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What did Peter think of the Church?
Jesus only mentioned it twice, and He didn’t say much. But, just as Peter received revelation concerning the identity of Jesus, he also received revelation concerning the Church Jesus builds.
Prayer and preaching must go beyond church walls and into all spheres of society and to the ends of the earth.
In his first letter, Peter boldly applies the signature attributes of ancient Israel to the Church: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:9, Exodus 19:5-6). The Church, therefore, is not a replacement of Israel, but a restoration of Israel according to God’s original plan.
No priesthood exists for itself. As God’s royal priesthood, we offer up spiritual sacrifices of prayer and proclamation. That’s what Peter and the other apostles did in Acts.
As God’s intercessors, we stand in the gap between Him and His world. As God’s witnesses, we proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The Greek word for proclaim in 1 Peter 2:9 means to publicly proclaim.
Prayer and preaching may well begin in Christian gatherings within church walls. But it must go beyond that into all spheres of society and to the ends of the earth.
For the rest of this letter, Peter is preoccupied with the Church’s witness to society, not just in words, but also and especially in character and conduct. This makes us the most peculiar people on earth. Not weird but distinguished. Holy as God is holy.
The Gentiles were once excluded from God’s holy nation. But now they are included by faith (1 Peter 2:10).
Since the turn of the millennium, the Church of Jesus Christ has taken root in every nation on earth. But in most nations, many peoples remain unreached and unblessed because they have not yet heard the Good News (Galatians 3:14).
As the Israel of God, we not only inherit the blessings of Abraham, along with all the promises of the Old Testament. We also inherit the global mission of Israel to share this blessing with all the peoples of the earth (Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:6).
In other words, the world is our parish (John Wesley).
- Be holy. What does holiness look like? Faithful church attendance? Yes. But do we also live godly lives among pre-believers so that they may see our good deeds and glorify God? Worship with arms high and hearts abandoned? Sure. But do we also flee youthful lusts?
What is holiness? Weeping at the altar? Yes. But do we look the part more than live the part? Prophetic and punchy intercession? Go for it! But do we also respect and submit to those in authority? Scripted sermons and well-rehearsed liturgy? Absolutely. But do we also speak well of others and practise what we preach?
What is holiness? Reverence and respect for holy things? Always. But Husband, do you also keep the sacred vows of your holy matrimony and honour your wife with tender understanding?
What is holiness? Dressing modestly? You bet. But Wife, do you also win over your Husband with inward beauty rather than outward adornment?
In all of the above, holiness is not either/or, but both/and. Are we holy yet? Practise holiness. Confess and commit to change.
- Proclaim. Is the world our parish? Holy huddling within the church walls is inconsistent with the Church Jesus builds. The Church is a missionary movement, spreading the Gospel not only for conversion of hearts, but also for the healing of the nation (www.methodist.org.sg). A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
We should ask ourselves: What right do we have to hear the Gospel twice, while millions of others have not heard it even once? How can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14). Confess and commit to change.
- Pray. Are we too busy and burnt out to pray? The priesthood of all believers is a distinctive of the Church Jesus builds. Prayer is our vocation. Chronic busyness crowds out the business of prayer. Is God nudging you to simplify your life?
Downshift. Downsize. Downgrade. Do something different. Hit the pause button. Take stock. Take a sabbatical. Relinquish control. Surrender to God. Reset your heart. Confess and commit to change.
- Sing this classic hymn to affirm the Communion of the Saints:
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation by water and the Word:
From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation, One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.
Read the devotional from Day 11, July 11: Peter’s conundrum here.