Our identity in Christ should only be seen as something glorious! No longer are we slaves to those sins that once defined us, but now we belong to our heavenly Father. He clothes us in the righteousness of Christ, our elder Brother, and He gives us a new identity by making us new creations.
During my freshman year of college, I made a friend who informed me that he was adopted during his elementary years. It was an overall great experience for him, and he and his family shared a deep love for one another. During our second semester, his adopted dad passed away. You could see the tears building up in his eyes as he spoke about his father’s sudden massive heart attack.
My friend attended his dad’s funeral and returned to college a week later. As he returned, we sat and talked about our faith and his dad’s death. Then he began talking about the shock he felt to be listed as a son in the obituary. Even more, he begins to tell me how his dad left him money in a trust for the future. He was shocked to learn that he received the exact same amount as his two brothers and sister. Being the only adopted child, he admitted that he assumed that he would receive less. He kept saying repeatedly, “I didn’t realize that my dad loved me like them.”
I was struck by his words. As he spoke to his mother about his feelings, he admitted that he never would have imagined that his dad considered him as a true son. To this his mom replied, “Son, on the day you were adopted, everything changed.” Everything changed. He was a son. A true son!
This made my mind race to Paul’s words in Romans 8:14–17 about our adoption into the family of God.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 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…
While the word “identity” might not appear in this text, there is no doubt that the Apostle Paul is clearly teaching that there is a radical change within the life of the believer at the moment of their salvation. Just like the declaration from my dear friend’s mother, at the very moment of our adoption, everything changed.
Our Adoption by our Heavenly Father
While our adoption into the family of Christ is not the full picture of our salvation, it is a vital element of our redemptive story. As the Apostle Paul reminds the church at Corinth of these gospel truths, he proclaims this hope on the heels of a challenge to turn away from every evil habit that pursues them internally and externally. He begins to list specific sins for the Corinthian believers; to proclaim that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)
In Paul’s exhortation against worldliness, he continues to remind those who have professed faith in Christ that they were identified of these very sins and, as such, would not receive the gift of the kingdom.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11)
The key phrase: “And such were some of you.” Clearly, the Apostle Paul is referencing an identity change that has taken place in the life of these believers. They are no longer sinners, but saints; no longer unrighteous, but righteous. It is a radical change, and one that cannot be undone.