“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”(1 Peter 2:9-3:9)
What grabs me as I study the New Testament is this recurrent theme of ‘submission’. I want you to know that I’m not drawn to the word ‘submit’, because that is diametrically opposite of everything in my cultural upbringing. Our culture has sharpened our physical appetite for self. We had been trained from the crib to do our own thing; to do it well, to compete in doing it, and to do it for material rewards. We had been trained and geared socially to strive for possessions; to look for one’s self-actualization in the abundance of what one owned. That’s the craze of young people, and that’s exactly the opposite of the Bible’s message. The Bible talks about submission and the purpose of submission: For we “have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (i.e., 1 Pet. 2:21). What purpose is Peter talking about? Well, it’s got to relate back to verse 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect,”. It even goes back to verse 13 where it says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” because we are aliens and strangers in this world, and this world is not our home. But the tragedy of the modern church is, we’re trying to drive down tent pegs into the soil of a foreign land, and we wonder why we’re so unhappy and all that. We’re trying to build houses on sand and find meaning in it. It was never God’s purpose for us to focus on this world; focus in on this life, focus in on me and mine. But really it goes back earlier than this. It goes back to the call of God on Israel, when He “brought them out of Egypt on eagle’s wings”, because Israel is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. Exodus 19:6). God was well-pleased to do something to His people, so radical, so different, so other-worldly, so supernatural, so holy, that when the world sees it, it will be drawn to God. That was the purpose of Israel, but she failed miserably. Theologically, what it’s saying to us is that we (New Testament Church) are the ‘called out’, chosen, gifted, equipped people of God, and we’re using the exact same words that were used for Old Testament Israel.
But God didn’t give up on that purpose, He sent One Israelite to fulfill the purpose of bringing the whole world to Himself. Then He began to change His people (church); changed them so radically, so differently, that all the world would see the Gospel lived out in their lives, and thereby be changed. And so, the purpose of submission is a wholly changed, godly, Christlike people; to be a kingdom of priests to bring all the world to God. So, the Apostle Peter urges us, “…as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation”. Our problem is, we do not see ourselves as aliens and strangers. Our problem is, we feel so ‘at home with this world. We focus on all things that would satisfy our lusts. We are molded into the shape of the society in which we were born, instead of into the family in which we were reborn. The Bible says there’s a war going on in our bodies (cf. Romans 7:24-25), and we don’t even know there’s a war going on. We just think we’re psychologically depraved, not quite educated enough, or we just had some maladies, or our genes are somehow off. True, and the Bible calls it sin. The truth of the matter is that we are really in a battle to be different. We are in a battle to be the ‘called-out’, unique kind of people whose whole world view has been changed whose focus is no longer on himself, but because of Christ, the focus is now on others – to attract them to God through the Gospel lived out in our lives.