If you were to ask people what the purpose of Christianity is, you would probably get a puzzled look. Then you might get answers such as “to get to heaven” or “to help the poor” or “to alleviate injustice” or “to spread the Good News.” Peter actually gives us the purpose of Christianity in these verses:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter obviously has in mind God’s words to the Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19. It is there that God declares that they will be his chosen people, the royal priesthood, holy nation, provided they keep the covenant which he was about to give to them. Here Peter applies the same terms to the New Covenant People and it is still in the form of a covenant.
Covenants are conditional relationships. They can be broken. When we enter into a covenant with someone, there are benefits of being in the covenant, but there are responsibilities as well. In the case of Israel, they were to be God’s chosen people provided that they uphold the covenant. In this case, the Church will be the new covenant people of God provided that they “speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.”
There it is. The purpose of Christianity is to tell people how we have been delivered out of darkness. Getting to heaven is not the purpose (especially since heaven will come down to earth in the end anyway). Working out the faith by helping those who cannot help themselves (the widow and orphan in biblical language) is part of the life of a Christian. The purpose of being delivered from sin and death is to tell other people how God did it so they can experience it themselves.
Of course this presupposes something–that we have been called out of darkness and that we do now live in his amazing light. If that is not a reality in our own lives, no one will ever believe us as we share what God can do. The question, then, is what that kind of life looks like in a person. Peter shares that just prior to these verses in 2:1-3–
Therefore, get rid of all ill will and all deceit, pretense, envy, and slander. Instead, like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of the word. Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good.
It is a holy life. And it is a holy life that grows as we continue to keep up the struggle against evil and temptation around us. As we are nourished in Christ, we grow in our strength and maturity of faith. As we grow in our faith, as our lives continue to mature in Christ, we show the world that we are no longer in darkness but in his amazing light. When we willfully and continually sin without struggling against that sin or trying to repent of that sin in our lives, we show the world that we still have at least one foot in darkness.
It is absolutely necessary to keep up the good fight against sin in our lives. We may fail at times, but if we truly struggle and if we have other Christians who will pray with us and encourage us, we will continue to move from darkness to light. And when we finally have victory over that sin, we can then “speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.”
That is our purpose.