Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 21, 1964
NUMBER 3, PAGE 7,13c

We Do Not Imitate

Bill McMurray

"Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states. We are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves."....Pericles.

These words were spoken by the great man of Athens in praise of his native country. They are over 2,000 years old yet they represent the convictions and the inmost feelings of every true American today. Every one is proud of his country, and of the fact that "we do not imitate." Yet how tragic it is to find that this is not true in matters of the spirit. How sad it is to behold such a multitude of professed believers in the Son of God, supposed members of the blood-purchased body of Christ (Acts 20:28) who feel absolutely no revulsion whatsoever at being like "the nations about them." (1 Sam. 8) It shall be our purpose in this article to investigate the peculiar relationship between God and His true people who "do not imitate."

"Do not be deceived, bad company ruins good morals." (1 Cor. 15:9, RSV) In this passage the Apostle clearly tells us that we as Christians (Acts 26:28; 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16), children of God and born again creatures (John 3:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:17), should avoid bad company. It is truly said "You can tell the character of the man by the company he keeps." One of the greatest compliments I can imagine was paid to Grover Cleveland when it was said of him that "Men loved him for the enemies he made." If there is anything made clear in Scripture, it is the fact that God expects and demands that His people should be different than the nations about them. God even told Samuel that the people had actually rejected Him and refused to abide by His law when they were overcome by the desire to conform. There are many Scriptures that tend to bear out this statement. (Isa. 1:3; 3:8; 27:11; Jer. 2:4 Time does not here permit that we should examine each of them individually, but we shall attempt to establish certain fundamental points along this line.

God expects that His people shall be "peculiar." (Ex. 19:5; Psa. 134:4; Deut 14:2; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9) There are at least ten separate ways in which He demands tills peculiar nature be manifested. We shall examine them in order.

1. God's people are to be peculiar because of attitudes. (Phil. 4:8). Our attitude toward sin is to be one of utter revulsion and complete abhorrence. We are to shun every appearance of evil. (1 Thess. 5:22) It is simply not possible to live half for the Lord and half for the world. (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). We are either all for the Lord or we are entirely against Him. (Matt. 12:30; Lk. 11:23; Mk. 9:40). To attempt to serve Him in part is to serve Him not at all. (Matt. 7:21-23). Hearing is not enough. We must actively practice what we hear. (Rom. 2:13; Jas. 1:22-23).

2. God's people are to be peculiar because of their speech. All that we say is to be dedicated to the Glory of God. (Col. 3:16-17). We must realize the importance of guarding the tongue, lest it become master of us. (Jas. 3). Every careless word we utter will be called into account in the day of judgment. (Matt. 12:36). It is the positive duty of every Christian to be prepared to defend the doctrine of Christ at any time we may be challenged to do so. (I Pet. 3:15). Our speech is to be "seasoned with salt." (Col. 4:6) but we must take care that our salt does not become mixed with the salt of error and lose its power. (Matt. 5:13).

3. God's people are to be peculiar because of their manner of life. As we have already seen from Phil. 4:8, the Christian is very narrowly limited in the things about which he may even think and remain faithful to his God. Since the thought, desire or intention must of necessity precede the act, it is not necessary under the New Testament law to be guilty of the overt act. The mere thought is equal to the intended action. (Matt. 5:27-28) Because this is true, we are admonished in Scripture not to rest simply upon our faith in Christ but to add all the graces pleasing to God. (1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:5-9; Jas. 2)

4. God's people are peculiar because of their companions. As we saw in the beginning of our study, the Apostle realized that good morals could only be corrupted by association with evil persons. It is always error to assume that we can correct a bad situation by allowing it to go unchecked. In this respect there are many preachers and teachers who fall short in their obligation of making known the whole desire of God for His children. (Acts 20:27). To attempt to "preach the gospel and avoid controversy" is not sufficient. It is only a cowardly and underhanded way of attempting to avoid the obligation of preaching the gospel fully. (Rom. 15:19). God has always demanded that His Prophets, Apostles and Preachers should "Cry aloud, spare not." (Isa. 58:1). Since we know that all who presume to be teachers and preachers of the Word will be judged with greater strictness (Jas. 3:1, RSV), it is befitting that all who take upon themselves this task should make every effort to teach all that God has to say relative to any matter. One field which is being more and more neglected of late is that of the moral conduct God desires and demands of Christians. We have been in such a rush to "get them under the water" that all our efforts have been directed in that direction alone while we have, as a logical consequence, failed to teach and encourage the saved. It is the firm conviction of this writer that this is the root cause of all the troubles which plague and blight the Church of God today. And the shame of it is that no one can get to heaven in an untaught state! (Tit. 2:11-12).

Every day I see young men and women in the Church uniting in marriage with one who has not obeyed the gospel of Christ. God commands that we "love not the world, neither the things of the world." (I Jo. 2:15-16). Now if a sinner is not "of the world" and is not a "thing of this world" then what in the world is he? The Church has failed in its obligation to instruct its members about God's teaching relative to the kind of companions we should choose for ourselves. Read carefully Prov. 1:10; 4:14; 13:25; I Cor. 15:33; Eph. 5:10.

One of the most commonly heard excuses for association with immoral and worldly persons is "Every one is doing it." But such weak and ridiculous reasoning could just as well justify the cannibal who could say "In my country, everybody does it." But notice that the Word of God makes absolutely no provision for what "everybody" is doing. It does say, "enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not into the way of evil men, Avoid it; do not pass by it; turn away from it, and pass away." (Prov. 4:14-15).

5. God's people are peculiar because of their affections. They must not long for and desire the perishing things of this transitory age. Their bodies are offered in sacrifice to God. (Rom. 12:1-2), and their affections set upon heavenly things (Col. 2:1-2) so that they look for a city "which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (Heb. 11:10). Our affections must be fixed upon the glorious hope of attaining to the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15) and the heavenly home prepared for us in eternity. (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:1-27; 22:1-5).

6. God's people must be peculiar because they have been purchased by the blood of Christ. (Ac. 20:28; I Pet. 1:1819). We evaluate things according to the purchase price, and we are purchased by the blood of the Son of God. Since we are the purchased property of Christ, we must submit our entire will to His direction and be holy both in body and spirit. (I Cor. 6:19-20). Our relationship with the Heavenly Father should be reflected in our daily thoughts, deeds and words. We are to allow our light to shine so that we might draw others in turn to Him. (Matt. 5:16).

7. God's people are peculiar in that they alone will one day be able to sing the glad song of redemption. (Rev. 14:3). This is a right which none can share who are not found written in the book of life. (Rev. 20:10). How wonderful it will be when they are gathered from the earth to sit down with God in His eternal glory.

8. God's people are peculiar because only they of all peoples upon the earth have any hope of heaven. It is truly said that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. (Rev. 21-22). This is the hope and the confidence that should fill our every thought and dominate our every action in this life. At best, life is short (Jas. 4:14; Ps. 144:4; 103:14-16; 102:3, 11). It is not within our power to change the decree of God. (Jer. 10:23) Since our hope is not set on the things of this world (Rom. 12:2), but is set on the heavenly things (Col. 3:1-2) we should live in a manner that will reflect this blessed hope that is within us to the world about. (Matt. 5:13-14; II Cor. 3:2-3).

10. God's people are peculiar in that they are married to Christ and as such must refuse to wear any name except that of Christ, the Bridegroom. (Rev. 21:9). The Scriptures are careful to tell the name by which our Lord wishes us to be identified. (Ac. 11:26; I Pet. 4:16; Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 1:2; Heb, 12:22-24). To wear any other name, regardless of what the creeds and doctrines of men say, is to be guilty of spiritual adultery in going beyond the Word of Christ. (II Jo. 9).

In the light of what we have seen regarding God's peculiar people it may be well to investigate the matter further. The logical question that comes now to mind is "Just what is it that brings about this difference in the people of God?" The answer is that we are moved to become His peculiar people by a complete change of desire, mind, intention and affection. This change (called repentance Lk. 13:3, 5; Ac. 17:31) will cause a corresponding change of our manner of life. We can refer to this as the new birth. (Jo. 3:1-5). We become thereby a new creature. (II Cor. 5:17). This change is accomplished by the power of the Word of God. The Word is "living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and able to "cut to the heart." (Ac. 2:37). It is the "power of God unto salvation." (Rom. 1:16). It is a perfect Word which will stand forever and needs no modification or change from time to time, as do the doctrines of finite minds. (II Tim. 15:17; II Pet. 1:25; Rev. 22:18-19; Jo. 5:39; 10:35; II Pet. 1:20).

Become obedient to that Word and become one of the select company of God's peculiar people who do not imitate.

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