How odd should the people of God be in the eyes of the world? Some might criticize my use of the word “odd,” but note that I am using it in the context of the unsaved mind. We might prefer the word “peculiar,” but we know it in its Biblical context, whereas the world doesn’t. I briefly explained the meaning of the word in our lesson last Wednesday. But I return to my original question: how “odd” should Christians be in the eyes of the people of the world?
Let’s create a list of things in which some Christians think that we should be different from the unsaved. Please understand that I am not mentioning anything here in a negative, derogatory or mocking way. Many Christian ladies would never wear slacks at any time, not even to climb a ladder to wash windows. And then, some would refuse to wash windows for that very reason. The world sees their modest attire in the store and snicker: “That woman is odd.” But that’s okay. Some Christians refuse to own a television, believing it to be a tool of the Devil. It used to be that others refused to use a computer or a smart phone for the same reason. But now they watch television on their computer or their phone, calling it Netflix or Amazon Prime. Some Christians have no credit cards. They pay cash for everything, never writing a check or borrowing money, never having a bank account. There aren’t very many of these people, so some would say that they are very odd. Most Christians have standards when it comes to the world’s music, as they may define it. Some Christians listen only to Christian music or classical music. But there are other Christians who refuse to listen to the classical music of Mozart, Beethoven or Mendelson, because they were personally quite wicked – definitely not Christians. And there other Christians who refuse to listen to popular “Christian music,” because they consider it to be un-Christian because of the drums and beat involved. Some Christians refuse to eat pork – citing scriptures. Some eat no meat at all – red, white or green. And some refuse coffee and soda, without citing any scriptures. Some Christians have decided, for Christ’s sake, never to pay attention to sports. Along with “Sports Illustrated,” they refuse to subscribe to any secular magazines. In fact, some refuse to subscribe to the newspaper, because of all lies and negative new they carry. Some Christians only participation in politics is to criticize it – never voting. But another says that it is the obligation of the Christian to be highly politically active. As you know, I probably could go on for some time, listing things like these.
We have people in our church who hold to some of the things that I have just mentioned. But there is not one of us who holds to all of these, because some points contradict others. There are also professing Christians who ride only in horse drawn carts, get water from wells and burn candles instead of electricity, all for the glory of God. Please don’t think that I’m making fun of anyone this evening – even the strict Amish. But remember that people sometimes do the right things for wrong reasons. And one of the wrong reasons, is simply to in order to be peculiar. Some people honestly think that eccentricity is next to godliness. “But that is what Paul told Titus and that is what Peter told the Diaspora,” they say. No, that is not what the Apostles were teaching anyone.
These verses are not telling people to be peculiar according to modern definitions. Let’s look at this Greek word and ask three questions: What does it mean? What does it mean? And what should we do about it? Maybe that is just two questions.
Peter tells us to recognize that we are ALREADY peculiar people.
The words “peculiar people” are found four times in the Bible; twice in each Testament. Israel was the first of God’s peculiar people. Deuteronomy 14 – “Ye are the children of the LORD your God…. thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a PECULIAR people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” Deuteronomy 26:16-19 – “This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be HIS PECULIAR PEOPLE, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.” The context of these scriptures indicates that the word refers to a special relationship. The people of Israel were peculiar in that they were God’s chosen nation. They were different from the peoples of other nations first by their relationship and then by nature. And since they were different by nature, they should have been different in their way life.
In the New Testament, the Greek word is sometimes translated “peculiar people.” We’ve already looked that them in Titus and I Peter. But as I said the other day, just about any good lexicon will define the Greek word differently. Those lexicons say the Greek word means: “purchased people.” So the word does not mean “weird, bizarre or eccentric.” It is directly related to our redemption from sin through the blood of Christ. It is “purchased people.” Here are some other passages where we find the same Greek word that Peter uses. As the lexions say, in Ephesians 1:14, the Holy Spirit “is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” I Thessalonians 5:9 sounds completely different: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to OBTAIN salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thessalonians 2:14 is similar to that: “Whereunto (God) called you by our gospel, to the OBTAINING of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And then Hebrews 10:39 using the same Greek word says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the SAVING of the soul.”
William Arnot, a respectable Puritan scholar, made a study of this subject, and concluded his study with this illustration: He says, the English word “peculiar” comes to us from the Latin “peculium.” He explained that in ancient Rome, slavery was very common. But there were laws protecting those slaves from one potential abuse of their owners. The law stated that if a slave was industrious, he could save up money to purchase his freedom. These savings, which might buy his release, were called his “peculium.” The law said that this “peculium” was sacred; it could not be touched by the slave’s owner. In some cases it was the slave’s sole hope for freedom, and so it was very precious. Similarly, the Greek word speaks of “purchased” or “people obtained” by God. “Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirits which are God’s.” The English word has the same kind of etymological roots.
But there is something beyond that. The “peculiar people” in Titus 2:14 are not exactly the same as what we find in I Peter 2. In Peter the word is Strong’s reference #4046, but in Titus it is #4041. Titus uses the Greek word “per-ee-os-ee-os.” This particular “peculiar people” is made up of two words which say: “I am,” and “around.” It carries the same idea as that of “being IN Christ Jesus.” We can illustrate the word with a dot inside a circle. If you are a child of God, you are a dot inside the circle of Christ. And that makes you a “Peculiar Person.” Those are the meanings of the two words translated “peculiar people” in the New Testament.
All right then, what does that MEAN FOR US?
Let’s look once again Ephesians 1:14 – The Holy Spirit “is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” To be a peculiar person in Christ means that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. We are shrink wrapped into Christ by the Spirit of God. We are His property, held in His hand, which is also in the hand of the Father. We are kept by the power of God unto salvation. The Holy Spirit is the earnest – the down-payment – toward our ultimate salvation. And this verse says that we are designed for the Lord’s glory. We are trophies on the Lord’s mantle won in battle by the blood Christ shed. We are on the Lord’s interplanetary space craft toward a better world than this one. There is going to be an additional redemption, or a completion of the salvation we now enjoy. It will be the redemption of our bodies – glorified and empowered. What a joy there is for the “peculiar person.”
And think about I Thessalonians 5:9 again. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to OBTAIN salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are not appointed to wrath. So “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.” And then there is an additional interpretation: this word “wrath” can be applied to the seven years of tribulation. Whichever way you look at it, to be “peculiar person” of God means blessings – extended forever.
And what should this DO in those peculiar people?
First, rather than make us weird and proudly obnoxious, it should humble us. The word is talking about a relationship created by God, and what right have we to boast in what God has done? Boasting is excluded by the law of faith.
I Thessalonians. 5:9 – “FOR God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “for” reminds us to look backward into the context. And what is preceding the exhortation? “Let us… be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” To be a “peculiar person” for God reminds us to diligently behave like children of God. If you feel that it means wearing open-toed sandals in church, as Jesus might have done, then do it. And if to you it means not wearing shoes at all, as Moses didn’t – then to that. But remember that this is speaking more about spiritual attire than physical attire. And if wearing Jesus’ sandals church makes you proud, then you had better wear wing tips.
And what is the exhortation of II Thessalonians 2:14 – “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the OBTAINING of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is a “therefore” in the next verse which says that “peculiar people” have a new King with new edicts and doctrines. What if you ordered some new clothes from Amazon. It was promised that they would be delivered to your door by UPS. But as he came, the driver decided that he liked your clothes, so he put them on, got back in his truck and drove off. They were purchased by you, but they were used and worn by another. That is exactly what Christians have done so many times as God’s “purchased property” and “peculiar people.” They have taken what belongs to the Lord and used their lives to suit themselves.
I Peter. 2:9 teaches us that as “peculiar people” we owe the Lord our highest praise. “But 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.” How do we show forth our praises for our new King? The verse doesn’t say anything about speaking or singing God’s praises. Peter is talking about demonstrating God’s praise by living the Christian life.
There was once a Christian man who was employed as a teacher in Japan. The law forbade him to speak about Christ to his students, and he assiduously obeyed that law. But his life was consistent and beautiful, and his character was holy. His nature was calm when others were in turmoil. He was Christ-like; he displayed love and concern for his students; he was a man of private prayer. Over time, forty of his Japanese students, unknown to him, secretly vowed to abandon their idolatry and to follow this man to Christ. This is what peculiar people do and accomplish.
And then Titus adds that as dots within the circle we must be pure. We have been purchased for that purpose, and now we must purpose to be pure. I’m talking about purity of vocabulary. Purity of thought; purity of deed; purity of desire; purity of hope. Also we have been made peculiar people in order to be zealous of good works. Occasionally? Only on Sunday? This verse doesn’t say anything about occasional good works. We have been made peculiar people, to be zealous of good works. A peculiar person doesn’t simply wear long dresses or carry a Bible to work. A peculiar person strives to serve God and his neighbor as the Lord directs. We are surrounded by God’s enemies. As I have read, we operating in a target-rich environment. Zealousness is a characteristic of God’s peculiar people.
With these definitions in mind, are you really a “peculiar person?”