“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). The American Revised Version says we are “a people for God’s own possession.” In other words, we are a possessed people, owned by the Lord. Since God owns us, we are to do as he directs; and in following that direction we become a different or a peculiar people. Many marvel at this trait. But there should be no amazement about it, for God has planned that his followers be different. They are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” That is the kind of men and women who are to show God’s virtues to the world.
Let us notice some of the similarities between God’s people and the people of the world. We have many points in common with our neighbors about us. We eat, sleep, and live as do they, as long as they are temperate in these things. Our dress is the same as theirs if they dress modestly. The only style that the Lord gives is modesty, which means to dress in an inconspicuous way. Our occupations are much the same as theirs, so long as they are honorable. God teaches that his people should work with their hands to support themselves and to have to give to others. Our responsibility to the government is the same as that of all other citizens, for the child of God is to be obedient to the laws of the land and to pay tribute to whom tribute is due. There could be only one exception to this, and that would be if the law of the land should be contrary to the law of God. Our whole demeanor in the community is like that of any other good moral character. Even in matters of faith, doctrine, and church work, we hold many things in common with other religious groups. We believe that the Bible is inspired of God; that Christ was divine; that He arose from the dead; and that man should practice the golden rule. These and other things we hold in common with religious people about us. You probably are wondering, what then, are the points of difference? To these points I direct your attention:
The Inspired Word an All-Sufficient Rule.
We are peculiar in that we take the word of God as our only guide in matters religious. We do this because of what Paul told Timothy: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16). Thus, the scriptures are all that we need to govern and guide us. We are aware of the fact that any group of religious people must, in work and worship, subscribe to some sort of rule or authority. The followers of Christ say the Bible is sufficient for that. It is worse than presumptuous on the part of man to declare that God has revealed his will in the scriptures—and then to turn around and write a creed to pilot God’s church in this world. We have been given all things that pertain unto life and godliness. (2 Pet. 1:3). Any rule or creed that is put forth to govern the church that says more than the Bible, says too much. Any creed that says less than the Bible says too little and anything that says the same as the Bible is the Bible.
The folly of men writing their own creeds should be realized, especially when we see that all creeds of human origin are in constant need of revision. Finite man cannot create the truth; thus, what he writes today, tomorrow will need revision. The truth of God does not vary in such manner. The Methodist Discipline is a fine example of what I am talking about. Prior to 1910 all the Methodists believed (as their creed taught) that all infants are “conceived and born in sin.” But in 1910 the Discipline was changed, and from that time to the present teaches that all children “are born in Christ.” The Methodist creed-makers could not be right both times. When will men learn their weaknesses?
We are a peculiar people because we insist upon people confining their practice to things authorized by the Lord. Any teaching that is given by a command, an approved example, or a necessary inference from the inspired record is binding upon us today. We are opposed to men acting as legislators for God. There can be no “creed-makers” among faithful Christians.
The Plan of Salvation
We teach that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are conditions of salvation from alien sins; and oppose all other doctrines which teach differently. If these are conditions that the Lord gives, they are right; and no man has any right to leave off any one of them. For this reason we oppose the doctrine of salvation by faith only. Of course, this makes us peculiar and different from others in the community in which we live. One has but to read the Great Commission to see that all the items I have mentioned are listed by the Holy Spirit as being essential to man’s salvation (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47). Surely, Christ who is our Saviour knew what man must do to be saved. Thus when the penitent believer is baptized in water (buried—Rom. 6:2) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), he is in Christ (Gal. 3:27) or the one body, the church. (1 Cor. 12:13.)
The Worship Of God
Members of the church of Christ realize that it is possible to engage in vain worship. This is done when the teachings of men are followed, instead of the commandments of God (Matt. 15:9). We know it is right to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in our worship because we have this instruction from the Lord (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18,19). Instrumental music is not authorized in any passage in all the New Testament. Since it is not authorized by God, it is used only on the authority of men; and therefore will make vain the worship in which it is used. Thus, when you come to our services you will hear us singing, but you will not hear any sound of a mechanical instrument. You say, peculiar? Certainly so. Different from others because we insist on doing just what the Lord says. Would you not rather be peculiar than to be wrong?
We also know that the early disciples came together upon the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). We know that the Bible teaches the Lord’s Supper is to be eaten (1 Cor. 11:23-26). But when? The disciples of the Lord were faithful in carrying out this command; and from their example (Acts 20:7) we learn that the command was obeyed upon the first day of the week. They were steadfast in this worship (Acts 2:42). This idea of steadfastness carries the thought of systematic regularity. The first day of the week was the appointed day. That which belonged to the first day of the week belonged to every first day of the week.
So, along with prayers, singing, and teaching, we commemorate the Lord’s death upon this day. In this we are different from our religious neighbors, and are peculiar to them. But God’s people are, and always have been, a “peculiar people.” We would not have it otherwise.