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Race, Priesthood, and Nation

The uneducated Peter penned one of the most memorable and profound passages in all of the bible when he was writing to the many Christians who had been exiled and scattered throughout the ancient regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. In his well known passage, he describes true Christians as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). This assertion is important for a variety of reasons. First, it likely brought comfort to those Christians who had been exiled from their homelands and placed in areas foreign to them. But it also had a much deeper implication than simple, unsophisticated comfort.

Peter was proclaiming that all of these people who were now called Christian had been chosen out of the world and formed into a brand new race. A race is a group of people with similar genetic, physical, social, and cultural elements that make them distinct from the other groups of people around them. In modern times – as in ancient times – racial elements separated one group of people from another, and sometimes strife existed between those groups. But Peter was celebrating the notion put forward by Paul in his letters to the Galatians where he argued that there was now neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but that all who have obeyed the gospel are now one in Christ without any racial, ethnic or other walls of division (Galatians 3:28). Christians, according to Peter (and Paul) were a new unified race, with new genetic, social and cultural elements that make them distinct from other people. Regardless of your earthly racial background, if you are a Christian, God has chosen you out of the world and re-engineered you into a new creature so that you share a real spiritually genetic link with Christ. No matter where in the world you are, and no matter what physical group you are working in, you are separate from that group and belong to a higher, better group called Christian. In fact, you are the true children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).

Peter also brands us as a royal priesthood. What he means by this is that those of us who have been chosen into that new race are priests who function as mediators for others. But we’re not just any kind of priests. We are royal priests – meaning that we are priests that belong to the family line of The King. If you are a true Christian, you have a role to play in which you intercede for people by praying for them, but more importantly by reconciling them to God through introducing them to his love, his majesty, and his holiness.

Peter then argues that people who truly belong to Christ are a nation. A nation is a large body of people who share a common descent, a common history, and a common culture, and who usually oversee a common geographic region, and who share a common organizing, governing structure. People of Christ share in the spiritual genetics of Christ as new creatures, they share the common history of the bible. Their job is to expand God’s kingdom, and they are governed by his principles and word.

Finally, Peter argues that God possesses that race, that priesthood, and that nation. Meaning that he holds it, controls it, and lives through it. If you call yourself Christian, how are you representing your race, performing your priestly duties, and serving your nation?

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