‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light; who were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).’
The Bible was written over a period of about 1,540 years, and since its completion another 2,000 years have passed. Questions arise as to how it has been understood by the peoples of God, and how they have responded to its teachings.
The Peoples of God
The Old Testament people of God were ancestors of Abraham through Jacob, and when they moved to Egypt, they were just 66 [70, 75] souls (Genesis 46:26; [Cf. Exodus 1:5; Acts 7:14]). God promised Abraham that his offspring would become as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:1-5). He acted in faith and obeyed God by leaving his home and going to a land to which God would lead him (Hebrews 11:8-10).
The New Testament people of God came into being at Pentecost when the Church was inaugurated. To begin with there were about 120 souls (Acts 1:15), but with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that blessed day, about 3,000 more ‘souls were added to them’ (Acts 2:41)! Since that time a vast, but unknown number have joined them through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8) and they have been drawn (John 12:32) by Jesus to His kingdom. They are His new Israel (Galatians 6:15, 16) to which more will be added in ‘the fulness of the times (Ephesians 1:10).’
God’s *Relationship with His Old Testament People
The Old Testament people were, on the whole, an unbelieving and disobedient nation (Romans 10:21). They were chosen of God (Deuteronomy 7:6), and He promised they would inherit a physical land (Genesis 15:7), the land of Canaan. God did not fail in His promise; for by God’s help the offspring of Abraham overcame those who lived there and occupied the land (Joshua 21:43-45; 24:13). Nevertheless, God was not pleased with them (1 Corinthians 10:5). He sent them into exile (1 Chronicles 9:1) before restoring them, and eventually He brought them to live in the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah under the reign of king David (2 Samuel 5:2-5) and king Solomon (1Kings 8:56).
So how did the Old Testament people of Israel and Judah understand their relationship with God? Moses, their spokesman and God-chosen leader (Exodus 3:10), made it clear to them they were a separate, a special nation (1 Kings 8:53) different from any other. They were a kingdom of priests and a (Exodus 19:6) holy nation, consecrated to God (v 10). God gave them the Ten Commandments which they were to obey (Exodus 20:1-17). Moses told them the words of the LORD, and with ‘one voice’ they agreed to obey them (Exodus 24:3; Deuteronomy 26:16-19), but as we know, they failed miserably.
Time and again the Prophets warned them (Isaiah 65:2-5) of the consequences of disobedience, and because of it they would reap God’s wrath (Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 9:7; 2 Chronicles 30:6-9) and lose their inheritance. He would replace them with a nation who did not seek him (Isaiah 65:1). That nation is composed of post-Pentecost believers in God’s Son, Jesus. Jesus chose them; they did not choose Him (John 15:16), and since Pentecost more and more people have become followers of Jesus (Matthew 4:19, 20; 8:22; 16:24; John 13:36) who is their Saviour (2 Timothy 1:10).
God’s *Relationship with His New Testament People
The New Testament people of God are grateful that their inheritance (Hebrews 9:15) of eternal life is a gift from God (1 John 5:11). Unlike the Old Testament people, they do not have to obey a set of commandments to gain an inheritance of a physical land. Jesus has given His life in exchange for theirs, and He gives them citizenship of His spiritual kingdom [land]; a citizenship they could never earn an entrance to by merit or by work (Ephesians 2:8, 9). By virtue of His fulfilment (Matthew 5:17) of the new covenant in His blood (Matthew 26:28) He paid the price (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23) of their freedom from death (Romans 6:9; Revelation 21:4) and everlasting hell (Mark 9:44-48).
Their relationship with Christ is effected and effective through and by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). They are His body (1 Corinthians 12:27) on earth, and they express His love (Matthew 5:43, 44), His care, His compassion (1 Peter 3:8), and by the example of their life they preach His gospel of salvation (Luke 9:6). They meet and break bread together, in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). Their commission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20) ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Their future is guaranteed – eternal life (John 10:28) with the Father and the Son. Their forever blessing is to live together with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10).’