WHO ARE YOU?
John 1:19-24 says: “And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.” (NKJ) This is a portion of scripture that has been preached on many times to indicate the ministry of John and the announcement of Jesus. However, it has an important question in it that is vital for us today. That question is “Who are you?” There are many people today that do not really know who they are. If you ask them, they will tell you their name. That is the title we go by to differentiate us from someone else.
When the Pharisees asked John who he was, he understood that they were not asking for his name. They wanted to know where he fit in reference to scripture. Notice that when he responded he did not give them his name. He didn’t say, I am John the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, remember me? I’m the one that they prophesied over. My father was mute until I was born because he didn’t believe what the angel Gabriel said. Don’t your remember me? He didn’t say these things, he responded by referring to scripture. He told them who he was in light of the Word of God.
One day as Jesus is teaching in the treasury area of the temple there is a discussion of His identity (Mat. 21:10). The religious leaders of that day never seemed to realize or to accept Who Jesus was as He walked among them. Several times as He gave “clues” as to His identity they rejected what He was saying, (see John 8:25). This is possibly for many different reasons, but especially because that would mean they had to change their way of life. As with John the religious leaders were not asking for His name but where He came in accordance with the scriptures. Where did the scriptures speak of Him?
This is where we today have our problem. We only think of ourselves as a sinner saved by grace, possibly a new creation, whatever that might mean to us individually. Or we may consider ourselves simply as a Christian, a male or female servant of Jesus, and we are all those things. Now Jesus and John both understood what they were asking and answered appropriately. We are not normally asked the question in the same manner so we would seldom answer in the same way. Yet, that is not the main purpose of this message. The main idea and purpose is that we know and understand who we are in regards to scripture. Before we explain this further, let us look at a few more scriptures and see how other New Testament saints identified themselves.
Paul was first known as Saul of Tarsus. He was the one that brought fathers and mothers out of their houses and imprisoned them for their faith in Jesus. He made children orphans and possibly even imprisoned some of the children. He is the one that stood and held the coats of those who were stoning Stephen. In the Book of Acts and Philippians Paul tells us of his life before the Lord apprehended him and even after coming to Jesus, while in Antioch he is known as Saul. It isn’t until he begins to minister to Gentiles that he begins to go by the name Paul. This means that people knew him as the one that persecuted the church and many had a problem accepting him for a long time. After Barnabus goes to Tarsus to bring him back to Antioch he becomes recognized as a teacher and prophet and later is sent out as an apostle, (Acts 13:1-2), yet still known as Saul.
Today we recognize Paul as an apostle, yet notice how he identified himself in Romans 1:1. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” To the Romans, a people who understood the difference between those who ruled, those who were free, and those who served, he identified himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. He identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ again in Philippians 1:1. In Galatians 1:1 he writes: “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)”. Here, as in a few other places, he does identify himself as an apostle but notice it is never stated as “Apostle Paul.” Nowhere does he identify himself in that manner because the word apostle describes an office of responsibility, or function, not a title. Paul does not identify himself as being superior to others but as a servant, even when he identifies himself as an apostle he is serving, laboring, and suffering more than others, (2 Cor. 11:23-29).
Now consider what he says about himself in Philemon 1:1: “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,” As he is writing to a friend, a fellow laborer, he simply calls himself a prisoner of Jesus. Now he was in fact in prison but he doesn’t say he is a prisoner of Rome, but rather a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He also says this in Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:8. He never considers himself as a prisoner of Rome or any other place where he may have been imprisoned.
So Paul identifies himself in regards to his name but also as a servant of Jesus Christ, an apostle, which is his calling not his title, and as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. All of these have to do with who he is in regards to his calling and position in Christ.
JAMES AND JUDE
Now let us consider how James identified himself. James 1:1 says: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” James says he is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus. He doesn’t say he is James the brother of Jesus. He doesn’t identify himself as anyone special such as the brother of the Lord, one that lived with Him for most of his life, knew Him intimately. He simply says he is a servant of God and of Jesus Christ. If anyone had reason to boast or remind people of his personal relationship with Jesus, it would have been James. We must also note that he doesn’t remind people of his rejection of Jesus as the Messiah either. (John 7:5)
I wonder if James thought of times when they were boys and if he ever teased or criticized Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus couldn’t do many miracles in Nazareth because of the unbelief of the people that had known Him as a boy. Does this include James? Did he at times complain to Joseph and Mary that Jesus is always right, or that He was never punished for doing something wrong? Every boy and girl complains about their siblings to their parents. (See Hebrews 5:8). Did James ever think of these times after he realized that Jesus was truly the Messiah? All we really know is he now identifies himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is who he knew himself to be and how he wanted others to know him. Acts 15 identifies him as basically the leader of the group in Jerusalem, the one that settles the doctrinal questions of circumcision and following the law of Moses, yet, he simply calls himself a servant of God and of Jesus.
Jude also identifies himself only as the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, (Jude 1:1). Some think this is the brother of James, the Brother of Jesus, (Mat. 13:55), while others say it is the brother of James the son of Alphaeus, also called Lebbaeus, (Mat.10:3). Jude doesn’t clarify his identity except to say he is a servant of Jesus Christ.
John became known as the one that leaned on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. He was the one that loved Jesus and was loved by Jesus. He was one of the three that was always with Jesus. Yet, in his second and third letters he identified himself simply as the elder. He is an older man by this time and doesn’t concern himself with platitudes for recognition. He isn’t concerned about what he has done, or boasting about his abilities, or his calling as an apostle, or even his past and present relationship with the Lord. He is writing to his friends and those he has labored with and they understand who he is, as does he.
Now let us see how he identifies himself in the Book of Revelation chapter one, verse one. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” Here as he is writing to the churches and to those who would serve Jesus in the future, he calls himself a servant. He doesn’t identify himself as the one Jesus loved the most or the one that has suffered the most for his relationship with Jesus. He simply calls himself a servant.
It appears the main identity that the apostles gave of themselves was of a servant. They considered this to be the greatest identity they could have. Some of them stated their calling as an apostle but all said they were a servant. This is part of the idea that we must have. It isn’t because we prophesy or preach or minister in some capacity that makes us who we are. It is because we humble ourselves and serve Christ and His body that is important. It is our service that gives us identity. This is not to say we are lowly servants in the sense of the statement of Jesus where He says that His disciples are no longer servants but friends. We are not servants in the sense that we blindly do whatever our Master tells us with no knowledge or understanding of what He desires. We are His servants in the sense that we humbly give ourselves to serve Him and His body out of love. We become “love slaves” to Jesus and His body, (Ex. 21:5; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 5:10), not indentured servants. Yet this is not all that we are.
We are not a servant, a love slave of Jesus only. That reveals only one aspect of our identity. We are much more than that even as a person is more than their name. To give an example, I am a man, a son, a husband, a father, and a grandfather, an author, a principal of a Christian school, and a member of and a preacher in a local church, who also travels in ministry to many States and foreign countries. Those are all things that I am and do in the natural realm. Yet, even all those things do not identify me completely. Paul has some things to say to us about who we are in the Spirit realm that we need to know and understand.
CHILDREN OF GOD
Paul teaches us that we are the children of God through Jesus Christ, in Ro. 8:16-17; 9:26; Gal. 3:7, 26; 4:28; Eph. 1:5, and the children of light in Eph. 5:1 and 1 Th. 5:5. He also says we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This doesn’t sound like a servant in the sense we often think of one. Scripturally speaking, we are servants of God fulfilling all the plan and purposes of God, which is our destiny, our purpose for life. We are the children of God, sons and daughters of God able to fulfill all that God has called us to fulfill. We are not lowly servants or second class citizens. We are not simply here to wait until the end of life and go sit in a mansion in heaven. We were created to fulfill a purpose here on this earth and to fill the earth with the glory of God. The prophets declared that the earth would be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. Water totally covers the sea that is what the sea is made of – water! So for the earth to be covered with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea indicates that the earth will know the presence of God in all His fullness. Every person and every creature will experience the fullness of God, Romans 8:19-23.
This is who we really are. We are the sons and daughters of God, the people of the Most High God. We are the kings and priests that Jesus is the King of and the Lord of, (1 Timothy 6:15). For too long we have felt we were just waiting for heaven not realizing that we were created to bring heaven to earth. Jesus said that we were to pray that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. This doesn’t mean all we do is pray and hope that God will intervene in situations in life. It means we are to be the expression of the will of God here on earth just as Jesus was while He walked on the earth. We are to see what the Father wants done and do it, hear what the Father is saying and say it. Jesus also said the Kingdom of God was within us, Luke 17:21. The Spirit of God is within us to change us to become more like Jesus and He comes upon us to flow out of us to change the world. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:21 that Jesus was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This is what the Spirit of God within us does He causes us to become the righteousness of God. Then He uses us to change the world through signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, (Heb. 2:1-4).
We need to believe what God says about us and not what the world says. We need to realize that the presence of God is within us and He will use us to transform the world. Do not allow the criticism of others to make you feel as though you are beneath them. You are not the laughing stock of society nor a victim of society. You are a special creation of God and He will use you to reveal His glory in the earth. Who are you? You are a child of God, an heir of God. You are an anointed vessel able to be used by the power of the Spirit of God to bring change to your surroundings. The Spirit of God can use you to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. When do we do these things – as you go, Mat. 10:8. As you go where? Everywhere! Wherever you go you can be used of God to heal the sick etc. You are a special, highly anointed vessel in the Kingdom of God. Do not listen to what the world says about you, or even what your own mind will say. Listen to the voice of the Spirit of God as He describes who you are and what gifts and calling you were created for and gifted to use. As John and Jesus looked into the Word of God to express who they were, let us also look into the Word of God to understand who we really are and then go forth and do all that He has created us to do.