by Dennis Louis
Scriptural evidence overwhelmingly suggests that there are intentional and distinct areas of continuity between Old Covenant and New Covenant (OC and NC) believers. These areas of continuity demonstrate what the Reformed community holds as sound doctrine: through the course of redemptive history, God has had one people, one means of salvation and one purpose. These fundamental Ecclesiological, Soteriological and Teleological realities, which find their expression in the people of God and their fulfillment in the person and work of Christ are clearly laid out for us in the New Testament corpus. More specifically, in 1 Peter 2:4-10 these realities are used to draw definite parallels between OC and NC believers.
Ecclesiological: Within the pericope of 1 Peter 2:4-10 alone, the apostle Peter uses several well known Old Testament texts, which refer to God’s OC community. He then applies them to the life situation of the NC community in the diaspora: 1 Peter 2:9a-c, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (Deut. 10:15, Ex. 19:5-6); 1 Peter 2:9d, “a people for his own possession” (Exodus 19:5 and Isa. 43:20-21); 1 Peter 2:10, “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” (Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:23). Peter’s use of the OT and its application to the NC community was not done haphazardly.
His purpose was to illustrate that those in the dispersed and persecuted community of his day–like those in the persecuted community of Moses, Hosea, and Isaiah’s day–are God’s chosen people, have not been forgotten by God and that God has a plan for them. The Ecclesiological implications of Peter’s juxtaposition of OC and NC believers (seen specifically by the similar terms used to describe both communities) and their mutual situations are astounding. They clearly demonstrate that God has always had ONE group of people throughout redemptive history who are born by faith in Christ.
Soteriological: The Soteriological allusions between the OC and NC within 1 Peter 2:4-10 are ubiquitous. First, Peter states that Christ is a living stone rejected by men, but chosen by God
(1 Peter 2:4). Peter then states that we, like Christ, are living stones built up as a spiritual house
(1 Peter 2:5). By likening us (NC believers) to a living stone, Peter emphasizes (like Paul does in his epistles cf. Ephesians) our union with and resemblance to Christ, the “living stone.”
Second, Peter then picks up the language of Christ as the “cornerstone” (a stone of great importance for the stability of a building; laid where two walls meet). He quotes two passages from Isaiah (28:16 and 8:14) that contain the cornerstone language to demonstrate that the church, as it was built on the prophets, was also built on the teachings of the apostles–all of which are held together by the chief cornerstone–Christ (Eph. 2:20).
Third, the foundation of the cornerstone (Christ) and the supporting structure (built by the prophets and apostles) are to be kept and built up by “a royal priesthood” (the people of God). This “royal priesthood” is also a “chosen race” selected by God by the same process (God’s mere good pleasure) in both covenants. Herein lies the Soterialogical logic of the aforementioned connections: both OC and NC believers are called a “royal priesthood” and a “chosen race” within both epochs. There were chosen men who laid the foundation (prophets in OT, apostles in NT) and in both epochs Christ served as the foundation, the chief cornerstone of God’s choosing. It is in Christ and Christ alone we all (both OC and NC believers) find our salvation.
Teleological: Philosophical connotations aside, the term “Teleological” represents the belief that there is a purpose or design behind all things. When the term is applied to the people of God, it suggests that God has a purpose or design behind the formation of a special group of people who bear his name. God’s special purpose for his people is spelled out when Peter states that both NC and OC believers were made “royal priests” and a “holy nation” so that we might proclaim the excellencies of him who has saved us (1 Peter 2:9). To put it another way, God not only saved us, but he saved us to serve and bring glory to Him. This purpose was first brought to fruition in the Garden of Eden, reestablished in the Jewish community, then extended to all those who by grace through faith accept Christ.
Why is it so important that we affirm that God has always had one people throughout redemptive history, had one plan of salvation, and that he had one purpose? Because when we read our Bibles with these overarching concepts in mind, we see the Bible for what it truly is: God’s complete and full story of redemption. We see a complete Gospel, not a fragmented one. We see that God’s dealings with his people are consistent and not capricious. We see that the entire Bible, not just bits and pieces, are for our instruction and learning.
Let me encourage you today that we have been given a rich theological heritage that does not date back exclusively to the reformation era, but rather to creation. From the beginning, God has had one people to whom he has shown great love and mercy. He has provided one means of salvation for them, which is through his son Jesus Christ. And he has had one purpose for this one group of people born again through one means (by grace through faith in Christ). And that is to proclaim his glorious works and salvation to all mankind.
Dennis Louis lives in Pensacola, Fla., serves as Executive Editor for the RAANetwork, is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. This article appeared on the Reformed African American Network (RAANetwork).