Just who do you think you are, anyway?
How you answer that question is urgently important. For several weeks now I’ve been blogging through the book of Ephesians which is a book written to Christians to answer that question. Ephesians discloses to us who we really are in Christ. Now, we all have what I suppose we could call, “secondary identities.” “I’m a dad…I’m a mom… I’m a teacher…I’m an American” There’s nothing wrong with recognizing those secondary identities, but when I’m discussing “identity” with you in this blog series, I’m talking about the core of who you are. Identity with a capital “I.”
Who you think you are at your core matters. If one of your secondary identities becomes the core of who you are then you will open up a door to all kinds of problems.
Tim Keller defines sin this way: as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.
We all need reminders of what our true identity is bound up in. So far in our look at Ephesians chapter 1, you’ve discovered three amazing things about who you are! If you’ve missed any of these three truths, click on the links below.
As spectacular as those truths are, Paul is not finished. He’s not done recounting all the ways we are blessed by God and he’s not done showing us who we really are in Christ. So in Ephesians 1:7-10, Paul reveals three more things to us about your true identity as a believer.
1) You are redeemed
2) You are forgiven
3) You are not the main character in the story
For this article, we’ll just consider the first point.
You are redeemed
In him we have redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7)
Redemption is not a common word in our vocabulary anymore. But in the 1st century it was often associated with slavery. Sometimes people became slaves through military takeover. Sometimes, because they didn’t have bankruptcy law (no chapter 11 or 13), they sold themselves or their family into slavery because it was the honorable thing to do. There was no other way for them to repay the debt.
But if a relative heard about your slavery he could redeem you. He could buy you back and set you free. All the relative had to do was go to the local pagan temple and pay the redemption cost plus an additional cut. The temple kept the cut and gave the rest of the money to the slave owner. Therefore, in theory, you weren’t totally free from slavery. Instead, you were now a slave to that particular god.
The New Testament picks up on this language. Paul in Ephesians 2 says we were slaves to sin and slaves to Satan and now we are free. But we are not free to be autonomous and do our own thing. We are free….to be slaves to God!
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
There is no such thing as an autonomous, independent person. We Americans struggle with that concept because our country is built on the notion of independent freedom. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How we tend to interpret freedom in America is that we have a right to do whatever we want. “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say! This is America! I do my own thing and chart my own course.”
That’s how Americans view freedom. That’s not how the Bible sees it.
Every single person on this planet is a servant and has a master whether they realize it or not. And so the Scriptures tell us that man, pre-salvation, is a slave to sin and Satan. If you are not a Christian, your master is sin and Satan. You are a slave.
If you are a Christian, The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6 that you are not your own but instead you were bought with a price. Someone came and purchased you from your old master.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is warning the church to flee from sexual immorality. Now in America, sexual freedom is one of the biggest sacred cows you can think of. You can get away with a lot of things in this country but once you start trampling on someone’s sexual choices or criticizing them, get ready for a brawl! Get ready for someone to scream, “How dare you tell me what I can’t do with my own body?”
As far as believers are concerned, Paul thinks otherwise.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Notice that Paul tells the Corinthian church to glorify God in their bodies, to honor him by only expressing their sexuality in ways that God intended. But notice why. Paul doesn’t just give you a command in a vacuum. He gives a reason. He is essentially saying, “You may think your body belongs to you. You may think you are autonomous, but you aren’t. You are not your own. You have been purchased. You have been bought with a price. So for that reason, glorify God in your body. God is your new owner. God is your new master.” This is a huge part of your new identity.
God has bought you. And what price did God pay to make you His own?
In him we have redemption through his blood… (Ephesians 1:7)
As sinners and slaves to Satan, God said the penalty we deserved was death and Hell. There’s no way we could pay that price on our own in this life, which is why Hell is forever. So Jesus comes to earth as a Man and He dies in our place. As Jesus Christ hung on that cross, with blood pouring out of His veins, God the Father poured out the Hellish wrath that you and I should have gotten, on Jesus.
Make no mistake. The death of Jesus wasn’t an accident or a tragedy. It was planned by God. It was His rescue plan to release you from satanic slavery. Jesus deliberately gave His life for this very purpose.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
His life, His blood, was the ransom price to release you from your former condition. You’ve been bought by God.
Now, think about this. If this is a part of your identity, how might this change your life? How differently might you make decisions in how you live? How you talk? How you work? How you do marriage? What you do with your money, your time, your body? How might this alter the way you live, knowing that your life is not really your own but that you are a slave to Jesus Christ?
There have been times in my life where one of the truths that helped me to do what I should is the understanding that my life is not my own and I am not my own Master but I am a slave to Christ. I have confessed sin to people when I was terrified to admit the truth. I have forsaken sin that every fiber of my being wanted to commit. I have taken paths that some thought were crazy. Why? Because my life is not my own. Because part of my identity is bound up as a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns me.
If you’re a Christian, He owns you.
As a matter of fact, look down at verse 13
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)
This notion of sealing would bring a few images to the minds of Paul’s 1st century readers. One, is that often seals were stamped in wax on a document to show who it belongs to. Also, the image of animals being branded, being marked, would have gone through their minds. Of course, that’s a practice we can relate to as the branding of cattle still happens today.
And what does cattle branding indicate? It indicates ownership and protection. It was not uncommon even for slaves to be branded, to have a mark put on them signifying who they belonged to and who was responsible for them.
Paul is saying you, as a Christian, have been marked. You have been sealed with the Spirit. God has put His stamp of ownership and protection on you.
This notion of God marking His people is seen elsewhere in the Scriptures.
In Revelation 13-14, you’ll see that everyone has a mark. They either have the mark of the Beast, Satan’s mark, or they have the mark of the Lamb. If you have the mark of the Beast you are protected by the Beast and you can do whatever the Beast allows you to do. So in Revelation 13 you have people buying and selling in a world that is under the control of the Beast. You can live in that world and not face the wrath of the Beast. But guess what? You do have to face the wrath of the Lamb, who is Jesus.
Alternatively, the book of Revelation shows us that if you have the mark of the Lamb you’ll be protected from the wrath of the Lamb. You will be saved in the Last Day, but on the other hand you will face the wrath of the Beast. In the book of Revelation you see everyone facing someone’s wrath! Who’s wrath you’ll face depends on who you belong to. And of course, the wrath of the Lamb is far more devastating and terrifying than the wrath of the Beast, and unlike the wrath of the Beast, the wrath of the Lamb is forever.
This is why Jesus says elsewhere,
….do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
But for those of us who have been bought and purchased by the blood of the Lamb, the book of Ephesians tells you that you have God’s mark, God’s seal, which is the Holy Spirit.
…who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)
The Holy Spirit is like a deposit, a down payment, a guarantee that we belong to God and that we will receive a great inheritance from God in the age to come.
Not only that, but the Holy Spirit in us signifies God’s ownership of us and God’s protection over us. And the most important thing we are protected from is the wrath of God, and the reason we are now forever protected from the wrath of God is because God’s wrath has been satisfied in the death of Jesus. His blood purchased us from our slavery to sin which would have led to Hell. Thanks be to God that He paid the price. Jesus, on the cross, said, “It is finished!” And if it is finished, that means that the purchased ones forever belong to God and are forever forgiven to the praise of His glory!
Grace and Peace,