If you ever find a modern two-headed coin, it’s a fake. Coin presses are set up in such a way that this is an impossible error. There are always two sides to the coin of our Christian identity too. On one side is what Jesus (the head) did for us; on the other is the response expected from us (the tail). Many Scriptures could be cited for each, and Paul’s letters are often in two corresponding parts—Jesus’ in-working followed by our out-working. Here is an example of the first:
[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21)
The perfect Jesus became sinful in order to take our punishment on the cross. As a result, righteousness is imparted to us when we embrace what He did for us. The exchange is extensive; God replaces our former, fallen nature with a new righteous identity—at Jesus’ expense. No matter how shameful your past was, Jesus dealt with it. God erased our guilt and restored our relationship with Him. When we grasp the significance of the transaction, the natural response is deep gratitude and worship.
Would anyone expect a grateful recipient to shrug off such profound blessings and engage in activities that offend Jesus? Paul certainly didn’t. In the course of the next few verses, he turns the coin and urges his readers not to receive the grace of God in vain, to give no cause for offense, and to cleanse themselves from defilement.1
Writing to Ephesian Christians, Paul spoke of both heads and tails.
In reference to your former manner of life . . . lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:22-24)
When the old identity dies, the old lifestyle should die too. The new self that grows in the image of God has a corresponding new lifestyle characterized by godly words and actions.2
Anyone who suggests that being a Christian is a simplistic matter of either heads (all about Jesus’ free gift for us) or tails (all about our works) is mistaken. The two sides of the coin of our Christian identity are inseparable.
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