Summary: The Reformers made it a major issue as they stressed the priesthood of all believers, but we still have not rid ourselves of the concept that the church is clergy centered.
Under the Roman system of slavery it was possible for an
ambitious slave to gain his freedom. If he had a skill and was
determined to work he could hire himself from his master for so
much a day, and work for himself. If he was successful, he could
accumulate enough savings to buy himself from his master and be
free. It was by this method that some slaves rose to high positions.
The money that a slave made over and above what he had to pay his
master was called his “peculium” and the law protected it as his own
private property. This Latin word is the origin of our English word
peculiar. The word has come to mean odd, weird, or eccentric, but
when the KJV translators used it, it was with the original meaning
of privately owned and acquired property. Something peculiar was
the private possession of some person.
This is the meaning of the word when Peter calls Christians
peculiar people in the King James Version. Christians may be odd,
but this is not what Peter is referring to in verse 9, nor what Paul is
referring to when he says in Titus 2:14, “Who gave himself for us,
that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous for good works.” Christians are to be
distinctly different as being God’s own possession, and as such are to
conform to the image and plan of their master in holiness and
service. Their peculiarity does not consist in their being a
conglomeration of oddities promoting a pack of screwball ideas.
A sect was organized in 1838 called The Peculiar People who
took their name from this text. They practiced being peculiar in the
modern sense of the word rather than the biblical sense. You can
see how almost anything can be justified when a word is taken in a
different sense than what it originally meant. That is why we can be
grateful for modern translations which use the word chosen people
rather than peculiar. We want to examine the concepts that Peter
lays down here which are to be distinctive of God’s people.
I. A CHOSEN RACE.
You have probably heard of the lost tribes of Israel, but the fact
is that the whole race has been lost in our thinking. The New
Testament makes it clear that Christians are a new race of people.
We usually credit the Jews as being the only race which is also a
religion. Jew stand for one’s religion as well as one’s race. But in
sheer neglect of the New Testament we do not apply this distinctive
concept to Christians. Christians are God’s chosen people. The
Jews were also, but they failed, and so now the New Israel is the
chosen race, and it is the only race that is universal. It is the only
race that includes those from every other race. It is the only race
that is open to all. All other races are by nature exclusive. A person
of the white race cannot become a part of the black or yellow race.
No race can include another race, but the Christian race is inclusive,
and it is composed of people from every race. There are no walls in
this race, for there is neither Jew or Gentile, black or white, male or
female. All are equal as sinners saved by grace, and all have entered
this race by the new birth through submission to Jesus as Savior.
There is no concept like this in all the world. This is peculiar
to Christians, for this is their distinctive nature. What an impact
this concept could have in a world so full of racial strife. The church
has the answer to unity. If men accept Christ and become a part of
the chosen race, all walls are broken down. That people are white,
red, black or yellow is secondary, for we are primarily of the
Christian race. People are born as a certain race, but when they are
born again they become a part of a new race. All things become
new, even their race. As Christians we believe that the chosen race
is the greatest race, for it is the only race that is eternal. It is the
only race that can incorporate all others and eliminate all the racial
strife, for all in this race become blood brothers through the blood of
Christ. This is a revolutionary concept, and if the implications of it
are applied by the church there would be no racial conflict in
Christianity. As God’s peculiar people we have an obligation to the
world to make it clear what God says about race. The second
distinctive Peter lists is-
II. A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD.
The first distinctive demolished the walls of distinction between