declaring christ to the world
So, we are given an identity in order to declare Christ to the world. We become His ambassadors, His light, His testimony to the world. Ok, it’s about to get even more exciting! If ALL of that wasn’t enough, God took things a step further:
God in His kindness & grace decided to give each of us unique personalities, likes, dislikes, quirks, talents, etc to show His multifaceted image. Across the body of Christ we each reflect little pieces of our Creator.
On top of that, He gives each of us spiritual gifts when we come into salvation and we should be in awe of His goodness in this!
Belonging to the Church
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Ok, so let’s organise our thoughts on the Church:
We know that Jesus is the Head of the Church [Eph 2:22] and all things are placed under His authority. This is for the benefit of the Church.
We know the Church is His body [Eph 2:23].
This body has become a family and we are all members of this family if we are in Christ [Eph 2:19].
This family is carefully joined together in Him and we are being built up into a holy temple for the Lord [Eph 2:20-21].
This family should be striving for unity in the Spirit, binding ourselves together in peace [Eph 4:3].
We have ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE glorious hope for the future, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father who is over all, in all & living through us all [Eph 4:4-6].
However!!! In that unity, He has given us gifts—each of us a distinct & different gift [Eph 4:7-8, 11; cf Romans 12; 1 Cor 12]. The emphasis in these passages is not so much on the gifts listed, as each list is different, and quite possibly not exhaustive, but on the uniqueness of the gifts.
spiritual hallmarks of our identitiy
So, the emphasis is on the difference/uniqueness of the spiritual gifts: there are many parts, all have differing functions, all are valuable & important—our spiritual gifts mark our identity.
This special/unique identity is DIFFERENT for each of us, but we all have it. If you are a believer, God has given you a spiritual gift.
Where the context for our general identity was Christ, the CONTEXT (where this is fleshed out) is in the Church. Every instance of “spiritual gifts” in the Bible goes hand in hand with the Church.
We were not given these gifts for our own benefit but for the benefit of the whole body. So, you will not find a scripture that makes allowances for you to use your gift solely for your own benefit. This gift was given to be given, just as you are blessed to be a blessing.
community in the family of God
The tool God ordained to teach us this unique identity is community in the family of God:
As we live together in unity, exercising our gifts, we begin to learn who we are.
As we are serving, our identity becomes known. How would I know that my spiritual gift was shepherding if I did not shepherd? How would you know your identity as teacher if you were not teaching?
We must be carrying out our spiritual gift, working it out in the context of the Body of Christ to know who God has created us to be.
Therefore, in the local body of the Church, we need each other. Everyone has a significant role to play at Refuge. We need one another! We have to be living closely with one another, serving, in one another’s homes, in the Word together, praying together in order to know ourselves.
the purpose of our identity
As we live and serve and exercise our unique identities within the Church we are responsible for helping our brothers & sisters recognise their own identities. Sometimes we don’t see within ourselves what others see. Therefore:
We must speak out and encourage one another in their giftings!
If you see something unique within one of your sisters & brothers, help them to see it too.
building up the Church
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As we live in this identity, we help our brothers & sisters mature [Eph 4:13].
We encourage growth in others [Eph 4:16].
We promote health in the Body in the form of unity [Eph 4:16].
Our Church becomes full of love, ready to love the future sheep God will bring into the fold [Eph 4:16].
The purpose of our unique identities is to build up the Church!