I hear people much of the time using this phrase, “My identity in Christ,” but is that even biblical, and if so, what does it mean? What does it mean to be “in Christ”? And how do they mean it when they use that phrase?
Identity in Christ
Generally speaking, when people talk of their “identity in Christ,” they are usually speaking of some kind of status that they believe they have in Christ through faith in him that is separate from their behaviors. In fact, it is often used as a means of excusing away sinful behaviors by stating that who they are in Christ overrides how they are actually living.
I hear it all the time. In fact, many of them are being taught that if they begin to feel guilty about their sinful lifestyles that they should just claim who they are in Christ to alleviate the guilt. And they will even teach that God can no longer see when they sin when they are “in Christ,” for all that he sees is Jesus when he looks at them, and so he delights in them.
But being “in Christ” is not just a status that we wear, and it is not without stipulations, i.e. conditions. We can’t just pray a prayer to receive Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives and now we are “in Christ” for eternity regardless of how we live our lives. There are biblical requirements to be “in Christ” and for us to remain in Christ, too.
So, we can’t just claim who we are in Christ when it suits our purposes, for that may be indicative of the fact that we are not truly “in Christ.” For, being “in Christ” involves repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord, not just once, but persistently and continuously until the day we die or until the day that Jesus returns and he takes us home to be with him forever.
For, to be “in Christ” it means we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. It means that sin is no longer our master and we are no longer its slave, but now we are becoming slaves to God and to his righteousness.
So, that means that we are to no longer let sin reign in our mortal bodies so that we obey its passions, for sin shall have no more dominion over our lives. For we are slaves of the one we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness, sanctification, and eternal life with God.
So, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For, if any of us are in Christ, the old has passed away and the new has come. Thus we are new creations, not like we were before.
Crucified with Christ
Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
If we have been crucified with Christ we have died with Christ to sin and we have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him. Our new lives are not like our old lives. We are no longer the ones in charge. Our flesh no longer has dominion, for we died with Christ to sin. Now we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and we yield control of our lives over to him.
We are now God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. So, by the Spirit we are putting off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and we are being renewed in the spirit of our minds, and we are putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
So, what does it mean to be “in Christ”?
• Crucified with Christ in death to sin (Rom 6:3-7)
• Raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-7)
• Dead to sin and alive to God (Rom 6:11)
• Obedience to Christ leading to righteousness (Rom 6:16)
• Set free from law of sin and death (Rom 8:2)
• Walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit (Rom 8:1-17)
• Minds set on God’s Spirit (Rom 8:1-17)
• Debtors not to live according to the flesh (Rom 8:12-13)
• By the Spirit put to death deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13)
• A new creation: the old gone, the new come (2 Co 5:17)
• Crucified with Christ; no longer I live, Christ in me (Gal 2:20)
• Faith working through love (Gal 5:6)
• Faithful in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:1)
• In Christ, we might be to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:12)
• We are his workmanship, created for good works (Eph 2:10)
• Truth in Christ – put off old self, put on new self (Eph 4:20-24)
• Not living in sin, not making sin practice (Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-5)
• Suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus (Php 1:29)
• Have same mind and attitude as Jesus (Php 2:5-8)
• Saved by Grace and called to holy calling (Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9)
Not Just a Status
So, “In Christ” is not just a status that we wear so that when we feel guilty about sinning against God we can alleviate that guilt by claiming who we are “in Christ.” And God does indeed see when we sin against him, and we are all going to be judged by our deeds (Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8).
“In Christ” cannot be separated from what we do. For, if we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction. But if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if we walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit, it will result in eternal life with God.
Who we are is more than just a relationship with Jesus Christ. Who we are is what we do. If we make a practice of lying, we are liars. If adultery is what we practice, we are adulterers. And if righteousness is what we practice, then we are righteous (1 Jn 3:4-10). Now, we can’t be righteous in our own flesh just by doing “good deeds.” We are made righteous in Christ Jesus via faith in him, but that faith must die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. We are “in Christ” by how we live for Him by faith in Him.
Lord, Move Me
An Original Work / October 16, 2011
Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.
Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.
Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.