God’s people are a peculiar people.
Be careful, however, when you say that. They are strange but not odd. They differ, but they are not queer. There is something unusual about them, but they are not squares.
The world likes to call us oddballs, queer, squares and the like. And indeed we do have sharp corners of faith and of principle and therefore are like squares in the midst of round characters that roll with every temptation and lust that presents itself. We do seem odd to those whose vision is distorted by the spiritual intoxication of the pleasures of the flesh, and whom the Word of God has never penetrated, off whom that Word rolls as water off the back of a duck. We are queer in the sight of those whose citizenship is in the kingdom of darkness and whose lives have been fashioned and designed by the father of the lie. More than the clothing of the Pilgrims looked queer to the American Indians when they landed on our shores, the child of God today looks queer to the world—and indeed ought to look queer—in dress, practice, and speech, in the home he builds, in the God he serves, in the things wherein he finds pleasure, and in the deeds he condemns, in the way he conducts his business and in his Sabbath activities, and in fact all that he says and does.
We well remember going some ten years and more ago into the interior of the island of Jamaica, up into the hills near the little town of Latium. A native wascoming down the hill with his little son aged about two or three. This little child had never been far from home up in the hills amid subtropical vegetation of thick banana groves and coconut palm trees. He had never seen a tourist and knew only his own dark-skinned neighbors and friends. Suddenly confronted with a “white man” was too much. With a frantic scream he rushed to hold tightly to his father. And we can only wonder how queer, how strange, how utterly different we must have looked to that child. But do we really look so different from a spiritual point of view to the world? Is there not a sickeningly desperate attempt on the part of the church today to look as much like the world as it can? This is so tragic because the child of God is peculiar. He is different. He has an entirely different life, world-and-life view, set of standards, way of thinking, desires and ambitions, and consequently an entirely different conduct, behavior, and outward walk of life.
Remember, however, that the child of God is strange and different because all the rest of the human race has departed from the norm and he has been returned to it. Man was created in the image of God, and there is nothing queer and odd about that. This made him to be an extremely beautiful creature. But in Adam he lost it all and became a citizen of the kingdom of darkness. Created in the image of God, and in .His likeness, he from a spiritual point of view now began to look like the devil. His thinking and willing became devilish, and his outward behavior revealed him to be an enemy of God. The whole human race became odd because man was now at odds with God. He who was created as God’s friend servant became His enemy. Therefore Paul writes inRomans 8:7, “The carnal mind (that is, the fleshly mind of our first birth obtained through fallen parents) is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be.” He who was created saying “My God I love Thee” began with vehemence to say, “How I hate Thee!” He who lived for God and dedicated himself and the whole earthly creation in the service of God now elevated his own flesh to the throne to dedicate himself and all he has to satisfying the lusts of that flesh, and to denying the God Who created him and sustained him upon His earth with His rain and sunshine and food and drink. He who was created aiming his whole life at the glory of God turned his back upon God to deny Him His glory and seek it for himself. No wonder then that those who are restored to this former spiritual state look strange to those whose eyes and minds have become estranged from God.
Bear in mind that the lie of Satan was designed exactly to make God look strange to man who was made in His image. The lie, gave man a strange presentation of the sovereign God Who made the. whole creation. The lie corrupted the truth concerning Him and presented a distorted picture of Him which man began to believe. Today the natural man cannot see God correctly. And he cannot understand the believer recreated in the image of Christ. He has spiritual astigmatism, a spiritually defective eyesight, a distorted picture in his mind of God; and therefore he must have queer ideas about the children that God brings forth through the Spirit of His Son. The believer is not queer, but the unbeliever has queer ideas concerning him. There is nothing odd about God’s covenant people, but the covenant breaker is simply incapable of appreciating that covenant and has odd thoughts in regard to such a precious fellowship and friendship which God exercises with His people.
Christ, our covenant Head, the Last Adam, they did not understand and His ways they did not want. He looked too much like the God from Whom they were estranged. And so they nailed Him to the tree and could not understand why people would want to follow Him. In fact the whole idea of a covenant of God and a relationship of friendship with Him was so very contrary to all their thinking. The natural man wants to get as far from God as he can. God is ruled out of His whole creation. And today man will spend billions upon billions of dollars to send his rockets and men to the moon and to the planets to prove that there is no God and for proof of his atheistic evolution. He hates the very thought of God. That is, he hates the very idea of a God such as the one of Scripture, a sovereign, holy, and righteous God Who demands our whole life and upon Whom we depend for every breath of life.
The people God has called out of such a wicked world and formed for Himself to show forth His praises, with whom He will live in covenant fellowship and friendship, were in the Old Testament given a mark of distinction when God gave to Abraham the sign and seal of circumcision. Now here we had a real, visible mark that distinguished all of Abraham’s seed from the rest of the human race of that day.Genesis 17:9-27. It was, however, a mark that had spiritual significance, being a sign and a seal of an inner, spiritual distinction that God had made between His people in Christ and the whole generation of Satan. Those who had the distinction of being chosen to be God’s children received this sign and seal. A distinct and a distinguished people they are indeed: sons of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ of the whole creation.
This they must also believe, and therefore they must be circumcised and not fail to circumcise all those born in their family and all the servants which God gives to them together with the children born unto them. No, not every one of these is by that sign made to be a covenant child. Not all who were of the children of Abraham were such peculiar people. But the sign, the mark must be placed upon all in the sphere of that covenant, and God will make distinct and different whom He sovereignly and eternally wills to have as His people. This we can never know, for we cannot read the heart. We can misjudge so quickly and so readily. We can be too quick in saying that one is not and too swift to judge that one is because of outward works which we see. Judas Iscariot was deemed by the eleven as such a child of God and was trusted with the bag and the money for the poor. The one thief hanging there on the cross was till the last hours of his life judged to belong to Satan’s family of reprobates. But it is in the sphere of the covenant family and home that God is pleased to have covenant instruction given, and it is in such a sphere that He gathers His children and makes for Himself a distinct and spiritually different people.
And so Abraham was circumcised and bore a mark of belonging to this distinguished people that has God’s covenant promises and in principle is God’s friend among a host of His enemies. And to Ishmael he gave that sign. Upon all the servants which he had and upon all the male seed which they brought forth he placed this mark of distinction.
And of what was it such a mark of distinction besides declaring these to be God’s peculiar people? Or if you will, what does this mark declare the work of God to be whereby He makes them distinct? There is a cutting away but not disfigurement, even as in baptism, which later on replaces this mark of distinction and gives us a new kind of mark; there is removal by washing but not robbing and depriving of something valuable. In baptism there is the removal of sin, a washing away of sin. It is a depriving of that which is obnoxious, a deliverance of that which is to our harm and hurt. And so in circumcision there was a cutting away, a removal symbolically of filth, and then again, a removal of the, filth of sin. That makes us spiritually different from the world. That makes us a spiritually different people. The guilt of sin is gone from God’s covenant people, and the power and corruption of sin have been removed. They are clean. They are righteous and holy in His sight. They are renewed after the image of God’s Son to be in the likeness of God once again. What a distinguished people they are! What a tremendous difference there is between them and the seed of the serpent!
That mark, of course, does not make them differ. The blood and Spirit of Christ do that. But that mark symbolizes such a difference. And such a mark, both in the giving of it and in the reception of it, is an exercise of faith on the part of this distinct people that such a difference does exist. It is God’s sign and seal to them that He indeed makes such a distinction between men and has been pleased to realize it in their midst and homes and families. It also becomes an obligation to this peculiar people to make use of it to express their faith in God’s promises and thereby to testify to the world their trust is in God as the God of their salvation.
Let us consider some New Testament truths in connection with this sacrament as given to Abraham in order to see the blessedness of the covenant and the beauty of the sign. Paul writes in Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me, (that. is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing. . .” And then in the next chapter, in Romans 8:7, 8 he writes, “Because the carnal (that is, the fleshly) mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Both texts speak of our sinful flesh. In it dwells no good thing. It is full of enmity against God. In it we cannot please God. All this would bar us from covenant fellowship with Him not only, but we would not want it in that enmity which fills this flesh. But the sacrament of circumcision (and for us today the sacrament of baptism) speaks of the cutting away of that flesh, separating us from the sinful flesh, delivering us from its enmity and wickedness. In circumcision only a little of the flesh was removed. But it was God’s sign of delivering us from it all, even as baptism speaks of the washing of our whole body from sin. A distinguished people tie are. And God’s sacrament is indeed a mark of distinction wherein may rejoice, and for which we may give thanks.