/4 //As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 //you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 //For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 //So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 //and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 //But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 //Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy./
Last week I defined the church as the number of all true believers in Christ throughout history.
But this definition refers only to what we might call the Universal church.
How might we identify a local church?
When can a group of Christians be properly identified as a church?
This is a much more difficult question to answer.
For example, because of First Amendment religious freedom concerns, Congress has never passed any statute anywhere which defines what a church is.
The IRS has established criteria which, in its view, define a church.
There are 14 things that the IRS looks for as possible indicators that a church is in existence.
So a church, according to American law anyway, is best understood by the purposes for which it is organized.
In other words, a church is a group of people who begin to function like a church.
The point is that it is nearly impossible to define a church without understanding what the church’s purpose is.
Once we have defined the church’s purpose, we can then more easily identify what a church is.
Next week, Lord willing, we will study the three general purposes of the local church.
They can be described as the church’s purposes toward God, toward believers, and toward the world.
These three purposes spell out the mission of the church, but they can still leave unanswered the big question of “why?”
Why did God create the Church for the carrying out of these purposes?
What is the /ultimate/ purpose for the church?
I want us to see the answer to that question as it is given to us in our text today.
In all of our thinking about the church we must not lose sight of what is taught here regarding the ultimate purpose for which the church exists.
The Church exists because God created her
The most basic thing we can say about the church is that its existence is due completely to the initiative and plan and creation of God.
The Church exists because God created her.
“But you are a /chosen/ race.”
When the Bible says that God has chosen something, it means exactly what we mean when we use that word.
It means that God selects someone or something of his own volition and makes it his own.
God chooses people, not because he sees that later on down the road they would choose him, but because he takes the initiative in the choosing.
He makes his own choice; he does not act under the persuasion of some other person’s choice.
This becomes really clear when we read the other descriptions Peter gives of the church.
Besides being “a chosen race,” Peter says the church is also “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”
These descriptions are taken exactly from Exodus 19:6 and Exodus 23:22.
It is clear then that Peter is applying to the church the promises once made to the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.
When Peter says that we are a chosen race, he is saying exactly what was said of Israel in the Old Testament.
God chose the nation of Israel, not because of any future faith that Israel would eventually show, but simply because it was God’s pleasure to do so.
In the same way, Peter now says that the church is God’s chosen people.
How does that make you feel?
I can tell you how it should make you feel.
However much the doctrine of God’s unconditional, sovereign election of his people makes you wonder about those who are not so chosen (a topic we will address later), the fact that God has chosen you should make you feel great value.
Look at what Peter says just a few verses earlier, in verse 4. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (1 Pet 2:4).
As the chosen people of God the church may be rejected by men, but in God’s sight we are chosen and therefore precious.
We have value because God says that we have value.
God has set his love on us and that is what gives us our value.
However imperfect the church may be, those who are truly a part of the church by their identity in Christ are significant because God has made us his people.
In verse 10 Peter says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
That means that God has made us his people of his own choice, not because of our choice.
You cannot make yourself one of God’s people.
Becoming a part of his people—the Church—is possible only by the miracle of God setting his love on you and making you one of his own.
The reason why the Church exists is because God has chosen her as his people upon whom he can set his love.
The Church exists because God created her.
God created the church for himself
But this is only one way to answer the “why?” concerning the existence of the church.
Why does the Church exist?
Because God created her.
But why did he do /that/?
Besides being God’s “chosen race,” Peter goes on to give three more descriptions of the Church.
We are also:
* A royal priesthood.
The priests were the ones who had the privilege of ministering in the presence of the deity.
Peter says that all true believers in Christ now receive that privilege.
As “royal” priests, the text emphasizes again that we belong to the king.
* A holy nation.
The word “holy” indicates the church’s separation to God.
Coupled with the word “nation,” the stress is on the fact that the church is a new spiritual body, a new nation “which is based now neither on ethnic identity nor geographical boundaries but rather on allegiance to their heavenly King.”
* A people for his own possession.
This description makes explicit what has already been implied, that the Church belongs to God.
But it also serves to transition us to what Peter is about to say.
If one is tempted to think, after reading the previous descriptions of the Church, that God created the church ultimately for our own good or to make much of us or to make us feel valuable, Peter reminds us that we are a people for God’s own possession.
That is, the ultimate purpose for which God created the church was for his own good.
When God planned the church, he did so primarily because he was thinking of his own satisfaction, not ours.
Why does a creator create?
Not for the benefit of the creation but to satisfy his own purposes.
God created the church to be a people for his own possession.
That means that God created the church in order to accomplish something for himself.
The second half of verse nine tells us what it is that God aims to accomplish for himself in creating the church.
Here we find the ultimate purpose for which God called a people to himself and so created the church.
It is so “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The word /excellencies/ may refer here to God’s power.
It is no minor accomplishment that God called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
He did this only by the miracle of the new birth, by giving life to a people who were previously dead.
But the word /excellencies/ is probably used here more to emphasize the glory that comes from such power.
It refers to those moments after the victory, when the Olympian is celebrated for his gold-medal performance.
The reason God established the church was so that there would be a people who would be a living testimony of God’s power and greatness and fame.
That is why when the Bible speaks about God’s sovereign election of a people it emphasizes the praise that God deserves for doing so.
“/In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved/” (Eph 1:5-6).
“/But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth/” (2 Thess 2:13).
God carries out his agenda in the way that gains maximum glory for himself.
“/I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols/” (Isa 42:8; cf.
The Church is God’s plan for doing just that.
We exist primarily for his own pleasure.
That means that our own quest for meaning and significance in this life will never be satisfied apart from our own participation in the proclamation of God’s glory.
Seeking our own eternal well-being—right though that is—could never provide a truly satisfying goal for life.
The answer to our search for ultimate meaning lies in ‘declaring the excellencies’ of God, for he alone is infinitely worthy of glory.
Redemption is ultimately not man-centered but God-centered.
God’s fame is most evident in the glorious display of both his mercy and his wrath
This of course does not mean that we derive no personal benefit from God’s motivation of his own glory in calling a people to himself and creating the Church.