“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”1 Corinthians 6:11
My husband, daughter and I lived in Dallas for three years—after having lived in Illinois all of our lives. Texas has its own personality, very different from the Midwest we knew. Everything is bigger in Texas, and that was certainly true of the big impression the state made on us. I started considering myself a new Texan, right down to my daughter having cowboy boots, us enjoying Texas-shaped waffles for breakfast, and me being more grateful to live in the land of the free. Even typing now, after half a year back in the Midwest, I still miss my “Texan” designation. Identity, who we consider ourselves to be, is powerful. It influences how we think of ourselves, how we act and what we value. This is also true of our spiritual identity.
Identity is what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians. He tells the Corinthians that the unrepentant will not enter the kingdom of heaven (6:9). He goes one to list specific sins that characterize the unrepentant. But Paul does not want true believers to be nervous—as if having committed sins now excludes them from their future with Jesus. The Lord Jesus wants us to know that we are not who we once were, spiritually. We have been given a new spiritual identity in Christ.
Part of our entrance into our new identity in Jesus is that we have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. Titus 3:5-7 teaches us:
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
As opposed to those who are unrepentant, Paul teaches us that we have been washed—and that means we will be welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom. This washing is a washing of regeneration and renewal. Regeneration means we have been given new birth with hearts of flesh, instead of stone, to love obedience to Christ.
This washing is poured out upon us abundantly through the Spirit; it is a great work of God. We can make no mistake: Excluded from Christ’s kingdom is what we were. But now, we have undergone a washing from evil into an existence of being Christ’s with eternal life ahead.
Our identity is being those who are cleansed of our sins—our slate is clean—by a might work of God on our behalf. We are a new, free people.
Sanctified and justified
In Christ, we are also sanctified—that is, designated as his holy people, separate from the world. We are positionally made holy before God. As Titus 3:5 teaches us, we are not saved because of our own acts of righteousness. We are saved through Jesus’ righteousness. And through his righteous work on our behalf, we are justified—declared righteous—for him. We have been given a new identity of sanctified and justified in Christ because he has chosen to identify with us, as an act of great mercy—this is what he powerfully did for us on the cross.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul writes about our new identity in Jesus: “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (emphasis mine). In this verse, leaven represents sin. Paul is saying we must be those who act out, as it were, our purity in Christ by living pure lives. We must be the new lump—even as we already are unleavened in Christ. Paul again uses this concept of what we were versus who we are. Sin, the leaven, has been removed.
This Easter, we can remember that Jesus Christ’s coming as our sacrificial lamb earns us a new identity. Scripture speaks of the glory of this new identity in 1 Corinthians in three ways: washed, sanctified and justified. This, church family, is what we are. Past mistakes do not define us. Present sins that we are fighting do not define us. But Christ’s sinlessness, imparted to us, defines us. Our charge, then, is to live as the new people we truly are—impacting how we think of ourselves, how we act and what we value.
Today let us come to Christ, our sacrificial lamb, and feel with him anew the washing that his death and resurrection have given us. Let us experience with him the new pronouncements made over us: “set apart as holy” and “declared righteousness.” Let us remember that his great power overshadows us with mercy—for only the risen Christ has the power to forgive our sins and set us free.
What we were is definitively not who we now are—just as I gained an entirely new “Texan” label by moving to a new state. We have a new, righteous and eternal kingdom to which we belong. Let us rejoice in the way Christ has identified with us so that we can have a new spiritual identity in him!
Lianna Davis is the administrative assistant for adult ministries at First Free Rockford. She lives with her husband and daughter in Poplar Grove. You can find more about her writing at liannabdavis.com.
Thanks for sharing with us. I hope to meet you soon, maybe in the narthex between services this Sunday.