(Rev. Eric Kayayan)

Verses 9 and 10: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may proclaim 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.


1.Old and New Testament must not be separated from each other if we want to understand spiritually the person and work of Jesus-Christ.

Brothers and sisters, if there is one book in the Bible which Church members very little read, or even not at all, it is probably the book Leviticus, in the Old Testament.  One could also add the books Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Is it necessary to say that this is a big mistake?  Actually, the book Deuteronomy is quoted many times in the New Testament (only the Psalms and Isaiah are quoted more than Deuteronomy).  As far as Leviticus is concerned, it mainly addresses the question of sanctity before God, that is, how holy the priests of Israel , but also the whole people, must be.  “Holy”: This word does not only mean separated for God and dedicated to Him, it also means purified, so that mankind may have access to God who is Himself flawless, blameless, sinless, perfect.  The theme of atoning death, of sacrifices of expiation is central in the book Leviticus, for how otherwise could the Holy God live in the midst of an impure people, if it was not through such sacrifices?  Sacrifices of expiation symbolize the necessary death of someone whom God has found guilty of disobedience.  For in the beginning God said to man: “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”  As Christians read less and less these passages of the Old Testament, as they stop trying to understand them spiritually, as they take them less and less seriously, the image of Jesus Christ – His person and His work – become less and less understandable, more and more vague.  Then Old and New Testament become divorced from one another; His accomplishment of the Law and the prophets is replaced by the abolishment of them, even though he clearly said the contrary about His mission.  A number of sectarian groups grow inside the Christian Church precisely because of this artificial divorce between Old and New Testament.  The unity of God’s Revelation from the Creation account in Genesis 1 to the prophecies about the new heavens and the new earth in the book of Revelation, with Christ as central figure, is being ignored, sometimes even denied.  And then, instead of seeking the background of the Gospel in the Old Testament, alternative theologians try to find it in writings written hundred years after the Gospels, like for instance the so-called Gospel according to Thomas.  The chronology of God’s redemptive acts, the unfolding of His Revelation in the history of His Creation, makes place for mythical ideas with some other moral lesson, in which the notion of chronology does not count any more.  And here we are left, even abandoned, to reconstruct ourselves an image of Jesus.  Such a reconstructed image tries to fit the spirit of our time, but actually only reflects the ideologies of our time.

2.Peter goes back to the Old Testament to reveal to us further God’s plan for His people.

That is not how Peter reasons, brothers and sisters.  His words of comfort, encouragement and warning do not rest on legends or cleverly invented stories.  Rather, he knows what the background of Christ’s work is.  He can even write that he was an eyewitness of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16 ).  Peter goes back to the Old Testament when he writes, chapter one verse 10 and 11: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”  In verse 16 of chapter one, Peter quotes a statement that appears four times in the book Leviticus:  Be holy for I am holy”.  In verse 19 of the same chapter, Peter mentions the price of redemption with which we were bought back: “You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.  Here we have to do with a look back at Leviticus chapter 25, which deals with the right of Israelites to be bought back in case they would have sold themselves as slaves to a stranger in order to pay back their debts.  In chapter 2 verse 11, we read: “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires”.  Still in Leviticus 25, verse 23, we read: “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.”  Even our text verse looks back at the Old Testament.  Let us compare verse 9 of chapter 2 with Exodus 19:6: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may proclaim 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.”  Exodus 19, verses 5 and 6 sounds like this: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  Our second text verse can be compared in the same way with Hosea chapter one:  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.”  In Hosea chapter one we read how the Lord commands his prophet to take a prostitute as his wife, in order to symbolize the relationship between Him and His people.  Let us read together Hosea 1 verses 6 to 9: “Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter.  Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah [in Hebrew that means “no mercy”], for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel , that I should forgive them.  Yet I will show love to the house of Judah ; and I will save them – not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.” After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son.  Then the Lord said: “Call him Lo-Ammi [in Hebrew it means “Not my people’] for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”  Do you see, brothers and sisters, the relationship which Peter traces between the Old Testament and the Gospel?  The New Testament people is a chosen people, a royal priesthood for God, His possession, just as the Israelites were for the Lord in Exodus 19.  But in the meantime, God has shown mercy to Lo-Rouhamah, and He has made His people of Lo-Ammi.


Why does Peter quote the Old Testament in this way?  He does not do it in order to sound very learned to his readers, or because he is just trying to confer the authority of the Old Testament to his own writings. What he does, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to reveal further what God’s plan for his elect people is, in the light of the background of the Old Testament, without which such a further revelation would remain unintelligible.  By doing so, Peter can explain to God’s people what their new identity is.  In this way, the elect people can understand and live out better this new identity.  You and I are indeed the recipients of a new identity, a new citizenship.  We, who were not a people, have become a people, God’s people.  Our calling is to be a royal priesthood for God.  Why “royal”?  Because we have become citizens of a Kingdom which is incorruptible.  Our new citizenship with the rights and privileges attached to it, is much better than that of the global world in which we live, and which claims to become more and more universal.  The Kingdom of which we have become citizens has at its head a King who rose from the dead, not an impersonal administration determining the course of our lives!  Let us look together at what our new identity and our new citizenship mean, in the light of our text.  Let us begin met Jesus-Christ as the cornerstone of a spiritual building.

3.Jesus Christ is the cornerstone

The Old Testament people had to be a kind of spiritual house where God could live, a place in Creation which could reflect something of God’s holiness despite the Fall.  In the midst of all the false religions, which witnessed the decay of humankind after the Fall, Israel had to be a light among the nations that would witness God’s holiness.  To put it differently, Israel ’s holiness had to be in the world a light reflecting the light of the Holy God.  God Himself had laid down all the rules in His holy Law.  That is where books like Leviticus came in.  The rules were laid down in order to build a holy house where God could live in communion with His people.  These rules could be summed up as follows: a holy Covenant between God and His people.  However, although the rules were very clear, the house collapsed.  God’s people was later called by God “Not my people”.  What happened?   There was nothing wrong with the rules; God was not indifferent towards His chosen people.  He was not absent from His house.  The problem was that His holiness was too heavy to bear for a sinful people.  Because of their sinful nature it was impossible for them to live according to His holy standards.  Even though there were – according to the rules of the Covenant – atonement sacrifices regularly presented in order to ensure reconciliation with Him, the building could not stand the pressure of God’s holiness.  For such a building to be maintained, a better cornerstone had to be put in place.  In the architecture of the Ancient World, a cornerstone was always laid according to which the walls of the building would be built further.  The Babylonians used to write inscriptions on it.  Sometimes, such a stone was placed on top of the main entrance.  This stone was essential for the stability of the whole building.  In the symbolic language of the Bible, this image of the cornerstone shows that the foundation of God’s holy house had to be God Himself.  In the Old Testament, His revealed Word was there to be the foundation of the building and to support it, but it is as if the material out of which His Word is made, was too heavy for the people, who could not handle the density of it while they had to live in communion with him in this holy abode. So God showed His love to his chosen people further, by becoming Himself the cornerstone of this spiritual dwelling.  His Word was revealed further when His son Jesus-Christ became flesh.  Peter quotes again from the Old Testament to convey this message to his readers. First Isaiah 28:16, then Psalm 118:22, which both use this image of the cornerstone.  He applies this image to Christ.  As God and man in one person Christ came to live among us so that the holy house of God could from now on rest on an unshakable foundation.  This is Peter’s message to his readers and to us, brothers and sisters.  For we too, who are not part of the old people of Israel en who were not a people for God, we have become His People.  To us, to whom no mercy was then shown, God has showed mercy when He made of us His possession, His spiritual dwelling.  What a wonderful privilege, congregation of our Lord Jesus-Christ!

 4.The requirements of a royal priesthood

But what does it exactly mean to be a royal priesthood for God?  What are the requirements attached to such a status? Verse 5 of our text puts it as follows: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus-Christ.”  It goes about bringing spiritual sacrifices to God.  Not any more sacrifices of atonement as prescribed by the book Leviticus, because the cornerstone of our spiritual building, Jesus-Christ, did it for us once for ever; but rather sacrifices which reflect the character, the density, the solidity en the beauty of the cornerstone.  We cannot be characterized by another colour or another grade of quality than that of the cornerstone.  Otherwise we have no place in such a building!  We cannot be taking the colour or the grade of quality of other buildings which do not have Jesus-Christ as cornerstone, for we are the very people of God, his possession, a nation put apart for Him.  O certainly there are many other buildings in the world, after the Fall.  Some of them were erected long ago and do have a long history: the temples of other religions, the temples of human wisdom.  Other buildings have a shorter history, some have collapsed shortly after having been built: the temples of fascism, of communism, of all kinds of nationalisms.  Other buildings will probably collapse very soon, like the temple of globalization.  Sooner or later all these buildings which have been erected by mankind to last forever, will collapse.  Why?  Simply because they rest on a dead or corruptible cornerstone.  But as regards our spiritual house, we know that it rests on a living stone which was chosen by God for the place of honour, the royal place.  Therefore in our priestly service we must adopt the character of our living and incorruptible cornerstone.  Living and incorruptible: these two characteristics witness precisely the royal character attached to our priestly service.  Christ is our King, He who rose from the dead, who triumphed over Satan and who lives for ever.  But, you will ask, who will administer these characteristics to us?  Peter gives us the answer in verse 5 when he speaks of a HOLY priesthood, of SPIRITual sacrifices.  The presence of the Holy Spirit here cannot be missed.  He will equip us to receive more and more the colour and the quality grade of the cornerstone, for he is life-giving.  Since God chose us as His own possession, we must not doubt that His Spirit will equip us.


The concrete implications of our royal priesthood are being outlined by Peter after verse 11.  It is precisely an appeal to a holy lifestyle which stands in contrast with that of the pagans.  We remain always stones of God’s holy house.  A stone cannot excuse itself and become for a while part of another building.  If you try to do so, you run the risk of collapsing together with its rotten cornerstone.  As citizens of an eternal and incorruptible Kingdom, we must know that in the world we are strangers and sojourners.  We now know what our identity is.  We do not form part of the rotten buildings around us, although we live in their midst.  We remain a covenantal people who always put first God’s rules in our lives, without being either hypocritical  or proud.  For we know that earlier we were not a people, and also did not receive any mercy.  Peter’s warning towards the royal priesthood in verse 16 is the same we every now and then read in Paul’s writings:  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”  We may not allow that our glorious cornerstone, which gave us priestly and royal privileges, become a stone that causes us to stumble and a rock that makes us fall (v. 8).

 On the contrary, your relationship with the unbelievers should be characterized by a witness of God’s holiness.  This unbeliever will see the light in your life and -  do not make a mistake -  it will make an impression on him or on her!  Such a relationship is not an easy one.  First because we know well how our own sins often convey a bad witness outside, and how much damage we can do.  On the other hand, maybe you will get neighbours who are a homosexual couple, or drunkards, or people who misuse the name of the Lord.  Whatever the case may be, verse 12 tells us that we are not supposed to speak badly of them.  Rather, even though they would speak badly of you, because you don’t want to become part of their unholy building, you must work to live an exemplary life before them:  Show proper respect to everyone and love the brotherhood of believers” verse 17 says.

This kind of witness brings us to the last characteristic of the kingly priesthood which God has made of us.  Verse 9 opens for us a wonderful missionary vision: “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.”  Our lifestyle, our dealings with other believers but also with unbelievers, is a witness towards the world.  But we are also called to let resound our witness throughout the earth.  As we read in Exodus 19:6, the Lord told His people Israel : “The whole earth is mine”.  And now, the spiritual house of God is growing in stature, in size, in height.  In the Old Testament, Israel was par excellence God’s Covenant people, called to be holy before God and before the pagan nations, by obeying the stipulations of the Covenant.  But in Jesus Christ all the nations are now openly invited to become part of this holy dwelling of God.  In the Old Testament, the task of the Levites was to address sacrifices of expiation to God.  After the coming of the Lamb of God, our priestly duty is to call people of all languages and all nations to be reconciled with God on the ground of Jesus’ atoning death, and to become part of His house, so that they can edify their lives upon the foundation of the cornerstone.  The stones of other crumbling buildings must be called to embrace the colour and quality grade of the living cornerstone, and to rest upon it.  They who are not yet a people, must become God’s people, together with us.  Through us, who have become a royal priesthood, God calls them out of darkness into His wonderful light.    What are our weapons in this holy battle?  The personal testimony of a holy lifestyle and the proclamation of God’s redemptive acts.

Thus is God’s plan for his people implemented.  Thus do we become carriers of His wonderful light.  Thus can we rightly be called: “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”.