Our Identity in Christ
Who are we? Where do we gain our value as individuals? These are important questions for living a life of meaning. Where do we find the answers? In the Scriptures, God supplies the essentials for discovering our true significance and worth. The first two chapters of Genesis recount humanity’s creation, revealing our intended purpose (to honor God) and our value (that we are a special creation of God).
The first created man and woman lived in unclouded, intimate fellowship with God. In all of God’s creation, no creature compared to them, complete and perfect in the image of God, they were designed to reign over all the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). Adam and Eve’s purpose was to reflect the glory of God: His holiness, love, patience, wisdom, forgiveness, faithfulness and grace. Humanity was to be the showcase for God’s glorious character.
Our identity, significance, and purpose are founded on the truth that each and every person is created in the image of God. In Genesis 1:26-28 we read: “Then God said ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
What an awesome truth to consider! Scripture speaks to our uniqueness. There is something of the divine stamped upon our souls. The image of God is not merely something we possess but is the essence of who we are.
While we have been created in the image of God, to be His representatives and to reflect His character, we also realize that sin has distorted, defaced, and damaged God’s image within us. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); therefore, the image of God has been marred in each of us. What is sin? Sin is rebellion against the Maker of heaven and earth; it is desiring to be our own god and not giving the One who created us His rightful place in our lives.
Because of sin, our fellowship with God has been broken, our morality has been perverted, our personalities damaged, our relationships compromised, our emotions distorted, our lives devalued, and the knowledge of God replaced by false philosophies and false gods.
However, there is good news, God did not give up on us. Jesus took our place on the cross, experienced the death that we deserved, and died for our sins. We can now identify with Christ as our representative. Christ’s death is the most overwhelming evidence of God’s love for us. Romans 5:8 tells us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we receive this gift of grace and forgiveness, we are made new creation in Christ Jesus: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Thankfully, in Jesus Christ, the damaged image of God within us can be restored. Carl F. Keil and Johana F. Delitzsch write that the “concrete essence of the divine likeness was shattered by sin, and it is only though Christ, the brightness of the glory of God and the expression of His essence, that our nature is transformed into the image of God again.”
As we bring our marred and damaged image and surrender ourselves to Jesus, God’s image in us is renewed day-by-day as we walk with Him in restored fellowship (Colossians 3:10). In Romans 8:29, Paul reminds us that we can be “conformed to the image of his Son.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can become more and more like Him with ever-increasing glory! Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
The truth that we are bearers of His Image will shape our view of ourselves and also our behavior toward one another. Since every person is stamped with the image of God, every life is sacred, precious, and valuable. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. The people you see every day, even the ones to whom you give little regard, are ones that are going to live forever either under salvation or judgment. Even the most obscure person is not ordinary in God’s eyes.”
Therefore, we are to treat one another with dignity and worth. In 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul states: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” We should view every person as a brother or sister and as cherished children of God.
Through the presence, work, and power of the Holy Spirit, the image of God is being restored in us. As we are transformed and changed, our lives will reflect His glory. We have the privilege of loving others as God loves them, honoring them as His image bearers, and pointing them to the restoring, transforming, and renewing power of Christ.
Who are we? Where do we gain our value as individuals? Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (MSG).
In this we rejoice . . . we are children of God!
David Graves has served the Church of the Nazarene as a general superintendent since 2009.