THE GOSPEL AND OUR IDENTITY
A. In light of the original perfection of creation, the promised restoration, the coming Kingdom, and the day of the Lord we will now turn our attention to the identity of the Ekklesia. The Gospel itself anchors us into an identity as the ‘elect’—those set apart from the nations of the earth—to inherit the promises of the Kingdom and the resurrection.
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, (1Pe 1:1 NIV)
B. As those awaiting the coming of Jesus to receive our imperishable inheritance, we are pilgrims and sojourners on the earth now. Our identity as those who are waiting for the promises is ultimately what separates us from the nations of the earth. In light of our calling to inherit the Kingdom and the resurrection, we conduct ourselves in completely different manner than the nations of the earth.
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION… 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. (1Pe 2:9-11 NASB)
25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 “But it is not this way with you… (Luk 22:25-26 NASB)
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them (i.e. of the promises of Abraham, cf 9:4) of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. … 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (Rom 11:17-18, 25 NASB)
C. There has been a massive perversion in the identity of the Ekklesia since the Constantinian shift. However, the recent obsession within the body of Christ regarding our ‘identity’ has really articulated what most of Church history has fought to believe. Namely, that we have fully attained everything that we need to ‘get to heaven’ at ‘conversion’, thus, undermining any future need to persevere unto an inheritance that actually hinges upon our conduct in this age.
D. Within a Christoplatonic worldview we are destined for heaven, and thus all that is needed in order to fulfill our ‘destiny’ is simply to ‘get saved’ (i.e. ‘forgiven’) which ensures our entrance into heaven and thus our destiny. However, within the context of a real second coming, a real day of the Lord, and real government established on the earth then everything about how we live this life has dramatic consequences forever.
E. Man’s rebellion and pride has lead to an obsession to remove ultimate accountability for our lives from our belief. From infant baptism (thus ensuring inclusion into heaven), ‘sonship theology’, the pre-tribulation rapture, once saved-always saved, postmillennialism, etc… are simply historic deviations from the clear ecclesiology of the apostles which supply believers with a totally false security of their identity.
7 But whatever things (i.e. assurance of entrance into the promises, status, security of identity, and reputation, cf. Phil. 3:4-6) were gain (i.e. to my advantage) to me, those things I have counted as loss (i.e. as damaging to me) for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things (i.e. assurance, security, reputation, etc…), and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law (i.e. false assurance of inclusion into the promises of Abraham), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (Phl 3:7-13 NASB)
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (Phl 2:12 NASB)
F. The nations of the earth are all living for the same things, but we know their end. Thus, we must live in a completely different manner since we don’t share their ambitions or their destiny. The effectiveness of the church’s witness on the earth is wholly dependent upon the measure to which they embrace this sojourning identity.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (cf. Matt. 5:16). 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution (i.e. governments), whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1Pe 2:11-15 NASB)
G. To the measure that we live after the indulgences of this age as the nations of the earth do, then we have our witness of allegiance to the coming King and His Kingdom dulled and it becomes of no effect. The message of the Gospel is of little or no effect if we don’t believe that our Messiah is coming back to actually judge all men by a real standard of righteousness and order our lives accordingly.