1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…
The Revised Version, instead of "praises," reads "excellencies" — and even that is but a feeble translation of the remarkable word here employed. For it is that usually rendered "virtues"; and by that word, of course, when applied to God, we mean the radiant excellences and glories of His character, of which our earthly qualities, designated by the same name, are but shadows. It is, indeed, true that this same expression is employed in the Greek version of the Old Testament in Isaiah 43, in a verse which evidently was floating before Peter's mind: "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise."
I. Here we get A WONDERFUL GLIMPSE INTO THE HEART OF GOD. Note the preceding words, in which the writer describes all God's mercies to His people, making them "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation"; a people "His own possession." All that is done for one specific purpose — "that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness." Now that aim has been put so as to present an utterly hard and horrible notion. That God's glory is His only motive may be so stated as to mean merely an Almighty selfishness. But if you think for a moment about this statement, all that appears repellent drops away from it, and it turns out to be another way of saying "God is love." Because what is there more characteristic of love than an earnest desire to communicate itself and to be manifested and beheld? That is what God wants to be known for. Is that hard and repellent? Why does He desire that He should be known? for any good that it does to Him? No; except the good that even His creatures can do to Him when they gladden tits paternal heart by recognising Him for what He is, the Infinite Lover of all souls. But the reason why He desires most of all that the light of His character may pour into every heart is because He would have every heart gladdened and blessed forever by that received and believed light. The Infinite desires to communicate Him self, that by the communication men may be blessed.
II. There is another thing here, and that is A WONDERFUL GLIMPSE OF WHAT CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE IN THE WORLD FOR. "This people have I formed for Myself," says the fundamental passage in Isaiah already referred to, "they shall show forth My praise." It was not worth while forming them; it was still less worth while redeeming them except for that. But you may say, "I am saved in order that I may enjoy all the blessings of salvation, immunities from fear and punishment, and the like." Yes, certainly! But is that all? I think not. There is not a creature in God's universe so tiny but that it has a claim on Him that made it for its well-being. That is very certain. And so my salvation is an adequate end with God, in all His dealing, and especially in His sending of Jesus Christ. But there is not a creature in the whole universe, though he were mightier than the archangels that stand nearest God's throne, who is so great and independent that his happiness is the sole aim of God's gifts to him. Every man that receives anything from God is thereby made a steward to impart it to others. So we may say, "You were not saved for your own sakes." One might almost say that that was a by-end. You were saved — shall I say? — for God's sake, and you were saved for man's sake? Every yard of line in a new railway when laid down is used to carry materials to make the next yard; and so the terminus is reached. Even so Christian people were formed for Christ that they might show forth His praise. Look what a notion that gives us of the dignity of the Christian life, and of the special manifestation of God which is afforded to the world in it. You, if you set forth as becomes you His glorious character, have crowned the whole manifestation that He makes of Himself in Nature and in Providence. What people learn about God from a true Christian is a better revelation than has ever been made or can be made elsewhere.
III. Lastly, WE HAVE HERE A PIECE OF STRINGENT PRACTICAL DIRECTION. The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say that they belong to God's family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" nor any likeness of the Divine, but thou shalt make thyself an image of Him, that men looking at it may learn a little more of what He is. If we have any right to say that we are a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, God's "possession," then there will be in us some likeness of Him to whom we belong stamped more or less perfectly upon our characters; and just as people cannot look at the sun, but may get some notion of its power when they gaze upon the rare beauty of the tinted clouds that lie round about it, if in the poor, wet, cold mistiness of our lives there be caught, as it were, and tangled some stray beams of the sunshine, there will be colour and beauty there. A bit of worthless tallow may be saturated with a perfume which will make it worth its weight in gold. So our poor natures may be drenched with God and give Him forth fragrant and precious, and men may be drawn thereby. Nor does that exclude the other kind of showing forth the praises, by word and utterance, at fit times and to the right people. But above all, let us remember that none of these works can be done to any good purpose if any taint of self mingles with it. "Let your light so shine before men that they may behold your good works and glorify" — whom? you? — "your Father which is in heaven."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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: