One People - Part 2

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

There are indeed things that are different under the Old and New Covenants.  And yet, the pages of Scripture present a unified revelation of the history of redemption.  Often, much more attention is paid to the discontinuities than to the continuities between the Old and New Testaments.  The Apostle Peter, in his general letter to God’s elect “scattered throughout,” speaks directly to the continuity of God’s people.  In I Peter 2:9 he states, “But 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.  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.”  Where does Peter get this language?  Why does Peter have confidence (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to declare that the church is “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”?  Before the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai as Moses met with God, the Lord said to him, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel…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” (Exodus 19:3-6).   In making this covenant with Israel, God declares that He has brought them out of the bondage of Egypt, and has set them apart as His special people, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).  Because of this covenant, God has declared Israel to be His people and Him to be their God.  What a special relationship!

Israel broke the covenant and brought damage to that special relationship.  God brought judgment even to His own people.  One only has to look throughout the prophets to recount the judgments that God brought on other nations as well as on His own.  In fact, in the book of the prophet Hosea where Hosea’s relationship with his wife and children picture the relationship of God with His people, he tells us that the special relationship had come to the point where God says, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).  In what desperate condition the children of Abraham lay!  Yet, we know from the prophet Isaiah and others that God will always have a remnant of people, a people that belongs to Him.  God, in His grace, did not leave His people, “lo-Ammi,”  but promised a great restoration.  Israel again, would be declared holy.  The greatness of the New Covenant is that not only is Israel restored but other nations as well join in the covenant blessings of God.  The prophet Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 19:25 that in that day, “The Lord Almighty will bless them saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.’”

The apostle Peter is proclaiming the truth that Edmund Clowney says so well in his commentary, "The Message of I Peter," that under the New Covenant, the covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ, “the grace that can restore Israelites to their forfeited inheritance can equally bring polluted Gentiles into the intimacy of fellowship with God.”   Not only are all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ set apart as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, but they are also now not limited to nor confined to ceremonies.  As discussed earlier from Ephesians 2, through Christ, those who were once excluded from the citizenship of Israel have now become members of God’s household and “fellow citizens with God’s people.”  Under the Old Covenant, Gentiles were forbidden to enter the temple, the sanctuary of God.  But under the New Covenant, the people of God (all those who trust Christ) are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).   The people of God may confidently approach our Great and Awesome God through Christ our Lord.  Oh, the wonder and grace of our God who has chosen a people to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ to manifest the “manifold wisdom of God.”

There is one plan, one tree, one faith, one land, and one people; for there is only One God and we can confidently state with our forefathers, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut: 6:4-9).  And we may also answer our children when they ask us “why are we to obey the commandments of God?”  We may answer them as well with our forefathers, “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”  But even more than that, we stand on this side of the provision of the Lamb of God.  We stand on this side of the corss of Christ.  So we may also say in response to these questions from our children and others, having been given God’s complete revelation, as Paul tells Titus in Titus 2:11-14,  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).