Three dimensions of personal identity – true of everyone, true of unbelievers, and true of Christians.
From a biblical perspective, all people are created in the image of God, unbelievers are estranged from God thus not being fully connected to the source of life, and Christians are new creatures being completed in Christ.
Some questions are ‘big questions’. These are the timeless, perennial questions that each person aims to answer during their life. One of those ageless questions people ask is ‘who am I?’.
In this post, I aim to answer the question from a biblical perspective. As people, we are all created in the image of God, unbelievers are estranged from God thus not being fully connected to the source of life, and Christians are new creatures being completed in Christ.
Biblical Identity Part 1: True Of Everyone
The first part of Biblical personal identity is true of everyone. In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian to understand this part of your identity. It’s true of every human being.
God created each every person in his image (Genesis 1:27). It’s what makes a human being distinct from every other created being. We are not giraffes, party sequins, sequoias, or moths. We are people, fashioned in the image of God. This aspect is also the source of dignity for every man, woman, and unborn child. Theologians throughout church history have described several aspects of the “image of God” (Latin: Imago Dei) idea which include…
- Rationality and cognitive capacity (Job 32:8)
- Relationship with God and others (Genesis 3:8).
- Ruling over God’s creation (Genesis 1:28).
- Object of God’s compassion (Matthew 5:45).
Being made in the image of God is vitally important. Despite how the world may belittle, bully, or try to destroy us, we are special in God’s creation. We have been blessed by our Creator with a glory even angels don’t possess. We have dignity, honor, respect, and beauty because we reflect God himself. We are God’s image-bearers.
The Bible Project’s “Image of God” video incorporates some of the latest theological research in this area…
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Biblical Identity Part 2: True of Unbelievers
There is an aspect of identity that is only true of unbelievers. God has made each of us, but each of us are born estranged from God. This estrangement affects personal identity, because unbelievers are relationally cut off from the source and meaning of life (Romans 11:36). This may seem strange.
On the one hand, we as people are made to reflect God. But on the other hand, we are not (naturally) God’s friends. In Biblical language, we are “dead in (our) sins” and “by nature children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
We’re like the son who angrily leaves his home, stops calling his mom, and is non-communicative with his family. We are disconnected from our true family and spiritual home: God. This is the identity as unbelievers: alienation from God. It plays out in…
- Looking for another explanation of the universe outside of God.
- Lustful thoughts while being in a fulfilling relationship.
- Relationship problems with family and friends.
- Lying when there’s no benefit to dishonesty.
- Stealing when we’re not even hungry.
- And more…
The alienation shows up especially in our relationship with God. In our unbelief, we don’t pray to the one true God. We don’t seek God’s opinion for our lives because, frankly, we’re not interested in it. Or if we do pray, we talk to an idol aiming to fulfill our desires without God’s direction. Sometimes it’s worse. Some deny God’s existence despite the fact every person knows God is real (Romans 1:21).
Both in our relationship with God and with other people, we demonstrate we are estranged from God and under his judgement. Despite the discomfort of this reality, it is the core reason why things are not right in our world. Without connection with God, we are relationally disconnected from the source of all life, truth, and purpose in the universe.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Biblical Identity Part 3: True of Christians
But there is something uniquely true of Christians. A Christian has a different identity from unbelievers. Unlike those outside of Christ, a believer has been spiritually renewed by being “born again” (John 3:3). These are some of the realities Christians enjoy in their new identity:
- A chosen person and royal priest (1 Peter 2:9)
- Partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
- Raised to walk in a new life (Romans 6:4)
- Free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
- Reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18)
- God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
- Citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
- A child of God (John 1:12)
Christians have a new identity. Despite being formerly estranged from God, the source of all life and meaning, Christians are reconciled to him. Since he is the ultimate purpose and reason for our existence, we find our new identity subsumed in his. We are like him, partaking in his supernatural nature (2 Peter 1:4).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Conclusion: Press Into God’s Identity For You
God has created you for himself. As Saint Augustine once wrote, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” In truth, we don’t understand who we are or what we’re made for until we find our purpose, meaning, and destiny in our Creator.
If you are not a Christian, I encourage you to turn from your sins and believe the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness. For “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). God can reconcile you to himself and grant you a new identity in Christ. In this way, your identity can be renewed in God, the source of all life, meaning, and truth in the universe.
If you are already a Christian, I encourage you to study your identity in Christ as found in the Bible. In this way, you will further appreciate your renewed nature and find God’s purposes for yourself.