Discover Your Identity

As soon as a new baby arrives in the world, we try to discover who that child most resembles. Later we see traits that resemble adults we know who are involved in the child’s life. What’s your story?

  1. Who do people say that you look like or act like?
  2. What is one character trait that you hope to pass on to the next generation?
  3. Describe your family of origin. What made your family unique?
  4. How do you think that adopted kids feel about hearing comments about how much someone’s child looks like one of the parents?

Video Discussion:

  1. In what ways did you attempt to define who you were as you were growing up?
  2. How does that differ from how you define yourself now?
  3. What are some defining markers in your life?
    1. Women tend to define themselves in terms of relationships (I’m Scott’s wife, or I’m Bethany’s mom).
    2. Men tend to need more autonomy to strengthen their identity and create individuality (I’m a pastor, I’m a golfer, I’m a Packers fan).
    3. Definition of Identity Crisis: According to Merriam-Webster online, it is “personal psychosocial conflict especially in adolescence that involves confusion about one’s social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one’s personality.”
    4. Men can experience a loss of identity when they lose a job, or survive a divorce, or face a tragic loss.
  4. How do you describe your understand of “identity in Christ?”

Bible Study:

Paul wrote almost half the New Testament, covering tons of topics. He has likely influence the faith of Christianity more than any other human being. Let’s take a look at the event that cause Saul/Paul to have an identity crisis in his life:

  1. Acts 8:1-3
  2. Acts 9:1-31
  3. Philippians 3:3-6
  4. Acts 22:2-5, 28-29
  5. Galatians 2:18-20

Paul had every reason to take pride in his accomplishments, he was a guy who made it to the top of his profession, but none of those achievements mattered from God’s point of view. Take a look at how Paul sums up what happened to him (Philippians 3:7-10).

  1. Are you able to look at your own identity markers and say the same thing to God?
  2. Imagine for a moment that you are holding that which is most precious to you, it is possible for it to be a total loss compared to knowing Christ?
  3. How does this all play out in practical everyday life?

Take a look at Jeremiah 2:4-13. To whom is God speaking? Israel should have known better, but they chose to forsake God for wooden idols. An Idol is simple something that receives your faith other than God. It’s not always a false religion; it can be a job, a relationship, a position or status, a marriage, a possession. These are the things that begin to define our identity and relationships other than Jesus. Which identity marker do you struggle with the most? Which item has become to you as a broken cistern?

New Creation in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17

There are two Greek words which are translated “new” in the Bible. The first, neos, refers to something that has just been made, but there are already many others in existence just like it. The word translated “new” in this verse is the word kainos, which means “something just made which is unlike anything else in existence.” In Christ, we are made an entirely new creation, just as God created the heavens and the earth originally—He made them out of nothing, and so He does with us. He does not merely clean up our old selves; He makes an entirely new self. When we are in Christ, we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). God Himself, in the person of His Holy Spirit, takes up residence in our hearts. We are in Christ and He is in us.

Regeneration in Christ:

In Christ, we are regenerated, renewed, and born again, and this new creation is spiritually minded, whereas the old nature is carnally minded. The new nature fellowships with God, obeys His will, and is devoted to His service. These are actions the old nature is incapable of doing or even desiring to do. The old nature is dead to the things of the spirit and cannot revive itself. It is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and can only be made alive by a supernatural awakening, which happens when we come to Christ and are indwelt by Him. Christ gives us a completely new and holy nature and an incorruptible life. Our old life, previously dead to God because of sin, is buried, and we are raised “to walk in newness of life” with Him (Romans 6:4).

New Status in Christ:

In our relationship with God, we are no longer His enemies, we are His children.

  1. Romans 3:10-11 describes the old self: “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
  2. Romans 5:10 describes the old self as enemies of God.
  3. Hosea 2:23 predicts the change of God’s heart toward us: “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.'”
  4. Galatians 3:26 announces the arrival of our new position in Christ: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Set Free in Christ:

If we belong to Christ…

  1. We are united to Him and no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:5-6)
  2. We are made alive with Him (Ephesians 2:5)
  3. We are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29)
  4. We are free from condemnation and walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1)
  5. We are part of the body of Christ with other believers (Romans 12:5).

The believer now possesses a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19) and has been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3).

My Identity in Christ:

  1. I am God’s child (John 1:12)
  2. I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
  3. I am a friend of Christ (John 15:15)
  4. I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  5. I am a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  6. I have assurance of God’s best (Romans 8:28)
  7. I have redemption (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  8. I have purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  9. I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
  10. I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
  11. I have victory (1 John 5:4)
  12. I am blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8)
  13. I have been set free (Romans 8:2)

Think About It:

  1. Which of these claims is most comforting to you?
  2. Which of these claims is most difficult for you?
  3. What part of your life will you surrender to Christ? (this does not mean you can walk away from your roles or relationships… but consider it loss in relation to the fact of loving and knowing Christ.

Covenants in the Bible

Covenant is a pact, treaty, alliance, or agreement between two parties of equal or of unequal authority. The covenant or testament is a central, unifying theme in Scripture, God’s covenants with individuals and the nation Israel finding final fulfillment in the new covenant in Christ Jesus. God’s covenants can be understood by humans because they are modeled on human covenants or treaties.

The Bible speaks of seven different covenants, five of which God made with the nation of Israel. Five are unconditional in nature, which means regardless of Israel’s obedience or disobedience, God will fulfill these covenants with the nation of Israel. One of the covenants is conditional, meaning this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on Israel’s obedience or disobedience.

The Adamic Covenant comes in two parts: the Edenic Covenant (innocence – Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17) and the Adamic Covenant (grace – Genesis 3:16-19). The Edenic Covenant outlined man’s responsibility toward creation and God’s one rule regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, and includes God’s provision for that sin (Genesis 3:15).

  1. God’s Promise – Satan and mankind will be enemies.
  2. God’s Sign – Pain of childbirth, toil in work (Genesis 3:16, 17).

The Noahic Covenant was an unconditional covenant between God and Noah and mankind. After the Flood, God promised that He would never again destroy all life on earth with water. He gave the rainbow as the sign of that covenant and a reminder that God can and will judge sin (2 Peter 2:5).

  1. God’s Promise – God would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
  2. God’s Sign – Rainbow (Genesis 9:12-13).

Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15:12-21; 17:1-14; 22:15-18). In this covenant, God promised that He would make Abraham’s name great (Genesis 12:2), that Abraham would have numerous descendants (Genesis 13:16), and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5). God also made promises regarding the nation of Israel. Geographical boundaries of the Abrahamic Covenant are laid out in Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21. In the Abrahamic Covenant, all the families of the world will be blessed through the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). This means the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.

  1. God’s Promise – Abraham’s descendants would become a great nation if they obeyed God, and He would be their God forever.
  2. God’s Sign – Smoking fire pot and blazing torch (Genesis 15:17-18).

Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The Palestinian Covenant amplifies the land aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant. In this covenant, God, because of the people’s disobedience, would cause them to be scattered around the world (Deuteronomy 30:3-4), and He would eventually restore the nation together (Deuteronomy 30:5). When the nation is restored, then they will obey Him perfectly (Deuteronomy 30:8), and God will cause them to prosper (Deuteronomy 30:9). See also Deuteronomy 28, 29. Because of this covenant, the right of the Jews to live in the land is conditional upon their behavior. This partly conditional covenant has several parts:

  1. Dispersion of the Jews was to be a consequence of disobedience.
  2. Future repentance will be accomplished by God.
  3. God will regather his scattered people and restore them to the land.
  4. The people of Israel will be brought to the Lord as a nation.
  5. The enemies and oppressors of Israel will be punished.
  6. Future national prosperity and preeminence is guaranteed.

Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 11). The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant that either brought God’s blessing for obedience or God’s cursing for disobedience. The ten commandments (found in Exodus 20) is part of the covenant. The history books of the Old Testament (Joshua-Esther) show how Israel succeeded at obeying the law or how Israel failed at keeping the law. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 details the blessing/cursing theme.

  1. God’s Promise – Israel would be God’s special people, a holy nation. But they would have to keep their part of the covenant – obedience.
  2. God’s Sign – The Exodus, and gathering for worship at Sinai (Exodus 3:12).

Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16). The Davidic Covenant expands the seed detail which was part of the Abrahamic Covenant. The promises to David in this passage are significant because God promised that David’s physical line of descent would last forever and that his kingdom would never pass away permanently (2 Samuel 7:16). This kingdom would have a ruling individual exercising authority over it (2 Samuel 7:16). The Davidic throne has not been in place at all times, but there will be a time when someone from the line of David will again sit on the throne and rule as king. This future king is Jesus (Luke 1:32-33).

  1. God’s Promise – Salvation would come through David’s line through the birth of the Messiah.
  2. God’s Sign – David’s line continued and the Messiah was born a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12).

New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New Covenant is one made with the nation of Israel and speaks about the blessings which are detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant. In the New Covenant, God promises to forgive sin and there will be a universal knowledge of the Lord (Jeremiah 31:34). It even appears that the nation of Israel will have a special relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:33).

  1. God’s Promise – Forgiveness and salvation are available through faith in Christ.
  2. God’s Sign – Christ’s resurrection.

How does the church of Jesus Christ relate to the covenants? Some people believe that the church fulfills the covenants and God will never deal with Israel again. This is called replacement theology and has little scriptural evidence. Others believe that the church initially or partially will fulfill these covenants. Many believe that the church shares in the covenants in some way, while others believe that the covenants are for Israel and for Israel alone.

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Paul’s Thinking About Christ

Firstly, Paul was not a systematic theologian with a vast library in his office. Paul first and foremost argued from experience. It is true to say that Paul’s interest was not in theology, but in religion. He was concerned for a well balanced faith by which men might live.

Secondly, there was nothing static about Paul’s belief. He was faced with ever changing situations and human experiences. Basically, Paul’s theology was an adaptable theology. It was always deepening and developing to meet new situations which the life of the growing church brought to him.

The two exceptions to mentioning Jesus: 2 Thessalonians and Philemon

Jesus as the Son of God: a unique relationship

  1. And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [that is] Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
  2. To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, (Galatians 1:16)
  3. “I have been 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. (Galatians 2:20)
  4. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4)
  5. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  6. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us–by me and Silvanus and Timothy–was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19)
  7. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; (2 Corinthians 1:3)
  8. Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, (Romans 1:3)
  9. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the [preaching of the] gospel of His Son, is my witness [as to] how unceasingly I make mention of you, (Romans 1:9)
  10. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
  11. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3)
  12. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, (Colossians 1:3)

Jesus is never equated with God: but Paul tries to define the relationship between God and Jesus Christ.

  1. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)
  2. If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

In a sense, Jesus is subordinate to God: nothing distracted Paul from the supremacy of God alone.

  1. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
  2. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)
  3. Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:22-23)

Pre-existence of Jesus Christ: a characteristic of John’s writing.

  1. And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)
  2. [This was] in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Ephesians 3:11)
  3. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

Paul’s summary:

  1. God was always like Jesus: not Old Testament law against New Testament grace.
  2. The doctrine of the Trinity: Father (life-giving work in creation), Son (saving work of redemption), Spirit (illuminating work of revelation). We must avoid this thought as a series in time.
  3. To speak of the pre-existence of the Son is to say that God did not begin to redeem men when Jesus came into the world, but that throughout all ages the redeeming power and the sacrificial work of God had been at work.

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.