Note: Theology is not scripture and the scripture is not theology. Much of the trouble people have with scripture is due to the misguided attempt to reconcile theology with the scriptures. Once you throw away your theology, the scriptures can begin to open to you.
Everyone has an identity; an internal, personal identity and an external, public identity. In this world, each person has some sort of status and credentials. We have personal and public relationships with others within the society where we live.
Once a person becomes born from above (some call it "born again"), the old self of the flesh is past and the new, living, spiritual self is created within. As with the flesh, the new, living, spiritual self has an identity, status, credentials and is capable of relationships with others who are born from above and those who are not. Since that spiritual self is new, the identity, status, credentials and relationships are all new.
So, what is the new identity of the new self?
In order to answer this question, the I must handle the context of the scriptures introduced next.
1 Corinthians 12 begins a context discussing spiritual matters ("gifts" is a mistranslation, due to the influence of theology). It begins by stating that we are to be informed, instructed in spiritual matters. (The gross ignorance of spiritual matters that rules over the believers today is not normal! However, because most everyone is ignorant, people accept the ignorance and think it is normal.)
Next, in one verse, it summarizes the spiritual state of the previous life in the flesh. It was a life dominated and completely enmeshed in idolatry. How did that happen? All people have been led, taught and trained to worship dumb, dead idols. To continue holding on to the previous identity is to hold on to the identification of dead pagan idolaters.
Verse 7 opens the context regarding the manifestation of the spirit, not gifts.
Verse 11 states that all the abilities, benefits listed previously are empowered by God. God apportions (all the benefits) to each "one" (individual person), individually as that person wills. (Don't agree? Please check your grammar and the use of pronouns in this verse).
Now verse 12 begins a metaphor which illustrates the collective spiritual functioning of many individuals. This collective functioning is like a physical body – specifically the body of Christ. Being born from above is to drink of one spirit. The meaning of this phrase "…drink from one spirit…" is made clear from understanding the context of spiritual matters and the manifestation of the spirit. All those born from above have the same holy spirit and the same spiritual ability, calling, authority and credentials to function together. We function together as the body of Christ.
This body of Christ is quite unique. In the world, organizations strive to minimize the identity of the individual for the good of the collective. The self becomes a faceless, nameless and disposable cog in a machine. This is not the way it is in the body of Christ. In a body, each individual member is exceedingly important. Note verse 26 which observes that if one part suffers, the entire body suffers. If one part is honored, the entire body rejoices. In this body of Christ, the identity of the new self is preserved and required in order for the entire body to function.
So, the identity of the new self is that of a living, functioning, individual member of the body of Christ. Remember, this has nothing to do with the identity of the flesh. In the body of Christ there is no significance to race, gender or social status.
Lets take this a bit further. If I were to step on your foot, you might say "Ow, you hurt me!" This is an accurate statement as the foot is identified with you; it is your foot. However, the foot is not you (entirely) and you (the entire you) are not the foot. 1 Corinthians 27 summarizes this truth by stating that collectively we are the body of Christ and as individuals we are members of this body.
This body of Christ has nothing to do with the numerous corporate religious organizations which plague this world. The head of this body is Christ. Its existence and functioning is as Christ directs! The functioning of his body is mainly at odds with the existence and functioning of the religious organizations.
Ephesians 4:15 and 16 mention the body of Christ. We are to grow up into the head of the body, into Christ. We are to function in this body. How do we do that? By becoming educated, instructed in spiritual matters and by manifesting holy spirit, the new creation, the new self. We take on the new identity as functioning members of the body of Christ.
We are identified with Christ! He himself claims us as being identified with him! Check Acts 9:1 – 5. Saul was harassing, harming and even murdering people who were born from above. What does Jesus say about this? In verse 5 he says to Saul, "…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…"
The old identity, status, credentials of the flesh are all dead and passed away. The reality is that the new spiritual self is the new, real YOU. YOU truly are an individual member of the body of Christ. As such you are equipped, authorized, and required to function spiritually as directed by Christ (not some man or woman in a corporate organization). As one born from above, YOU are identified with Christ!
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(C)2013 Keith S. Radcliffe