by Nathan Chapman
#4 in a series on 1 Peter
Depending on your history, your reaction to the promise of the Gospel to make us a “people,” a “race,” and a “nation” in 1 Peter 2:9-10, may range from skepticism to something easily assumed. The relational connections that we have experienced over our lives can sometimes make us disillusioned, sometimes naively hopeful, or both. Whatever your experience is, one identifying trait for all disciples is that we belong to a community. God’s intention in redemption was never to have individuals belonging to him without belonging to one another. Disciples not only belong to God, but to the people God has ransomed for himself. We are no longer identified by preferences or backgrounds, but by His work in and through our lives. The story of how disciples belong to compelling gospel-shaped community follows the narrative of the Gospel.
Starting with creation, we were not made to be alone. When God created Adam and Eve he created them to reflect His trinitarian glory. God, who has always lived in perfect communion with himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, created us to display this beauty in our relationships to one another. In fact, in the beginning when God created Adam, the only critique God made of his creation was that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. The race of humanity was created with a God-glorifying desire to connect. Everywhere, all over the world, people survive and thrive within communities. People groups with as much diversity and similarities as you can imagine cover the world.
There is nothing in our experience that has not be tainted by the stain of sin. Once sin entered the world there was shame, hiding, and blame that destroyed what God had intended for our relationships with him and one another. The disparity of Adam and Eve’s experience with God and with one another before and after sin had to be devastating. We still feel the affects of this sin in our current relationships. Sometimes understanding one another and even working together towards a common goal can seem impossible. It doesn’t take long to feel disillusioned with even the most trusted friend. There is also hope. During the day-to-day interactions there are signs along the way that are hopeful. There are clues that our connections to one another have some weight of glory attached to them. These moments point us towards God’s intention and design and his plans to make all things new.
Part of what we learn in 1 Peter is that God is making a people. Through Christ, we are both reconciled to God and to one another. We were once just individuals, no shared experience of God’s mercy, or shared purpose to declare God’s excellence. Because of the cross, that is no longer the case. Christ’s work on the cross accomplished more than our right standing with God. The Holy Spirit is working to reconcile us, by God’s grace, to one another. The communion of saints with one another is being formed and reformed by the message and power of the Gospel.
All Things New
As we have windows into what the gospel lived out in community can be like, our thirst for these rich relationships will only be more acute. There is a reason it is hard to close a good conversation or end a night shared with friends or wrap up working on a project with a friend. We were made for those things. We long for them because we are being transformed for a coming kingdom where all things will be made new. For those in Christ, there will be a day when our joy in these things will be complete. Our communion with one another will be ultimately redeemed. There will no longer be sin to hinder our understanding of one another. Until that day, we will pursue community with one another, so that the transition is as seamless as possible.
It is hard sometimes to remember that the gospel is not just ideas that we can learn and put away. The truth of the gospel is the only remedy for sin’s effects. By God’s grace we are reconciled to him and to one another. The redeemed are now part of a company, a nation, a people. The Gospel is proclaimed in our relationships to one another as we connect, acknowledge sin, and forgive as we have been forgiven. Disciples pursue life with Jesus alongside all of the redeemed. Our relationships are not yet what they will be, but as the Spirit changes us more and more into his likeness, our community is dynamic, beautiful, and compelling.