The Divine Chorus
There’s a little word with a big meaning hidden away in the text of our reading today from 2 Peter 1. In verse 5 he writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue”. The word translated “supplement” is epichoregeo and it refers to a specific type of patron, or benefactor, in the Greek world called the choragus.
There’s a little word with a big meaning hidden away in the text of our reading today from 2 Peter 1. In verse 5 he writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue”.
The word translated “supplement” is epichoregeo and it refers to a specific type of patron, or benefactor, in the Greek world called the choragus. This person would be a wealthy citizen of Greece who would provide money and resources to run theater productions. The state paid the actors’ salaries but there were additional expenses and one of the most important elements of Greek theater was the chorus.
Are we just meant to stand around and watch? Are we members of the audience watching the play unfold? No, what we’re called to be is God’s divine chorus.That’s a pretty colorful analogy Peter uses, but remember to the people he was writing, this would have been a very relevant and well known part of their culture. Something they would have been very familiar with and would not have needed explaining. But even so, what is it about the idea of a choragus that describes the character development of a brother or sister in Christ? Think of it like this: the world is God’s stage where he is developing his eternal purpose. The “actors” on the stage are things like the nation of Israel, the other nations of the world, and the unseen hand of God as his angels work things towards the final act of the return of Christ. What is our relationship to these things? Are we just meant to stand around and watch? Are we members of the audience watching the play unfold? No, what we’re called to be is God’s divine chorus.
The chorus in Greek theater had a very special role. Using song, dance and recitation they would comment on what was going on in the play. While the actors acted their roles, they would explain the “why” of it all; the thoughts and emotions of the actors, their back stories, why they were doing and saying what they were acting out on stage. As God’s chorus we have been called to a similar role; we’re meant to be explaining to world around us (the “audience”) what’s happening in the world and why. For instance, why the Jews were scattered all over the world in AD 70 and why they have returned to the land. We’re meant to explain to the people around us who God is and what his purpose is. As God’s spiritual chorus we use various methods to get that message across, even sometimes through singing!
What good would a chorus be if they lacked any kind of enthusiasm?We have also been called to preach God’s message, but more importantly, in the context of what Peter tells us, it’s through our character that we especially show the world around us who God is. That really follows on from what Peter wrote in his first epistle when he exhorts us to show a good example to the people around us. He tells us to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). And that’s the aim: to glorify God, that others may understand who God is through his divine chorus as Peter says in this second epistle, God has “called us to his own glory and excellence” (v3).
That word “excellence” is the same as the word “virtue” in verse 5 and the Greek word, arete, has the idea of striving to be the best we can. God wants the divine chorus to be excellent. He wants us to “make every effort” (v5). What good would a chorus be if they lacked any kind of enthusiasm?
Peter uses the same word in his first epistle where he tells us we 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” (1 Pet. 2:9). That’s a quotation from Isaiah 43:21. Why does Peter take us back there? Verse 7 of that chapter tells us what purpose God has for his people Israel, that they are those “whom I created for my glory”, which is precisely what Peter says about us too – “called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3).
And of course we have in Isaiah 43 that famous section where God says of his people “you are my witnesses” (v.10, 12). We’ve been called to make God famous, to witness to God’s glory and excellence! The characteristic of virtue, or excellence, reminds us that we’re God’s chorus, called upon to be his witnesses, letting the audience of God’s work in the world know what is going on. That is our role. We explain to the nations, as the Jews did in the original context of Isaiah, who God is and what his purpose is.
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