No matter what the world throws at us, to be a Christian, and to live the life of a Christian, far surpasses any earthly opportunity or possibility. Those Christians being slaughtered by Muslims in Africa and Asia may live short, painful and fearful lives, but they are infinitely better off, even in their suffering, than those who are persecuting them. We have wealth unbounded in this country, but when it is stripped away to nothing, if our perspective is right, we should still be rejoicing to die as children of God. ‘Tis a far, far better life we live than we had before our salvation; it is a far, far better place we go to than we have ever known in this world. And Peter rejoices to remind us of some of these things.
Adding to his list, Peter tells us that one of the great blessings of being a Christian is dwelling in God’s light. He has already told us that God’s saints are royal priests – implying that we are related to the mysterious king/priest of Salem, Melchisedec. In the priestly robes supplied by the Lord Jesus we can enter behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. Dressed in the righteousness of Christ, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” In other words, we have no need of any kind of human priests, because, through grace, we have been made priests ourselves. Furthermore, we have been chosen and invited to become a part of God’s regenerated family, His new and holy nation; His purchased and protected people.
The blessings just keep coming and coming. I am not sure that eternity will give us enough time to fully soak in all that salvation contains. And even if with sanctified hearts and glorified minds, we will some day be able to fully understand, eternity will not be long enough to express our joy and thanksgiving to the Saviour. Despite our current weaknesses of minds, spirit and tongue, we need to begin that praise today. “Praise God from whom all these great blessings flow; praise him all Christians here below. We saints can and should praise him above the heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
Peter has shared those four couplets – “chosen generation; royal priesthood, holy nation and peculiar people.” But it is as though he can’t stop – he can’t restrain his tongue. Based on those four, he exhorts us to “show forth our praises of the Redeemer.” But his heart runs on – “Praise Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Herein is another of the blessings we have as children of God. Do you see it? Can you begin to understand?
In 1959 BC – ie. before Christ – I was living in darkness.
And at some point so were you. Perhaps you still are. Personally, I was so blinded by spiritual darkness that I had no idea that light even existed. I was like the little blind fish living in those pools of water deep in the dark caves of Central America. I had no concept of the existence of the Son of righteousness and the light He has created.
Peter doesn’t explain what he means when he speaks of “darkness.” He doesn’t define it or describe it. That leaves us to dig it up – to root it out. With only one exception, I can’t come up with any reason to think of “darkness” as anything but bad.
Is the Apostle thinking of the darkness of ignorance? This is certainly a Biblical subject with verse after verse exposing and condemning it. In Jeremiah God summarizes it all, “My people (are) foolish, they have not know me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding, they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.” “Surely these are poor; they are foolish; for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God.” Paul speaks about us all in our natural condition as, “having the understanding darkened” – there is a reference to the darkness from which God saves us. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in (us), because of the blindness of their heart; Who being past feeling have given themselves over” to all manner of sin. Christ has told us, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” And Paul in one of his summaries said of us all, “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” Generally speaking we are all in ignorance of God’s righteousness and even our own sinfulness. We are blind, living in darkness.
How was it that we were in that darkness? Well, first of all, we are born spiritually blind; it is a part of the curse of our sinful condition. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” But we are kept in that darkness through several steps and means. Last week I made reference to those leaders of the Jews which went by the term “Pharisees.” Those were people who claimed to know God and God’s law. Some of them were “scribes” – people who transcribed and taught the Old Testament scriptures. And some of them preferred the title “lawyers” – they were experts in God’s law. In Matthew 23 Christ spent nearly forty verses in condemnation of those teachers in Israel. Eight times the Lord said, “Woe unto you” – “Alas; you should be in terror and grief.” “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” And twice in that chapter The Lord called them “blind guides.” Humanity in general and Israel in particular are in darkness because those who claim to know the truth and were commissioned to teach the truth, are blind and ignorant themselves.
One of the most often heard verses of the Word of God is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him whould not perish buut have everlasting life.” The next few verses say, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world.,” Christ came not to condemn the sinners of the world, because the law had already done that. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth (ie. trusts) “him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” So why are there so few saints in the world? Part of the answer is found in the next verse. John 3:19 – “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
As Peter points out there is only one way out of this darkness. Christian, you need to be busy showing forth “the praises of him who hath CALLED you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The word “called” is related to “chosen” earlier in the verse. Only those who are called, invited, and irresistibly drawn out of that darkness will come. Because as John told us, we love darkness rather than light, because we love our evil deeds.
Peter’s reference might point to another variety of darkness from which we have been delivered. In one of Christ’s parables, He described a certain religious hypocrite. The man pretended to be a friend of God, saying all the right things and doing good religious things. But he was as spiritually empty as last year’s bird nest. Then said God, the king, to his servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In another of the Lord’s parables we read of God’s command, “cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “Darkness” is a word used to describe “hell.”
I can hear someone complain that we must not base our doctrines on statements found in parables – even the Lord’s parables. And in some respects that objection needs to be considered. But the teaching of God’s eternal judgment will include darkness beyond the statements coming from the parables of the Bible. Peter will say in his second epistle that “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” And a few verses later he will say of sinful people. “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” Jude also spoke of Satan’s fallen angles, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” And then he too spoke of sinful people, describing them as “raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
Praise God, Peter tells us, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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.”
Let’s leave these dark and negative thoughts as we proceed into God’s marvellous light.
But first, what does the word “marvellous” mean? The Greek word is translated in only one way, “marvel,” “marvellous” and “marvellous thing.” So with that we turn to our English dictionary. Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary defined the word as something “which exceeds natural power, or is preternatural.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary says, “marvelous” speaks of “something surpassing credit; incredible.” In other words, God’s marvellous light is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond belief. There is nothing in this world which compares to this special light of God.
When the Lord was preparing Israel for their departure from Egypt, He said to Moses – “Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven, and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.” What a picture of the spiritual darkness in which we were born – thick; palpable; tactile. But God’s marvellous light is 180 degrees the opposite – unlike anything we’ve ever known on earth. Its color, clarity, comfort, and everything else about it, are unlike anything we can know in this world. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” – Psalm 118:23. It is something which only the Almighty God can create. It is “HIS marvellous light.”
But, let me ask, How important is this point? Doesn’t it seem almost incidental in Peter’s outline of the Lord’s great blessings to His saints. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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.”
When we stop and read our Bibles we find that it is far from incidental. Away back in Isaiah 60:1-2 we have a prophecy about the ministry of Christ and our salvation. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Further back in Isaiah 9:2 we read – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” 700 years later, Zacharias, the Father of John the Baptist said of Christ, “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the daysping from on high hath visited us; to give light to them that sit darkness and in the shadow of death….” And as Jesus started His ministry Matthew pointed, saying that He fulfilled that “which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying…The people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. How important are the words of Christ in John 8: 12 – “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”? This light – the marvellous light of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – is the essence of Christianity and of the Christian life.
What was the commission which the Saviour gave to the Apostle Paul? God said in Acts 26:18 – Saul, stand up, “for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness to… the gentiles unto whom now I send thee. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Through the power of God, Paul was to turn sin-blinded souls away from Satan towards God’s light. And practically speaking, that is what made them a part of God’s chosen generation and freed from their sins. How were we saved? Paul says in II Corinthians 4:6 – “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, than shined in our hearts, to given knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle exhorted the brethren – he exhorted you and me – to give – “thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the king of his dear son.” Isn’t that once again related to Peter’s words – “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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.”
Just about every negative thing I said earlier about darkness, might be reversed and reiterated positively about God’s light. God’s marvellous light not only reveals truth, it is in essence knowledge and wisdom. Remember that wisdom is almost synonymous with our new life in Christ. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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.”
And Heaven is as bright with God’s light as Hell is oppressive with darkness. That light blinded Saul on the road to Damascus, and then it was healed and guided him. Why will there be no need for flashlights, candles, incandescent bulbs or even the sun – in Heaven? “For the Lord God giveth them light.” Earlier John said of the city which came down from God out of Heaven – “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.” Going back to Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 60 – “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” Praise the Lord, brethren, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an 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.”
Earlier I asked our brother to read from Ephesians 5. That scripture brings us full circle. While Peter is exhorting us as recipients of God’s multiplied blessings, to show forth His praises, Paul does the same thing in Ephesians in a slightly different way. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”
The blessings of God given to his people in Christ are super abundant; marvellous in our eyes. But they are only for those IN Christ – those who have been born from above into the family of God. Based upon the need which we all have as sinners, I implore you to repent before God and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Show forth those things which give evidence of your life in Christ. Then “walk in the light as he is in the light.”