Question: What is the meaning of the term “peculiar people” in I Peter 2:9? Does it mean strange or odd?
Answer: Not at all. This text is speaking of what God’s people are to Him, and God does not make a people who would be odd or strange unto Himself. On the contrary, they are His jewels (Malachi 3:17) and special treasure (Deuteronomy 7:6). They are the chosen of God, elect and precious. This is what God’s people are to Him. Oh, the blessedness of being chosen by God to be one of His special people.
Of course, this does not describe what the saints are to the world nor the way the world looks at us. We are to them a strange spectacle with our conduct of self-denial, loving our enemies, doing good to them that hate us, praying for those who persecute and revile us, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, giving the cloak with the coat, etc., as compared with the self-centeredness, every fellow for himself, and the devil for us all, attitudes. But, as before mentioned, this text is referring to what the people of God are to Him and not to the world.
Now we will notice some texts which contain the term “peculiar,” or its equivalent, and see what their use is in the Scriptures. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation….” Exodus 19:5-6. Note the use of the term here, “a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” This would clearly refer to a separated group of people from among all the other people of the earth. In Deuteronomy 7:1-6 we read how the Israelites were to deal with the people of the land when they entered Canaan. They were to utterly destroy all their places and facilities for sacrifice and worship. Verse 6 plainly states the reason for this stern indictment. It says, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” This text uses the term “special people” instead of “peculiar treasure” as in Exodus 19:5-6. These are alternate terms used in the same way and clearly mean the same things. Read also Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:16-19; 28:9; 29:13 and I Kings 8:53.
In all the above texts the terms of peculiar, holy, special and separate have the same meaning and describe the same relationship between God and His people. This is just about, if not altogether, the total meaning and scriptural use of the term “peculiar people” in the Bible.
Our text, I Peter 2:9 and Titus 2:14), may be the only places in the New Testament where the term “peculiar people” is used, and clearly it is used in the same way and means the same thing as its use in the Old Testament in regard to ancient Israel, the chosen people of God in that time. Titus 2:14 says this: “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” It is clear in this verse that the ultimate objective of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary was to redeem and save us from all sin and unrighteousness and purify unto Himself a peculiar or separated people. In II Corinthians 6:14-18 we read, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them 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, saith 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, saith the Lord Almighty.” Here is clearly taught the doctrine of total separateness and the reason for it is: the opposites mentioned here can by no means blend. Therefore, since He has provided the sacrifice in His Son, Jesus, to fully cleanse us from sin and purge us from every impure and unrighteous thing through His blood, He now requires us to be separated from all these things unto Him. He now requires us to touch none of the unclean things from which He has purged us in the blood of His Son, and maintain a holy and righteous life separated unto Him.