In 1 Peter 2:9-11 we get the picture that Christians are an exiled priesthood at war. This is loaded imagery and strong language. Let’s unpack these three images in brief (exiles, priesthood, war). We’re given the picture in verse 11 that Christians are sojourners and exiles in this world. In other words, we don’t belong here. Much like the Israelites who were exiled far from their homes in either Assyria (for the Northern Kingdom of Israel) or Babylon (for the Southern Kingdom of Judah), we live in a land that is not ours. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls His children to the Kingdom of God. And though, Peter never uses that language in his letter, it is clearly implied when he speaks of us as exiles. We are exiles who have an inheritance that is kept in heaven for us (1 Pet 1:4).
In verse 9, Christians are referred to as a royal priesthood (also a chose race, a holy nation, and a people for His own possession). This was language reserved for Israel in the Old Testament, which is now applied to all of God’s people in the New. In Exodus 19:6, God refers to Israel as a kingdom of priests. And part of their role as priests was to reflect God’s glory as His treasured possession among all peoples (Ex 19:5). Christians may be exiles to the world, but they are priests unto God who reflect His glory to the nations through their witness.
Finally in verse 11, Christians are pictured as exiles that abstain from the passions of the flesh—their old way of life—which wages war against their souls. But this is not a war with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12).
So, if you’re a Christian, you are an exiled priest at war. To the world: you don’t belong. To God: you minister and reflect His glory and call. And as far as your old way of life: you are at war with it. The Keswick passive idea of “let go and let God” is missing in this passage. But if you’re not a Christian, you’re a citizen of this world, who may have a false peace with your worldly passions, and live as an enemy of God (James 4:4).