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.


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-


The first distinctive demolished the walls of distinction between

races and made all believers one race. This second distinctive

demolishes the wall between clergy and layman. This wall has done

more to destroy the ministry of the church than all the external

forces of evil. It is a wall that was built within the church, and it has

caused the vast majority of believers to neglect and ignore one of the

most vital truths of Christianity. Francis O. Ayres begins his book

The Ministry Of The Laity with this startling paragraph: “You are

a minister of Christ. In all fairness, and exposition of the ministry of

the laity has to begin with that statement. If you are a baptized

Christian, you are already a minister. Whether you are ordained or

not is immaterial. No matter how you react, the statement remains

true. You may be surprised, alarmed, pleased, antagonized,

suspicious, acquiescent, scornful, or enraged. Nevertheless, you are

a minister of Christ.”

So often people have referred to the peculiar notion of the

Jehovah Witnesses that they are all ministers as nonsense. We know

they have not gone to school and been ordained, and so we dismiss

their claims with a smile. But what a surprise it is to discover that

the laugh is on us, for they have the New Testament behind them.

We have not been conscious that as a part of the royal priesthood we

are all ministers. In the New Testament we do not find any marked

distinction between clergy and layman. The only distinction is one

of function. The Apostles, teachers and deacons, and others all had

different ministries to perform by using their gifts. As time went on

the clergy gained more power, and the church became clergy

centered rather than lay centered. This was the beginning of the

downfall of the church. It reached its height in the monastic

movement where the distinction was sharply drawn between the

first class Christians who left the world to live for God as monks,

and the second class masses who lived in the world.

Christianity lost its distinctive of the priesthood of all believers,

and it became a religion of professionalism. Being religious was the

job of the clergy. It was for them to know, and if you needed to

know you went to them. Just as the layman does not do his own law,

surgery, plumbing or dentistry, but left these areas of life to the

professional, so also religion was left in the hands of the clergy. This

was a major cause for corruption of the church. 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. It is so ingrained in our thinking that even though

we know of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers we tend

not to practice it, and we scoff at this truth when it is proclaimed by

the Jehovah Witnesses.

Here we see it in black and white written to churches all over

Asia that they are a royal priesthood. This is a transfer of a

distinctive from Old Israel to the New Israel, which is the church.

Peter is applying to the church statements that were concerning

Israel in Ex. 19:5-6: “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and

keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all

peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom

of priests and a holy nation.” Peter says this is now the promise to

the church, and this is now a Christian distinctive. Everyone in the

chosen race is also a priest. There is no distinction between clergy

and laity. The clergy are only those chosen out of the laity to fulfill a

particular function in the church. The laity are the church. All of

the Epistles of the New Testament, except for I Timothy and II Timothy

and Titus are written to layman to teach, train and instruct

them in their ministry. Only those three Epistles are written for the

instruction of the minister.

Jesus was a layman, and He chose all layman to be His

Apostles. The church was founded on layman, and by layman it was

promoted. When it was layman centered each member recognized

themselves to be in ministry to the world. When the concept of the

royal priesthood of all believers is lost, you loose that distinctive that

makes the church the peculiar people of God. This does not mean

we minimize the role of the clergy, but that we simply see their

limits. Paul was the only one of the Apostles chosen from the clergy

class, and it makes good sense why this is so. He was to be the

theologian of Christianity, and so he needed to be a man with much

theological training. But it is the people of God who are the chosen

race and the royal priesthood.

Luther stressed this and wrote, “All Christians are truly priests

and there is no distinction amongst them except as to office.

Everybody who is baptized may maintain that he has been

consecrated as a priest.” Peter makes it clear that every believer is a

preacher-priest. There task is not one of ceremony, but one of

declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into light.

Every believer is to be a preacher and declarer of the glory of God.

When preaching is limited to the clergy and the pulpit, the church

ceases to be what Christ intended. Sadler said, “It is hypocrisy for

men to claim for the laity the honor of priesthood, whilst they do

nothing to remind them of the duties of the priesthood.” Peter gives

us both. He claims we are royal priesthood, and that the function of

each priest is to bring glory to God by their life and their lips. There

is one more distinctive we want to consider.


Here is a distinctive that once belonged to the Jews and now is

the possession of the church. Christians are now the holy nation

among the nations representing the God of Israel, and the God and

Father of Jesus Christ. Christians are the true internationalists, for

their primary loyalty is to Christ and His body, which is a nation in

the world, but not of the world. It is a nation without walls, for it

has no boundaries. It’s citizens all have a common allegiance to

their King the Lord Jesus. It is a kingdom not of this world, but still

in this world, and it transcends all the limitations of earthly nations.

The church is a holy nation, and that is what makes it distinct.

God is its government, and its laws and principles are in Scripture.

This makes the church the most distinctive group of people in the

world. We are to rise above the ordinary in all areas. We are a

chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. This means that

in race, religion and politics we are to be unique, and we are to have

distinctively superior attitudes in comparison to the world, so that

the world might see the excellencies of God through us, and be

compelled to recognize that we live in the realm of light. What a

calling we have as believers. We should be thrilled to be a part of

such a group of peculiar people.