Paul's Passing Thoughts

TANC 2015, Andy Young – Session 3: The Believer’s Identity

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 3, 2015

This is session 3.  We’ve been challenging presuppositions regarding a believer’s identity, especially this notion that believers are sinners.  That’s what we hear most often in just about every Christian circle, in just about every church you go to around the world.  The emphasis that we are sinners.  That because we are sinners we still need a savior.  And of course this particular emphasis flows right out of the reformation.  This was taught by Calvin and Luther, this idea that believers don’t change, that they are still under law, that they are still in need of daily salvation.  We have a term for that, it’s called progressive justification.  And whether people want to admit it or not, anyone who echoes these kinds of sentiments – and this is just one indication of the kind of theological ignorance that exists among believers, they are actually espousing a progressive justification viewpoint with these kinds of statements.

So we’re trying to reverse the damage that has been done to the spiritual psyche of the believer as a result of years and years of having this mantra constantly pounded into our heads.  You are a sinner, you are a sinner, you are not perfect, you are totally depraved, your righteousness is filthy rags.  We need to stop telling ourselves these things, and we need to change the narrative and look at what the Bible actually has to say in this regard.

Session 1 was devoted to our identity with respect to the new birth.  What that actually means to be born again, and why that is important.  And then in session 2 we explored the contrast between the old and the new, and we saw how that the “New Man” is actually a reference to the one spiritual body that was made up of people from every nation and status in the world.  How we are no longer identified as either Jew or Greek, etc…and we become part of this New Man, the Body of Christ.

So now in this last session on the believer’s identity, I want to take a look at a few more ways that the scriptures refer to believers.  And these won’t spend as long as we did on the first two, so we should be able to run through these rather quickly, but that doesn’t make them any less important.  Each one of these is a critical part of our identity as believers.

So the Bible says the believer is born again, he is a new creature, he is part of the New Man, the Body of Christ.  What else is he?

A saint

How is that for a title?  Did you know you’re a saint?  Now here is a word that couldn’t be any farther opposite from sinner!  Do you know how many times believers are referred to as sinners?  I could probably point to no more than maybe 5 at most.  And even in those instances it is always in the past tense. Do you realize the frequency that believers are referred to as saints?  62 times in the NT, believers are referred to as saints.  62 times!  I’m not going to show you all of them, but here are a few select.  You’ll see that in just about every epistle the believers are addressed as saints in the salutation.

Romans 1:7  “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1Corinthians 1:2  “Unto the assembly of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”

Ephesians 1:1  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:”

Romans 15:25-26  “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.  26  For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.”

Ephesians 4:12  “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”

And we could go on and on and on.  Believers are saints.  Now, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, take a look at this word in the Greek.  Do you know what the word saint is in the Greek?

αγιος (hag-ee-oss) – “Holy”

Look at that.  Holy.  In each of the 62 instances it is this word for holy.  That means you could go through each instance, 62 times in the NT, and replace the word saint with holy, or holy ones.  The Bible calls believers “holy ones”.  You are holy.  Did you know that?  You are not a sinner, you are holy!  You are a holy one.

Now if any of you watching online now or maybe later on when this is archived, if you tuned in last year for the conference you will remember I talked about Sanctification.  And in my first session last year I walked us through scripture and we were able to derive a truly biblical, meaningful definition of this word holy?  Does anyone remember what we came up with?  If you don’t remember or if you didn’t tune in for that session, here is the definition we came up with for holy.

Holy – a place or thing which is distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everything else.  (profane)

And as we worked through our understanding of this word we discovered that the opposite of holiness was not sinfulness, but profane.  And profane in the Biblical sense has to do with this idea of being common, or ordinary, or just like everything else.  So, while it is true that believers are not sinners – we’ve already established that through the new birth – we have a special status.  We are holy.  We are distinct from that which is profane.  We are not common, we are not just like everybody else.  Some people like to use the term “set apart” as a means of understanding our sanctification, and that’s a good way to look at it because it encompasses this notion of being distinct.  Setting something apart makes it distinct.

So this takes us back to the sanctification issue that I talked about last year.  And I think it begs the question, if we are saints, if we are holy, if we are distinct, ought we to not act like it?  And I don’t mean we go around casting judgment on others and act like we are better than everyone else.  But if we are in fact holy, don’t you think our behavior should reflect that holiness?  See, we don’t let our behavior define who we are, but rather I think it’s the other way around, who we are should manifest itself in our behavior.  And you can think back to our last session on the New Man, were we had this contrast between behaviors that characterized the old man, like lying and arguing and licentiousness, and behaviors that characterize the New Man, loving each other, caring for each other, and so on.   And you see the motivation for this is love.  This has to do with love for the law and keeping the law.  Not for justification, but because we love our Father and we love others, so we use the law in this way, we keep the law out of a motivation of love.  And this is the reality of what it means to be a saint; to be a holy one.

So believer’s are saints.  What else are we?  How does the Bible refer to believers?

Oh I love this one.

A child of God

I know I have a lot of references here, but can we just take the time to read through these.  It’s such a good reminder, and it’s such a blessing!

Romans 8:14  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:16-17  “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Romans 9:26  “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:18  “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Galatians 3:26  “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 4:6  “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (daddy reference)

Ephesians 1:5  “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”

Ephesians 5:1  “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

1 Thessalonians 5:5  “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”

1 John 3:1-2  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…  2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God…”

And of course this goes right back to all the things we talked about in session 1.  How is it that we are children of God?  We are children by virtue of the new birth.  Do you see how significant the new birth is?

Being born again, being born of the spirit is being born of God.  Where God is your Father, and you are His child.  If you deny the new birth, you deny your identity as a child of God and you forfeit all the rights that go with that as being sons.

Now there’s a lot more that can be said about the significance of being a child of God.  You saw the reference about being an adopted child.  Now an adopted child is what, one who was not born to the parents who have legal custody of him, right?  So I don’t want us to misunderstand when Paul uses this terms referring to adopted children.  The new birth is a reality.  We are born of God in every sense of that word.  The new birth is an actual birth.  It is not something that we have already that God then accepts as His own and reforms it.

What Paul is referring to here to the Ephesians has to do with the relationship to Israel.  There was always this distinction between promises made to Israel that will be fulfilled with Israel, and how Israel would always have a claim to the promises and covenants that God made to her children.  And since the Gentiles were not part of Israel, what happens when a Gentile believes is that he is then made part of Israel, adopted in that sense, and so he then has access to those same promises by rights as an adopted child.  He said this also in Galatians that those who come to faith in Christ are considered the children of Abraham, adopted into the promises made to Israel.   And he elaborates on this even further in Romans.  So I want you to understand that this notion of adoption is a reference to being included with Israel in the promises and does not contradict the reality of the new birth.

There is another significance to being a child of God.  Let me ask you something.  Those of you who have children, when your children disobey you, do they stop being your children?  When your child fails somehow, does he stop being your child?  Or when your child grows up and starts his own family, even though he is no longer under your roof, does he stop being your child?  Does your child ever stop being your child?  No, and so from this we begin to understand this doctrine of eternal security.  You want to know why you can never lose your salvation?  Because you are a child of God.  God never disowns you.  You can’t be unborn into His family.

Now of course we know of instances where our children may not want to be a part of our family.  They may run off and not act like our child.  But they are still our child.  There is some aspect of this to be found in the parable of the prodigal son.   Now I understand that the main purpose of that parable was to draw a contrast between the Pharisees and the other religious leaders and the remainder of Israel, and that Israel was like a lost son who had run away from his Father.  Jesus said he came to save the lost children of Israel.  And so there is this picture of God calling out to his lost children to come home to him.  But if you notice something else in that story, the prodigal son never stopped being a son.  The Father looked for him every day to come home.  He was ready to bestow upon him the riches that were there for him.  And so in that sense there are sometimes believers who wander away and don’t act like sons, but they never stop being sons.

And I kind of touched on another point there; this thing about being a child has other significance too that I will get to in a moment.  But before we get to that, along with being a child of God is this next point.

A brother of Christ

This one might be a little controversial because it’s not something that you here brought up much if at all.  But I think it is a reality that is taught in scripture.  Scripture doesn’t say much about Christ being our brother, but there are a few passages that reference it.  Let’s start with this.

Matthew 12:46-50

“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.  47  Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.  48  But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  49  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  50  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Alright, so what exactly is Jesus saying here?  Let’s first understand that when we read the word “disciples” in any of the synoptic gospels that it’s not just a reference to the 12 disciples.  It is clear if you read the gospels that Jesus had a lot more disciples or learners that just Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the rest.  Whenever the writer wants to make this distinction he usually refers to them as “the twelve”.   But whenever we see the generic reference “disciples” that’s a reference to all of them.  And this was a number that reached into the hundreds at times.

So among these disciples following Jesus, are any of them his mother?  No.  So it’s easy to assume that when Jesus makes this statement in verse 49 that it is not a literal reference to his physical earthly family.   Not only that, but Jesus Himself states very plainly what he means by his statement.  He explains it.  Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.  We all have people in our lives that we regard as family who are not literally a part of our family.  I have a very good relationship with my wife’s parents, and I regard them as my mother and father ever though they did not give birth to me.  I even call them Mom and Dad.  That’s the kind of relationship we have.  That is how close we are.  You may have a best friend who you think of more as a brother or sister than simply a friend.  And of course this has to do with the nature of your relationship with them.

So the point Jesus is making in this statement has to do with how He views His relationship with those who do the will of the Father.  He views them as family.  Now by extension, we can take this one step further.  When we consider the reality of the new birth, that those who do the will of the Father are those who are born again, then in reality, we are then literally part of God’s family, including the Son, Jesus.  So as far as God’s family is concerned, we are all brothers and sisters, and that would include Jesus.  We can be considered as brothers and sisters of Christ.  And I believe in this passage here in Matthew, that is exactly what Jesus is talking about.  But what else does scripture have to say about this family relationship we have with Jesus?

Romans 8:29

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

I’ve underlined the key phrase in that verse.  If you study the grammatical structure of that verse, “firstborn among many brethren” is speaking of the Son.  And the preposition “among” is inclusive.  It indicates inclusiveness.  If you are among something you are part of it.  If you are among the crowd you are included in the crowd.  What Paul says here is that there are many brethren, and Jesus is one of them, more than that, he’s the oldest.  He is the firstborn.  And if we think back to our study of the Body of Christ, the New Man, His right as firstborn makes Him the Head.  How is it that Jesus is firstborn?  He was the first resurrected following the ending of the law.  And as such, each believer, by virtue of the new birth is resurrected just like Christ, we are born anew, as new creature that is not under law.  A new creature that is also a child of God.  And if we are a child of God, and Jesus is the Son of God, that makes Jesus our brother.  Our oldest brother, our firstborn brother.  We see this same idea expressed here as well.

Colossians 1:18

“And he is the head of the body, the assembly: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence”

Here again is that reference to Jesus being the firstborn, and His right as firstborn to be the Head of the Body.  If any of you out there are an only child and have always wanted a brother or a sister, think about what a wonderful reality it is to know that you are now part of a family full of brothers and sisters, and the God of Heaven is your Father.  And because of that, Jesus, the King of Kings, is your brother!

Now we’re talking about brothers and sisters and families, and I want to jump back to another point I alluded to earlier when we were talking about being a child of God.  I mentioned how that being a child of God has another significance to it.  As the Son of God, Jesus was entitled to certain privileges.  As the firstborn, He is made Head of the Body.  We have certain privileges as well, since we are also children of God because of the new birth.

Because of the new birth, the believer is an heir to the Kingdom of God.

An heir to the Kingdom

And this is the last point I have about a believer’s identity.  An heir to the Kingdom!  Take a look at some of these passages

Romans 8:17

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  Here’s another reference that alludes to Jesus being our brother.  We are joint heirs with Christ.

Galatians 3:29

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Being born again makes us part of Abraham’s children and eligible to participate in the promises and covenants made to Israel.

Titus 3:7

“That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

James 2:5

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”

Of course when you talk about being an heir to something that means that there is an inheritance waiting for you.


Ephesians 1:14

“Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

This is talking about the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is an earnest payment.  Like a down payment.  A good faith payment that there will be a full payment coming at a later time.  The Holy Spirit is a part of our inheritance given to us now as an indication of a promise of more that is to come later.

Ephesians 1:18

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,”

Colossians 1:12

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:”

Colossians 3:24

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

1 Peter 1:3-4

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,”

And there are several things that are in view here with regard to inheritance, eternal life not the least of them.  An incorruptible body, eternal fellowship with the Father.  We don’t really know what we will be doing for eternity, but we know for certain that there is a Kingdom that awaits us.  This is what Jesus came to earth to offer.  You may have heard pastors say, what did Jesus preach?  What was His message?  And they’ll say He preached the gospel.  We need to preach the gospel.  Well what gospel?  The word for gospel simply means a good message.  Any good message is the gospel.  The word for evangelist is literally “good messager”  To evangelize means to “good message” someone.  To deliver a good message.  To deliver the gospel.  But what gospel?

When you go back and read through the NT, if you study carefully, what you will notice consistently is that when a reference is made to the gospel, it is consistently referred to as the gospel of the Kingdom.  When Jesus is introduced in the gospels, when His ministry first starts, it says he was preaching the gospel of the Kingdom.  The apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom.  This is what we have to offer people when we tell them about Christ.  He came to offer a Kingdom.  And your ticket into the Kingdom is the new birth through faith in Christ.  The new birth makes you a child of God.  As His child you have an inheritance waiting for you.  You have the right to everything that the Father owns.  He bestows it upon you.

One day, this old heaven and earth are going to melt away with a fervent heat.  And in their place will be a new heaven and a new earth.  And the City of God, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and come down upon this new earth.  And God will make His tabernacle with man.  God will dwell with man forever and ever.  This is the city that Abraham looked for.  A city not made with hands, whose builder and maker is God.  And we will dwell there with the Father.  This is what we have to look forward to!  This is our inheritance as believers.

I hope that at the end of this study you have a better understanding of just who we are.  We are not sinners.  We are not totally depraved, unrighteous, wretched people.  We are new creatures.  We are born again.  We are part of the New Man with Christ as the Head.  We are God’s children.  Son’s and Daughters of the heavenly Father.  We a part of God’s family with Jesus as our brother, joint heirs with Him in a heavenly inheritance that awaits us.  This is the blessed hope that Paul spoke of.  Not hope as in a wishful thinking.  This is a hope that is a joyful anticipation of something that is assured.  As believers, this is the way we need to be thinking.  We need to be aware of just who we are.  This is knowledge that empowers us and affects everything we do in life.  We go into the world armed with this knowledge, think of how much more effective our witness and our testimony is to those we’re trying to reach with the gospel.  Think of how much better our own lives will be.  We focus on the good instead of evil.  We don’t rejoice in iniquity.

And I could go on and on here, but I hope you get the point. And I think that might be a good way to wrap up this session, by opening things up to you out there, and let me ask you, how do you apply this to your life?  What does this mean for you personally?  How does this affect you?  What ways does this make you think differently?  I leave you with these questions, so please feel free to answer and share with us any thoughts you might have.

Podcast link: listen or download audio file. 

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