A Chosen Generation

F. B. Hole

(Precious Things Vol. 1, pp. 49-52)

When God intervened to deliver the children of Israel from the tyrannical grip of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, He acted in mercy and without conditions. This we see in Exodus 3:15-20, when He declared His purpose: "I will bring you up out of the… I will stretch out My hand… with all My wonders which I will do… I will give this people favour…" and no "If" appears.

But at Sinai law was proposed, which demanded merit from the people. Mercy was not the point, and therefore an "If" does appear. The record of this is in Exodus 19:5-9, where Israel was offered a place of much favour — "If ye will obey My voice." The law was then stated but almost at once they flagrantly disobeyed the Divine voice by making the golden calf, and their disobedience continued and increased, as the rest of the Old Testament records. The place of favour that was offered was never achieved.

How great then is the contrast presented to us in 1 Peter 2:9, where the Apostle addressed the Christians of Jewish birth, scattered through the provinces of Asia Minor, who had been evangelised by the Apostle Paul. He reminded them of the place of favour, which was theirs by the grace of God. Since it was theirs by mercy and not by merit, no "If" appears.

The contrast between law and grace is complete. Law says, in effect, "If you obey, you shall be." Grace says, "You are, and because you are, certain things should mark you." Such is the drift of that verse in Peter's epistle.

Read that verse carefully, and you will note that the saints to day are four distinct things. Now refer back to Exodus 19, and you will see that three of the four things were originally offered to Israel. The words slightly differ, but the "peculiar treasure," the kingdom of priests," and the "holy nation" appear in both passages, though not in exactly the same order. Peter's fourth thing, which is the first he mentions, is of primary and decisive importance. "Ye are a chosen generation."

Now in any vital sense that is just what the children of Israel were not. True, they were descended from Abraham, who was a chosen saint, and thus they were the chosen nation; but, as they proved directly they were tested by the law, not a chosen generation. Turn to Deuteronomy 32, and you will find Moses lamenting that they were "a perverse and crooked generation," and also "a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith." That is the trouble: man, as he is, even if of the stock of Abraham, has no faith, for it is not a product of fallen human nature. The whole race of Adam stands condemned in this sentence against Israel.

How came it that those to whom Peter wrote were a chosen generation? The first chapter answers this question. They were "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" they were, "redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ:" they were, "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God:" and that, as we elsewhere learn, by the Spirit of God. The Triune God had thus acted to produce a race of a new order — a generation not in Adam but in Christ.

Hence there was now a "royal priesthood." something more vital and elevated than anything the sons of Aaron knew. They were also an "holy nation," because really separated unto God — the "nation bringing forth the fruits thereof," of which the Lord spoke in Matthew 21:43. They were a people for God's special or "peculiar" possession.

Peter was led to express things thus, since such language would specially appeal to the Jewish readers that he had primarily in mind. But the truth he stated applies equally to us, who are called from the Gentile nations. These things we are by the sovereign purpose and work of God in grace and through the Gospel.

This remarkable verse also emphasizes where we are, as well as what we are. Once in darkness, we are now called into light. Now this too would specially appeal to the Jewish reader. If we turn back once more to Exodus 19, we read that the Lord said to Moses, "Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud" (verse, 9), and further we read, "Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was" (Ex. 20:21). Under the law God was enwrapped in thick darkness. Under grace He is in a light which by contrast can be called, "marvellous."

As the Apostle John puts it, the "eternal life, which was with the Father" has been, "manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2). Consequently the Christian today walks, "in the light, as He (God) is in the light." And the light of God, which has shone forth in Christ is marvellous indeed. Contrasted with it, all that which was made known in the law was but darkness; hence Peter spoke of those to whom he wrote as having been called, "out of darkness," though they were not heathen but Jews. Out of darkness and into that marvellous light we too have been brought.

In bringing all this to pass, God has had an end in view. It is thus expressed: "that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who has called you." The word translated "praises" may also be rendered, we understand, "excellencies," or "virtues." Being set in these positions of favour, and brought into the light of God, revealed in Christ, we are so to live as to exhibit His excellencies, and not our own deformities. As born again, we have the nature which enables us so to do, and also the truth has purified our souls, "through the Spirit" (1:22).

The exhortation is given of course because the flesh is still in each of us, and if we "sow to the flesh" we reap "corruption," as Galatians 6:8 tells us. Then we only show forth our own characteristics, which are anything but excellent. Our business is to display the character of God and not our own.

We may illustrate the matter by referring to God's work in creation. The moon is only of practical help, illuminating in its measure the darkness of the night, when it appears in the light of the sun. Its light is secondhand or reflected sunlight, for it has no light in and of itself. It is to be thus with us today. The world is shrouded in darkness. By nature the saints have no light in themselves, but as redeemed and born again and brought into the light that shines in Christ, they have the capacity to reflect it.

This was indicated prophetically in a word addressed to Israel: "O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord" Isa. 2:5). This was said although the light of those days was only as the shining of the stars compared with the sunrising from on high that has visited us. The prophet realised however that if the house of Jacob did respond to this, they would answer to his further word. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:22). The more they apprehend the greatness of God, the less man would appear to be in their estimation.

So may it be with each of us. The more we dwell in mind and heart in the marvellous light that has shone forth in Christ, the less we shall think of man — and more especially of ourselves. Then the less shall we display our own deformities, and the more shall we show forth the excellencies of Him in whose marvellous light we dwell.