Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 2.9-10

1 Peter 2.9-10

[9] But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

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COMMENTARY:

Calvin’s commentary on these two verses is quite short – only about 3 full pages. But, there are some very good bits. Despite these good bits, I’m not feeling as though I have much to say about them. So, I’ll just give you some of the good quotes with minimal comment from myself.

One thing I will say, however, is that Calvin makes good use of his tactic of paraphrasing in his own words what the author meant in writing a given verse or sentence or phrase. This is one of my favorite of Calvin’s exegetical tools because it makes perfectly clear what Calvin is up to and how he is reading the passage in question, not to mention the fact that it generally yields very quotable sections.

One (other thing) thing I will say is that Calvin opens this section with a comment about the separation of believers from unbelievers. In keeping with one of his three goals for church discipline, this is necessary in order to keep believers from being negatively influenced by those acting like non-believers. The other two goals for church discipline in Calvin’s thought are: first, the honor of God in that those who do not behave as believers should ought not to be called believers, and in that the Lord’s Supper should be administered with discernment; and second, the well-being of those under discipline in that discipline is medicinal and aimed at the betterment of the person in question. It is important to remember, however, that even excommunication in Calvin’s teaching on discipline does not equal a pronouncement that a person is reprobate, for only God knows this. Rather, it is a pronouncement that this person has persisted without repentance in ungodly behavior and thus must be excluded from the Supper and the community. But, enough about that – on to some Calvin quotes!

“God gave to the fathers an earthly taste only of these blessings,…they are really given in Christ. The meaning then is, as though he had said, “Moses called formerly your fathers a holy nation, a priestly kingdom, and God’s peculiar people: all these high titles do now far more justly belong to you; therefore you ought to beware lest your unbelief should rob you of them.”

“[T]he Lord hath called us, that he might possess us as his own, and devoted to him.”

“There is in the royal priesthood a striking inversion of the words of Moses; for he says, ‘a priestly kingdom,’ but the same thing is meant. So what Peter intimated was this, ‘Moses called your fathers a sacred kingdom, because the whole people enjoyed as it were a royal liberty, and from their body were chosen the priest; both dignities were therefore joined together: but not ye are royal priests, and, indeed, in a more excellent way, because ye are, each of you, consecrated in Christ, that ye may be the associates of his kingdom, and partakers of his priesthood. Though, then, the fathers had something like what you have, yet ye far excel them. For after the wall of partition has been pulled down by Christ, we are now gathered from every nation, and the Lord bestows these high titles on all whom he makes his people.’”

NB how in the above quote the priesthood of believers is not an independent priesthood but a sharing in the priesthood of Christ. We have spoken of the mediation of Christ in ways similar to this before. Again, see the work of T.F. Torrance for a contemporary exposition of this theological theme.

“And the sum of what he says is that God has favoured us with these immense benefits and constantly manifests them, that his glory might by us be made known: for by praises, or virtues, he understands wisdom, goodness, power, righteousness, and everything else, in which the glory of God shines forth. And further, it behoves us to declare these virtues or excellencies not only by our tongue, but also by our whole life.”

“We must also notice what he says, that we have been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous or wonderful light; for by these words he amplifies the greatness of divine grace. If the Lord had given us light while we were seeking it, it would have been a favour; but it was a much greater favour, to draw us out of the labyrinth of ignorance and the abyss of darkness.”

“[W]hen they are gathered in Christ, from no people they really become the people of God…It is then God’s gratuitous goodness, which makes of no people a people of God, and reconciles the alienated.”

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