Sometimes, there could be many reasons to be insecure, but as a Christian we have every reason to look beyond the mild and even more acute insecurities we face.
Following on from this post, I wish to look at our identity in Christ and why we have every reason to feel secure. To do this I will spend most of my time in Colossians, however the Bible, especially with New Testament goes to great details in describing the new identity that Christians have in Christ because of Christ…
1. Qualified & Delivered
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In the book of Colossians, Paul is writing to a group of Christians that he has never met personally, a letter to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. He is consistently praying for these people in these ways (verses 9-12):
- Filled with the knowledge of his will
- Bear fruit in every good work
- Increasing in the knowledge of God
- Being strengthened with all power
- Filled with thankfulness
These characteristics are not what defines or anchors the identity in Christ, but reflects this identity. And what is this identity in Christ firstly?
It is being qualified (verse 12). It is God the Father who qualifies to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. In an age of meritocracy, rather than being qualified on our individual or even collective/team effort into entering God’s kingdom, it is given to us by God’s grace. The word “qualified” in the original Greek language, carries the meaning of adequacy, sufficient or simply “enough” (the only other usage in the New Testament is 2 Corinthians 3:6).
It is also being delivered (verses 13-14), and transferred. The first term refers to a rescue, our identity as Christians, is firstly as the rescued not as the rescuer (that is we don’t save ourselves). The second term refers to a change in allegiances, a change in the team colours, and this idea and theme is brought up later in the letter.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. Colossians 1:21-22
Not only is there a status change, from being alienated to being reconciled, there is a corresponding change of character from being evil, and doing evil, to being holy and blameless. From being apart from God, to being set apart before Him.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
There also seems to be this glorious work of Christ being present in the believer. This verse is one of the key statements in the letter.
3. United with Christ
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10
Christ is the exact representation and fullness of God, and yet we have been filled in him. But what does this mean?
Firstly consider firstly Paul’s comment on his own experience:
“ Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” Colossians 1:24
and also the passage in Revelation:
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:10-11
Now Paul is not saying that Christ’s suffering was not complete and that he is required by suffering to add to the death of Christ. (Other parts of the Bible make it clear that this cannot be the case). It seems to be related to this idea of Paul filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions within Him. (see Revelation 6:10-11).
So it makes sense that in being united to him in every way, through unity to him, in baptism, and in his death and resurrection. Dying and being made alive as he is raised by the Father, is part of the Christian identity…
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Lets look at the different things here…
(a) The Circumcision:
To address what Paul is saying more fully, we can consider that we are united to Christ in every way, but interesting how Paul refers to a spiritual circumcision. We recall from the Old Testament, that the ritual of circumcision was a distinct way of marking God’s people apart from the rest of humanity, as people of the covenant community, those to whom trust & hence receive the blessings of the most excellent promises of God.
To understand this, consider also Romans 2, where the emphasis on this circumcision being a matter of the heart:
But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:29
And also Deuteronomy 30:6 (see also Deuteronomy 10:16 or Jeremiah 4:4 for a different perspective) which in context ties it to repentance and turning back to God:
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
In fact consider what Paul says in Philippians:
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh Philippians 3:3
And a similar idea is raised with baptism:
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his Romans 6:2-5
and also Philippians:
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
The main idea of being united to Christ in baptism, is not again in the physical ritual that Christ underwent in Luke 3 for instance, but more so refers to his death and resurrection. Consider Jesus’ words:
I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
Now clearly this is referring to his death and resurrection. Firstly, it helps us to understand the place that baptism has in the New Testament, particularly Acts. But also as with circumcision, baptism is here is primarily a spiritual act of God, in the heart of the believer, a kind of purification, in the sense that our self that was defined by sin, is now dead when Christ died (because he dealt with our sin), and then we are raised into new life.
To sum up, we are united to Christ and filled with him in every way
- We died when Christ died, however we were raised as new creations when Christ risen.
- We were baptised with Christ, not only is this an act of purification; and again this new creation.
- We were circumcised with Christ, meaning in his death and resurrection, and through the work of the Spirit, were united to him but also marked and declared holy and blameless (see Colossians 1:22 as well) and also into his covenant community as sons and hence heirs.
- We are also sharers in the sufferings of Christ, as we participate in suffering for the sake of the Gospel, particularly when there is opposition.
How does these things happen? Well to return to Colossians, our debt was cancelled because it was set aside and nailed to the cross:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14
4. A New Covenant Community
We do have this community in Christ as well that receives the blessings of the excellent promises (covenant, see also Jeremiah 31:31-34). But the most important thing is that Christ is the head of the body.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:17-18
…the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. Colossians 2:19b
In Christ, all things hold together (see Colossians 1:17), and this is certainly true that Christ is the head of the body.
5. Christ is our Life & Applications
For me, these verses in Colossians 3, will always stick with me, as the things that radically reshaped my thinking about Jesus, and about my identity in him.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
The first thing that being united to Christ, is shifts our identity to be orientated towards heaven. Rather than focused or seeking to find our identity in other things, whether it be our friends, family, studies, career or place we live or were born, appearances or body image etc. Our identity is found in Christ, in the sense that our new iife is in Christ.
This makes sense if we consider Christ being the Resurrection and the Life (see John 11:25). Paul expresses this identity also in terms of living for him, in 2 Corinthians:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
which then he concludes:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
In application, our identity and union to Christ in his death and resurrection shapes us as being new creations, which has the following implications:
- We are to seek and set ourselves on things above rather than earthly things
- This shapes our behaviour, we are to clothe ourselves with the new self and remove the old self.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Paul in application writes to them not only to seek the things above, but to therefore put to death the earthly things in them, the things that belong to the nature that was crucified with Christ, and sin that was crucified and nailed to the cross. We are called to put off these “clothing”: anger, wrath, malice, slander and unwholesome language.
Particularly note verses 10-11, how in Christ, the old self, our old identity has been put off, and the new self has been put on. Not only that is everything is being renewed in the image of its creator (which is Christ, see Colossians 1:15-16), in the sense of God restoring all things, so that Christ is all, and in all (see also Colossians 2:9-10 again).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul then encourages us in verses 12-14, to clothe ourselves with qualities that reflect the new identity, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love. Indeed the motivation again is being set apart in Christ by God’s election, salvation and also sanctification, called (as in verse 15) to one body.
Being called to one body, means the peace of Christ should rule in our hearts, it should be what shapes and defines our being, and we have received that peace through his death and resurrection for us.
Indeed it appears also in verse 15, that we are called together as a body, with an emphasis on God’s sovereign plan to redeem a chosen group of people, a new covenant community. This community is to be shaped by the things in verses 12-14, but also in verse 16-17, it shapes the following things
- Thankfulness to God, our lives are to be marked with gratitude towards God in every way for what he has given us in Christ, including every other member in his body, the church.
- The word of Christ dwelling in us richly. This relates to Christ filling us in every way (Colossians 2:10 & 3:11), but also that we continue to rest in the things and the Gospel message received in proclaiming it. (note also Colossians 1:5-11)
- This word of Christ dwells in us, when we sing, teach and admonish. Singing for instance, is a way in which God’s people can express their unity together in Christ, but also overflow their hearts to God in surrender and thankfulness.
- Finally, everything we do, is shaped by and done for the name of Jesus. It is done to bring glory to his name not to our own, and to seek to declare his praises,and motivated by thankfulness.
6. A final encouragement: Seated in the heavenly realms
Returning to Colossians 3:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God Colossians 3:1-3
The greatest encouragement and most secure thing we can remember is our identity is fixed, certain and sure in Christ. Christ’s past has determined our present, and his present has determined our future. In every way, then our future is secure, since where Christ is now, is he is seated in the heavenly realms.
This is where we are. We are secure, we are safe, we are saved, in him, he is our life. Not only that we are never alone, Christ is in us, with us and for us. He is preparing a place for us, interceding for us daily, and died for us. We have every reason than to take great confidence in Jesus, for who he is and what he has done.
So rather than taking confidence in our own identity e.g. body image, appearances; nor in what we have: friends, family, status, possessions, career, qualifications, studies etc; we have confidence in Christ and in God; and what marks us as distinct is that. It shapes every other thing that we are, and that we have; to be for him, and for his name and glory.
The more we understand Christ and our identity is in Him, the more we will realise that he is with us, and we have every reason to feel comforted, secure and at peace; regardless of whatever else goes on in life. To finish up, I wanted to end with the words of Never Alone by Emu Music, these words really seem to sum up and draw in the verses and ideas from Colossians 3 particularly, and provide a encouragement to those who feel far from God…
 We’re not alone, for Christ is here
Immanuel our God come near
We’re not alone, for to our world
Jesus has come, eternal Word.
And as he speaks, our souls laid bare
Naked, ashamed, sin is made clear
And yet he clothes us in his love
Never alone, Christ is with us, is with us.
 The longest walk, earth’s darkest day
The pressing crowd, his mounting pain.
A heavy load of grief and shame
Breathless that we should breathe again.
“Father forgive them,” comes his cry
Silence from God blackens the sky.
A creeping dread in every heart
Lost in the world now God departs, God departs.
 The dawn will come, the sun will rise
Out of the grave we’ll see hope’s light.
Tomb opened wide, stone rolled away
Morning has come, a brand new day.
“He isn’t here,” the angel said.
“He is alive no longer dead.”
Our hearts are lifted, souls raised high
Christ is with us, Christ is our life, he’s our life.
 Never alone, is now our cry
In joy, in grief, in lonely sin.
Never alone, for Christ is ours
He lives in us, we live in him.
And ’til we reach that final day
When fears are gone, cast far away
We’ll live secure, trust in his love,
Never alone, Christ is with us, he’s with us.
My hope is that if you sing these words that they are true for you, and speak into your life’s circumstances about the saving grace of Jesus.