The Principle of Peculiarity (1)
When God chose Israel to be a holy nation unto Him, they became His peculiar people. Notice the statements by Moses to this effect:
Ye are the children of the Lord your God . . . . For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord bath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth (Deut. 14:1-2).
For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God bath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth (Deut. 7:6).
Israel was a peculiar nation unto the Lord, i.e., they were God's own property. He had called Abraham and brought the nation into existence; He had established a particular covenant with them (Ex. 19:5, 6). Hence, they stood in a unique relationship to the Lord.
As God's own people, Israel was expected to be separate from the nations around her. The intermingling of the culture of Israel with pagan nations would only lead to moral and spiritual deterioration of God's people. Hence, the word of the Lord commanded them not to intermingle. Hence, in the conquest, Israel was forbidden to make alliances with the Canaanite people.
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou guest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: but ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: for thou shall worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods (Ex. 34:12-16).
Israel had to maintain her separate identity as a people belonging peculiarly unto the Lord. She was a separate nation.
The Church: The Israel of God
Today the Lord's church is His Israel (Gal. 6:17). She is His "chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). The principle of separateness applies with reference to the church just as it did with reference to Israel of God. The church is made up of people who are not conformed to this world (Rum. 12:1-2). The difference in the Christian and the world around him is so great that the world thinks "it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you" (1 Pet. 4:1-3).
The Lord has commanded the Christian not to intermingle with the wicked religions of the world. Paul wrote,
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship bath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion bath light with darkness? And what concord bath Christ with 13e1ia1? or what part bath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement bath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God bath said, I will dwell in than, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, with the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, with the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
The Lord's people of this day and age are to be separate from the world in which they live. As a matter of fact, when the world feels that there is no difference in the people of God and them, the people of God have compromised the Word of God (Lk. 6:26).
The Distinctiveness of God's People
Let us, therefore, consider some of the areas in which the people of God are clearly distinguishable from the world around them.
Distinct In Speech. The speech of God's people will be distinctive in reference to the religious jargon used. The world around us, because of its distinction between its clergy and laity, has a distinctive religious vocabulary which is different from that of New Testament Christians. The religious world around us speaks of its preachers as "Reverend," "Pastor " "Father " "Rabbi," and a number of other special titles. Matthew 23:1-12 forbids the usage of special religious titles because there is no special "clergy" among the people of God.
Christians need to be careful in their usage of the word "brother" not to allow it to become a substitute for a special word to differentiate a clergy from a laity. When I am in a group of Christians who are being introduced to someone and the rest are introduced as "Mr." but I am introduced as "Brother," I am afraid that someone has a mistaken concept of what the proper usage of that word is. We are all brethren, not just the preachers.
Similarly, the Lord's people use distinctive terminology when referring to the church. The names by which the church is called include such things as "church of Christ" (Rum. 16:16), "church of God" (1 Cor. 1:2), and several other terms. However, there is no usage of such names as Baptist Church, Episcopalian Church, Methodist Church, and Catholic Church in the Bible. Consequently, God's people will only refer to the church by names which are found in the Scriptures.
The usage of a distinctive speech sets God's people apart in a world which refers to its clergy by titles absolutely condemned in God's word and to their churches by names not found on the pages of God's book anywhere! When we ask our religious neighbors for authority for their unscriptural names and unscriptural titles, we will not have to worry about becoming a distinctive, separate people; we will be excluded by them as a bunch of religious legalists with whom they want nothing to do.
Even as we will be clearly distinguishable by the usage of our speech to refer to the people of God, we shall also be a distinctive people by the purity of speech which we manifest. There are several aspects of the purity of one's speech which separate us from the world around us, such as the following:
a. Our speech is truthful. Jesus said, "But let your communication be, Yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil" (Matt. 5:33). Paul wrote, "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another" (Eph. 4:25). Christians are characterized by purity of speech in that their word can be trusted. When a Christian gives you his word, he will keep it; his word. is his bond.
A Christian who promises to be at a certain place at a certain time will be there. A Christian who promises to pay his bill will pay his bill. A Christian who relates the circumstances of a conversation will be careful to accurately represent what happened. His word can be trusted because he speaks the truth.
b. Our speech does not abuse the Lord's name. Again, Paul wrote, "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph. 4:29). The Christian is one who does not take the Lord's holy name in vain. He is different from the world around him in this regard. In an age when pre-teenage children are generally characterized by vulgar profanity, the Christian is separate from the world in that he does not take the name of the Lord in vain.
c. Our speech is not filled with filthy jesting. Paul told Christians that neither "filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting" (Eph. 5:4) ought to characterize the saints of God. Our ungodly age tells filthy jokes as a form of entertainment. A Christian will not tell filthy jokes or listen to others tell them. The man who refuses to laugh at these kinds of filthy stories and who refuses to tell them to others will not have to worry about blending in with the crowd. The ungodly world will see to it that he remains separate from them.
d. Our speech avoids gossip, backbiting, and railing. A Christian is a man who avoids gossiping about his brothers and sisters in Christ and his neighbors. He does not try to destroy another's reputation; he does not try to exalt himself by abasing someone else. I have been among congregations where large portions of time was spent in running down rumors and getting them stopped. Christians are not to be characterized by this kind of conduct. Instead, Paul wrote, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:31-32). A person who has these traits to characterize his speech will be like an oasis in a desert of sin.
e. Our speech is characterized by spreading the gospel and edifying one another. The Christian is to be busy fulfilling the Great Commission; hence, the Christian will be actively talking to his friends and neighbors about Jesus Christ (Mk. 16:15-16). When he sees a brother or sister overtaken in sin, he will go to that person and talk to him about his soul (Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20).
Brethren, when these kinds of characteristics become a part of our speech, we will be a separate people unto God. The world will not want to have anything to do with a people who live a pure life, rebuke sin, and appeal for others to be obedient to the word of God. These people will become isolated on the job; their comrades will have little desire to be with them.
Though no one desires isolation, each of us should desire to be different from the world in which we live. Our speech is one of several things which distinguishes us from the world around us. (Continued next week)
Truth Magazine XXIV: 33, pp. 531-533