Sometimes people and God can see the same situation very differently. Remember the perspective of the twelve tribes upon hearing the spies report about walled fortified cities and tall people? They saw an impossible task. God’s viewpoint was entirely different.
Remember what happened when God sent Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse as king of Israel? “When they arrived, Samuel noticed Eliab and said to himself, ‘Surely, here before the LORD stands his chosen king!’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:6-7
Sometimes people and God can see the same situation very differently. But, there is one topic where no one can afford to see things differently than the Lord.
Anybody can claim anything about their relationship with the Lord. (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). What matters is whether the Lord knows them as his people (Galatians 4:9).
When we ask scripture the questions: who is God recognizing as his people and by what principle does God identify them, a consistent answer emerges. God identifies his people based upon having promised through a covenant to claim them as his people.
God told Abram, “I will confirm my covenant as a perpetual covenant between me and you. It will extend to your descendants after you throughout their generations. I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:7).
Later at Mount Sinai God announced to Moses what he wanted to do for the newly released people of Israel. “Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, “Thus you will tell the house of Jacob and declare to the people of Israel: … ‘If you will diligently listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be My special possession out of all nations, for all the earth is Mine; and you will be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'” (Exodus 3:3,5,6).
After the people heard what would be required of them if they were going to be God’s people (Exodus 20-23), they agreed to become God’s treasured possession. To seal this relationship, “they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words'” (Exodus 24:5-8).
Through his servants the prophets, God announced that in the future he would offer a new covenant containing some wonderful promises. Jeremiah foretold that God would make a new covenant by which he would promise to claim people for himself and to forgive them of their sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
As Jesus approached his impending death upon the cross, he knew that his death would provide the blood of the new covenant making possible the promises Jeremiah had announced centuries earlier (Luke 22:20; Matthew 26:26-27). Hebrews 8-9 confirm that Jesus death fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophesy.
But who are those in the new covenant who have received God’s promises? Who is God perceiving as his people and forgiving them of their sins?
In Galatians 3:26, Paul declared to those early disciples they belonged to God on account of their faith in Christ. Without taking a breath, he proceeded to describe how they had relied upon Christ in order to become God’s people. They were baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Why does scripture describe baptism’s purposes as corresponding to the New Covenant’s promises (Hebrews 10:22; Acts 2:38; John 3:5; Titus 3:5)? People enter the new covenant which Jesus’ death created by trusting in Christ through being baptized.
Who does the Lord identify as his people? Scripture reveals, the Lord claims those who’ve relied upon Christ by being baptized.