When I went for early voting, I was required to show my proof of identification. The photo driver’s license is standard for most governmental matters. When you conduct important business, apply for a passport, etc., proof of your ID is required.
Being able to verify one’s identity was also important in Bible times also. For example, when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity (in three basic stages: 536, 457, and 444 B.C.) they were identified by tribe and clan (Ezra 2:1-64). What may appear to be historical trivia turns out to be a demonstration of the importance God places on the identity of His people. Although over 42,000 returned, the Holy Spirit (who inspired God’s Word) deemed it important enough to note the names of tribes, clan leaders, and various occupations. This emphasis is repeated with the same list being recorded in the book of Nehemiah (7:4-66).
Some who returned to Israel, however, lost track of their genealogical records: “And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah. . .; but they could not identify their father’s house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel (Ezra 2:59). When the temple was rebuilt, Israelite ancestry was required to access the Court of Israel (which was closer to the sanctuary than the Court of Women and the outer Court of the Gentiles).
Furthermore, the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. Yet some “sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled” (Ezra 2:62). The only way to verify their claim regarding their ancestry and identity was through the priest’s use of the Urim and Thummim. (This mysterious device of “lights and perfections” was somehow used with the priest’s breastplate as a God-ordained tool for receiving answers from God – Exodus 28:30).
So the issue of identity was important to the worship and ministry of God’s covenant people in the Old Testament. Now let’s consider the importance of having an accurate spiritual identity as members of God’s church–recipients of His New Covenant (Matt. 26:28).
The apostle Peter exhorts Christ’s people to Godly living by affirming their new identity: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people … who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:8-10). The practical implication of this spiritual identity is that “you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (v.9).
Why is this an oft-repeated theme in God’s Word? Perhaps because we have a tendency to view our identity differently. Instead of taking our new identity by faith, we end up living “by sight” (contra 2 Cor 5:7). It is so easy to base our identity on factors such as gender, age, health, job, finances, marital status, race, education, etc. Even though such distinctives have some significance, they do not affect our essential, spiritual identity! This is why Paul wrote to the early Christian assembly in Galatia, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:27,28).
Like some of the Israelites of old, have you lost touch with the evidence for your identity? Reflect on these truths about your spiritual identity as a true believer in the Lord Jesus:
- IN CHRIST, you are born of God! “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
- IN CHRIST, you are a redeemed one! “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
- IN CHRIST, you are a new creation! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
- IN CHRIST, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit! “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
- IN CHRIST, you are a citizen of Christ’s kingdom! “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13,14).
- IN CHRIST, you are a saint! “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [sanctified ones], with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2).
Remember the priests who lost their proof of identity? They needed the revelation of the Urim and Thummim. But we have a much more extensive word of revelation–God’s completed Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16,17). So we need to study and claim the wonderful truths in the Bible about our identity in Christ! As we bear good fruit and the indwelling Holy Spirit gives us His inner assurance, we have manifold proof of this new identity (Rom. 8:16; Matt. 7:17).
When our daughter was a nursing student, she went with her college classmates twice a week for clinical training at hospitals. The students were identified by their blue uniform, name tag, and school patch. I noticed that the uniform gave the nursing students a sense of camaraderie and mission–they were part of a team.
Likewise, our identity is more than an individual one; we are part of the Body of Christ, with Jesus Himself as our spiritual head (1 Cor. 12:1-27). And what is our “uniform” as Christians? The part that is only visible by faith is God’s imputed righteousness (Phil 3:9); this is no less real than a professional’s uniform. And the part that is visible to the eye was described by Christ at the Last Supper: “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). Our corporate identity calls us who are justified to uniformly demonstrate divine love.
Fellow believer, do you feel unworthy of this new identity? Certainly! That is because it is based solely on God’s grace (Eph. 2:5-8). This doesn’t encourage pride; rather, it encourages grateful fellowship with God. Let us truly believe the proof of our new identity and live in light of it!
Copyright, 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for noncommercial use. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).
Truths That Transform is a ministry that produces documentaries about important social issues evaluated from a biblical perspective. See https://www.djameskennedy.org/truths-that-transform