The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, February 4, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 7): Called into Light



By: Thomas Clayton Booher

1 Peter 2:9 that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

Peter begins his first epistle by identifying the recipients as the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1)Exactly what the Dispersion refers to is not entirely agreed upon by Bible scholars and commentators. Onecommentator correlates the word, dispersion (Greek diaspora), with the LXX translation of Deuteronomy 28:25, [Thou] shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth (KJV). The translators used the same word. He considers it the first use as a technical designation of Jews who lived outside of Palestine. On that basis, he believes Peter is writing to Jews who, by their own choice, are living in the regions listed in verse one.

There is merit to that idea as there was a general division of labor between Paul and Peter, wherein Paul ministered among the Gentiles while Peter among the Jews (Gal 2:7, 8). Interestingly, this commentator writes nothing about 2 Pet 2:10, which we will see has an important bearing on the matter.

Another commentator agrees that Peter’s primary reference is to Jews scattered by the Babylonian captivity, but also sees a secondary reference to the Gentiles.

In 4:3, Peter speaks of his readers as doing the will of the Gentiles, and gives a short list of what he means - walking in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, abominable idolatries. This is the kind of list Paul might give, who without question was writing to Gentiles (Eph 5:3-5; Col 3:5-8). If Peter were addressing Jews in 4:3, he would have to mean they were walking like the Gentiles, not as actual Gentiles. However, abominable idolatries would hardly be a believable charge against the Jews of the first century, even unconverted ones.

In our text, Peter describes his readers as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people. It is true that God looked upon Old Testament Israel as his own special people, chosen out of all the people of the ancient world (Ex 19:5; Deut 4:10; 7:6; 14:2; 26:15; Ps 135:4). Yet, in ancient Israel, the offices of king and priest were separate, so the designation a royal priesthood is not a fitting accolade for Jews, even Jewish Christians, if the rationale for the ascription is their ethnicity as Jews.

The clearest idea that Gentiles are at least equally in mind as Jews, if not more so, is found in 2:10, which immediately follows our text. The ‘you’ of verse nine are also those in verse ten who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. This parallels Paul in Ephesians 2:11-13 where he relates how the Gentiles were once without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope and God in the world. But that all changed for them as Paul writes, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were for off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Peter’s words also reflect the Old Testament anticipation of the conversion of the Gentile, those who found God even though they did not seek for him, to whom God revealed himself even though (historically) they did not ask for him (Isaiah 65:1; Rom 11:20).

In this context, Peter speaks of our calling. It is a call out of darkness into light. Peter is presenting us with a calling that did not merely take place in the past. It was not a calling that was reached after a time of evaluation or analysis on God’s part. The act of calling was punctiliar not progressive. This has special significance when we think of the one who is doing the calling, the one of whom we are to proclaim praise because of his call. Since it is God who has called, we must think of the call as always in his mind. It did not suddenly appear in his thinkingAs such, it is a call that has had no change, and will never change. If it were a call that was reached after an investigative process, there would be nothing in the nature of it to prohibit further evaluation resulting in its reversal. But we thank God that it is a once-for-all, unchanging, eternal call.

The call is effectual. It accomplishes something. It has a power in it that brings into being that which is not. The call of God inherently brings into being everything entailed in the call. This is clearly seen in the creative call of Genesis 1, which invoked something out of nothing. It was instantaneous; one moment there was nothing, the next, everything. The divine fiat of creation had everything within it to bring about what was purposed in it.

The creation motif is useful in understanding God’s saving work, and it is not absent in the New Testament. Paul sees an analogy between God’s original lighting up of the cosmos and his shining the knowledge of his glory (emanating from the face of Jesus Christ) into our dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6). Peter follows the imagery in our text – the call results in a transfer from one state to another, from darkness to light.

We may draw further comparisons. The original creation was in darkness (Gen 1:1, 2) and God commanded light to shine into the darkness and lighten the world (Gen 1:3). The creation was taken from a state of deep darkness into a state in which the unformed, empty world was exposed. In the subsequent creation days, the world moves from destitute barrenness to teeming life in the sky, land, and sea. God transforms the world.

Our transfer from darkness to light by the call of God results in our own transformation. This idea of is picked up by Paul, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). The call results in the Spirit’s work which changes us to be more and more like the glorious Lord. Paul also uses darkness and light to paint what salvation looks like. To be called out of darkness into light is to be called from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). Those without Christ walk in ignorance because they are blind and their understanding is darkened (Eph 4:18). The implication is that those who are in Christ walk in understanding and therefore know and follow the will of God. Their life is not marked by the flagrant and heinous sin of the unbelieving world.

In line with the likelihood that Peter is at least including Gentiles as the recipients of his letter, the light into which they are called has a worldwide effect as they themselves are lights. Paul states as much when he exhorts his Gentile readers as children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15).

The eternal, unchanging call of God will accomplish what it purposed. It will effectively work through the preaching of the gospel and the internal operation of the Spirit. Just asthe entities of creation and light could not thwart the will of the one who called them into being, so can no man confound the purpose of God in his call. Not only does it transfer from darkness to light, but it also transforms. That is a certainty, and we should be encouraged by that. It assures us that the success of our evangelism is not dependent on usIt also ensures our sanctification. God will progressively sanctify us in this life and will perfect us in the next.

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