The King James Version, although over 400 years old, is still the most widely read English translation of the Bible. It does, however, like all translations, have its weaknesses. Due to its age, it frequently employs archaisms – words and phrases that are either no longer commonly used or have changed in meaning over the years. Titus 2:14 provides an example: “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The word “peculiar” as it is generally used today means odd, bizarre, weird. Notice that none of these synonyms has a positive connotation. The meaning of the word in the Bible is not negative. The inspired writer employed a word meaning uniquely God’s, thus distinct. God intends that Christian people be special. They should be exceptional. This is entirely positive.
Some Christians are confused about this matter of being “peculiar people,” falling into a lifestyle of what a friend of mine calls “eccentric externalism.” The Christian’s distinctiveness is not to be seen in dowdy, dated dress styles. Certainly modesty and good taste are important. But the Christian is not to be peculiar in apparel or grooming. Instead he is to be distinct in character and conduct. His life is to be distinguished by good works.
One preacher explained, “If the Bible is emphatic at any one point it is this: there is to be a manifest difference between believers and unbelievers. We are those who have passed out of darkness into light, and we must walk as children of light. We are to abstain from fleshly lusts and separate ourselves unto a life pleasing to God. We are warned against conforming to the ways of the world and are exhorted to be transformed in thought, word and deed.” (Shuler’s Short Sermons, p. 59)
Our lives are to be distinct – purified from sin, and characterized by good works.
Abraham was peculiar when he left his homeland at God’s direction and traveled across the Fertile Crescent to dwell in a land he had never seen. Joseph was peculiar in refusing the advances of Potiphar’s wife and instead suffering grievous consequences. Moses was peculiar when he turned his back on the wealth and power of Egypt to identify himself with an enslaved race. Daniel and his three companions were peculiar when they chose a lion’s den and a fiery furnace rather than denying their faith in God. Paul was peculiar when he endured shunning, beatings, imprisonment, and ultimately death in order to preach the gospel throughout the old Roman Empire. Jesus was the most peculiar of all. When he was reviled He reviled not again. He went about doing good. He taught others to love their enemies. And as He was dying on the cross He prayed, “Father forgive them…”
In my own experience, the Lord used the “peculiarity” of Christian relatives to help point me to Christ. I admit, I thought my French Canadian family members were odd. They wore white socks with sandals, ate Cheez Whiz and tomato sandwiches, and said “eh?” a lot. But there was something else about them that really made them distinct. It was their goodness. They did not fight or swear like I did. They were not selfish or impatient. They were unusually kind, generous, thoughtful people. Quite frankly, as I spent time with them my conscience was convicted by their “peculiarity.” They were precisely what God intended Christians should be. They were peculiar – special. They adorned the gospel with good works (Ti. 2:10). I doubt very much whether I would be a Christian today were it not for the influence of their testimony.
Is there something peculiar about you that others notice? Not your diet or dress. Is there something peculiar about your character and behavior that sets you apart – that ultimately sets Christ apart to others? God intends that Christians should be “peculiar people, zealous of good works.”