But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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. (verses 9-10)
Who are you? What’s your purpose? Questions can’t get much more basic than these. And without answers, we end up insecure, anxious, and rudderless.
Peter, without ever even being asked the questions, gives a fully loaded answer, beginning with four brief phrases that embrace the whole community of believers into one.
Chosen people. To be chosen means that someone has noticed you, placed value on you, counted you as important, and selected you above all others. I knew the opposite of this in Elementary School when we lined up against the chain link fence to be selected for softball teams. I wasn’t very good, and everyone knew it, so the team captains never selected me first, nor second, nor third. Painfully, I always got picked near the end, which was synonymous with not be “chosen” at all. On the other hand, when I got married, I knew the one I’d chosen, and that she had freely, and joyfully, chosen me! I’ve never recovered!
Peter tells us that we, as a whole people, have been chosen by the Sovereign Lord of all universes. What higher value could be placed upon us? What firmer foundation for self-identity than to be anchored in intimate relationship with Almighty God himself, and identified with all his saved ones?
Royal priesthood. The blood lines of royalty run deep, carrying prestige and rank and privilege. You can’t earn it. You can only be born into it. Such are the bloodlines of the family of God – they can’t be earned, they require new birth, they run deep, and carry the prestige, rank, and privilege of being “in Christ.” Further, this is a royal line of priests, divinely appointed and equipped to serve both heaven and earth – bringing people to God and God to people. Again, it’s a corporate calling, as we work alongside one another in service of the Lord.
Holy nation. The idea of nationhood reminds us of geographic setting and how Israel as a community was brought into the Promised Land, given to them collectively as a gift that provided home, livelihood, and identity. Like them, we, too, as God’s people are recipients together of his promises – we have been blessed“with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”(Ephesians 1:3). What a legacy. And “he chose us in him … that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). This holiness results not from our own accomplishment, but rather from Christ’s work in us. This is who we are – this is the life we are to lead.
People belonging to God. Ultimately, this is the core of our identity. Who are we? We are God’s own. What more need be said? Praise his name.
So, then, because this is our identity, our purpose in life becomes clear. We’re to declare his praises. So simple. We do it in word and deed. The words are to pour forth – “Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”(Hebrews 13:15). Likewise, our actions are to point to him – “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
His we are – our identity is in him. He is our purpose – we live to bring him praise.
Dear Lord, anchor my soul in the deep reality of my identity in you. I am yours. I am part of your people, collectively blessed with every spiritual blessing. And keep my sights on my eternal purpose – to declare your praises in all I do and all I say. To your glory alone. Amen.
Reflect: Which of the four identity statements speaks to your heart most strongly? Why? Live in that place today – call it to mind often – repeat the phrase and give thanks.