In this series we have been discussing the topic of the believer’s identity in Christ. Much of this theme focuses on the multifaceted wonder of the disciple’s individual identification with Christ. Here, let’s consider the implications of the believer’s corporate identity–the identification with the countless others who are united with Christ through saving faith.
When I was in fourth grade I particularly looked forward to the day of the week when I had Cub Scouts. After school we would gather at the “den” house for our club meeting. We wore to school our club uniforms which included a blue scout’s shirt, cap, and neckerchief with the bronze wolf clasp. We enjoyed feeling special as club members, being encouraged to live by our creed and earn merit badges.
As I look back at those days I am reminded of the value of being identified with a special group. Later I had similar benefits as a high school band member. Playing trumpet was much more exciting when I was part of a sixty member group that was preparing for a concert!
When one of our church men passed his exams for the police force, he entered their training program. After completing his training he became an officer. Wearing his uniform and fulfilling his duties gave him a different view of himself as a member of the police force.
Christians have the privilege of identifying with a group that is more significant than any club, band, or other earthly organization; they are part of God’s church. This term “church” is a translation of the Greek ekklesia, meaning “a called-out assembly.” The Lord Jesus used this title for His redeemed ones in the foundational promise:” … on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
True believers in Christ are identified by several titles and images in the Bible. Called-out Ones are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” [Greek-“you” is plural] (1 Cor. 3:16). This is also true individually (1 Cor. 6:19). Peter combines our individual and corporate identities in the imagery of the church as a spiritual temple: “You also, as living stones [individual identity], are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood [corporate identity], to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Called-out Ones are also the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:16); the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2); a spiritual fellowship (1 Cor. 1:9; Eph. 4:4); a spiritual ministry (Rom. 12:6; Eph. 4:11,12); a spiritual army (Eph. 6:10-17; Acts 26:18); the Pillar and Ground of Truth (1 Tim 3:15), and the list goes on.
In John’s Gospel the Lord Jesus uses that metaphor which so clearly describes the Exchanged Life: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:5,8). Our spiritual union with Christ involves more than our identification with the vine’s stem; it includes our identification with fellow branches as well.
Therefore … Christ commands us to demonstrate His supernatural love for one another: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35).
Although Christ Himself is sufficient for our ultimate needs, He intends to reaffirm His love for His people through the mutual fellowship and care of His members on earth–the church. So the need for a hug, a friendly phone call, a shared prayer, and joyful laughter does not indicate a lack of Christ’s personal sufficiency. Instead, these relational needs recognize the importance of a corporate expression of His life. In Christian marriage, church fellowship, and team ministry we are to practice His presence.
Fellow believer, you are not a “Lone Ranger”. God has made provision to remedy any loneliness in your heart. Enjoy His presence through personal, intimate fellowship. Also, rejoice that you belong to the family of God (Gal. 3:26-28). Think of all the brothers and sisters you are blessed with–most of whom you have yet to meet!
Someday all of God’s people will be gathered together in the life to come. Our “uniform” will be our glorified bodies and the unhindered expression of Christ’s righteousness! This is our blessed hope: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
By the power of God’s Spirit, may we live in a way which reflects our individual and corporate identity in Christ.
We praise You Lord for including us in the called-out assembly which You are constructing. Incline our hearts to mutual acceptance and unconditional love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen
Copyright 1999, second edition, by John B. Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com.
Scripture quotations from The New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).