Who Are We? (1 Peter 2:4–10)

business-card-blank-1562061-1599x1066

“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 Folly of Fancy Fig Leaves (1 Timothy 6:17–19)

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty…”

The sin addressed here is being haughty, not  being rich. Beware of haughtily rebuking the rich. It’s easy to look down on a person with a big head and a big wallet with a big plank in our own big head because of our thinner wallet (Matthew 7:1–5). But righteousness cannot be measured in correlation to the thickness of wallets. Always more obnoxious than arrogant materialism is arrogant legalism.

The reason we so often revolt against pride isn’t because we think it’s a sin against God, but against us. The reason we don’t like materialistic pride is because we have the same ego, but we can’t pull off the dress, or, at least, we can’t afford it. “Who do they think they are? Do they think they’re me? I’m me, and I’m humble. They’re not me, and they’re arrogant. How dare they.”

Materialistic pride is a sin because it’s against God. It’s an expression that one is finding their identity in money. This is like a grown man finding his identity in a Batman costume. Come back to reality. The young man strutting his stuff down the street because he is something big in some virtual video game world, needs to wake up, as do any who place their identity in wealth.

Our identity is first found in this, we’re made in the image of God. Finding your identity in anything else, save one related thing (see number three below) is finding our identity in something less. Imagine a guy with several wonderful children. His quiver is full of golden arrows (Psalm 127:4–5). “You’re children are so well-behaved and talented.” “Yes, but… but… have you noticed my oil can collection?” Likewise, “You’re made in the image of God.” “Yes, but look at this green! Look at all these pieces of paper with no intrinsic value.”

Second, and more detrimental to our ego, devastatingly so, is that we’re all born legitimate sons of Adam, inheriting his guilt and corruption. It’s because of the first identity marker that this one is so serious. It is because we are made in the image of God that our rebellion is so vile. In Adam, we’re covenant-breakers, law-trespassers, and God-haters. Thus, morally bankrupt, at best,and only by grace, we’re beggars.

Third, for the saints, we are a new creation in Christ. He is our righteousness. In Jesus we’re adopted as sons, fellow heirs with the Prince. Therefore, for a rich Christian to boast over a poor Christian is like once billionaire boasting over another billionaire because he has more Monopoly money. Come back to reality.

Imagine two pilgrims journeying to an eternal kingdom of bliss where they are to both be joint heirs with the prince of that realm. One chap is dressed exquisitely, the other in rags. The richer joe’s nose is upturned during the journey. Finally, though sinfully, the guy in rags responds, “You know, your clothes are so this age—faddish. They’re going out of style because of the prince. That swoosh won’t mean anything there.”

But, if indeed we are joint heirs in Christ, there is no need to respond in sinful, haughty, insecurity. We can rebuke our brother in love, because it’s not about us. The gospel strips all of us of our green fig leaves, and clothes us with the Lamb.