Who are the People of God?
The Catholic Church tells us:
The Magisterium, as she often seems to do, appears to have established conflicting descriptions of who are the People of God. In 836, she informs that the People of God are Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and everyone else. In other words, everyone on earth is included in the People of God, or so it appears. Then, in 871, she tells us that it is the baptized [read “Catholics”] who have "been constituted as the people of God." Don't let that reference to "Christian faithful" throw you off track. Mother Church has her own idea of who the Christian faithful are. These are easy to identify because, as the Catechism informs, they "throw signs" before praying or doing anything else.
The Apostle Peter provided more reliable information concerning just who it is that God considers to be the People of God:
My very good friend, Dr. Randy Davis, spoke to his congregation today concerning the People of God. This was Randy's message:
LAOS: THE PEOPLE OF GOD
After a morning service, a father observed his young son in the foyer of the church looking at a plaque on the wall. When the father joined him, the youngster asked what the plaque was for.
The father replied, “Son, that was put up in the memory of all those who have died in the service.”
Turning to his father, he asked, “Morning or evening service?”
Well, that is some people's impression of Church. Is Church a place we go to, a place that is boring, a place that when we get there, we wish we were somewhere else? Is that how most of us view Church? For some, I guess, that is what they think and that maybe what they have experienced. But, it is a complete lack of understanding of Church.
To put it bluntly, you are the Church. It is not this building or these services. It is not about me and what I do. It is you. You are the church.
The fact is, you are a very special people. Peter calls you living stones. He uses several metaphors to describe us. We are living stones used to build a living temple. Jesus is the foundation stone and we are built upon him. You have been claimed by God and his name has been pronounced over you and you are his. You are called the people of God. We are stones, we are a temple, we are priests, we are a holy nation, a kingdom, a people for God's own possession. It is a dizzying array of words, a bewildering description for us to comprehend.
The phrase “The people of God” occurs only five times in the whole Bible. But, the word “people,” is used roughly 200 times to refer to the People of God. It is from the Greek word LAOS, which means people and from it we get the word “laity.” You and I are God's people. We are not divided up into clergy and laity, that division does not exist. We are all the People of God. Some of us have callings to be pastor or youth minister or minister of music, but all of us, you and me, are the People of God. If God has called you out of the darkness of your sin, if you have come to Christ by faith, then you are part of the People of God.
Peter emphatically called us the people of God. He connects us with ancient Israel. When God called the people of Israel to be his people, His chosen people, He called them to the vocation of being the people of God. They were to be witnesses to the world to the glory and reality of God. Peter said that we have been included in the commonwealth of God's people. We are a chosen race. The word “race” means family or a class of people with a common trait. God has made us into a family. Our common trait is that we are chosen to be the children of God. God chose you. Long before you went in search of God, God chose you. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We do not come to Christ by accident, but the deliberate work of the Holy Spirit.
God expresses his family through his church. He chose us to be Trinity Baptist Church here in Pumpkin Center. We are no accident. Every Church is chosen of God and is part of the greater family of God. We become a Christian as an individual, but immediately, we are made a part of the family of God. You do not live your Christian life in the wilderness of life as an individual. You live it within the context of God's people.
What a privilege it is to be a part of the family, but, what a special family! We are a royal priesthood. The entire church has been called to be a priest to the nations. A priest is called to live a holy life. A priest brings others to God. And a priest offers up worship unto God. You are priests. We have been called to give our attention first to God. God must come preeminently first in our lives.
As a nation of priests, we are called, above all else, to be a worshiping community. Our worship has greater implications than we know. The Priests of the Old Testament worshiped on behalf of others. Their worship witnessed to the greatness and power of God. Our worship bears witness to our Great God. The very act of worship confronts and transforms the world. Our worship bears witness to the living God who redeems the lost from their sin and in that confrontation, the world is transformed. Such worship does not look like the world or sound like the world or act like the world. It is counter cultural and it demands that society to be transformed and conformed to God. Our worship should bear witness to the world of the transforming power of Christ.
We are also a Holy nation. “Nation” is the Greek word ETHNOS. What I find interesting about this word is that is used to refer to gentiles, to all who are non Jews. But, sometimes, it was used to refer to Jews as well. I think this reminds us that God chooses his people from among the nations. We, like Adam, are made from the dust of the earth. We, like Israel, are chosen from among the peoples of the Earth. The greatness is not in ourselves but in that God has chosen us to be his people. That makes us a special people, one that transcends the boundaries of geography, genetics, time, and culture. By his grace, God has made us somebody!
As a nation, we are to be holy. To be holy means to be set apart for a special purpose. Peter affirmed that they were called out of the pagan world to live holy lives. They were to be odd, peculiar, different from their neighbors because they were God's people. Our church, likewise, is a holy people, set apart for the purpose of representing God to the world. Trinity Baptist Church is holy unto God. We are to live moral and ethical and positive lives. As the people of God, others should be able to see God in us.
God has chosen us to be a people for his own possession. We belong to God. He chose us, he saved us and restored us. He cleansed us from our sins. He gave us a new life and has called us his sons and his daughters. We belong to him, we are made kin by the blood of Christ and God Himself is the head of our household.
Here is the joy, the indescribable grace we find to be ours. We were once not a people. We were once nobodies. We had no sense of place. We had no status, no inheritance, no promises. But now, we nobodies are the LAOS, the People of God! Once, we had no mercy. We were the objects of wrath, destined to hell and separation from God. Now, because of his love for us, we have received mercy. Our sins have been pardoned. We have been redeemed from the pit. We are like the prodical son who has come home and the father restored us to the family. Now, we belong to God's family.
If you stop and think about it, being part of God's family is a truly amazing thing. It is like a dream come true. We have been made part of God's family. Gerald Penix said:
God was not coerced. We did not make him do it. It was out of love that he called us unto himself. Of all the peoples of the earth, we have a name, it is Laos: The People of God.