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The Christian’s Identity

We are more motivated and encouraged to live effective Christian lives if we know who we are as Christians.  We stand a far better chance of reaching spiritual maturity and becoming productive for God if we value our identity.  As Christians, what we do for our Lord does not make us who we are, but who we are determines what we do.

Christ’s Prophecy

Coming to the end of His first visit to this earth, Jesus Christ was anticipating His return to His Father in heaven. He taught His disciples that He was not going to leave them as orphans but was going to ask the Father to send God the Spirit to accomplish some important tasks on their behalf.  Follow His words carefully!

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:16-20)

Notice the three spiritual transactions that Christ said would happen. “I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Let’s take a closer look at the thought of “you in Me”?

You in Me

Christ predicted that there was going to come a day when believers living on this earth would be placed into His body. “That day” refers to the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Just prior to the day of Pentecost, Christ ascended back to the Father from the Mount of Olives thus fulfilling the “I in my Father,” prediction. He then sent the Holy Spirit into the world to fulfill the rest of the prophecy.  In the realm of the Holy Spirit, believers were being baptized into the body of Christ.  We find the technicalities of the Spirit’s baptizing work in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. 

“For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Greeks, bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13)

All those baptized into Christ’s body make up the Church. What does it mean to be baptized into Christ?

Introduction to Baptism

When the word “baptize” is mentioned in conversation today, the first thought to come into the mind is water. Real baptism, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with water.

The word “baptize” found in the New Testament is a word that means “immersion for the purpose of identification.” However, we should not jump to the conclusion that the immersion always includes water.  There are both dry and wet baptisms mentioned in the Bible.

Dry Baptisms

  • The baptism into Moses (1 Cor. 10:1-2)
  • The baptism in one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Matt. 3:11)
  • The baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11)

Wet Baptisms

  • John’s baptism (Matt. 3:11)
  • The baptism of Christ (Matt. 3:13- 17)
  • Believer’s baptism (1 Cor. 1:13-17)

The baptism mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is obviously a dry baptism. The Christian is immersed into the body of Christ.  When this takes place, the characteristics of the one being baptized into (Christ) become the characteristics of the one being baptized (the believer).

In contrast, ritual baptisms mentioned in the Bible do use water. Water baptism is used to publicly symbolize real truth, but it is just a symbol.  Water baptism is a ritual that illustrates the real. The ordinance of water baptism clearly illustrates what happens when the Holy Spirit places a believer into the Body of Christ. It is a visible symbol for that which is not seen (2 Cor. 4:18).

This truth becomes a little more understandable when we realize that both real and ritual baptisms were practiced in the ancient world.   During Paul’s day, the word “baptism” was associated with a “laundry man.” The laundry man had a method of dying cloth different colors.  A tunic could be immersed into a vat containing various colored dye that caused the identity of the tunic to be changed from one color to another. This baptism illustrates real baptism.

Ritual baptism was also used.  A Roman soldier would ceremonially immerse his weapon (sword or spear) into a vat of pig’s blood. This was done to “commission the weapon” for its purpose of taking lives. The weapon did not take on the identity of the pig’s blood; it was just symbolic. This ceremony typifies water baptism in the New Testament.

In Union with Christ

Since our immersion into Christ is a “real” baptism, Christ’s characteristics become our characteristics.

  • His life becomes our Life

“And this is the record that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.” (1 Jn. 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:21)

  • God’s righteousness becomes our righteousness

”He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

  • His relationship to the Father becomes our relationship to the Father

”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.” (Gal. 3:26-27)

  • We become united with Christ’s death and resurrection

”Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Rom. 6:3-5)

  • We become a new creation in Christ

”Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Notice how Paul describes the believer’s unique position of being “united with Christ” to the Ephesian church.

“For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:30,32)

And to the Corinthian church:

“Now you are the body of Christ and members individually.” (1 Cor. 12:27)

Paul explained to the Corinthian church that because they were all immersed into the body of Jesus Christ there should be unity in the body and care for each other. The body is one!

”So that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:25-26)

This is indeed a mysterious truth and hard to understand.  But it is extremely important if we are ever to come to grips with who we are as Christians.

The Head of the Body is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the Father.  But His body remains on the earth (Eph. 4:16).  This is our true identity.

New Identity

Being placed into the body of Christ was such an important truth to Paul that it became one of his favorite ways to identify believers. He did not refer to us as “Christians” but rather as those who are “in Christ.”

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1)

“But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (2 Cor. 1:30)

“Now he who established us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” (2 Cor. 1:2)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1)

“Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” (Phil. 1:1)

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Col. 1:2)

“For you brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus; for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.” (1 Thess. 2:14)

So what makes us a Christian? We are not Christians because we attend a local church, or do good things, or live moral lives, or read our Bibles and pray.  These things we do because of who we are!

We are Christians because we have been baptized into Christ’s body. In Christ we have been made alive. We have died and been resurrected. We have received a relationship with God. We have received righteousness. We have become a new creation. Everything that we are and everything that we have is because we are in Christ. This is our real identity. This should encourage us greatly to begin to live out in life our true identity.