Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)


Matthew 16 describes the most significant case of mistaken identity in history. God sent His only begotten Son to earth as the Savior of the world, but most people believed He was just a man. (John 1:1-14, 3:16; Philippians 2:5-11) They crucified Him.

Although there are people today professing Christianity while making the same mistake about who Jesus is, biblically grounded Christians know Jesus is the Christ, the eternal Son of the living God. Unfortunately, there are two other cases of mistaken identity that wreak havoc among us. The first case concerns the Holy Spirit. The second concerns how we view other people.

Every Christian knows you receive the Holy Spirit when you embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. (Acts 2:38-39) Amidst the debates on what that means in terms of supernatural power and spiritual gifts, we have failed to answer the even more important question: Who is the Holy Spirit we have received?

The Holy Spirit is God! The marvelous, mysterious truth of the Trinity is that while we know God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit, we also know there is only one God. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29; Galatians 3:20; James 2:19) The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead. He proceeds from the Father through the Son to us but always remains eternally and perfectly one with the Father and the Son. (John 15:26, 16:7-15; Galatians 4:6)

For this reason, the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of your Father. (Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:9; Matthew 10:20) Through the Holy Spirit, our fellowship is with the Father and the Son, and both our Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father can make their home in us. (John 14:23, 15:4; 1 John 1:3)

Nowhere is it said more clearly than this: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him (or her), and he in God.” (1 John 4:15) I repeat, the Holy Spirit within you is God.

Our second case of mistaken identity involves everyone you know and everyone you don’t know: Christians and non-Christians, Americans and every other nationality, people you like and people you don’t like, people who agree with your theology and politics and people who don’t. These truths about their identity apply to all of them:

  1. They are loved by God.
  2. They are created by God in His image and likeness.
  3. They are sinners who fall short of the glory of God, just like you and me. (Romans 3:23)
  4. They are people Jesus died for when He paid the price for all sins of all people for all time. (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 9:26, 8:12)
  5. If not yet Christians, they are people the Lord desires to see repent and come into everlasting life. (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) God does not live within them yet, but He wants to, and your assignment is to witness Jesus and His Kingdom to them so that can happen. (Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14-15)
  6. If not yet Christians, the enemy has blinded them in one way or another to keep them from grasping the truth and love of the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Jesus came to give them sight and set them free. (Luke 4:17-21)
  7. If they are born-again Christians, even though they may disagree with your theology or politics, then they are people indwelled by the same God who lives in you (John 1:12-13, 3:3-6)
  8. They are all people God commands you to love in truth and in deed. (Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 3:18) 1 Corinthians 13 describes the type of love you are to have for them.


Imagine with me for a moment what it would be like if all Christians remembered every moment of every day that the Holy Spirit is God living within us. Imagine how Christians could treat each other if we lived with the awareness that the same God who lives in me lives in you.

Now imagine what it would be like if while indwelled by God, we also chose to identify and treat all other people in a manner consistent with His perspective and the biblical truths set forth in this column.

Everything would change. (Romans 12:2)

God bless you, and God bless our community.

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