Who Are We? (1 Peter 2:4–10)

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“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. 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.”

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,”

and

“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

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. 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 (ESV)

Who are you?

How did you answer that question? With your name? Your vocation? Your heritage? Your ethnicity? Your nationality? Your alma mater?

There are multiple ways this question could be rightly answered. Context will determine much. In the workplace you won’t answer by explaining who your great uncle is. At the family reunion you will not reply with your job title. But in a vague context, where your​ mind goes first can be revealing. When you think about who you are, do you ever think “saint” or “child of God?” Beyond this, do you find yourself only thinking in individualistic rather than corporate categories?

Ours is an age that emphasizes the individual at the expense of any corporate identities. Yet we wonder why we’re so lonely, detached, and isolated and we continue to gasp at rampant consumerism and selfishness. Church, Peter’s aim in these verses is clear. He wants us to know who we are. Being a Christian has implications for each of us individually, but you cannot think of who you are as​ a saint independently, apart from the body of Christ.

While it is clear that Peter wants us to know who we are, what is less clear is why? Why does Peter want us to know who? Peter doesn’t spell this out, but I think we all realize something of why as we look at who, and it is that who speaks to why. Who determines purpose. When your identity consists​ of being “elect exiles” (1:1) this has radical implications for why and how you live.

How many of the church’s problems stem from a failure to understand who she is? She is full of people acting like individuals, approaching church and spirituality as consumers looking to fill their personal needs. The church corporately responds to this by marketing herself to this individualism. How often do you get the sense that what really makes a church tick is the desire to express her individualism? It is not enough to simply be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be a unique one.

Jesus has adorned the church. She doesn’t need to doll herself up. Any such effort won’t be an improvement. The church’s make-up identity skills suck. She hamfistedly globs on the mascara​ trying to attract the wrong kind of guy. What the church needs is to realize who she is in Christ and act accordingly. Instead of behaving as a prostitute whoring after the world, let us strive to be faithful to the one who has loved us into beauty. In Him we are a temple, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a treasured possession. If we realized this, we’d quit trying to tout our uniqueness and start offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable in Christ. We’d start declaring the glories of Him who called us out of darkness and into His light.

The Exegetical Systematician: Basic Counting Skills for a Church Lost in Formulas

[From a sermon on Matthew 18:20]

There are also people who have such esteem for numbers that the will deign to patronize the exercises of worship only where crowds congregate. It is easy to discover the measure of such calculation. They have greater regard for the presence of people than for the Lord’s presence. If we make numbers the criterion of the Lord’s presence, then we miss entirely the purport of our Lord in this text. If only two came to a meeting for the worship of God, it would be offering grave insult to the Lord of glory to suspend the service because of the fewness of those in attendance. Where there are two met in Jesus’ name, there are always three, and the third is the Lord of glory. And where there ire three there are always four. —John Murray, Christ in All the Assemblies of His People

The Exegetical Systematician: A Plurality of Elders

The New Testament institution is not, as we have seen, a pure democracy. Neither is it an autocracy. It is the simple truth that singularity has no place in the government of Christ’s church. In every case the singularity exemplified in diocesan episcopacy, whether it be in the most extreme form of the papacy, or in the most restricted application of local diocesan bishops, is a patent deviation from, indeed presumptuous contradiction of the institution of Christ. Plurality is written in the boldest letters in the pages of the New Testament, and singularity bears the hallmark of despite to Christ’s institution.

It is not for us to question the institution of Christ even when we are unable to discover the reasons for it. But in this instance it is not difficult to see the wisdom and grace of the head of the church. Plurality is a safeguard against the arrogance and tyranny to which man has the most characteristic proclivity. And plurality in this sphere always differentiates the singularity that belongs to Christ and to him alone. It is no wonder that failure to adhere to the plurality that must be maintained in the government of the church has, by logical steps, resulted in what on all accounts is the greatest travesty ever witnessed in the history of Christendom, namely, the pretensions and blasphemies of the Roman see. —John Murray, “The Form of Government

The Exegetical Systematician: Pastor, She Ain’t Yours

Perhaps no doctrine of the New Testament offers more sanctity to this fact than that the church is the body of Christ which he has purchased with his own blood. That which elders or bishops rule is the blood-purchased possession of Christ, that which cost the agony of Gethsemane and the blood of Calvary’s accursed tree. It was that which was captive to sin, Satan, and death, and Christ redeemed it as his own precious possession. It is now his body, and he is the head. How shall we dare to handle that body, how shall we dare to direct its affairs, except as we can plead the authority of Christ? The church as the body of Christ is not to be ruled according to human wisdom and expediency but according to the prescriptions of him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” —John Murray, Government in the Church of Christ.

The Apologist: Church Discipline is Amoebatization Prevention

The New Testament stresses such purity, for the church is not to be like an amoeba so that no one can tell the difference between the church and the world . There is to be a sharp edge. There is to be a distinction between one side and the other—between the world and the church, and between those who are in that church and those who are not. —Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century

“All Christian and No Church” or “When Helium Tries to Strut Like Lead” (Exodus 34:29–35)

I’m concerned that many Christians are trying to be too Christian. When a person is all Christian and no church they’re like a single hydrogen atom strutting as though it’s lead. How often is Moses’ experience on Sinai and his subsequent radiance individualized? Visit a “Christian” bookstore if you don’t believe me. Read the titles, they’re heavy on the Christian, light on the church. Which is to say, they’re not that heavy.

The Hebrew word for “glory” carries the connotation of weight. Glory is weighty. If you believe you were meant to fly solo, you won’t have much substance, much weight, much glory. Strive to be Moses, and your complexion will be dull. Own up to being Israel, then you’ll shine.

You’re not shining Moses. You’re sinning Israel. The good news is that you have one better than Moses and in having Him, you have more than Moses. Try to be Moses, and you will see less of God. Be Israel, pleading for the better Moses, and you will see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. You are not meant to be a mediator, you need one. You’re not meant to see like Moses, but like Israel, and because of Jesus, this means seeing more than Moses in the mediator Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a sight you are to strive for individualistically, aiming to outshine all the other hydrogen atoms. Such a congregating of hydrogen atoms is explosively bad. Beholding the glory of God is the collective experience of the body of Christ. We behold and we become together (2 Corinthians 3:18). The church is weapons grade plutonium, radiating with the glory of Christ as she sits under His word.

The Apologist: Dethroning Jesus in the Name of Jesus

It is curious that we can do things in Christ’s name while pushing Him off the stage. I have seen this most plainly when a church has become caught up in a building project and has moved heaven and earth to complete it. One does need a roof over his head, but this is only a small portion of the church’s ministry. The building is only an instrument.

Fighting for evangelism and the salvation of souls should not become primary either; yet how often this happens! Other people, quite rightly, see the church of our generation threatened by apostasy, but then have made the purity of the visible church the center of their lives. In all of these Jesus may remain as a topic of conversation, but His real centrality has been forgotten. In the name of Christ, Christ is dethroned. When this happens, even what is right becomes wrong.

—Francis Schaeffer, No Little People