1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…
It is very desirable that Christians should realise both what they have been and what they are; both the degradation and disadvantages of the condition from which they have been delivered, and the dignity and privileges of the condition into which they have been called. Peter contrasts the two conditions of life by characterising the one as "darkness" and the other as "marvellous light." Perhaps it may help in some degree to give vividness to his thoughts if we recall an incident in the history of Israel in Egypt. One of the plagues sent on the Egyptians — the last but one, and probably the severest, except the last — was a darkness which might be felt. The humblest hut of an Israelite was far preferable to the palace of Pharaoh. When we regard this as a figure of what still exists, there are everywhere two peoples dwelling side by side, one of which is enshrouded in a darkness more dismal than that which lay upon the Egyptians, while the other is enjoying a far more pleasant light than was in the dwellings of the Israelites. There are two conditions of life which divide between them all human society — a state of nature and a state of grace. And these two states are as opposite as night and day. God's people know both conditions, for they have been delivered out of the one and brought into the other. The world lieth in darkness; there is darkness in our natures, a darkness which hides the light, which turns away from it, although the light may be shining all around it. This darkness extends to the whole spiritual nature, and affects its observation, sentiments, and actions, after the manner that physical darkness affects the senses, sensations, and emotions of the body; broods, for example, over and within the intellect of man. It hides from him, in consequence, one vast region of most important truth, and it does not allow him to attain what is the highest kind of knowledge. There is a natural world with which natural sense and intellect are competent to deal, but it does not follow that there is not also a spiritual world with which they are incompetent to deal. This is what Scripture testifies. Natural things do not need to be spiritually discerned, spiritual things do. We may know, indeed, much about even many of these things in a natural way; we may become versed in the controversies of theology, we may be able to discourse learnedly of the Divine attributes — on redemption, on regeneration, and kindred themes — but so may a blind man theorise and discourse on optics or painting. A true perception of spiritual things, however, is as impossible to the merely natural man as a true perception of light and shade and colour is to the bodily blind. Let us not suppose that this spiritual blindness is a slight misfortune. There can be none greater. Physical blindness only excludes the perception of some of the works of God, and from enjoyment of some of His gifts; spiritual blindness deprives us of the perception and enjoyment of God Himself, and of all living insight into His ways and dispensations. God can easily and richly compensate a man for the want of knowledge of anything finite; but what compensation can there be for the want of knowledge of His own perfections, and especially of His love and mercy in Jesus Christ, when that knowledge is the highest good, true, and eternal life? Spiritual blindness is the most awful blindness; blindness as to what is alone essential, and as to all that is essential; blindness which involves loss of the truth, the light and the life of the soul, the loss of the soul itself. The darkness of which Peter speaks presses not merely on the intellect of man, it extends also to his will, and affects his whole moral life and dignity. It involves moral as well as intellectual blindness, wickedness not less than ignorance. For one thing, this darkness, implying as it does love of the darkness and aversion to the light, is not only a cause of sin, but is of itself a grievous sin. Our rejection of this light can only be because while it is pure we are impure; while it is Divine love, there rages in us selfish and carnal passion; and, in short, that through perversity of heart, we will not recognise God to be what He is, or acknowledge His claims to our admiration, gratitude, and services. This darkness is itself sin, but it also calls forth and shelters all other sin. The evil in us is not only unchecked, but fostered, and every passion which prompts to wicked action is allowed a most dangerous advantage. Spiritual darkness thus tends to spread and deepen into outermost moral darkness and corruption. But yet, further, the darkness of man's merely natural state is, as regards the intellect, ignorance and blindness; and, as regards the will and moral life, a guilt and sin. As regards our moral nature, it is guilt and misery. Light and enjoyment are always associated; darkness and sadness are as naturally joined. It is pleasant to the eyes to behold the light of the sun. Gladness seems to shrink away in proportion as light is withdrawn. The happy rejoice in the light, but the sorrowful seek to be in darkness; night is the season of terrors, of dismal clouds, and of a million fancies and gloomy forebodings. Here, too, outward darkness is a symbol of the inward. So long as a man is in the spiritual darkness of his natural state, so long as he is not cheered by the light from the countenance of a reconciled God and Father, he cannot be happy. God has so made each human heart that it can only find true satisfaction in Himself, and when it lives under the light of His approval. Happiness must be something real, permanent, and elevating, not something fleeting, delusive, and degrading. And it is only this true happiness which I say cannot be where God is ignored, where the light of His presence is not recognised, and the blessings of His presence are not felt. I have dwelt long on the state and condition of life which Peter calls darkness, but I may touch so much the more briefly in consequence on that which he calls "marvellous light." For darkness and light are contrasted, and not only cannot be understood except as contrasted, but whatever is truly said about either implies something true about the other. Therefore, as you have already had explained to you how the darkness of which Peter speaks is in one ignorance and error, in another sin and unrighteousness, and in yet another disquiet and unhappiness, so you may, without further explanation, conclude that the light of which Peter speaks must be knowledge and truth in the intellect, obedience and holiness in the moral life, and joy and happiness in the heart. "Marvellous" light! So St. Peter most appropriately calls it. It is marvellous in its source, a marvellous light of Him who is called the Father of Lights. It comes from no earthly luminary, but directly from Himself, specially revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, conveyed to the soul by the Divine genius of His own Spirit, freely given to whom, in His wisdom, He will; so given, that many a poor, uneducated man can see what the wise of this world are blind to. It is marvellous, too, as appearing after such darkness; the nature of the light of the world is very marvellous, although, owing to its commonness, we seldom think how marvellous it is. But a prisoner brought from long confinement in a darkened dungeon, or a blind man restored to sight, will not fail to appreciate it aright. It is those who have just been brought out of the darkness of the state of nature into the light of a state of grace who feel most vividly how marvellous the light of the Father is. It is marvellous, also, in its own nature; marvellous for its exquisite beauty, and marvellous because it is so pure and penetrative. It reveals to men sins and shortcomings in their own hearts of which the light of nature had awakened no suspicion, and causes evils of all kinds, even the most secret and subtle, to be seen in their real hatefulness. It is marvellous in the extent of its disclosures, in rendering clear and intelligible to us the wonders of redemption, and marvellous in its power of diffusing light and happiness. It is exceedingly marvellous in its issues, for it is this light of grace which shineth more and more unto the perfect day, and ends as the light of heavenly glory. I have still to remind you that, according to the teaching of the apostle, those who have passed from the darkness to the marvellous light are bound to show forth the praises, or — as may be more accurately rendered — the excellences of Him to whom the change is due. They have not worked their own way out of the darkness into the light, but God has had compassion on them. The final end of redemption, as of creation, is to show forth the glory of God. It becomes every rational creature, and it becomes still more every partaker of redemption, to act on this truth. But what will doing so imply? Clearly this at least, that we are not ashamed to honour His name, or defend His cause with our lips; that we are willing to declare His perfections when we can do so; that whenever a word in season tending to exalt the character or justify the ways of God can be uttered by us with good effect, we are ready and glad to utter it. But not less certainly it means also that whatever excellence of nature or grace God has imparted to us, we should so use it as that the glory should redound to the Giver, and the wealth of His excellences be seen in the richness of His love to us. It implies that we should consecrate our talents to His services, dedicate to Him our reasons, imaginations, affections, and souls, and strive to render and keep them as worthy of Him as we can.
(Prof. R. Flint.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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 marvellous light:
WEB: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: