“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” 1 Peter 2:9-10
There are many metaphors in Scripture for the church, and I would like to look at a few of them. This topic is especially important as we are in the season of Advent, learning how the church, Jews, Israel, and the Middle East in general relate to one another today in light of Christ’s coming.
In the passage from Peter above, it is clear that Peter sees the church as the new Israel (see also Galatians 6:16) because he applies the very same words of Exodus 19:5-6 to the church comprised of Jews and Gentiles. Paul, too, asserted that the church is the new Israel in Galatians 3 where we read that Christ is the promised seed of Abraham, and if we are in Christ through faith, then we are children of Abraham. Peter also uses promises made to Israel in the book of Hosea (see Hosea 1:6, 9-10; 2:23) and sees these promises fulfilled in the church. God does not have two distinct peoples, the Jews and Christians, but only one people, those found in Christ. Jesus is the true Israel: He wandered the desert for forty days (Israel wandered for forty years), He resisted temptation from the Devil (Israel succumbed to idol worship), He upheld the Law fully and completely (Israel stumbled and fumbled nearly every time). In other words, Christ fulfilled everything God commanded of the nation of Israel. And now, through the Gospel, all nations are welcomed to come to Christ, and in Him we are God’s people, a royal priesthood.
Some other metaphors of the church are quite striking as well. The church is often called the body of Christ (see Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17, 12:12, 27; Ephesians 4:12, 5:23, 30; and Colossians 1:24). The church is the body of Christ on earth, and He governs us because He is the head of the church. We are dependent upon Him for our existence.
The church is also the bride of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:12; Ephesians 5:25-33; and Revelation 19:7-8, 21:9). We have been betrothed to Jesus, and He has paid the bride-price for our redemption. This is another reason why we must be faithful to Him. He is our faithful Husband who will never forsake us, His wife, and we are called to remain faithful to Him and never forsake our Husband.
The church is the family of God (see Matthew 12:49-50; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10; and 1 Timothy 3:15, 5:1). In this way we are to relate to the members of the church as our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and so on. In a very real sense, this family of God supersedes other relational ties because it is in this fellowship we share the blessings of Christ.
The church is God’s house (see Hebrews 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:14-15; and 1 Peter 4:17). We are members of God’s house because of the work of Christ as our Elder brother bringing us home.
The church is also the temple of God, built with living stones, with Christ as our foundation, and the Holy Spirit indwelling it (see 1 Corinthians 3:11, 16-17, 6:19; Ephesians 2:19-22; and 1 Peter 2:5-7 which is a quote from Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16). The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD as God’s judgment of Israel’s rejection of the new covenant (see Matthew 24:15-18 and Luke 21:2-24). No longer does God dwell in a building made by man’s hands, but He dwells among His people, in the temple of the body of the church, founded upon Christ and fueled by the Holy Spirit.
From all of this, it should be clear that the church belongs to the Lord. He has established us, He has called us, He has made us His people, and we have been called by Him to tell the nations of this good news: God is building His family.
“18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” Matthew 28:18-20.