1 Peter 1:22-2:10 - The New People of God
September 22, 2013 Speaker: Series: 1 Peter
Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: 1 Peter 1:22–2:10
[Text: 1 Peter 1:22-2:10] “The New People of God”
Peter began his letter with the Gospel and then began telling us what to do with it as individuals. But now he picks up and goes beyond our individual selves, teaching us that this work of God is about you and me - and so much more than you or me.
[Read 1 Peter 1:22-2:10 and Pray]
There are a number of diseases and circumstances that cause tunnel vision – glaucoma, panic attacks, intense anger, moving at high speeds - but the effect is fairly similar. All you can see it the one thing in front of you. Your field of vision becomes so narrow that you lose sight of everything else.
Joe Rooks was a cameraman with CBS’s Wide World of Sports covering a drag-racing event. Stationed beside the quarter-mile track, he had his camera trained on the dragster roaring by when the car veered and struck a guard rail. Joe kept his camera on the disintegrating car as it continued down the lane, his vision fixed on the dragster, his fingers working the camera to keep the wreck in focus. But from the side came the supercharger of the engine, torn loose in the wreck and moving at 200 miles per hour. And with Joe’s eyes fixed on the wreck in front of him, he never saw the speeding block of metal that took his life.
When Peter wrote this letter, he understood something about his audience. They, like us, experienced a sort of tunnel vision. But where Joe Rooks’ job was to focus on the dragster, our tendency is to fixate only on ourselves. Theologians, beginning with Augustine in the 4th century, began calling the human tendency toward selfish tunnel vision “homo incurvatus in se.” We are each a “human curved inward on oneself” and it’s the very normal and very wrong disposition of each of us since we fell in the Garden.
That curving inward on ourselves is fundamental to this thing we call sin. It is the deep selfishness in us that says we would rather ourselves sit on God’s throne. We would rather make the rules and decide how life works best. We see homo incurvatus in se on our highways and in our marriages. Maybe you see it in a co-worker’s willingness to take all the credit and none of the blame. Or maybe you recognize it when you realize just how many times a day you look in the mirror. My wife sees her husband curved in on himself when I drag my feet over helping with the simplest task.
We can be so far curved inward on ourselves that we form a perfect circle, running around and around but focusing only on ourselves – fixated on our problems, intent on satisfying our desires. Our little circle can functionally seal us off from everyone and everything outside of ourselves. Apart from the work of God, every human lives this way. So, even if one loves their family well and gives to charity and shares what they have (these things we would understand to be common grace at work – echoes of the image of God that remain in we glorious ruins called humans) – even the pious pagan is curved inward on himself because his heart is not oriented toward the Creator and Redeemer.
But lest we throw stones, we must confess that even as Christians our natural tendency is to be curved inward on ourselves. Although God is certainly at work in us, working through Christ and His Spirit in ways we’ll talk about in a few moments - even still – our old nature remains at war with the new in us. Christians aren’t immune from selfish tunnel vision. I sometimes become so focused on myself – my problems, my suffering, my needs, my sin, my salvation – that I can’t see past “me.” And there are times and situations when the old inward curve is more attractive than others. Because what do we do when it all “hits the fan?” What do we do when we’re threatened? My old arc begins to curve back around to myself.
If you look back to the very beginning, Peter writes to “elect exiles” (1:1) who were facing present trials with more suffering on the horizon. Both of those things could intensify the thing that humans are already so good at doing – the suffering could turn them inward upon themselves and direct all of their thought and energy toward “looking out for #1.”
Ah, but the Holy Spirit writes brilliantly through Peter. Even in his organization of this letter’s opening, Peter helps us to see our hope in God. In the wider context of 1:1 through 2:10, Peter sandwiches the sections of instructions (1:13-2:3) between larger sections where he describes what God has done in Christ to rescue us from our sin and ourselves. So, he tells believers to fight against our natural curvature with the Good News of Jesus. And as he gives instructions, he motivates and empowers with a hope that goes beyond own ability to fight. Because left to ourselves, you and I can’t rescue us from ourselves. But God can. And God has through His Son, Jesus.
All this speaks into our natural, sinful, inward curve – even giving us hope in the midst of suffering that could intensify that curvature – because in Jesus, God broke into our small, pitiful circle and, by His grace, freed us from our sin and ourselves. But that work of God wasn’t just to make us some sort of moral free-agent. God chose us and rescued us in Christ so that we who believe would belong to Him.
That’s where Peter goes in 2:9-10. He closes this section by reminding with the bookend called the Gospel, telling believers of what is true of them in Christ. These Christians, these Gentile Christians, have become the inheritors of Israel’s blessings. Through resting in Christ and receiving him and his finished work on the cross, they have become the people of God.
Looking back into the Story of Redemption, Peter understands that believers in Christ have become what Israel of old never was because of their unbelief. So, Peter pulls from Exodus and Isaiah and Hosea, saying to every believer, “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…. 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.”
When God calls us to faith in Jesus and tells us all that he has done through Jesus, he begins leading us outward, redirecting our attention outside of ourselves. We begin to understand more and more that the Gospel is about you and me AND so much more than you or me. The Good News of Jesus is supposed to change the direction of our lives because to be the people of God means that we follow Him and He directs us where He wills.
In this section, we’ll see three new directions the Gospel takes us as (1) God redirects our focus toward others, (2) God redirects our focus toward His Word, and (3) God redirects our focus toward Himself for a very specific purpose.
So, first, God redirects our focus toward others (1:22-2:1). You can hear that such an others-oriented life is part of the Gospel in v.22. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth [here comes a word indicating purpose] for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart….”
When Peter says that believers have “purified your souls by your obedience to the truth,” he’s not talking about something we do to earn God’s favor, but rather something we do as a response to the grace we’ve already been shown. This is part of the “obedience to Jesus Christ” he mentioned in 1:2 – it is both the obedience of faith as well as the grateful response by which we pursue the family resemblance of holiness (1:14). Here we see that we image our Father when we love those whom the Father loves, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, for the one whom God has purified from selfish sin (He counts us pure in Christ even though the temptation to fixate on ourselves remains) God calls us to a sincere and earnest brotherly love. And what would a sincere and earnest love look like for Peter’s first audience? We have to understand that this call to love is a call given in the midst of pain and suffering as well as in the every-day. It’s the love shown by sitting silently with the grieving. It’s the love that knows how to sustain a mournful sinner with the Gospel. It’s the love that cooks a meal for an overwhelmed mother or a widow whose evenings are filled with pain. It’s the love that tries to count others as more important than one’s own self. And it is the love that knows, too, how to receive love from others as they love you as a brother or sister in Christ. (I see this love in you, people of Grace – the Spirit is at work!)
God calls us to this brotherly love in the Gospel because we each have the same origin – we’ve been born again through the “living and abiding word of God” (1:23). The fleetingness of humanity is held in contrast with the “living and abiding word of God,” which we see in v.25 “remains forever” and is the Gospel that we believe.
So, you and I are called in 2:1 to put away all the things that belong to man curved inward. The list he gives – “malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” – aren’t these expressions of humanity curved inward on itself? Aren’t these things the opposite of a sincere and earnest brotherly love? These are the works of the inwardly curved life that reveal the ugliness of sin.
But our living hope in Christ is meant to break our inward curvature and redirect us outward. God has poured out His love into our hearts through His Son and His Spirit, purifying us and giving us eternal life in the Gospel. So, you and I are called to pour out our love on others, too, because nothing that is curved in on itself will last.
The fact that we have been born again through the imperishable, living and abiding word of God leads us to the second way God calls us outside of ourselves. He redirects us toward His Word. Because God, indeed, breaks into our small, pitiful circles to save us but He does that through His Word. And as people born again through that Word, we are called to depend on it today like an baby needs milk.
In 2:2-3, Peter says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
The “longing” in view here reflects that Christian growth is something to be strongly desired and sought after. After all, if we Christians still have a tendency to curve inward on ourselves, then we need God to continue breaking in from the outside. And though we would often rather Him do that through mystical experiences, intense feelings, fire from heaven or water turning into wine, for this time in the Story He has said that the ordinary way He will work in His people to grow them is by His Spirit working through His Word. That’s why it is “spiritual milk” – it is nourishment from the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the point, quick and simple: if we have tasted the goodness of the Lord and are to grow and develop as the people of God, it has to be through the Word of God. We are a people of the Word – born of it and nourished by it – we need it to endure and to grow. So, drink up, listening to the Gospel of Jesus, the climax of the Story of Redemption and learn what it means to be a child of God. You aren’t an orphan anymore because of Jesus, so listen to the stories of your new family and learn what your Father thinks is important.
So God redirects our focus toward loving others and toward His Word. But finally we see God redirecting our focus toward Himself and doing so for a very specific purpose.
As we sang earlier in the service (in the song Jesus, I Come) the Gospel calls us to leave behind our inwardly curved life and come by faith to Jesus. And when that happens, Peter begins to help us understand what it means in 2:4-10. He explains the new realities, that which is true of us in the Gospel, and he tells us why God made us His people.
Peter sees in Jesus the fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament in the verses he quotes in 2:6-8. Jesus is the “living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” In God’s plan, everything revolves around Jesus and as believers come to him we are set upon him and we are being built up (that’s passive language meaning that God – not us – is doing the building) into a spiritual house.
God takes those who look to His Son in faith and He turns us into nothing less than His temple, a place for Him to live with us. And He draws us into his service as a “holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We can’t miss how this breaks us out of our inward curve. We, together as the people of God, are stacked together as God’s Church in order to serve and worship him.
These “spiritual sacrifices” are the sacrifices of thanksgiving to God. They are the worship of the people of God offered through Jesus, our great high priest. Because you and I, even as Christians, remain inwardly curved toward ourselves, we always need to worship our God through Jesus. We never get away from that. We never have anything to offer to God apart from Him.
But as we come to him in faith, God accepts what we offer because it comes to Him in the perfection of Christ, in His righteousness that is counted as ours. So sing and pray and love the Lord and love one another earnestly; love this town and do good here and share what you have, knowing that such worship is acceptable to God because of Jesus. God Himself is the one leading you outside of yourself and re-directing you toward Himself.
But note here how your worship will have to be offered. Just as Jesus was rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God, so too will you be rejected by men. The context of 1 Peter is that of suffering and persecution simply for being a Christian. But as you and I endure in faith, we know that we, too, are chosen and precious in the sight of God. And as we come to Christ and to God in faith, verses 6 and 7 tells us that we will not be put to shame. On the contrary, God honors those who believe.
That is strong encouragement for those who are struggling, for those who are suffering. As we endure these present struggles looking to Christ in faith and striving to be faithful to him, we hear the promise that God sees and God loves and God accepts us through that faith. And although you and I will have to repent even of our good deeds (along with the bad) because we remain inwardly curved, our hope is that the work of God in Christ – his calling us and building us up into His own home – will never be undone.
Peter would re-direct our focus toward God so that we might worship him through Jesus. But there is more. Peter continues to re-direct our focus toward God so that we would be witnesses testifying to what God has done for sinners like me and you.
In 2:8-9 Peter again pulls from the earlier promises in the Story of Redemption to underscore for believers just what God has done through Jesus.
These are statements of fact. They are realities to be believed. Truths to be embraced with gratitude to God and to Jesus. Because these things only came through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And they are only ours by the grace of God, given to us through faith in Christ.
In Christ, “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…. 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.”
Peter heaps up these titles that belong to the people of God. We are “chosen” because we could not choose God on our own. We are “a royal priesthood” because Christ, our King, is our brother and he has ransomed us out of futility (1:18) and into the service of God. We are “a holy nation” because God has set us apart and made us holy through the sprinkled blood of His Son (1:2). We are a people for his own possession, a treasure like that belonging to the ancient Near Eastern kings. They kept a personal treasure separate from the nation’s wealth – a personal treasure used for their own purposes and pleasure. In Christ, you are God’s treasured possession and He means to enjoy you and for you to enjoy Him forever.
And when you and I were running from God, Gentiles separated from the Word of God and from the promises of God and without hope in this world, God came to us in Christ and took us as His own people, giving us mercy – that which we never deserved – giving us forgiveness through the death of Christ.
Peter heaps up all these things God has done and in the middle of it all he tell us the purpose behind it. It was so that we would “proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness and into his marvelous light.”
Like most of us, I’m really quite good at talking about myself, curving conversation around to me. But here is another place where God would break into our inwardly curved selves and set us free. And He frees us to be witnesses of His goodness and grace. Through the Gospel, God re-directs even our speech so that our hearts and souls and bodies and worship and words belong to Him, bought with the blood of His Son.
If anyone would persist in their inward curve on themselves, if anyone would persists in unbelief and reject Christ the cornerstone, then there is a word of warning here. One cannot by rejecting the cornerstone remove it from its place. Christ will always stand in opposition to our inward curvature. And he always remains chosen and precious in the sight of God. So, those who seek to remove him will find themselves stumbling and kicking against that which cannot be moved. Christ will always offend those who would seek to continue curving in on themselves.
But for all those who repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus, we have the hope that, in Christ, we are not who we used to be. The curve has been broken by Christ and by his blood you are not your own any longer. And that is a good gift from God. So, the call for you and I here is to continue repenting of our selfish tunnel vision and continue depending on Christ who died, who rose again and is still working to turn us outward toward one another, toward the Word and to God Himself, to worship and bear witness to His outstanding goodness.
[Benediction, from 1 Peter 5:10-11]
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
 Lyrics and music @ http://www.igracemusic.com/hymnbook/hymns/j02.html