even beyond it. In effect he is saying, “Although right now you certainly do not look like a chosen generation, you are. Because you have come to Christ, you are a chosen generation, you are an elect nation, just as the children of Israel were elect.” The keys of the kingdom have been given to the church, and we today are to give out the gospel because the church is the chosen instrument. This honor has been conferred upon believers. It is as if God had stamped out for you and me a wonderful medal on which is inscribed: You are an elect race; you are a chosen generation.

Many vain attempts are being made in our day to identify certain people of this earth with the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. They are said to be the gypsies, the Mormons, the Adventists, or the British-Israel group—which is probably the most vocal. Well, if they could prove that England and America were settled by the ten “lost” tribes of Israel, what have they proven? God has set aside the nation Israel temporarily, and today God is doing a new thing. He is calling out an elect race, a chosen generation, from every tongue and nation and people—both Jew and Gentile—and they are brought into a new relationship to God in the church.

Excursus – What does it mean to be chosen?

Although you and I say that we have come to Christ, He says that He has chosen us. I like that. It reminds me of the story of two little urchins from the slums of New York who got to Macy’s department store and were looking in the window at the merchandise on display. They saw things which they could never have, but they played a game with each other.

One said, “I choose this.”

The other said, “I choose that.”

The boy said, “I choose the ball.”

The girl said, “I choose the doll.”

You and I are just like poverty-stricken little urchins in this world, but when we say, “I choose Jesus,” we find that He has already chosen us. How wonderful that is! The Lord Jesus said of His own apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you …” (John 15:16). It is wonderful to know this. I am not being irreverent when I say that, since He has chosen me, He is responsible for me. The responsibility is His because I belong to Him. How wonderful it is that He has chosen us!

A Royal, Priestly People

We are “a royal priesthood.” Back in the Old Testament God first of all chose the entire nation of Israel to be His priests. However, they sinned, and so God chose one tribe out of that nation. The priests came from this one tribe. Today there is no priesthood on earth which God recognizes—except one. Today every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a priest. Israel had a priesthood; today the church is a priesthood.

When I was a pastor, I preached a message entitled, “You Are a Catholic Priest.” The word catholic means “general,” of course. In that sense every believer is a catholic priest, and all have access to God. Since we belong to Christ, we can come into His presence, into the very holy of holies. Simon Peter tells us here that we as believers are members of a royal priesthood. We are children of the King. A little later on in this epistle we will read that the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and that He hears their prayers. Oh, how wonderful this is!

A Holy People

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.

A Peculiar People

Peter calls us “a peculiar people”—a people of His own. We are a people for acquisition, a people for God’s own possession. We belong to Him. Therefore, there is in the world not only a new nation but also a people that belong to Him. I don’t know why some Christians are afraid of this concept. It doesn’t mean that we are to be peculiar in conduct and act strangely but that we belong to Him. We are His very own people.

We can compare it to a boy who goes out and gets a job and makes his own money for the first time. His dad has been giving him an allowance, but now the money belongs to him. It is something that he worked for, and it is his very own. Well, Christ’s work, His work of redemption, required the shedding of His blood, as we have seen in this epistle, and now He has a people for His very own.

In the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus, He says, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me …” (John 17:6). Also He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). How wonderful it is that the Father has given us to Christ!

A People Called by God

And God calls His own. He calls you today, my friend. It doesn’t matter who you are or to which race you belong. Jesus Christ is calling to you to be His own. He wants you to join a chosen generation and a royal priesthood. He is not inviting you to wear robes or to recite rituals but to join a priesthood that has access to God. God is asking you to belong to a new nation. He does not mean Germany or England or Japan or even the United States. He asks you to belong to that great company of believers out of every nation.

“… happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” (Ps. 144:15).

“So we [are] thy people and sheep of thy pasture …” (Ps. 79:13).

Through the prophet Isaiah God says, “… for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isa. 53:8).

And in the New Testament, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12).

Oh, what a wonderful position we have in Christ!

Keep Reading Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee

The Thru the Bible commentary by J. Vernon McGee follows Dr. McGee’s well-known teaching from the Thru the Bible Radio program. Now you can own all his teachings in a single volume! Check out our store to learn more!

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