The Battle for Souls: 1 Peter 2:9-12 (Sermon)


The Battle for Souls: 1 Peter 2:9-12 preached on 6/7/2020 at Sawyer Highlands Church, in Sawyer Michigan. 


Hi, I am pastor Rob, and it is an honor to share with you God’s Word. What a week? Layoffs loom large for some. Others have family issues; there have been riots across the country, protests, and racism. It seems that we have a swell of cultural problems that cycle through the media one after another. There is some evil in this world. Edmund Burke once said, “The only necessary thing for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What are we to do? We must do something. I am drained and at a loss. I am grateful for Pastor Jeff and Mike and the elders to think through our response. Life can be exhausting. So, let me ask you. How are you doing? 


Perhaps, you are overwhelmed. Let me shift your perspective to think about someone else’s problem for a moment. Imagine waking up, grabbing some coffee, toast, and you notice the hum of a plane, then another, and another. It is 7:55 AM. You look out of your front door, and you see 183 planes flying towards you and smoke rising around you—you wonder about your family and friends on this day, December 7th, 1941. The Japanese were attacking. On that day in history, 2,403 people lost their lives, and 1,143 people were wounded. President Rosevelt declared it was a date that will live in infamy. The bombing of Pearl Harbor propelled America into World War II, lead to victory gardens, rations, 4.1 trillion dollars in spending, substantial loss of life, and a restructuring of society as we know it. 


Today, we are at war. I am not talking about the nearly twenty-year war on terror in Afghanistan. Nor the war on drugs, hunger, poverty, COVID-19, or racism. I am talking about a different battle of inner turmoil and religious persecution. We approach this battle continuing our study of 1 Peter. In four verses, Peter discusses our identity, activity, and how that can impact history. These are my three points capturing the flow of thought in these verses. Let me repeat that for those taking notes: in chapter 2 of 1 Peter, verses 9 through 12; he discusses our identity, activity, and how that can impact history.   

  1. The Church’s Identity
  2. The Church’s Activity
  3. Impact on History


Let’s read those verses now. I have asked S.K. to read for us this morning. If you have Bibles, let me encourage you to follow along. Again we are reading 1 Peter 2:9–12.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 

Thank you, S. Let’s pray. 


Dear God, thank you for your Word. Your Word is light and my help. We love you. Use your word to permeate our souls. Change us and transform us for your glory. Help me to capture what Peter is saying and communicate it clearly for your namesake. AMEN! 


Last week, pastor Mike gave us three pictures in his message: the picture of Christ, the picture of the Church, and the picture of the Lost. Peter wrote his letter calling God’s dispersed people to live their lives for God’s glory in all circumstances because of their sure hope in Christ. 


Again, if you are taking notes, we will talk about the church’s identity, activity, and the impact that can have on history


Who are you? Who are you, body of believers? We can define ourselves in many ways. I filled out the 2020 census the other day. It asked about address, gender, age, and family. We can define ourselves by those things: he is a guy’s guy. She is a girly girl. You are a Boomer, Gen Xer, or a Millennial or Gen Z. You are a Northerner, Southerner, Michigander, Hoosier, or Chicagoan. We can define ourselves by our accomplishments or occupation: we are graduates, valedictorians, or presidents. We are teachers, doctors, nurses, carpenters, managers, contractors, small business owners, or programmers. We can define ourselves by our schooling choice, cars we drive, and the vacations we take. Who are you? In these few verses, we get a peek at who the church is. That identity is more significant than anything the census could ask. God describes us in seven ways that we would do well to dwell on, and so we will. Mike touched on some of these last weeks. Here they are. The church is a,  

  1. Chosen Race 
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation 
  4. People of God’s Possession
  5. Recipients of Mercy
  6. Loved 
  7. Sojourners and Exiles 

That is the church’s identity. I am going to run through each in brief. 


The first description we read is that they were a chosen race. That was not the first time Peter used the word chosen or the concept. Jesus, the Cornerstone, was chosen by God. But Peter views the church as chosen as well. In the first verse of chapter one, he calls the church “elect.” The church’s identity was not something they decided but bestowed. God picked them. Chapter 1 verse 3 says that God caused us to be born again into a living hope. God is the uncaused cause, elector, and selector. 


“Chosen” modifies the term “Race.” What was Peter getting at? This is a loaded word in our day. Was Peter racist? No, he was not. Over the centuries, people have used the Bible as a weapon of oppression and subjugation to make it say what it doesn’t. We can’t take the verses out of context or put our meaning into what’s not there. One can translate the word “race” as the word for family, offspring, or nation. Peter was from the Middle East writing to men, women, children, workers, servants, masters, Jews, and non-Jews alike. Therefore, his use of the word “race” is not an ethnic group of people, class, age, or gender. He was not talking about the color of skin or facial features. He was talking about being part of God’s family as a supernatural reality. We have to understand that Peter is talking about spiritual reality, not a physical one. Christianity is not a white man’s religion; if anything, it would be a Middle Eastern one, but it is not even that. It is African, Asian, European, Islander, and American. It is for every tongue, tribe, and nation.  


From the beginning of the Bible, God has communicated his heart for the nations. And he ends with that too. God doesn’t change his mind. He is immutable, unchanging, steadfast, and firm in his love for people. In my devotional reading this week, I read Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 5. The saints around God’s throne in heaven praised Jesus saying, 

“9 Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

John’s vision in Revelation ties into Peter’s description of the church. Not only is the church a “chosen race,” they are a “Royal Priesthood.” That is the second identifier of the church. 

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood


The church is part of a royal line. If you are part of the church, you are sons or daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords! You are princes and princesses. No joke. 


When I was a kid, I wanted that. I wanted a castle. I wanted soaring parapets, moats, and secret rooms. It had to have secret rooms. I kind of still do, but then I think of all the property taxes and clean up. Yuck! I guess I will just visit one someday. Royalty owns things like that. Friends, heaven is greater than that. It is yours because you are a royal priesthood. 


Imagine looking into your genealogy and discovering you were part of Tsar’s family and had a rightful claim on Russia's throne. As children of God, we have something far more incredible than an earthly inheritance. We have a heavenly one that won’t perish, spoil, or fade preserved by God. No one can cheat you out of that. Inflation won’t touch it. Decay won’t harm it. It is sure. I don’t care how big your house is or where it is or how much money you have in the bank; nothing can top what God has in store for his “royal priests” and “chosen family.” If you repent and believe in Jesus, that is your identity.  


Not only that, but you also have a priestly role. All believers of Jesus are priests. Peter brought this up in verse 6. Jump back with me. What did he write? 

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Now, wait a minute. What are the sacrifices Peter is talking about? Isn’t Jesus’s death the once for all sacrifice? We can’t add anything to the finished work of Christ on the cross. That is correct. Then what is Peter getting at? Mike directed us last week to verses 11–12. Peter commands us to give up sin and live honorable lives. Another passage describing the sacrifices we make is Romans 12:1. Someone in my life group brought it up. Paul wrote, 

I appeal to you; therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrificeholy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Do you think Peter and Paul talked? They could have. Peter mentions Paul’s writings in 2 Peter 3:15. Both believe that Jesus spilled the blood necessary to satisfy God’s wrath. Yet both agree that God wants allegiance and belief results in action.

On the other hand, we demonstrate our faith and gratitude in him every day by committing our energy, talents, and resources in service to him. That is the most essential worship you can do. I would love for you to be singing at home with gusto, but if you are not offering God your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you are missing the point. Don’t hold back. Give God everything. Dedicate yourself to him. Worship is a lifestyle and job.  

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation


Not only is the church a chosen race, and royal priesthood, they are a holy nation. To be holy is to be set apart and pure. We are to be holy as God is holy, Peter says in chapter 1, verse 16. This holiness is not a monk-like existence where we avoid the culture to make our own. It is a moral and ethical break from going with the flow. We are to be in the world, not of it. 


This term holy modifies ethnicity or nationality. The church is in God’s kingdom. Through Jesus, God ingrafted non-Jewish people by faith into the nation of Israel. 


Peter seems to be drawing on the Old Testament to describe the church. Three months after the people of Israel came out of Egypt to the wilderness, God spoke to Moses and told him,  

5 … You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

God views his people in the Old Testament and New as treasured, holy, and priestly. The kingdom of God doesn’t have an earthly political leader or a geographic boundary. God is the king, and the world is his parish. This is not a western religion. It transcends borders.

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation
  4. People of his own Possession 


In addition to being a holy nation, Peter uses the word “People.” look at 

verse 9. 

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, 

We are God’s people for his own possession. Why? 


I was talking to a neighbor this week about Christianity. He says he believes it except for the miracles. Then he went on to raise issue after issue. It was a lovely challenging exploration of someone else’s opinion. He has many ideas. He told me he doesn’t like the idea that God chooses some. As I was thinking about our conversation, why does God choose some? Why did he make us a particular multicultural tribe? Why did he call us Royalty? Why did he say we are holy? Why? Well, Peter answers that in the rest of that verse 9,

That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

God has you here on this planet for a reason. It is not so you can live a comfortable life and get rich quick. It is that you may proclaim the excellencies of him. How is that going for you? I must confess, I have been lax and remiss. I enjoy life and am afraid to proclaim or direct the conversation into spiritual matters. Forgive me for my lack of zeal. This goes beyond being more introverted than others or busy. I have been reading a book about evangelism this week. I think I have shied away from proclaiming Christ interpersonally too long. It is easy preaching about Christ on a pulpit, but much harder out and about. I want to change. I want to create space in my life to share Christ. How are you proclaiming the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light? The Bible says his mercy is new every morning. Will you join me in turning to God and attempting another week to live out this purpose? So, if God chose us to proclaim, was it because we would be good proclaimers? No, Peter goes back to our identity and draws upon Hosea. 

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation
  4. People of his own Possession 
  5. Recipients of Mercy


Peter adds to our identity we, the church, are recipients of mercy. 

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Peter calls upon the story of Hosea and Gommer. Gommer, Hosea’s wife, had two children, presumably out of wedlock. They were named not mercy and not his people. Hosea’s marriage is a picture of God and his People. God’s people ran off and lived in the darkness. He called them to himself. He ran after her. He forgave her guilt. He adopted her children and renamed them mercy and my people. We were Gommer. We were her children. God runs after us. He forgives us. He adopts us as his own and shows mercy. Why? That dovetails into the next thing Peter says about the church.  

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation
  4. People of his own Possession 
  5. Recipients of Mercy
  6. Beloved


Peter calls the church beloved. If the church is loved, who is the lover? God. God loves the church. How does he love her? Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We know love and can love because he first loved us. It was not because of anything we had done. He chose you and loved you. 1 John 4:10 defines it this way, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God loves you!

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation
  4. People of his own Possession 
  5. Recipients of Mercy
  6. Beloved
  7. Sojourning Exiles


Finally, Peter acknowledges that they are sojourning exiles. That means they were on a journey. This life is not the resting place or all there is. Isn’t that good news? I want to rest. I like heaven, but I don’t think of this life as heaven much of the time. We are moving day by day closer and closer, moment by moment, to being united with God in a reality that far surpasses the one we know. We are refugees and immigrants. We are not at home. We are not permanent residents or citizens of this reality. Our home is with God and his kingdom. So let me repeat our identity church. 

  1. Chosen Race
  2. Royal Priesthood
  3. Holy Nation
  4. People of his own Possession 
  5. Recipients of Mercy
  6. Beloved
  7. Sojourning Exiles


Aren’t those seven facts encouraging! For some, it is foreign. This is not your identity. You are none of those because you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Christ as your Savior. Turn from your sin and believe. Pastor Mike called this "being lost," last week. If that is you, be found. God draws people to himself. Maybe he is drawing you to himself right now. I pray he is. When you put your trust in him, this identity becomes yours instantaneously. They are as sure as what we see with your eyes and touch with our hands. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. That is the good news of the gospel. That is the first point Peter is making as he begins to shift to our activity. We have talked about identity, so let’s talk about the second piece of these four verses, Activity. 

  1. The Church’s Identity
  2. The Church’s Activity

Peter moves from indicatives to imperatives: from identity to activity. Look at verse 11, 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.

Peter urges his readers to respond in two ways to a war that is on two fronts. One is an internal battle, and the other is external. A battle is upon us, and it begins in the heart. 


In the early part of the twentieth century, the Times of London wrote an editorial question for people to respond to. It asked, “What is wrong with the world.” The shortest response came from a Christian author and thinker, G. K. Chesterton. He answered the question with two words, “I am.” Each of us has passions that wage war within us. Our greatest enemy is ourselves. 


Peter agrees. He identifies that the first enemy is our passions. What is that? Isn’t passion a good thing? Don’t we do well to be passionate? I am a passionate person. Peter has a different kind of passion in mind. The NIV translates it “Desires” or other translations say lusts of the flesh. Peter uses this word in chapter 4, verse 2. 

 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 


How are you tempted to give in to what the Bible prohibits? Are you tempted to look at things that you should not? Do you lie? Do you steal? Do you say untrue things about other people to make yourself look better or others worse? Do you live for something other than God, that is idolatry? What passions seek to overpower your soul? Abstain, Peter says. Fight. I was in my head this week thinking I have to preach this. I can’t give in. I have to fight. We must fight brothers and sisters. Wage war. John Owen, a puritan, said, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Fight with ferocity. How? Consider what God has done, and let that drive you to live for him. Consider what God has said about you? Let that inspire you to live for him. Consider how God looks at you; let that drive you to obedience. Communion is a tangible reminder of that gospel. Use that as a marker in your life of faith, not of self but your Savior. Let that motivate action. The battle will be over soon. Press in, don’t give up. Fight the good fight of faith. Run the race before you. He has drawn us out of the darkness into the marvelous light. We are in this together.


That is one command Peter makes. We will see it again in his letter. He then takes a positive approach. So one activity of the church is abstaining. The other is honoring. Look at verse 12. 

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,

What does that mean? What does it mean for you to live honorably? Peter will expand on this, too, in his letter. Suffice it to say, we can ask what does it mean to honor God in our marriage, in our parenting, in our grandparenting, in our working, and our neighboring? I think that is a good question for us to ask? This activity flows directly from our identity. 


  1. The Church’s Identity 
  2. The Church’s Activity
  3. Can Impacts History

Finally, Peter drops in how the church’s identity and activity can have an impact on history. Peter writes in verse 12, 

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 

The reason to abstain and live in an honorable way is that those who attack us might repent and glorify God on the day of visitation. Peter is highly aware of the persecution and the physical danger that people face for their faith. Tradition states he was writing in prison. He awaited death. He sought to honor God with his life, no matter the cost. Peter lived what he preached. 


Paul instructs us this way, 

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Perhaps the coals that Paul referred to create a nagging sense of guilt triggering repentance. Peter seems to think that could happen. Regardless of an evil doer’s repentance, they will one day bend the knee in honor of God. Paul tells us this in his letter to Philippians. It is much better to do this before the judgment. However, Peter talks about how our actions can provoke repentance in others in the next chapter. 


In chapter 3 he writes, 

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1–2). 

Christ-like action can fuel conversion and not just for spouses but also for teachers, students, co-workers, and other relationships you have. What does it look like to honor God in all you do? Perhaps you need to do some abstaining this week? Maybe you need to do some honoring this week that you didn’t do this last one. 


People won’t always appreciate you for your faith. They may hate you. They may say bad things about or use you. The worst thing they can do is kill you. Jesus said, don’t fear that. Rather fear him who can kill the soul and send it to Hell (Matthew 10:28). Friends, we don’t have to worry like others. God has shown us mercy, called us his own, and loves us with an undying love. He called us out of the darkness into the marvelous light. Therefore, love your enemies, pray for them. Pray. 


Vindication is God’s. He is coming again soon. It will come when people least expect it and suddenly. He will bring justice, unlike any court on earth can offer. What kind of justice can a court offer? Can they bring life back or exact a fair punishment on the Klu Klux Klan, mass murderers, and tyrants? We are not to be vigilantes returning evil for evil. We are to love those who hate us because God loved us while we hated him. Let us live out our identity as chosen, royal, holy, recipients of mercy, and love based on what God did, and may many come to faith in him before it is too late.  

Let’s pray. 

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