Female sons and second firstborns: when you want the really great news

The translators have good intentions with their inclusive language. And maybe we need it in the west. But I think they miss the point.

I’m delighted to be a son of God.

I’ve been where the two year old boy eats with the company, chattering away on his grandfather’s lap, while the two year old girl, already knowing her place in society, sits wordlessly in the corner and waits to eat whatever’s left.

I’ve heard men refuse to give blood for their wives because “I can just get another wife.”

I’ve lived in cultures where mothers must heed the word of boys who are still children, simply because they are male.

The Biblical writers weren’t leaving women out when they called us all “sons of God”. They were doing something much more radical. They were including us all – as equals! In Christ, men and women alike are virgin daughters, utterly dependent on our strong and loving Father. And in Christ, men and women alike are God’s sons, honored and given authority and inheritance. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.“ (Gal 3:28) “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. . .” (Acts 2:17)

But it gets better. We’re not only sons. We’re all firstborn sons.

“What? I thought Christ was the firstborn.”

He is. He is the firstborn over all creation (Col 1:15) and the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18; Rev 1:5) He is the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29).

He is the firstborn. And we are the “firstborns” (Heb 12:23) We have been called into “the assembly of the firstborn ones who are enrolled in heaven.” (Heb 12:23)

“All the people of Christ are the ‘firstborn’ children of God, through their union with Him who is the firstborn par excellence; their birthright [literally “right of the firstborn”] is not to be bartered away as was Esau’s [see Heb 12:16-17].” (F.F. Bruce)

By God’s law, the firstborn was dedicated to God alone (Exodus 13:1-2; Num 3:12-13). Now Jesus has set himself apart, joined himself to us, so that, in Him, we are all consecrated to be God’s alone. “For them I sanctify myself that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:19)

Kingly and priestly succession was in the firstborn. As firstborn, Jesus should be the king and the priest. But watch: he’s the firstborn . . . to make us a kingdom of priests, reigning with him!

“Grace to you and peace. . . from Jesus Christ. . . the firstborn of the dead. . . To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father. . .” (Rev 1:4-6)

“. . .You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God and they will reign on earth.” (Rev 5:9-10) (also 1 Pet 2:5,9; Rev 20:6)

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me. It has always been this way with firstborns: they pave the way for what is to come. God called Israel “My firstborn son” (Ex 4:22), the Israelites chosen not for their own sake, but so that through God’s blessing of them, the coming of Messiah through them, all other nations would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). Israel came first bringing all nations along with them into the privileged position of being God’s chosen people (Romans 11).

But a whole lot of firstborns? First firstborns and second firstborns? How do we make sense of this? Another New Testament metaphor helps: Christ as the head and we as his body.

Most babies are born headfirst. The head does the hard work of opening the way from the darkness of the womb into the bright day. Usually, once the head is born, the rest of the baby slips out with no effort at all. It is true: the head is firstborn, the body second. The head leads, the body follows. It is also true: the whole child is firstborn.

Do you see? What seems too good to be true really is true! We who receive the gift offered become so tightly joined to Christ that we are not only members of His family, but part of Him. He, the head, is firstborn, preparing the way. We, His body, are “firstborns,” firstborn along with Him by nature of our attachment to him.  As firstborn, Jesus should receive a double portion of inheritance (Deut 21:17) He holds back no part of it from us. He blesses us with “every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3). The Father loves us “just as” he loves Jesus (John 17:23). Jesus has given us the glory that His Father gave to Him (John 17:22) and he longs for us to be with him and to see his glory not so that we will bow down and worship him (though, in the face of this love, how could we not!) but so that we will finally comprehend the magnitude of what we’ve been given and delight with him and the rest of his body in being loved into this union of firstborn-ness. (John 17:22-24)

Who knew the good news was so amazing?!

Related posts:

How he really loves

Related listening:

Spirit-Filled Relationships Part I – a clear explanation of the place of women in the first century – and how Jesus turned it all on its head. A must-listen for anyone who thinks Paul denigrates women. . . In fact,  a must-listen for anyone who lives in relationship with anyone else in the world!