Primary Identity

Primary Identity

Sermon Notes

Main Verses: Ephesians 2:11-22

Main Question:

Shouldn’t Jesus and the Bible define what Church is?

Final Question:

How did the early church answer this question?

A Few Things about Early Church History

  • Its informative but not authoritative
  • Its inspirational, but not inspired
  • Its not the command of Scripture, but the application of Scripture

The So-Called Letter of Diognetus

This writing was an early defense and explanation of the belief and practices of the early church. A modern author (Gerald L. Sittser in Resilient Faith) breaks down this writing and the description of the early church. Here is how he describe early Christianity:

“Christians related to Rome with a certain ambivalence. They testified that they prayed for Caesar but refused to worship him. They aspired to serve the needy of the empire, but not under the Roman terms of reciprocity. They viewed Jesus as the rightful king but never revolted against Rome or set up an alternative government in exile as if the movement was exclusively political.”

“How could Rome suppress this movement? Christianity infiltrated cities, one relationship at a time, one apartment building at a time, one marketplace at a time as if releasing white blood cells into the bloodstream of the Roman Empire. It was slow laborious work. But over time it began to challenge and purge cancer and corruption of Rome…”

“All of this would explain why the author of The So-Called Letter to Diognetus argues as he did. This radical message confronted an ancient world deeply divided by gender, ethnicity, education, and socioeconomic inequality. The Christian movement challenged these inequalities, however subtly, and achieved at least modest success in crossing demographic, racial, and economic boundaries. Primary identity in Christ began to transform secondary identities

The Big Takeaway:

Christ in me is more important than anything else about me

  1. Remember that you once were separate from Christ (2:11-12).
    • Separate from Christ (Separated from Salvation)
    • Excluded from the citizenship of Israel (Not in God’s Family)
    • Foreigners to covenant of promise (Not receiving any of the benefits)

All of us have something in common- we were once lost and without Christ.

2. But now, we are brought near! (2:13)

NOT, however, by:

  • My efforts
  • My religion
  • My good behavior
  • My ability to avoid certain sins that keep my off the 5 o’clock news

3. Jesus brought peace between two warring groups (2:14-16)

4. This truth impacts our identity (2:19-22)

  • We are fellow citizens
  • Members of God’s house
  • Connected to a long and rich legacy
  • Together we form a holy site

Observed Characteristics of the Early Church

  • We are fellow citizens
  • Members of God’s house
  • Connected to a long and rich legacy
  • Together we form a holy site

Application:

  1. Identify a potential source for your identity.
  2. How can you resign that portion of your identity to Christ?

Discussion Questions

TALK IT OUT

  1. Consider these three foundational principles about church history: 1) It is informative, but not authoritative, 2) It is inspirational, but not inspired and 3) It is not the command of scripture, but the application of scripture. How do these relate to what you know about church history?
  2. Pastor Rusty quotes from, Resilient Faith, Gerald Sisster’s book which says, “Christians related to Rome with a certain ambivalence. They… prayed for Caesar but refused to worship him. They aspired to serve the needy of the empire, but not under the Roman terms of reciprocity. They viewed Jesus as the rightful king but never revolted against Rome or set up an alternative government in exile, as if the movement was exclusively political.” What can believers today learn from the early church about how to live successfully in a world which does not share our spiritual values?
  3. Christ in me is more important than anything else about me.” Why is this statement so important when it comes to understanding our role in the world?
  4. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:11-12 that each of us in the past was separated from salvation and was not part of God’s family. In what ways is understanding our shared sinful past significant in understanding the present?
  5. Ephesians 2:13 teaches us that we were brought near to God not because of our efforts, religion, good behavior or ability to avoid sin. Why is not understanding Gods’ grace very dangerous for believers?
  6. In Ephesians 2:19-22 we learn these four truths: 1) We are fellow citizens in God’s kingdom, 2) We are members of God’s house, 3) We are connected to a long rich legacy and 4) Together, we form a holy site. Which of these four truths is most meaningful to you? Why does it connect so powerfully with you? Which of these four do you connect least with and why?

LIVE IT OUT

  • Pastor Rusty shared that the following three characteristics were very obvious in the early church: 1) Passion, 2) Humility, and 3) Unity. Which comes most easily to you? Which do you find most difficult? Ask God to help you develop all three.
  • In question 6, Pastor Rusty listed four truths. Think through these and then jot down six to eight ways God can use these as the foundation of your identity in Christ.
  • Write down three ways you can live out your identity in Christ this week?
  • Ask God to help you better understand your identify as His child. Ask Him to help you live out your identity as His child this fall.