Study 6 AN INSPIRED DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH
THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: Matthew 16:13-20; 1 Peter 2:4-12)
In 1 Peter 2:4-12 we have a description of the true church of God, for the Holy Spirit has recorded through Peter some of the things that God Himself says about the church. On every hand today the church, and the very use of the word, is misunderstood. What is the church? How many churches are there? In the New Testament the church is viewed as:-
- A Brotherhood. This emphasises the fellowship of those who belong to the church. In 1 Corinthians 1:9, the church is spoken of as those called “into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ”; in Galatians 6:10 as “the family of believers”; in Ephesians 2:19 as “God’s household”; and in 1 Peter 2:17 as “the brotherhood”, indicating that the church consists of all who have been brought into the family of God and who are therefore brothers and sisters in Christ.
- A Body. This emphasises the function of the church through a variety of organs, and this aspect of the church is seen in 1 Corinthians 12, where the word ‘body’ is used seventeen times in verses 12-27. Carefully study verses 12,13,14 and 27. As members of the church we constitute the body of Christ.
- A Bride. This emphasises the fidelity of all the members of the church, their love for the Bridegroom and their loyalty to Him – look up Ephesians 5:25. As members of the church we are the bride of Christ and He is our bridegroom.
- A Building. Our Lord is the foundation of this spiritual house, and He is described in verse 4 as the ‘living Stone’. He is the foundation on which the church is built – look up and compare Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11. But members of the church, Christians, are ‘living stones’ – look at verse 5; and we are built together on the ‘living stone’ which is Christ Himself, thus forming a spiritual temple or house – look up Ephesians 2:19-22.
But what is this church like? What are the characteristics of the true church? Peter gives us a six-fold description:
1. THE CHURCH’S DIGNITY
This is indicated in the words in verse 9 – “a chosen people”; literally it reads ‘a select race’ or ‘an elect race’. When were we elected or chosen? The answer is, in eternity – look up and compare Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2, and the reason God chose us is partly revealed in Deuteronomy 7:7-8.
2. THE CHURCH’S DEVOTION
This is indicated in the words in verse 9 – “a royal priesthood”. In Revelation 1:6 we read that we have been made “a kingdom and priests to serve God”. The office of the priest is to go into the presence of God, and every member of the church has direct access into the presence of God and can enter with boldness – look up Hebrews 10:19-22. This is what is meant by ‘the priesthood of all believers’ – look up Hebrews 4:14-16. As priests we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, as verse 5 indicates. These are the sacrifices of thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14), of a broken heart (Psalm 51:17), of prayer (Psalm 141:2), of praise (Hebrews 13:15), of benevolence (Hebrews 13:16), and of ourselves (Romans 12:1).
3. THE CHURCH’S DISTINCTIVENESS
This is indicated in the words “a holy nation” (verse 9). The emphasis is upon the word ‘holy’. We are a holy people, a people ‘set apart for God’, a different people – look up Leviticus 19:2; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16. How much there needs to be a re-emphasis of this truth that God’s people are to be a distinctive or a different people – ‘a holy people’!
4. THE CHURCH’S DECLARATION
This is indicated in the words “that you may declare the praises of him”, that is, of Jesus (verse 9). The church is ‘to proclaim His wondrous deeds’ – to show forth the glory of the Lord and to make known His gracious dealings with His people. The word ‘declare’ means to advertise. One reason the Lord has left His church in the world is that the church should advertise His greatness, His glory and His grace. What a tragedy it is when churches do just the opposite! They fail to preach Christ, they exalt man, they engage in worldly activities and they have no gospel to offer to a dying generation. Are you declaring His praises among your family and friends?
5. THE CHURCH’S DELIVERANCE
This is indicated in the second part of verse 9 and in verse 10. Notice that the members of the church are here described in three ways:-
- They are the children of light – verse 9. Once we were in the darkness, but now by God’s grace we have been called out of darkness into light.
- They are the people of God – verse 10. This was not always so, but again, by His grace, we have been made His children – look up John 1:11-13.
- They are the redeemed of the Lord – verse 10. There was a time when we had not received mercy, now we have received mercy!
It is important that we frequently remind ourselves of the great things that God has done for us and of the amazing deliverance that He has given to us.
6. THE CHURCH’S DISCIPLINE
This is indicated in verses 11 and 12. These verses have to do with the personal conduct and behaviour of those who are members of the church. Notice the intensity of the apostle’s appeal in verse 11, and notice the three reasons he gives for the necessity of this self-discipline:-
- Because of our heavenly citizenship – verse 11. We are only aliens and strangers in this world. This is not our home; we are passing through – look up Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:1.
- Because of the need to protect our spiritual life – verse 11. Our soul will never be lost as believers – look up John 10:27-29; but our life may be lost.
- Because of the influence we have upon others – verse 12. As believers we are to live such good lives among the pagans – look up Matthew 5:16.
This is the apostle’s inspired description of the true church of God. Are you a member of this church?