Our Identity in Christ: Preparation for Annual “State of the Church” Sermons
Written by Pastor Bob Vradenburgh
You have probably heard the old adage: “the best way to detect counterfeit currency is to be thoroughly familiar with that which is genuine.”
How true this is spiritually! In my next two Sunday sermons at Friendship, I will be issuing a major warning about several fashionable lies of Satan that have recently crept into the evangelical church and are masquerading as truth. These counterfeit ideas are taking even many conservative Baptist congregations by storm, because the rank and file in the pews do not suspect anything and don’t know where these ideas are coming from. Their proponents use Christian terminology and pay lip service to Christ, the gospel, evangelism, discipleship, and even the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. What could possibly be wrong with that?
What’s wrong? They are counterfeit! They are antithetical to the true gospel. They collectively constitute a Trojan horse within the evangelical church. They are mere theories and “vain philosophies” of men that do not pass the truth test and are not “after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
How should we respond? Do we need to be experts on “intersectionality,” “critical theory,” and “egalitarianism” in order to detect and reject these counterfeits of Satan? No! We simply need to be thoroughly familiar with what the Bible says about our true identity in Christ! Therefore I ask you to prepare yourself by pondering the following.
Our Identity in Christ DEFINES Us.
Upon conversion to Christ, one is to be no longer evaluated physically and externally. In 1 Corinthians 5:16 Paul said: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh.” We do not deny obvious distinctions (ethnicity, gender, social standing, dress, political or economic status, etc.), but these things have nothing to do with one’s relationship with God.
Others may see us through the physical and external lens, but we are not to see one another that way. Paul went on to say “yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Before his dramatic conversion, Saul of Tarsus saw Jesus of Nazareth as an insurrectionist, a rebel, and a heretic. He was dangerous, and so were His zealous followers. They had to be stopped and silenced – even if it meant death.
But when Saul had his “come to Jesus” moment on the road to Damascus, no longer did he see Jesus from this exclusively human perspective. He now saw Him as God incarnate – the Messiah of Israel, and the only Savior from sin for both Jew and Gentile! Likewise we need to see that our identity as followers of Christ is not determined by any group to which we belong or any shared cultural experience. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (v. 17). Our identity in Christ trumps everything!
Our Identity in Christ UNITES Us.
In Paul’s vigorous defense of the gospel to the Galatians, he said in 3:26-28 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Faith in Christ unites the slave Onesimus with his master Philemon. It brings together an anti-Roman zealot Simon and a tax-collector for Rome named Matthew. It overcomes the national prejudice of Peter so that he is willing to take the gospel to the household of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. The Holy Spirit through the gospel convinces of sin and the desperate need of God’s grace. The remedy is the same for all regardless of background or cultural experience. None is exempt. We all have a history, but we must say with the apostle, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil. 3:7).
Male and Female collectively constitute the IMAGE of GOD.
Gen. 1:27 states unequivocally, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” It took both Adam and Eve to convey that image. Something awful happened when our parents both fell into sin. That divine image was marred. God cursed both the man and the woman, as well as the earth and the serpent. This is why there are clearly distinguished complementarian roles for men and women, although both are equal before God.
One day the curse will be completely lifted. Jesus said that in the resurrection bodies of the saints in heaven, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30). The marred image of God is made perfectly whole!
We must think biblically, or we will act unbiblically. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” His new identity in Christ trumps all other distinctions and experiences. There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of heaven. The slave is the Lord’s freeman. The freeman is the Lord’s slave. The Messianic Jew is part of the true Church. The saved Gentile is part of the “Israel of God.” God gives His Holy Spirit to both believing men and believing women.
Yes, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” We all need to see each other the way that God sees us. And when we do, all class identity and externalities will disappear from our minds and our vocabularies!