IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: I AM OF A PECULIAR PEOPLE
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
But you are . . .
a chosen generation,
a royal priesthood,
a holy nation,
a peculiar people.”
1 Peter 2:9
May we never forget that the suffering Son of God
gave Himself to purify unto Himself a peculiar people . . .
a people whose thoughts are peculiar, for their thoughts
are the thoughts of God, as having the mind of Christ;
a people whose affections are peculiar,
for they are fixed on things above;
a people whose prayers are peculiar, for they are wrought
in their heart by the Spirit of grace and supplication;
a people whose sorrows are peculiar,
because they spring from a spiritual source;
a people whose joys are peculiar, for they are joys
which the stranger cannot understand;
a people whose hopes are peculiar,
as anchoring within the veil;
a people whose expectations are peculiar, as not
expecting to reap a crop of happiness in this marred
world but are looking for happiness in the kingdom
of rest and peace in the bosom of God.
The phrase peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9 comes from the King James Version and is not seen in the more modern English translations. This is because at the time the King James Version was translated, the word peculiar was often used to refer to something belonging to someone, as in someone’s property. If we look up the word peculiar in a dictionary today we would still see that is one of several meanings this word can have.
Probably the most common usage of the word peculiar today is referring to someone or something that is strange, odd, or uncommon. Yet alternative meanings in the dictionary still tell us that this word can be used to describe something or someone that “belongs exclusively to some person, group, or thing” or to refer to “a property or privilege belonging exclusively or characteristically to a person.” The original meaning of the Greek words translated “peculiar” in 1 Peter 2:9 is indeed what is meant in this passage.
In this verse, Peter is not saying that Christians are odd or unusual people, even though the world often looks at us that way. What this passage is communicating is that Christians or believers are people who belong to God, they are His own possession. Another way of saying it is that believers are “God’s own special people.”
“But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.”
— Psalm iv. 3.
IF you read this Psalm through, you will notice that, when David wrote it, he had been pestered and troubled by certain ungodly men who had made a mock of that which was his greatest delight. They had turned his glory into shame, and had proved that they loved folly and falsehood; so he said to them, “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing,”— or, “lying?” In order that he might stop them from angering him, he reminded them of two great facts: “But know,” — said he, — understand, do not doubt it, rest assured of it, “know that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself: Jehovah will hear when I call unto him.” Why did David want these men to know those two facts?
Well, first, that they might cease to oppose him; for, if they did but know that the man whom they mocked at was really a child of God, set apart by the Most High by a divine choice to be his own peculiarly favoured one, surely, they would not go on with their persecution. Those who put Christ to death did it in ignorance, “for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” And we are persuaded that there are many men who now oppose the servant of God, who would not do so if they did but know really that he was a servant of God, and that God looked upon him with delight. Therefore David, to stop the cruel mockings of his persecutors, said to them, “Know that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself: Jehovah will hear when I call unto him.” He may also have had a still better motive, and I think that he had, — namely, to draw these men towards his God. There is no better way of taking flies than with honey, and no better way of getting men to Christ than by drawing them to him by a display of the privileges and advantages which belong to a godly life. “Know, then,” said he, “you who are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ and who are seeking after mere vanities that never can satisfy you, — know ye that in true religion there is to be found that which will delight you, and which will give you rest and peace. Know this, ‘that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself.’” I would to God that some to whom we describe the choice privileges of the people of God may be moved to cry, —
“With them numbered may we be,
Now and through eternity!”
But, whether this truth has either or both of these effects upon the minds of men, or whether it shall have no effect at all, still it is a truth never to be controverted, “that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” So, as God may help me at this time, I shall briefly speak, first, upon a peculiar character: “him that is godly;” secondly, upon a peculiar honour: “Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself;” and, thirdly, upon a peculiar privilege; “Jehovah will hear when I call unto him.” Oh, that every one of us may possess the character, receive the honour, and enjoy the privilege of which our text speaks!
A PECULIAR CHARACTER: “him that is godly.”
On reading the Psalm, it is very clear that this is a man misunderstood, or, not understood on earth. The ungodly cannot comprehend the godly; they scoff at them, they turn their glory into shame because they themselves love vanity and seek after lying. The godly man is not understood by the people among whom he dwells; God has made him to be a stranger and a foreigner in their midst. They who are born twice have a life which cannot be comprehended by those who are only born once. Those who have received the Spirit of God have a new spirit within them which is so singular that the carnal mind cannot perceive what it is. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. When a man has become a new creature in Christ Jesus, the old creatures round about him cannot make head or tail of him. They look at him, they see him actuated by motives which they cannot understand, they see that he is kept in check by forces which they do not acknowledge, that he is constrained by energies of which they are not partakers, and that he looks for a something which they do not desire; so the Christian becomes in a measure like to Christ himself, of whom the poet sings,—
“The Jewish world knew not their King,
God’s everlasting Son.”
“Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” “You are a very peculiar person,” said one to a Christian. “I thank you for that testimony,” answered the Christian; “for that is what I desire to be, as Peter says, ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.’” “Ah!” said the other, “but there is a strangeness about you that I do not like; I feel sometimes that I cannot endure your company.” “I thank you again,” replied the Christian, “for you only fulfil our Lord’s words, ‘Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’” Yes, dear friends, it is so; and if you never strike the worldling as being a strange person, if you never get the mocking laughter of the ungodly, if they never slander you, if you never detect any difference between yourself and them, and they never discover any between themselves and you, it must be because you are not a genuine child of God. Ishmael will mock Isaac; it is not possible that the two seeds— the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman, — should agree together if they act according to their nature. Do not wonder, therefore, if you, like David, have to bear persecution from those who cannot comprehend your new life, “for ye are dead,” and the world says, “Bury the dead out of sight.” “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren;” but the worldling does not understand the peculiar character of the godly, or delight in it.
But notice that, according to our text, this peculiar character is understood in heaven. God knows what godliness is, for he has created it, he sustains it, he is pledged to perfect it, and his delight is in it. What matters it whether you are understood by your fellow-men or not, so long as you are understood by God? If that secret prayer of yours is known to him, seek not to have it known to anyone besides. If your conscientious motive be discerned in heaven, mind not though it be denounced on earth. If your designs— the great principles that sway you, — are such as you dare plead in the great day of judgment, you need not stop to plead them before a jesting, jeering generation. Bo godly, and fear not; and, if you be misrepresented, remember that, should your character be dead and buried among men, there will be “a resurrection of reputations” as well as of bodies. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Therefore be not afraid to possess this peculiar character, for though it is misunderstood on earth, it is well understood in heaven.
Let us enquire what this character is which is misunderstood on earth, but understood in heaven. What does the text mean when it mentions “him that is godly”?
Well, it means, first, a God-fearing man. This is a common term, “a God-fearing man.” There are many who have not the fear of God before their eyes. Whether there be a God or not, is a matter of small consideration to them; they do not care which way the discussion terminates, for God is not in all their thoughts; and as long as he is not there, it does not matter to them whether he is anywhere. There are some who are not afraid of the terrors of God even with regard to the world to come; at any rate, they flatter themselves that they shall die at ease even if they live in wickedness; and, for the present, they even dare to defy the Most High. They have been heard — and our blood has chilled as we have heard them, — they have been heard to invoke condemnation from his hand as they have blasphemed his holy name. The godly man is one who fears God; he would not take God’s name in vain, he would not wilfully violate God’s law, he would not do anything that would grieve the Most High; and when he does so through infirmity, or sudden temptation, he is himself grieved that he should have grieved his God, for the fear of the Lord is upon him. He would not wish to stand at the judgment-bar of God, to be judged according to his works, apart from Jesus Christ his Lord; he would dread such a thing. The name of God, — the person of God, — the character of God, — these are matters of holy awe with him, his soul is filled with hallowed trembling while he thinks thereon; and everything that has to do with God is sacred to him. Heaven is no trifle, and hell is no trifle to him; the Book of God is no fable to him, the day of God is hallowed by him, and the Church of God is dear to him, for he is a God-fearing man. Often would he have done this or that, but he said, with Nehemiah, “So did not I, because of the fear of God.” When he is sorely tempted to evil, he asks, with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
Now, dear friend, if you go no further than that, and are a Godfearing man, I have great hopes of you, and I ask you to look at my text with hope: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.”
But, advancing another step, a godly man is a God-trusting man. He is one who has learned to entrust his soul to the hands of God as unto a faithful Creator, one who has trusted his sin with God, beholding it laid upon the Divine Substitute. He has trusted his eternity with God; he believes that he shall die the death of the righteous, and that his last end shall be like his. He is resting in the living God, he trusts God about the present, he takes his troubles to God; ay, and if the day opens without trouble, he will not enter upon it without taking his day to God, nor will he fall asleep without committing his night to God. He trusts in God for little things, saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He trusts in God for great things, saying, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
So, dear friend, if you are a God-trusting man, as well as a Godfearing man, take my text, — for it tastes like a wafer made with honey, — lay it on your tongue, and let it dissolve into your soul, and sweeten your whole life: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” Then advance still further, and understand the word “godly” as meaning a God-loving man. A godly man loves God; he is one whose heart has gone out after God. He loves his dear ones here below; but his God he loves more than all of them. He loves them in God, and loves God the more for giving them to him; but God himself has become his great object of delight. I am sure that he is a saved man who can follow David in saying, “God my exceeding joy.” When one comes to joy in God, it is a sure evidence of godliness. The hypocrite has no delight in God; he may have a delight in the outward parade of religion, or in the name of godliness, possibly he has a delight in the bliss of heaven which he sometimes hopes that he may enjoy; but in God himself he has no delight; whereas, to the true believer, God is heaven.
“Were I in heaven without my God,
‘Twould be no heaven to me.”
“Delight thyself also in the Lord,” says David; and the genuine believer does so. He can say of his God, —
“Thou art the sea of love,
Where all my pleasures roll;
The circle where my passions move,
The centre of my soul.”
So that he is a godly man who is a God-loving man.
And, assuredly, he is a godly man who is a God-knowing man. He does not merely fear and trust and love God but he has come into personal acquaintance with God. The other day, I saw a book entitled, “Is God knowable?” Well, dear friends, that is a question that can be answered by some of us; we can say, “We know him; we have spoken to him, and ho has spoken to us. Our spirit has come into actual contact with the Divine Spirit. We do not need anybody to prove this truth to us, for it is a matter of faith, nay, of joyous, ecstatic, delicious experience.
“’My God, the spring of all my joys,
The life of my delights,
The glory of my brightest days,
And comfort of my nights.’”
“My God, it is a fact that I have touched thee, and that thou hast touched me, — that I have spoken to thee, and that thou hast spoken unto me, — and it is that fact which has for ever made me glad.” O beloved, if you know not God, what do you know? How are you a child of God if you do not know your Father? How are you saved if you do not know your Saviour? How can you come to the table to remember him whom you never knew? And must you not expect to hear him say at the last, “Depart from me; I never knew you”? If we know him, we are known of him; the two things go together, and are much the same; but, if we know him not, then he knows us not in the sense of acquaintance and of love. Once more, a godly man is a God-like man. We reach this point, you see, by steps, — the man is God-fearing, God-trusting, God-loving, God-knowing, and then God-like. Can a man be like to God? Ah, me! what a wide discrepancy there must always be between God and the best of men! We are unlike God even in our likeness to him; he who is most like God is only like him as a dew-drop is like the sea, or as a glow-worm is like the sun. Yet grace does make us like God in righteousness, and true holiness, and especially in love. Has the Holy Spirit taught thee, my dear friend, to love even those that hate thee? Hast thou a love that leaps out, like the waters from the smitten rock, that every thirsty one may drink? Wouldst thou fain love the poorest and the most depraved into the wealth and glory of thy Master’s love? Dost thou love even those that render thee no love in return, as he did who gave his life for his enemies? Then art thou to that extent made like God. And dost thou choose that which is good? Dost thou delight thyself in peace? Dost thou seek after that which is pure? Art thou ever gladdened with that which is kind and just? Then art thou like thy Father who is in heaven, thou art a godly man, and this text is for you: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.”
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