The Two Identities
December 16, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Our culture is obsessed with identity. Whether it is race or gender or sexual orientation or political affiliation, identity markers have become the primary means to categorize people. Identity has become such an obsession that Carl Trueman, professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College, has said, “Identity politics is the new religion of the United States” (Identity Politics, Opium of the People).
Trueman uses the “religion” language because of what people are longing for when they latch onto identity markers. He says, “For many it is the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering…The one thing that binds all identitarian groups together is the human experience of wanting to belong and yet finding no place in contemporary society. The family is a mess. Religious institutions lack authority. The nation state is no longer a source of unity... And yet that basic human need to belong persists, a need that is now being met by new identitarian communities.”
The Bible does not use the word “identity” like the current culture, but it does address the concept. In fact, the Bible speaks about only two identities, regardless of ethnicity, religiosity, socio-economic status, or gender. According to the Bible, all people are either “in Adam” or “in Christ.” Either we are marked by the curse of sin or we are walking in the freedom of the children of God. Either we are in the domain of darkness or in the kingdom of the beloved Son. Either we are dead in our trespasses or we are alive together with Christ.
There are dozens of places in the Bible that emphasize there are only two defining identities, but let’s look at one. We studied Ephesians 4:17-24 this past Sunday in the sermon. Paul, writing to the saints at Ephesians, says, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do… but that is not the way you learned Christ!” In this context, “the Gentiles” are those who do not know God, they do not have a saving relationship with God. The state of this identity leaves them “darkened in their understanding” and “callous” and “greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” They struggle with and languish under the basic human need to belong.
Paul’s contrast in Ephesians 4 is that those who are “in Christ” no longer struggle like the Gentiles. They are fundamentally different. They have a new identity in Christ. With that identity comes the greatest gift of belonging that fully satisfies the longing of the human heart. Those in Christ are adopted as sons (Eph. 1:5), sealed by the promised Holy Spirit (1:13), seated with Christ in the heavenly places (2:6), God’s workmanship (2:10), built together into a dwelling place for God (2:22), fellow heirs, members of the same body (3:6), indwelt by Christ (3:17), and loved by Christ (3:19).
Do you see the contrast? This is what Paul wants to emphasize in Ephesians 4. This new identity in Christ is the blessing of the Gospel. We do not work for it or earn it. Paul’s exhortations in the rest of the letter reflect the call to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1). The strength and power to walk worthy has fully been given to those in Christ. The old self, corrupted through deceitful desires, has been put off. The new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, has been put on. We are called to live like the new creations we truly are.
Paul wants Christians to be very clear of their true identity in Christ. In this identity we find our desire to belong and the power to walk worthy. Let’s not get swept up in the modern religion of identity politics. Our greatest hope, and the only hope for a world walking in darkness, is to rest in Christ alone.