The Church As The People Of God, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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15Mar   From the early pages of the Old Testament, we find God in the process of creating a people for His divine purposes.  In the Old Testament, it was Israel that was to be the people of God (Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2); in the New Testament, the focus is on the Kingdom of God, especially expressed through the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10; Titus 2:14).  When God called Israel to be His people, He instructed them to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2), and it is interesting and significant that the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus 19 to 27, reflects the unique guidelines for civic and social relationships, worship practices, proper boundaries, treatment of foreigners, and sound economic practices.  Living in this way was an public expression of how God made His people to be distinct (holy) from their surrounding pagan neighbors and a model for them of holy character and conduct.  Israel was to become a mutually supportive and cooperative community of godly character, a valid contrast to the surrounding nations and peoples, as well as a model for those other nations. The Bible says in Isaiah 42:6-7 that God’s intention was for Israel to be a “… light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison.”  Sadly, Israel failed to become that people.

In the New Testament, God’s development of a holy people to carry out His purpose is tied to Christ and His redemptive work upon the cross and the establishment of the church.  Much of the New Testament was written to give instruction for building the spiritual and moral lives of those disciples who made up and directed those godly local groups of believers that Peter says are part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar (His own special) people” … “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, bun now hve obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The qualities of those leaders and followers are to be marked by their living in such a way that that they “should show forth the praise of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9, 10).  As interesting as it is to focus on those functions, the larger context of 1 Peter chapters 1 and 2 helps us better understand how their lives would be used of God because of being a “holy” people.

  • They were distinguished as having their faith tried by severe challenges, proving them genuine believers (1 Peter 1:7).
  • They were committed to obeying God and fulfilling their responsibilities in the leadership roles they played (1:14).
  • They being conformed to the world with its lusts but were conducting themselves in every way as a “holy” or distinct people (1:15).
  • They were conscious of God’s supervision in their lives and work (His judgment – 1:17).
  • Christ is preeminent in their thinking, planning, and acting (1:18-21).
  • They demonstrated a sincere love of fellow believers (1:22).
  • They were morally sound and sane (2:1).
  • They were morally circumspect in civic and social life (2:11, 12).

All of these qualities describe these spiritual leaders and their influence in their churches and in their own communities.  Then Peter adds that they are to be conscious of being “foreigners,” or sojourners, and “pilgrims,” or strangers, in this world (2:11), meaning that their sphere of influence was limited in time and circumstances; thus, they were to make every effort count for impacting favorably their Gentile, unbelieving communities.

The churches that carry out the role of being the people of God well

Are those who recognize and live by their pilgrim, faith-led identity

As those strange folk (somewhat foreigners on the earth) who are led by God,

Who love and labor for a God, who insists that His people serve all mankind,

Reaching them with His transforming power of the Gospel,

Even if they are mistreated, maligned, and misunderstood.

The people of God are the fervent in their love for God and others, firm in their salvation and Scriptures, and faithful in their service for God.  We will continue this topic in the next few blogs.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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