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Theology > Church > Nature of the Church > The People of God


The New Testament speaks of “the people of God” (I Pet. 2:10), and in the Old Testament the statement is that “the Lord’s portion is His people” (Deut. 32:9). Thus, God has a people, and He has always had a people (Hos. 1:10; see: Num. 14:11-25; Deut. 32:9-10; Isa. 62:4; Jer. 12:7-10; Hos. 1:9-10; 2:23).

The people of God, who are now the people of God, were not the people of God in their natural state. Within the transformation from “were not” to “now” is the determination of God’s grace, by which He takes those who do not belong to Him and He makes them His own: “I will be their God and they shall be My people” (II Cor. 6:16). God affirms something about Himself and about the people: He will be their God, and they shall be His people. Note the definiteness and specificity. “Not” becomes “now” because of God. The people of God belong to God; they belong to Him because He has chosen them. In both Testaments this is true; God chose the nation in the Old Testament, and He chose His own people, those who belong to the Church, in the New Testament:

All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them . . . till Your people pass over, O Lord . . . the people . . . whom You have purchased (Ex. 15:15-16; see: Ex. 19:5);

The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth (Deut. 7:6);

O seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones (I Chron. 16:13);

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance (Ps. 33:12; see: 89:3);

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4);

therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved (Col. 3:12);

Knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God (I Thess. 1:4);

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thess. 2:13-14; see: God’s Election and God is Sovereign).

The people of God bear the mark of God, that is, God’s people manifest the relationship that they have to Him. Physical circumcision in the Old Testament was the mark, and spiritual circumcision in the New Testament is the mark; it is the flesh vs. the heart (Rom. 2:29; 9:6, 24; Phil. 3:3). The point is that God’s people bear the mark of God, and cannot be His people without bearing His identification. And the bearing of God’s mark is the confession by the individual that the individual belongs to God.

The people of God are to live like the people of God, meaning that the life of God is to be reflected in the lives of His people. It can be no other way. The children of the Father will manifest the Father. And if they do not manifest the Father, then by that defiance they reveal that they do not belong to the Father—they are not children of God. By their fruits you will know them.

The life of the people of God is stated in Acts: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (2:42), and “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” (2:46-47). From these two passages we learn that the life of God in the lives of believers is seen in doctrine, fellowship, communion, prayer, consistency, unity, praise, and a good testimony. These traits are not just true of the individual believer but are true of the congregation of believers. These are the marks of a true confession.

The people of God are the responsibility of God; they belong to Him. The Father takes care of the children. Their well-being is His concern; their destiny is hidden with Him. All that the believer is and all that the believer will become is the doing of God. It is the doing of God for His people, bringing to pass His perfect will for them.

Then I will say to those who were not My people,
“You are My people!”
And they shall say,
“You are my God!”
Hos. 2:23

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