Summary: This sermon addresses the mission of Christians in the world as a royal priesthood.
THE PECULIAR PEOPLE
Text: First Peter 2:2-10
The King James Version of the Bible distinguishes the wording of God’s people, calling us "a peculiar people" as opposed to other versions of the Bible. The Greek word that is used here is peripoiesis which means "possession--- purchased possession". (Vines’ Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words. Unabridged edition. McLean: MacDonald Publishing Co., p. 876). Modern day language denotes a different meaning for the word "peculiar". In modern day, we tend to associate "peculiar" with our understanding of something or someone that is strange or odd.
"There is the story about a guard who was on duty during a train trip. He had a rose in his buttonhole. A drunken man came along and snatched it out. The guard turned red but did not say anything. An onlooker said, "However did you keep your temper? You said nothing." The guard replied simply, "I’m on duty." As Christians we should remember that wherever we are and whatever happens to us, we are always `on duty’." (A. Naismith. 1200 Notes, Quotes And Anecdotes. Great Britain; Pickering Paperbacks, 1998, p. 317). This onlooker thought that the behavior of this guard was strange or odd, because it was not the usual way that most people would have acted. The guard was acting appropriately because he was remembering who he was--- a representative of the company that he worked for.
"A playwright was in New York City, … looking up a number in the New York Telephone Directory. As he held the gigantic book in his hands, he thought of his craft as a dramatist and said, "There is not much plot here, but boy what a cast!" … Christian discipleship, however, brings an exciting plot into a life or a group of lives". (Halford E. Luccock. Unfinished Business. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1956, p. 17). The plot for all of those who are in the real life drama of Christianity is to remember that we are a "peculiar" people, a purchased possession with a purpose, a duty to serve and a future. Like the guard, we must remember who we are and to whom we belong. As Christians we are members of God’s cast whose conduct should match our character of righteousness in the ways that we witness in Christ’s name.
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN WE WERE SLAVES.
Slaves did not have any freedom. Slaves were oppressed because they had no rights and their activities were dictated by their masters. Slaves were bought and sold as the property of their masters who would own them. Imagine being considered as property rather than being considered as a person. To treat somebody as a person is to show him or her respect and give her or her dignity. The dictionary defines dignity as a quality that is worthy of honor. Slaves were not treated as being worthy of honor. During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry when a slave was past his ability to work, he could be thrown out to die. (William Barclay. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel Of Luke. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975, p. 84). Slaves were therefore not accustomed to being shown compassion.
Slavery was really big in Rome in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. If one became a slave, then he lost everything. However, if he served faithfully, the law permitted a slave to acquire private property through his own skill or industry. Slaves who were successful at acquiring their freedom in this manner were able to purchase their own liberty. "Now the savings of a slave after satisfying the demands of the master were called his peculium". (William Arnot. Lesser Parables Of Our Lord. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981 reprint of 1884 edition, pp. 343-344). Although this possibility of freedom existed for those who were slaves of Roman citizens, I have not read anywhere yet where it was a possibility for those who slaves of other nations.
Before our liberation that came through Jesus Christ, we were slaves to sin. Consider John 8:31-36: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham’s descendents, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ’You will be made free’?" Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits a sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (NKJV). It is through our baptism that we are united to Jesus in His death and in His resurrection which means that our old self was crucified with Jesus who set us free (Romans 6:3-7). Until we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we will still be slaves to sin. Once we have a relationship with Jesus---meaning that once we are saved by His grace, we will become slaves of righteousness for holiness (Romans 6:19). That is why the Bible tells us that we were bought with a price (First Corinthians 6:20). Jesus paid the price for our freedom.