A Peculiar People
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Tit 2:11-14)
A peculiar people? In current usage, peculiar is used indicate that something is strange, unexpected, odd-ball, or maybe not-quite-right. Christians may very well be seen by the world as “peculiar” at times, but that usage of the word is not what is meant in the Bible. The KJV is using the word in its original sense of, “that which belongs to a person in exclusion of others.” Modern English translations typically translate with a phrase such as, “a people of his own,” or, “people for his own possession.” That’s much closer to the original meaning. The Greek word translated in Titus 2:14 is periousios, which means the treasure or wealth that belongs to a person. That’s the intended meaning here in Titus. Paul is not saying that Christians are weird or strange, but rather that they are a treasure that has been redeemed by God and possessed by Him alone. God has given us the grace of His Son, Jesus, that we might be purified, made clean, and live as an example of His power to save and restore.
Paul’s statement in Titus is a reference to Deuteronomy 14:
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deu 14:2)
Remember that the word “holy” refers to something that is set apart solely for God’s use. This verse from Deuteronomy comes in the midst of a list of ordinances for the Israelites. They were given specific instructions on behavior that would set them apart from the surrounding peoples. Specifically, Deuteronomy 14 contains a list of dietary commandments – what they should eat and not eat – followed by instructions on the tithe. Thus, Paul is making a parallel between the Israelites and the Gentile Christians. Both are a peculiar people that God chose for Himself as His treasure. Just as the Israelites were given specific instructions for living that they might fulfill God’s will, so too the Christians have specific guidelines for living.
The list for proper behavior that Paul gives might be taken by some as a replacement for the Old Testament law. That is the wrong way of looking at Paul’s writings. He makes it clear over and over again that righteousness does not come from works of the flesh. Our righteousness is given to us as a gift from God in return for faith; we do not become righteous by living by the right set of rules. Just as simply following the Law of Moses would not make a man righteous, Paul is not laying down a law of behavior that makes a man or woman a Christian. It is always the other way around. God’s grace makes us righteous and out of that saving grace to we receive the mind and spirit that leads to moral behavior.
Paul says in Titus 1:15, “unto the pure all things are pure,” demonstrating again that Paul does not impose the laws of clean foods on the followers of Jesus. He specifically warns them to “avoid Jewish fables” and stick to the doctrines that he has taught. The instruction of Paul to Titus is for a different purpose. Paul is listing the outward signs that show the working of God’s grace in a man or woman. The working outward of the Holy Spirit brings about a pattern of behavior that glorifies God. The Christians are to bring forth good works, moral behavior, generous attitudes in order that they demonstrate God’s working in them. It is not that they should live this way to make themselves approved of God, but rather, that they put on display the power of God working in their lives. By those outward signs, they indicate they are a peculiar people, a people whom God has chosen, redeemed, and made pure so that His goodness will be manifest in this physical world.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1Pe 2:9-10)
These verses from 1 Peter 2 demonstrate the same idea. Because we have been chosen, redeemed, and purified, we are to act like it. No longer can we use the excuse that we didn’t know any better, or are just doing what the world does, no better or worse. We also cannot use the excuse that since all our sins are covered it doesn’t really matter what we do. If we are truly thankful for what God has done for us, we will not want to do anything that would dishonor that gift. Our redemption through Jesus Christ demonstrates to all of God’s creation the power of His grace. We seek moral behavior, charity, temperance, kindness, and good works, in order that our lives might bring honor to God and not disrespect.
That desire to put on display the power of God working in us, and to bring glory to God by our good works, is what demonstrates that we are indeed a peculiar people. Because we are His possession, we live our lives for God’s glory not our own.