Why look anywhere else?
Will Warren takes a look at what the apostle Paul says about our identity in Christ in the book of Ephesians.
Friedrich Schleiermacher was one of the theological giants of the nineteenth century. It is said that towards the end of his life, he was out walking when he was approached by a police officer who suspected he was a vagrant. The officer challenged him with the question “Who are you?” Despite his years of study and writing, Schleiermacher apparently gave the rather forlorn answer, “I wish I knew”.
It is hard to think of a more important question to ask than “Who are you?” And yet equally it is hard to think of one that is more difficult to answer. Despite social media and numerous opportunities to shape our identity, few of us seem any clearer about who we really are.
If we are Christians, however, the answer is more wonderful than we could dare to dream. In Christ our identity is transformed forever. The apostle Paul highlights three aspects of what that means in the first chapter of Ephesians.
First, he tells us we are chosen by the Father (v3–6). Our Father set his love on us even before the world was created. Why? Not because of anything we had done, but out of the riches of his grace, and in accordance with his pleasure and will. He chose us with a glorious purpose: to be “holy and blameless”, and even better, to be adopted into his family (v5). Like the old Cornish tin miner turned preacher Billy Bray, we can say, “I am the son of a King!” God claims us as his very own.
How that has come about, Paul explains for us in the second aspect that he highlights. We are redeemed by the Son (v7–8). By nature, we are in slavery to sin. We cannot save ourselves. Yet in his kindness, God has paid the ransom and set us free; “redeemed” us.
Astonishingly, though, what secured our freedom was not money or clever negotiating, but the blood of his Son. On the cross, he died the death we deserved to die, that we might live in the freedom we did not deserve to enjoy; freedom from our guilty past, freedom from our sinful habits, and freedom to serve him.
How can we be sure that this is not simply wishful thinking? We can be sure because of the final blessing Paul reminds us of: the blessing that we are sealed with his Spirit (v9–14). In ancient times, a seal was a guarantee of authenticity. The Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians is God’s assurance that we really do belong to him, and his “deposit” guaranteeing that all he has promised will come to pass.
The world might encourage us to find our identity in our job, our bank balance, our relationship status or our appearance. But Jesus encourages us to find it above all else in him. Why would we look anywhere else?
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Articles in this issue...
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Anna Walker unpacks a new resource from CPAS aimed at helping 14 to 18-year-olds explore the God possibilities for their lives.More
Five journeys, one destination
Bishop Alan confirmed five adults, ranging in age from late twenties to early seventies, in All Saints, Chedgrave earlier this year. Two of them were also baptised. Five people, five different journeys. The Revd Alison Ball describes the journeys that they local church family have walked with them for several years.More
The homecoming: a life-long journey of faith
The Venerable David Hayden describes his journey back to his roots in Oulton Broad and the faith that has formed the path.More
Who do you think you are?
Sixty per cent of girls opt out of everyday activities because of how they think they look. Around half of adolescent boys are unhappy with their bodies, and young people's happiness is a its lowest since 2010. Jonathan Richardson explores what shapes our sense of identity.More
Living out the gospel by word and example
Archdeacon Steven explores how our faith influences the way we look at ourselves and how others view us.More
Vocation and identity in Christ
Jennie Cummings-Knight examines the different calls on our life that can shape our identity.More
Cursillo – Christian living
Biddy Collyer listens to the experience of people whose lives have been transformed through Cursillo; a useful way of exploring one's identity in Christ.More