1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…
This people have I formed for myself, says the Divine voice through the Prophet Isaiah; "they shall show forth my praise." The Revised Version gives the latter clause as the purpose of the former, "that they might set forth," thus showing still more distinctly a verbal correspondence with the text, which is evidently quoted from the prophet. The apostle's mind is full of the Old Testament representations of the sacred office and dignity of Israel as a royal priesthood and God's chosen possession, and he transfers the whole without hesitation to the Christian Church, which he, like all the New Testament writers, regards as the heir of Israel's forfeited position. The remarkable word rendered "praise" in the Authorized Version makes the quotation from Isaiah unmistakable, as it is found in the Septuagint rendering of the verse, from which the apostle is quoting. It literally means "virtues," or, if that word is felt to be inappropriate to the Divine nature, the translation of the Revised Version, "excellencies," may be adopted. In either case the meaning is that the great end of the Church's existence is to manifest the glories of the Divine character, and so to praise him. We praise God best when we set forth what he is. The act of praise follows on the exhibition of the Object of praise.
I. WE HAVE HERE A REMARKABLE VIEW OR THE GREAT PURPOSE OF GOD IN HIS HIGHEST WORKING. The manifestation of his own character that his creatures may see it and magnify him, is his end, so far as we can speak of God as having ends which he reaches by his acts. Self-manifestation to creatures who can somewhat feel the infinite beauty and bow adoring and blessed Before it, is his supreme purpose in all his acts. Such an end alone is fully congruous with anal worthy of God. For this end creation came into being, that it might be a mirror of God, and eyes were made that in the mirror they might behold him and rejoice in the vision. Every creature has this for its highest end, to glorify God, because that was God's end in its creation. Of creatures man is the highest revelation of the Divine character; and among men, man redeemed is the highest. This great thought as to God's supreme end being the manifestation of himself has often been stated so as to repel, and to make God almighty selfishness. "For a man to seek his own glory is not glory," and the same thing is true about some forms into which this truth has been thrown. But rightly understood, it is but another way of saying, "God is love." For the impulse and need to impart one's self is the very life of love, and he seeks in all his acts to reveal himself, because, being love, he delights to give himself to his creatures, and because their highest blessedness and their eternal life stand in the knowledge of his Name.
II. WE HAVE, SECOND, AN IMPRESSIVE THOUGHT AS TO THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS GREAT PURPOSE IS EFFECTED. It is largely entrusted to the members of the Christian Church, who are, as George Herbert says of mankind as a whole, "the secretaries of his praise." And there are three ways in which they are and should be so.
1. The very existence of the Church proclaims God's excellences. Its founding, in the one wondrous act of Christ's death, proclaims his wisdom, power, and love, all in superlative degree. All his character shines forth there with brightness before which the revelation of him in creation pales and dwindles, and is as a nebula to a sun. Its preservation, notwithstanding the imperfections and sins of its members and the opposition of its enemies, shows forth his guarding and sustaining power no less than his long-suffering. If the Church had less than almightiness to preserve it, the faults of Christians would have destroyed it long ago, and would have provoked him to destroy it if he bad not been infinite in patience. The great evidence of Christianity is Christ, and the second is the Church.
2. The characters of Christian men reclaim God's excellences. They are "called out of darkness," as the text says, "into his marvelous light," That implies, as part of its meaning, that Christian men do in some measure enter into and walk in that light in which he is. The process of conversion is their passage from the darkness of self, which is ignorance, and sin, and sadness, into the possession, in part at least, of his light, which brings knowledge and goodness and joy. The black thunder-clouds are borne into the sunlight, which pours on their ebon masses and touches them into luster or thins them away. Thus we may and should become means of making God visible and lovely to dim eyes which could not bear to look on his brightness except as reflected in the mirror of our characters. All the beauty of self-sacrifice which has ever irradiated a saint, all the heroism of the martyr, all the wisdom and eloquence of the teachers, all the prudence of the leaders, all the charity and benevolence, are but the reflex of his excellences. All these, which gleam so brightly in the dark world, are but diamond dust, microscopic fragments, as it were, from the solid rock of his infinite perfection. They tell of him, as the stream of its source. How profound the depth, how wide the expanse, how pellucid the waters of that great lake which pours through the ages that broad stream of human goodness that flows between the banks of the Christian Church!
3. We should proclaim God's excellences by direct works, as occasion serves. Every Christian is bound both to witness for God by a life made fair by communion with him, and by speech, when 'speech may be used. It is not enough to show forth his Name in our lives, for sometimes life needs a commentary, and a Christian will often have to avow the principles which guide his actions, in plain words, if the actions are to be intelligible or he to be faithful. Common honesty requires it. Loyalty to our Lord requires it. Ordinary humanity requires it. God has entrusted all Christian men with the treasure of his love in Christ, not that they may themselves be enriched only, but also that by them it may be ministered to others; and the dumb Christian who has never opened his mouth to press the gospel on others incurs a worse "curse" than that which falls on him who "withholdeth bread" from starving lips. Alas! for the many professing Christians who do their best to thwart the Divine purpose in their conversion by cowardly indolent silence! Their duty cannot be delegated, their responsibility cannot be evaded, nor the punishment which comes in their feeble hold of the concealed truth eluded.
III. WE HAVE HERE, TOO, AN EXHIBITION OF SOME OF THE MOTIVES IMPELLING THE DISCHARGE OF THIS DUTY. The greatness of the blessing is suggested by the emphatic words which describe God as calling us out of darkness into his marvelous light. His love and his power have summoned us into light which is his own, thus giving us to participate in the very element of his own being, and which is marvelous, as being bestowed by processes beyond nature which may well call forth wonder, and as in its own luster so far transcending all other light. A gift so wondrous is meant to call forth gratitude, and that gratitude should express itself in a continual offering up of self to manifest God's glory. Thankfulness, then, to him who has called us is the first motive to which the apostle appeals. It is a poor gratitude which never mentions the name of its benefactor. Dumb thankfulness is no thankfulness. If his praises die on our lips, gratitude must be dead in our hearts. A second motive is a sense of responsibility arising from possession of the gift. If we have the light, and are walking in it, how can we bear to know that there are poor souls stumbling in the dark! Put the candle in your window. It may light home some lost wanderer on the dreary moor. A third motive arises from the consideration of God's purpose to which we have already referred. Surely his purpose should be our aim. Our own happiness or salvation is not all God's meaning in his mercy towards us.
"Heaven cloth with us, as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves." We have received Christ that we may impart Christ. "God hath shined in our hearts, that we might give to others the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Let us see to it that we fulfill that Divine purpose. Let us not be silent recipients of his grace, like the sand that sucks up the rain and bears no flowers; but let us give back in praise and witness what his mercy gives to us. - A.M.
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: