To Whom Do Peter's Words (1 Peter 2:9,10) Apply?
Researched and Compiled by Chuck McManigal
KJV: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
RSV: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; …”
TEV: “But you are the chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, …At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; …”
NIV: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, …Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; …”
JB: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart…Once you were not a people at all and now you are the People of God; …”
NEB: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, and a people claimed by God for his own, …You are now the people of God, who once were not his people: …”
NWT: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, …’ For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; …”
Phillips: “But you are God’s ‘chosen generation’, his ‘royal priesthood’, his ‘holy nation’, his ‘peculiar people’—all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you. …In the past you were not ‘a people’ at all: now you are the people of God.”
These words of 1 Peter 2:9,10 are quoted by Peter from Ex. 19:5,6; Deut. 7:6; Hosea 1:10 and 2:23, and were first applied to the nation of Israel, who were chosen at the time to be a special possession, a holy people, a kingdom of priests, etc. But, with the death of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Christian congregation, these verses no longer applied to “fleshly Israel” but instead to “spiritual Israel,” which is also referred to as “the Israel of God,” made up of both Jews and gentiles, who made up the early Christian congregation.
Some believe that Peter was speaking to the Jews of the “Dispersion” (Diaspora), but not so. He was speaking to all of those Christians, both Jewish and gentile Christians, who fled persecution and scattered into the various places especially mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1, that is: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. How do we know he was speaking to Jewish as well as gentile Christians? We will cover that next, but first let us discuss some information of the dispersion of the Jews.
The dispersion, also known as the Diaspora of the Jews, took place after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple back in the year 607 BCE. Many Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon, but were released after the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon some 70 years later. Many Jews returned to their homeland and eventually rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. Not all the Jews returned to Jerusalem with Zerrubbabel, but only a “mere remnant.” (Isa. 10:21,22). As a people, many Jews remained scattered and this came to be known as the 'Diaspora' or “Dispersion.” In the 5th century BCE communities of Jews were found throughout the 127 jurisdictional districts of the Persian Empire (Esther 1:1; 3:8), as well as the Grecian and Roman Empires.
The great dispersion of Jews throughout the Roman Empire was a factor contributing to the rapid spread of Christianity. Jesus Christ limited his own preaching to Palestine, but commanded his followers to reach out and spread their ministry “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Jews from different parts of the Roman Empire were in Jerusalem attending the Pentecost festival in 33 CE and heard the spirit-begotten Christians preaching about Jesus in the languages of Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, the district of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Crete, Arabia and Rome. Thousands, upon returning to their lands, took with them their newly found Christianity. (Acts 2:1-11). In most of the cities Paul visited he found synagogues where he could readily speak to Jews of the Dispersion. In Lystra Paul met Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess. Aquila and Priscilla were newly arrived from Rome when Paul got to Corinth about 50 CE. The great numbers of Jews in Babylon made it worth Peter’s effort to go there to carry on his ministry among “those who are circumcised.” (Gal. 2:8; 1 Pet. 5:13). This community of Jews in Babylon continued as the most important center of Judaism for quite some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
1 Peter 1:1 (KJV) reads: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, …” The Living Bible puts it this way: “From: Peter, Jesus Christ’s missionary. To: The Jewish Christians driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout…” While the LB seems to indicate Peter’s speaking just to Jewish Christians, it does make the point that they were “Jewish Christians” who were “driven out of Jerusalem and scattered about.” The actual “diaspora” occurred centuries earlier and were dispersed from ancient Babylon, not from Jerusalaem. These Jewish Christians were certainly descendants of those dispersed Jews of centuries earlier. Phillips Modern English puts it this way: “…sends this letter to God’s people now dispersed…” Other modern versions read similarly. How do we know Peter was speaking to both Jewish and gentile Christians in his first letter?
Let’s look again at 1 Peter 2:9,10: (KJV) “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God:…” How do we know Peter is speaking to both Jewish and gentile Christians here? Again, from the KJV we read at Rom. 9:24-26, these words of Paul: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.”
These words of of Jehovah, spoken by Hosea the prophet, were said of the children of Israel! Hosea 1:10 reads (KJV): “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”
So, clearly, part of Peter’s quote is from Hosea 1:10. And, Paul quotes these very same words at Romans 9:24-26 and says: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles…I will call them my people, which were not my people; …And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, [Hosea 1:10], Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (See also Hosea 2:23). So, while the words first applied to the actual Children of Israel, or Israelites, Peter now applies them to both Jewish-born and gentile Christians who make up “spiritual Israel”, or “the Israel of God”! Peter could not have made himself any more clear!
Acts the 10th chapter gives us the account of the first gentile, Cornelius, and his family becoming Christians. At verse 28, (TEV) Peter says: “…You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with a gentile. But God has shown me that I must not consider any man unclean or defiled.” At verses 34, 35 (NIV) we read: “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Did this now mean that although gentiles could now be Christians they were still “second-class” Christians so to speak, or were they now equal to Jewish Christians? Verses 45,46 answer that question: “The circumcised believers [those of Jewish birth] who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
This account took place in the year 36 CE. From that time forward, gentiles became spirit anointed Christians and no favoritism was to be shown to Jewish-born Christians over gentile Christians. Would it seem logical (certainly it is not Scriptural) that from that time on, God would allow his inspired Bible writers when writing to mixed congregations to ignore those dear gentile “brothers and sisters” and address only those Jewish-born Christians? Let’s look at a series of texts that show that God is now (since the time of Cornelius) dealing with “Spiritual Israel,” or “the Israel of God” (both natural Jews as well as gentiles) as his “people” and not strictly with fleshly Israel, those of the circumcision.
Hebrews 8:6-13 (Living Bible) “But Christ, as a Minister in heaven, has been rewarded with a far more important work than those who serve under the old laws, because the new agreement which he passes on to us [both Jewish-born and gentile Christians] from God contains far more wonderful promises. The old agreement [Mosaic Law Code] didn't even work. If it had, there would have been no need for another to replace it. But God himself found fault with the old one, for he said, ‘The day will come when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. This new agreement will not be like the old one I gave to their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; they did not keep their part in that agreement, so I had to cancel it. But this is the new agreement I will make with the people of Israel, says the Lord: I will write my laws in their minds so that they will know what I want them to do without my even telling them, and these laws will be in their hearts so that they will want to obey them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. And no one then will need to speak to his friend or neighbor or brother, saying, “You, too, should know the Lord,” because everyone, great and small will know me already. And I will be merciful to them in their wrongdoings, and I will remember their sins no more.’ God speaks of these new promises, of this new agreement, as taking the place of the old one; for the old one is out of date now and has been put aside forever.”
Please note that Paul quotes from Jeremiah 31:31-34, which prophecy was foretelling the “new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” This prophecy, according to Paul’s words above at Heb. 8:6-13, was never, and will never be fulfilled in the nation of Israel, but instead has been fulfilled in “spiritual Israel,” or “the Israel of God” which, since the days of Cornelius, has been made up of both natural-born Jews and gentiles! God is no longer dealing with the nation of Israel, or Jews in the flesh, but instead, the prophecies given to Israel have their fulfillment in “spiritual Israel,” or “the Israel of God,” the Christian congregation, made up of both natural-born Jews and gentiles alike.
Confirming that, please consider carefully Paul’s clear statement made at Galatians 3:28,29: (KJV): “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Notice how the Living Bible renders these words, making it even more clear: “We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same—we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus. And now that we are Christ’s we are the true descendants of Abraham, and all of God’s promises to him [Abraham] belong to us.”
As we all know, when the Bible refers to those of the “circumcision” this refers to natural-born Jews, or the nation of Israel. Here’s how Paul also shows that God is no longer dealing with the nation of Israel, but with “spiritual Israel” at Romans 2:28,29 (KJV): “For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” So, again, Paul shows clearly that God is no longer dealing with the nation of Israel, or those of the circumcision, but with “Spiritual Israel,” or “the Israel of God,” the true anointed Christians, made up of both Jewish-born and gentile Christians who now fulfill the Scriptures originally given to fleshly Israel.
Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 12:12,13 speak to this same point (KJV): “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
Galatians 6:15,16 reads (KJV): “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, [both Jewish-born and gentile Christians] peace be upon the Israel of God.”
Romans 9: 6-8 reads (Phillips Modern English): “Now this does not mean that God’s word to Israel has failed. For you cannot count all ‘Israelites’ as the true Israel of God. Nor can all Abraham’s descendants be considered truly children of Abraham. The promise was that ‘in Isaac shall thy children be called”. That means that it is not the natural descendants who are children of God, but that the children of the promise are to be considered truly Abraham’s children.” This means, clearly, that the true “Israel of God” is made up of both Jewish-born and gentile Christians. God’s word to Israel has not failed because God’s word is now being fulfilled with the true Israel of God, and not the nation of Israel, or Israel in the flesh.
Remember what Galatians 3:28,29 says (KJV): “There is neither Jew nor Greek [gentile], …for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed [children or offspring], heirs according to the promise.”
In summary, many prophecies as well as words addressed to the nation of Israel were not fulfilled in the nation of Israel, but instead were applied by inspired Bible writers, especially Peter and Paul, to “spiritual Israel” or “the Israel of God” made up of anointed (spirit begotten) Jewish-born and gentile Christians.
It would be wise on the part of students of the Bible to consider other prophecies, not covered in this paper, that many modern Bible teachers interpret to be fulfilled in fleshly Jews, or in the modern Nation of Israel today. Perhaps these too are to be fulfilled in “spiritual Israel” or “the Israel of God”. You the reader must decide for yourself after considering the Scriptural evidence.