Forthright Magazine

Biblical Unity For Dummies: God Identifying His People

One core principle transforms people into becoming God’s people. What is it? In this article we will allow scripture to identify it. Unfortunately, when we seek to identify God’s people we often latch onto a host of secondary characteristics rather than the prime principle.

Secondary characteristics abound. Christians might meet in a brick and mortar building with a shingle outside. Disciples should love others. Christians claim Jesus as their Lord. Those following God and Christ repent. God’s people believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Christians do good unto others.

Some of these qualities are essential. Nevertheless scripture reveals God uses none of these secondary attributes for identifying his own. /1  Neither should we.

The Lord does affirm secondary characteristics when those exhibiting them are within the context of his prime principle./2 So should we.

From Abraham until today, God’s core principle has been consistent. In grace, God has entered and continues to enter into relationship with people through covenant./3.

Today the starting point for identifying God’s people is the covenant relationship Jesus’ blood ratified. On the basis of this new covenant, God promises to claim us as his people and to forgive us./4

More specifically, Jesus’ covenantal death made possible a spiritual surgery whereby God’s working can cut off our deadness in sin and the spiritual uncircumcision of our flesh in order to raise us up with new life in Christ./5 Paul described God as performing this “circumcision of Christ” at the time of our baptism./6 It is these whom God is adding to his Son’s kingdom./7

This principle of covenant and the moment of baptism are intertwined. In fact, scripture reveals that with baptism a person enters the covenant. Baptism’s purposes involve us receiving the promises of the new covenant, namely becoming God’s new born people and being forgiven!/8 With baptism we become God’s new covenant community!

Since salvation is by faith, how does faith square with baptism? Baptism is an act of faith./9 From the viewpoint of scripture, saving faith begins with calling upon the Lord in baptism./10

Nevertheless, doesn’t scripture affirm salvation by faith without baptism? No. Sometimes within a context, faith references an essential aspect of conversion, just as the acts of calling upon the Lord and repentance are necessary./11 In other contexts, believing and faith function to summarize the conversion response.

When we ask the right questions, clarity follows. With whom has God united us in Christ? With whom are we to be seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit? The answers are straightforward.

Through the blood of the new covenant, God is uniting people within the body of Christ. For those who have expressed their faith in Christ by uniting with his death in immersion, God’s power raises them up to new life and places them within his people. Disciples within the body of Christ are to seek to preserve the unity of the Spirit that God has created.

The starting point is not looking for nearby brick or mortar locations with a shingle nor even people claiming Jesus is their Lord. The starting point involves asking scripture who God claims as his own.

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Next article: Biblical Unity For Dummies: 8 Pauline Prescriptions

1/ Matthew 7:21-23; John 9:22; James 2:19; Mark 5:7-8

2/ Matthew 5:9 (Gentiles not yet seeking Jesus); Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:35; 19:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 John 4:7; 5:1 As it turns out,  just being a peacemaker, loving, repenting, doing good, believing Jesus is the Messiah, etc.  are insufficient for becoming a child of God.

3/ Genesis 17:7; Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 24:6-8; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:6,10

4/ Hebrews 8:6-12; Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 2:11-19

5/ Colossians 2:13,12; Ephesians 2:1-8; Romans 6:3-6; Romans 6:17-18

6/ Colossians 2:11-12

7/ Acts 2:41; Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:13

8/ Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5-6

9/ Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12

10/ Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35-36; Acts 16:32-34; Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13

11/ Romans 10:9,13; Acts 2:38; 11:18; 2 Corinthians 7:10


Barry Newton
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