What Does "Identity in Christ" Mean? Is it Biblical?
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Elizabeth Urbanowicz explores the concept of "identity in Christ," proposing a shift towards understanding it as "union with Christ" to emphasize its Christ-centric nature. In a world where identities are often self-constructed and unstable, Elizabeth examines the solidity found in our spiritual union, dividing it into three accessible components: being in Christ, being like Christ, and being with Christ. Drawing on specific Bible passages, she guides listeners into each aspect, offering a framework for parents to impart these truths to their children. Elizabeth discusses practical ways to contrast this eternal identity with the fleeting ones offered by modern society.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode. Today's question says, "What exactly does it mean when we say our identity is in Christ? I am trying to teach my kids this concept, but honestly I don't really know how to explain it or demonstrate/illustrate it. What does it really mean and what are the applications? And, most importantly, how do we instill this in our kids so that they are inoculated against the world's efforts to mold their identity to something else like radical gender ideology?" That is a long question. It includes a couple of different questions, but I think these are really important questions for us to think through, so we're going to dive down deep into them today.
Before we do that, if you have found the content of this podcast beneficial, I would ask that you consider liking and subscribing to make sure that you don't miss any future episodes. Also ask that you would invest the time writing a review so that more people can find this content so that we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.
Now, with this question, I'm going to have to be really careful because this is a podcast that we work really hard to keep at 20 minutes or under, and this is a question that involves a lot of theology. And those of you who know me personally, know I am a huge theology nerd. I love reading about theology, learning more about who God is, so I'm going to work really hard to both dive down deep but not go over 20 minutes with this podcast.
Now, there is a lot of talk nowadays about our identity in Christ and I think that this is mainly because the word identity is such a big term in our culture that our culture just views it as we are the creators of our own identity, we are the masters and commanders of our own destiny. And in the church we've taken that word identity and said, "Okay, our identity is in Christ." Where if we look in the Bible, while I do think it's accurate that the concept is somewhat there, that we are identified with Christ, I think a more theologically accurate term is our union with Christ, that we are united with Christ.
So rather than talking with our kids about our identity in Christ, I think we should talk with them about our union with Christ. And part of this reason is saying our identity is in Christ, that puts most of the focus on ourselves, which is exactly what our culture loves to do, but that's not what Scripture does, where when we say union with Christ, most of the focus is on Christ and the fact that we are united with him, and that biblically really is where our focus should be. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to take us quickly through three different things that I think our union with Christ biblically involves and then the implications of those.
So I believe that the three main components involved in our union with Christ involve three different prepositions, that we are in Christ, we are like Christ, and we are with Christ. Again, those three different prepositions, in Christ, like Christ, and with Christ. And so what I'm going to take you through now is just some passages of Scripture that I think we should take our kids to, to help them understand this union with Christ. So when it comes to us being in Christ, what we really need to focus on there is that we have been united with Jesus in his death, his burial, his resurrection, and his ascension. And so this is found in many passages of Scripture.
But an important passage I think we can take our kids to is Ephesians Chapter Two, verses four through six, which reads, "But God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace, you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." So we can read this verse with our kids and say, "Okay, what does this tell us about who God is and then who we are because of that?" And we can help our kids pull out all of the things that it tells us about God, and then how we were dead, but we've been made alive with Christ, we've been raised up with him, and we've been seated with him in the heavenly places. Another concept I think it's important for us to talk through with our kids about being in Christ is we have all the blessings of son-ship because we are in Christ.
And a passage we can take our kids to again is in Ephesians, and this is in Ephesians Chapter One, verses three to six. Paul writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the beloved." And this is another passage we can take our kids to and we can read that with them and then say, "Okay, what does this tell us about everything we have because we are united with Jesus?" And it talks about every spiritual blessing that God has chosen us, to adopt us as his sons, and that because we are his sons, we have all of this.
Another great passage that I'm not going to read for us today, but that we can take our kids to for this is also Romans Eight, which talks about how we have been adopted as sons and therefore we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Then, again, when we're thinking about being in Christ, this also means that we have been united with one another. Because we are in Christ and we are all in Christ, those who are Christians, we are united in a real way with one another. So, again, we can take our kids to the Book of Ephesians. Ephesians chapters one through three, actually the entire book of Ephesians, but specifically Ephesians chapters one through three, are great for just helping our kids understand what it means to be united with Christ.
This passage that talks about us being united with one another is in Ephesians Chapter Two, verses 14 through 20. In this section, Paul writes, "For he himself," talking about Jesus, "for he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who are far off and peace to those who are near, for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the cornerstone."
So we can take our kids to this passage and say, "Okay, what does this tell us about who we are and what we have in Jesus?" Because this passage is all about our unity in Christ. So, again, first thing I think that union with Christ means is being in Christ and those things that we covered where we have been united with Jesus in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. And because we are in Christ, we have all the blessings of son-ship and we have been united with one another. Then second, the second preposition is we are like Christ. Some of the things that this involves is the Spirit. God's Holy Spirit conforms us more into the image of the Son. The Spirit conforms us more into the image of Jesus. This is very clearly seen in Romans 8:28 through 29.
This passage says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." So not only are we in Christ and have we been united with him in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension, but right now we are being made more like Christ because the Spirit conforms us more into the image of his Son. And then, not only that, we strive to imitate Christ. So God the Father sends the spirit to conform us more into the image of the Son and then our part is striving to imitate Christ.
A great passage of Scripture to take our kids to for this is First John Chapter Two, verses three through six. In this, John writes, "And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this, we may know that we are in him. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." So the Holy Spirit conforms us more into the image of Christ and we strive to imitate Christ, to obey his commands. And then a third thing that this involves, this being like Christ, is that we share in his suffering.
A great passage for this is Romans Chapter Eight, verses 16 through 18, and this passage says, in this Paul writes, "The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs. Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." This is a great passage of Scripture we can take our kids to and say, "Okay, so what does this teach us about what it means to be a child of God? What does it teach us about what it means to be like Jesus, that in order to be glorified with him, we must suffer with him?" So we share in Christ's sufferings. So, again, being like Christ means the spirit conforms us more into the image of the Son, we strive to imitate Christ, and we share in his suffering.
Then the third preposition is with Christ. So we are in Christ, we are like Christ, and we are with Christ. And so this with preposition, what it means is that we have personal fellowship with Christ, that we are always with him. A great passage of Scripture we can take our kids to for this is First Corinthians Chapter One, verses seven through nine. And in this passage, Paul writes, "You are not lacking in any gift as if you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the..." Sorry, I read that wrong. I said "as if". I was thinking there, I was like, "Wait, this doesn't make sense." Hold on, we're going to rewind back to the beginning of verse seven. It says, "You are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful by whom you were called into the fellowship of his son Christ Jesus, our Lord."
That we have this personal fellowship with Jesus and we want our kids to see that so we can take them to this passage and again, have them look, read it, and then say, "Okay, what does this tell us about who we are because of Jesus?" Not only do we have personal fellowship with Jesus, but because of that fellowship with Jesus, we have fellowship with one another, as we discussed before in the first one that we are in Christ, that we have been united with one another, and we now have fellowship with one another. A great passage of Scripture to take our kids to is Romans 12, verses four through five. In this passage, Paul writes, "For as in one body, we have many members and the members do not all have the same function. So we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another."
So this is a passage we can take our kids to and say, "Okay, what does this tell us that it means for us and other Christians if we are united with Christ, that we are part of one body, that just as the heart or the lungs or the eyes or the hands or the feet or the mouth, any part of the body cannot function apart from the body as a whole?" So we too. We cannot function apart from the body of Christ as a whole. So these are three concepts that I think are so important to go over with our kids, that we are in Christ, we've been united with him in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. We have all the blessings of son-ship. We have been united with one another. We are like Christ. The Spirit conforms us more into the image of the Son, we strive to imitate Christ, and we share in his sufferings. And we are with Christ. We have personal fellowship with him and we have fellowship with one another.
So we want to make sure we go through these three different concepts with our kids. If you're working with younger kids, a great way to do this is to create hand motions for these three different prepositions. If we are saying "in", you can point your fingers toward yourself. We are in Christ, and then you can take your hand and you can put it over your face and just slide it down. Those of you who are listening, you can't see. It's almost as if I'm wiping my face and then say "like", saying that we are like Christ. And then you can take your hands and put them at the side of your body and have them go down and say "with". So "in", point it towards yourself, "like" in front of your face, and "with" to the side. We are in, we are like, and we are with Christ. Then like I modeled for us as I went through these different passages, go through these different passages with your kids and have your kids pull out the key concepts that we learn about union with Christ in each of these passages.
Now, I just modeled this for you very, very quickly, and unless you go back and listen to this and pause it and take notes, you're probably not going to remember all of the passages of Scripture. And so we don't want to go through these just really quickly in one day with our kids, but we're going to want to spend multiple days on this. You can even take a week at a time to cover each of the different prepositions. Say, "This week we're going to talk about what it means that we are in Christ", and then take three different days to go through those three different passages of Scripture that I mentioned and have your kids explore those and talk about what it means to be in Christ. The next week, focus on what it means to be like Christ and take a few days to go through those passages of Scripture, and then the third week talk about what it means to be with Christ and go through those passages of Scripture I mentioned.
And those passages of Scripture are key Scriptures, but they're not the only passages in the Bible that talk about these different concepts. So you can go through other passages of Scripture as well. Then as far as the second part of this question about, how do we use these truths to inoculate our kids against the ideas of the world, what we can do is, once our kids have a solid understanding of what it means to be united with Christ, once we've spent three weeks on this, then what we can do is we can compare and contrast this reality of what it means to be united with Christ with what the world says about who we are. And so we can talk about this. The world is going to tell us that our feelings, our inner subjective feelings are what determine what is true. The world's also going to tell us that we get to construct our own truth.
We get to determine who we are all on our own and then talk about, how is this similar and different to what we just learned about our union with Christ? And we want to make sure that our kids understand that the world's message of our feelings determining reality and us getting to construct our own reality, that is flimsy, flimsy ground. However, if we plant our feet firmly in the true reality of the fact that Christians have been united with Christ, this is solid, unshakeable ground on which to plant ourselves that cannot be shaken by anything. In Romans Eight, Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, and this is what we want our kids to understand, where if they plant their identity in their feelings, that is very, very shaky ground.
There's a book by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith that talks about relativism, this belief that all truth is relative and morals are relative. And the subheading of that book, it's called Relativism, and the subheading is Feet Firmly Planted in Midair. And I love that line, "feet firmly planted in midair", because that is exactly what our culture is preaching about identity and what it means to be human, that their feet are firmly planted in midair, which is a very dangerous place to be. Where when we look at the truth of the reality of what it means to be united with Christ, that is unshakeable ground. And then, as always, I would highly encourage you as you're going through this concept with your kids, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Because yes, we are required to put in this hard work of helping our kids understand the truth, but we cannot take a heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh.
We cannot open up and illuminate their eyes in the way that the Holy Spirit can, and so we need to be praying that as we are putting in this hard work of discipling our children that the Holy Spirit would be awakening them to the truth, that they would be reconciled in their relationship with God, and that they would joyfully enter into God's mission of reconciling the world to himself.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode. If you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a Future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to foundationworldview.com/podcast. As we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation in which you and the kids God has placed in your care find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of his Son. I'll see you next time.
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