Writing Archives - October 16, 2011
Going to church can be like shopping in a whole foods store – lots of fruits, nuts, and flakes. So when I first heard Peter’s declaration that Christians are a “peculiar people,” I couldn’t disagree. I had always taken the word “peculiar” in the adjective form, which is how it reads in the King James Version that renders the phrase. It sounded like Peter was acknowledging that people can be strange, odd, and downright creepy. Of course, there is no virtue in this, so I assumed he really meant “abnormal.” After all, the Bible contrasts the “wide path” that leads to destruction with the “narrow path” of believers. But there is far more to that simple phrase.
This week on LIFE Today, Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv, makes exactly that case. In his book Weird, he rightly argues that today’s standards of “normal” mean stressed, disconnected, self-centered, amoral, irresponsible, and spiritually shallow. All of these things run contrary to God’s plan for our lives, so “normal isn’t working,” he says.
Groeschel is quite correct to point out that God’s ways are higher than mankind’s ways. What the world has to offer falls so abysmally short of what God has to offer, it’s amazing that we humans ever buy into the world’s ideas. Yet, we do. That, to me, is peculiar! But that’s not what Peter is saying when he calls us “peculiar people.” In fact, the original Greek of 1 Peter 2:9 has no adjective before the word for “people.” In other words, the “peculiar” does not directly define the “people.”
The two nouns here are laos and peripoi?sis. The first, laos, means “people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock.” The other noun, peripoi?sis, means “a preservation, possession, one's own property, an obtaining.” That is why the more modern translations render Peter’s declaration as “a people belonging to God” (NIV) or “a people for God's own possession” (NAS).
Peter is saying two distinct things in this phrase. First, he is pointing out that believers are united as a people. Those who follow Christ are “of the same stock.” They comprise a holy nation. The world’s classification systems do not apply, so the idea of white, black, brown, yellow, and red is not a part of God’s lexicon. Likewise, political borders mean nothing in the kingdom of God. Paul states the same idea in Galatians 3:28 by saying, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Second, and here’s the “peculiar” part, Peter points out that we are God’s possession. Now, I don’t know about you, but the word “possession” doesn’t strike me as flattering. It sounds like slavery or polygamy. But that’s the fault of the English language, not the idea Peter conveys. It’s probably why the King James Version didn’t render it that way. You see, there is another definition of “peculiar.” Like the Greek, it is a noun, too. It is defined as “something exempt from ordinary jurisdiction.” It applies to property, but not in the slavish sense. If we look at the alternate translations of peripoi?sis as “an obtaining” and “a preservation,” we start to see the true and glorious picture.
Right now, we live in this fallen world. That is the jurisdiction under which we operate. Yet, according to Peter, we are exempt from it. The curses of this world do not apply. Why? Because we have been obtained by God through Jesus Christ. He paid for us with His blood on the cross. Therefore, we are preserved in this world as His bride for eternity!
That’s an astounding thought, and far better than being called “odd” or “strange.” It’s certainly not normal; it’s supernatural. So rejoice in the revelation of His word as you live each day, knowing this truth:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)
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