The Bible’s definition of identity

In Romans 14, the apostle Paul writes:

For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7, 8)

This passage is reflected in the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, which asks, What is your only comfort in life and in death?” Answer: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”

I am not my own,” the Catechism says.

We belong to the Lord,” Paul writes (Ro 14:8).

If I were to summarize the biblical worldview regarding human identity, here is how I would define it. Everyone is created by God and for God. Let’s consider both parts of that statement.

Created by God

First, everyone is created by God. This point is clear enough in the very first chapter of the Bible. After God had formed the world and everything in it, he said Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness (Ge 1:26). Then, we are told, God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female (Ge 1:27).

Immediately, we see that God’s design of humanity was very intentional. Genesis does not merely say, God created man (Ge 1:27). It says, God created man in his own image; he created them male and female. While all of God’s creation was certainly part of an intentional design, Scripture seems to emphasize this point regarding the creation of people. We’re explicitly told that God designed humanity in a specific way—namely, as creatures in his own image as well as distinctly male or female, which leads to the second part of my definition.

Created for God

Second, everyone is created by God and for God.

If you have determined to make something, it stands to reason you have a purpose in mind for the thing you intend to make. If you want to bake bread, for example, you will use specific ingredients, put them together in a specific way, and have a specific goal in mind, which is to eat the bread you’ve made. From the moment you conceive the idea to make something, everything you do will be dictated by the purpose for that thing’s existence. If the thing didn’t have a purpose, you wouldn’t make it.

God created human beings with a purpose in mind. That’s what I mean when I say we are created by God for God. The distinct and intentional way he created us implies that much, but God also explicitly says, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth (Ge 1:26). Then, he says to the man and woman he created in the beginning, Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it (Ge 1:28). While that’s not the totality of what he created us for, it shows that he did create us for something. He had a purpose in mind, and he designed us according to that purpose.

Consider what the Baptist Confession of Faith says about our creation:

After God had made all the other creatures, he created humanity. He made them male and female, with rational and immortal souls, thereby making them suited to that life lived unto God for which they were created. They were made in the image of God, being endowed with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. They had the law of God written in their hearts and the power to fulfill it.

Notice how the Confession presents an inseparable link between God’s design of humanity and his intended purpose for humanity, which follows what we read in Genesis. God made us male and female, for instance, so we could fulfill our God-given purpose to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Ge 1:27, 28). He gave us rational and immortal souls, knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness,” according to the Confession, to make us suited to that life lived unto God for which [we] were created.”

In Colossians 1, Paul says, Everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him (Col 1:16). All things,” of course, includes us. We are created by God and for God.

Created to glorify God

To get a complete picture of what God created us for would take a considerable amount of time. The short version is, God created us to glorify him. We exist to (1) experience and (2) reflect his goodness, beauty, and majesty. That is why Paul says, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God (1Co 10:31). No matter how mundane the task, from the time we wake in the morning to the time our heads hit the pillow at night, our God-ordained purpose is to experience and reflect his glory.

If we want specifics, we would have to study his word. We would have to learn his commandments. Keep in mind, his commandments aren’t meant to limit or hold us back. Instead, they show us how to live out our purpose. They show us how to live as God designed us to live. Some people have referred to the Bible as an instruction manual for life, and there’s some truth to that. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2Ti 3:16). We might say Scripture equips us to live out our purpose, to live as God intended.

The Bible’s definition of identity

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