“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27,28, NASB)
There is a discussion today among certain circles of the Body of Christ regarding the concern about divisions in the Church. It is not a new discussion or concern but one that has resurfaced. Differences over theology and religious practice, along with race and politics, have been used to divide the body of Christ throughout history. The church my husband and I attend is a multicultural church. As such, they have had discussions on racial reconciliation.
The dialogue of racial reconciliation is a good thing and necessary as believers seek to identify the things that divide us and choose to embrace the things that unite us. It has the capacity to remove the fear of the unknown and could cause us to reach for those who are different with love and compassion. More than discussion and education is required, though it is a good start, it requires a change from within. It is clearly not the will of God that we be divided on any earthly issue.
The power of the Church is in its unity among its diversity. It’s a conundrum. How can we be diverse in culture, backgrounds, opinions, race, gender, theology, political preference and status and still have unity? The church has struggled with this for years and the enemy of our souls – the devil has used this tension to divide us from the time of the Church’s inception when believing Jews struggled to receive believing Greeks into the fellowship.
The struggle was one of identity. It was a question of who were they to become? Since the Gospel first came to the Jews then the Greeks should have to become like the Jews, right? It may have made logical sense but that was not God’s plan. Just like in a marriage, two individuals come together to become one.
The unspoken question arises – Which one of them do they become? So, there is the rub. As a result, each one tries to change the other to be and do what the other is accustomed to experiencing. Therefore, the issues arise of how to squeeze the toothpaste, putting down the toilet seat, and even how to celebrate holidays along with various idiosyncrasies that are discovered. The truth is that both are to change into a new person.
They become one that benefits from the strengths of the other and learns to have grace for the weaknesses. Over time, they each begin to realize that they are better together. They become identified in who they are together more than who they are separately. So it is with the Church. The problem of divisions in the body on any front – racial, political, theological, economical has at its core the issue of identity.
How do we as individuals identify ourselves? How we see ourselves as individuals impacts the whole Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). When division began to brew among the disciples over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus corrected them on the basis of identity. He told them to identify themselves as servants. He said that the greatest one is the one who is the servant (Luke 22:24-27).
How we identify ourselves and with whom we identify will impact how we relate to one another and how we respond in challenging situations. To explore this concept, we will first look at how Jesus identified Himself and then what Scripture teaches regarding how we are to identify ourselves as believers and its outcome.
The Example of Jesus
Before Jesus began His ministry, God publicly declared Jesus’ identity at His baptism (Luke 3:21,22). God declared Jesus to be His Beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Immediately after that, the devil tempted Jesus in the area of identity – “If you are the Son of God…” and in the area of allegiance – “worship me and I will give you…” Jesus used the Word of God to address each challenge without defending His identity. He was secure in His identity, because it was eternal, having been declared by the One who made all things.
His identity was declared before Jesus even embarked on His ministry. It was unconditional. It was a fact, simply by virtue of His relationship with God, and His purpose for being in the earth. His identity was also revealed through Peter when Jesus asked the question, “Who do men say that I am?” The disciples each gave accurate answers regarding what the people were saying about Him.
Peter, however, by revelation of God, spoke the truth of who Jesus really was – “The Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus acknowledges the revelation and in turn gives Peter a new identity. He called him Peter which meant “stone or rock.” Jesus at that moment spoke of who Peter would become by the power of God (Matthew 16:13-18). Abraham also was given an identity by God based upon who he would become – “father of many nations”- by the power of God (Genesis 17:1-6).
The Church’s Identity
So it is with us as believers in Christ – the Church. We have been given a new identity. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) it states, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” The term “new” (Kainosin Greek) is brand new, newly made. W. E. Vine, in his Dictionary of New Testament Words, puts it this way: “new as to form or quality of different nature from what is contrasted as old.”
The word “creation” or “creature” (Ktisis in Greek) is “the act of creating as the creative act in process” (Vine). In Christ, we are made brand new. It is not a restoration or renovation. It is a total new build. The old has been bulldozed and the new is being built.
In God’s eyes and in eternal realities, it is completely built because we have been reconciled (made like Him in nature) by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin. Galatians 2:20 (NASB), communicates the same truth: “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” This is our new identity. We are now children (descendents/heirs) of God (John 1:12). As believers, we all share in the same lineage. No matter what our background may be, we are now family and we have the very nature of God within us.
We are a brand new house with a brand new head of household. We are not “cookie cutter” buildings because the builder has retained our same personality, looks, culture, talents, etc., but fresher inside built on a better foundation (Christ). We are placed in community (relationship) with one another with the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Our new identity is no longer found in the external things that are temporal, but in that which is eternal, namely, our relationship to God in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God, joint heirs with Christ, citizens of heaven, and ambassadors of Christ.
We are seated in heavenly places and our allegiance is only to God through Christ. We have one foe – the devil, not one another. Together in unity, we can thwart his activities. As he did to Jesus, the devil with his cohorts, challenges our identity by defining us according to the flesh and earthly things. He does this to cause misdirection while he continues with his dastardly deeds.
Let us not be ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The greater one is in us (collectively). 1 John 4:4 NASB states:
“You are from God, little children and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
Let us remember who we are and why we are here. We are collectively and individually children of God. Our allegiance is to God through Christ and we are here to be made into His likeness, which is love, and bring others into the family through living and teaching the Gospel of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20). The Apostle Paul in all of his education and religious advancement could have identified himself in any number of ways but he chose to identify himself as a bond servant of Christ and fellow believers as brothers and sisters.
How have you been identifying yourself? Where does your identity lie? Is it in your education, your job, your lineage, your race, your culture, your religious affiliation, your political preference, your status, your moral principles, your wealth or lack thereof? All these things are temporal and will be found inadequate in the presence of Christ. Faith, hope and love are the only things that will remain and the greatest of them all is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Let us lay aside the things that divide us and embrace the thing that unites us – our identity in Christ as children of God, and link arms with one another as the day of Christ’s appearing draws near. Let’s pray.
“God, my Father, I come to you humbly acknowledging that I have become distracted by labels and misplaced allegiances. I have allowed my preferences to separate me from my brothers and sisters. I repent and ask that You cleanse me and fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit as You perfect me in Your love towards others. I embrace my identity in Christ and the oneness with my brothers and sisters in Christ and the mission to live and share the gospel of reconciliation according to 2 Corinthians 5:19, 20 that You may be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Article Written by: Shermaine Jones