This is the third of three talks – the notes for the video recording of Talk Three
PAUL ON (CHRISTIAN) IDENTITY:
His earliest letter (AD 48), Galatians, is about identity: SON/DAUGHTER OF GOD.
The Galatian believers had been deceived: acceptance in Christ was conditional on one’s ‘works of righteousness’, a return to legalistic Judaism. Paul confronts and corrects them by teaching we are unconditionally accepted and justified in Christ by grace and faith. That comes with a new identity.
Paul’s climactic statement is Galatians 3:26-29, recalling Jesus’ baptism: In our baptism, on confession of faith in Jesus, we are clothed with Christ, i.e., we take on a new identity that transcends previous ‘labels’:
1) Cultural: “neither Jew nor Gentile” – racial reconciliation – neither white nor black.
2) Social: “neither slave nor free” – class reconciliation – neither master nor servant, rich nor poor.
3) Sexual: “neither male nor female” – gender reconciliation; it does not mean that our sexual-gender identity is removed in Christ, and nor does Paul’s statement justify non-binary identity as some use it to mean. Nor is our ethnic identity removed – it is transcended in Christ. People from every language, tribe, and nation will still be identifiable in heaven, as we see in John’s vision of God’s people around the throne (Revelation 7:9).
“Clothed with Christ” means we are heirs with Christ as God’s sons & daughters (Galatians 4:1-7).
THAT is our new identity, no longer a ‘slave’ – to sin, to the Law, to identities – but a ‘child of God’. Because “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts that calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:6-7).
Paul expanded on this a few years later (AD 52) in his letter to the Corinthian followers of Jesus.
He explains our identity as God’s NEW CREATION. So, in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:
“From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” – through the above identities.
“We no longer even regard Christ in this way” – as Jewish, male, rabbi – rather as The Messiah.
“Therefore, anyone in Messiah is a new creation, the old has passed, the new has come” – therefore, all the labels/identities we carry, that people gave/give us, that we ourselves choose, are transformed and transcended in Christ. We see ourselves and others as God does in new creation. The old labels through which we see and relate are passing away. The new has come.
God identifies us as his “Beloved” son/daughter… as “a new creation” (v.17), as “reconciled” with God (v.18), as “ambassadors of Christ” (v.20), as “the righteousness of God” (v.21).
Paul expanded on this later (AD 60) in Ephesians 1:3-14: Our SEVENFOLD IDENTITY ‘IN CHRIST’.
We are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ” (v.3). Paul then lists seven spiritual ‘blessings’ in Christ, which constitute our new identity.
- I am chosen in Christ (v.4): ‘known and chosen’ by God before the creation of the world.
- I am holy and blameless in Christ (v.4): ‘set apart for God’ as his ‘saint’, i.e., made righteous in Christ, without guilt or shame or blame.
- I am predestined in Christ (v.5): ‘marked out before-hand’ by God for his eternal purpose.
- I am adopted in Christ (v.5): ‘into God’s family… I am God’s son/daughter’, with all the privileges of “grace, which he freely gives us in his Beloved” (v.6, his Agapetos Son).
- I am redeemed in Christ (v.7): ‘bought out of slavery with a price’ – the ransom that Jesus paid for our redemption and freedom, through his precious blood.
- I am forgiven in Christ (v.7): ‘forgiven & cleansed of all sin’ (but, we keep clean and forgiven by walking in the light and confessing any sin we commit, 1 John 1:4-9).
- I am sealed in Christ (v.13-14): ‘marked by the indwelling Holy Spirit’, who is God’s ‘down-payment’ that guarantees my full inheritance as God’s beloved daughter/son. Our full inheritance is the future resurrection of our bodies to rule and reign with Christ.
HOW TO LIVE INTO THIS IDENTITY IN CHRIST:
Decide that it is true. God knows better about you than you do! We hold onto lies about ourselves that we carry since childhood. Jesus said that if you “hold to my teaching, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Choose to believe it! Faith is a choice. God is more trustworthy that your feelings or what others say about you. He declared you his ‘Be-Loved’… trust him… believe it!
Confess and speak it over you many times a day. This is how, practically, you receive and make it subjectively real. Speak God’s truth over you, over your mind, emotions, body, and relationships. Memorise and learn by heart Paul’s sevenfold identity and repeat it often.
Keep rebuking all internal voices and external messages that come at you in your mind, emotions, body, relationships, encounters with others, social media, etc. Resist anything that challenges your ‘new creation’ identity in Christ as God’s Beloved daughter or son.
Embrace your ‘Be-Loved-ness’! To be ‘Beloved’ is to be loved… to allow yourself to be loved. We don’t easily receive love due to our experience of (conditional) ‘love’ that has hurt us and broke us. We hold people, even God, at arm’s length, for self-protection. Consequently, we don’t know how to receive unconditional love. We fear pain, manipulation, and rejection. We cannot be vulnerable and trust and embrace true love. So, we have to learn to allow God to love us… in the silent whispers of our heart, through our times of prayer and scripture meditation, through caring others God has placed in our lives, and through being with him in creation.
From Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved. Hear these words from God in the centre of your being:
“I have called you by name from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests. I have moulded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness, and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch over you. You know me as your own, as I know you as my own. You belong to me.”