"People Of God"
There are two classes of people in the world: those acceptable to God, and those not acceptable. Peter says of the acceptable, 'Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.." (RV "a people for God's own possession") (1 Pet.2:9) These "people of God" are those "called out of darkness into his marvelous light." (vs. 10)
The "call" is that of the gospel of Christ (2 Thes. 2:14) by which all people are taught. (Jn.6:45) In one sense, this "call" is the dividing line between those acceptable to God, and those not acceptable; in that those who believe and obey God's call are acceptable, while all others are "in darkness" "without mercy". ( Note with care Co1.1:12-14 Acts 26:16-,18 Acts 2:37-42)
In the first century these "called out" people-these "acceptable" with God-- were called the CHURCH, i.e., the greek word by which they were then designated, is now translated as "church". (Note Acts 11:20-26. In Antioch those who heard the preaching of Christ, and believed, turned to the Lord; these made up the CHURCH.) (Cf. Acts 20:28 Phil. l:l; 4:15) Thus, the N.T. teaches that the CHURCH(i.e., those who make up the church) are the people acceptable unto God; while all others (those outside the church) are not acceptable.
Yes, the church is important! Yes, church membership is essential! Those who are not a part of the Lord's church are not a part of the people or God! THESE SEEMINGLY EXTREME STATEMENTS ARE "RADICAL" ONLY TO THOSE WHO FAIL TO GRASP THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCRIPTURAL DEFINITION OF "CHURCH" OR "PEOPLE OF GOD." I have not said you must "join my party" to be saved. I have not said that only members of a denomination called "Church of Christ" would be saved. But I must make it equally clear that no one is a member of the Lord's church -- that will be saved-- who has not "obeyed from the heart" the unadulterated call of the gospel. (Study Rom.6:16-18, 3-7 Acts 2:37-47)
Methodist sprinkling, Baptist voting, and "Church of Christ" communion are not gateways to heaven. We must learn to distinguish between being acceptable to a party of people, no matter what name they wear, and in being acceptable to God.
The "people of God" are likened unto a temple, in which God dwells. The foundation is Jesus Christ, and the walls are of lively stones-- faithful Christians. (1 Cor. 3:ll, 16-17 1 Pet 2:4-8) They are likened unto a kingdom of citizens, with Christ as King; (Col.l:l3) or a body of members, with Christ as Head. (Eph.1:22-23 1 Cor. 12:12-f.) The church belongs to Christ and congregations of Christians are called "churches of Christ" (Matt.l6: 18 Rom. 16:16) God's people are even likened unto the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23-f.) so it is easy to see why these people should wear His name.
But the people of God wear the name of Christ because they are His people-- they are not His people because they wear His name. (Maybe this should be re-read -- slowly!!)