FIRSTBORN SONSHIP OF CHRIST
THE NEW BIRTH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Article 40 (Continued)
I AM YOUR EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD
1 "After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.'" Gen 15:1.
Abraham had won a crushing victory against overwhelming odds, similar to what Gideon did later with 300 men against 135,000, Jud 8:10. Abraham was indeed strong in faith, but the strongholds of the flesh (2Co 10:3-5; Gal 5:17) worm their way back into our minds and emotions to torment us with doubts and fears. These kings that Abraham defeated had twice gathered in the spoils of victory in this area and held Sodom and Gomorah under tribute for 12 years. Revenge would be on their minds, and the fear of revenge by the defeated kings bothered Abraham. Thus the Lord appeared to Abraham and said, "Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, your exceeding great reward."
In the beginning God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness," Gen 1:26-27. These and similar words are repeated and emphasized throughout the Scriptures, and make it of major emphasis that God's purpose was and is that His faithful covenant people be fully conformed to His divine image and likeness. From the beginning, God has offered His testament people the "fullness" of His divine nature: this includes the full range of God's divine attributes, Eph 1:22-23; 3:19; 5:31-32; Col 1:19; 2:9-10; Jn 10:30-36; 14:8-11; 17:21-23; et al. Abraham was already well informed, but his patience was being tested and he desired greater assurance from God of such glorious things as God had promised. The fulfillment of these promises hinged on the Lord giving Abraham a son, which for these many years had been and was still being withheld. The intentional withholding of a son from Abraham and Sarah served other major goals, one of which was to provide the allegory primarily found in Gal 4:21-31, which we will again briefly review below.
A DIVINE SONSHIP PROMISED TO ABRAHAM
6 "Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'
7 "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
8 "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed (born again into God's divine righteousness or divine nature).'
9 "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham," Gal 3:6-9.
From this passage and from Gen 15:1-6 we have the following major things presented to us.
1. I Am Your Exceeding Great Reward.
1 "...I am your shield, your exceeding great reward," Gen 15:1.
The very heart of God's eternal purpose from before creation was to create man, and transform the faithful among men into His own image and likeness, Gen 1:26-27; 2Co 3:18; Eph 4:25; Col 3:10; Phi 3:7-14,21. All the types, ceremonial cleansings, feasts, and prophetic utterances of both Old and New Testaments point directly to this grand finale in God's purpose for this first seven thousand years of foundation building for all ages to come.
God Himself, in the full range of His divine attributes, is the promised reward (or gift) by grace to those who will daily walk by faith. He has promised that the faithful covenant people will awake in His righteousness (in His image and likeness), (Ps 17:15; Phi 3:7-14,21; 2Pe 1:4), and will share His fullness as His bride people, Isa 46:13; 48:11; 54:5; 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:31-32; Rev 19:7-8.
2. The Righteousness of God and Justification.
6 "And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness," Gen 15:6.
9 "And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law (Covenant), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by the faith," Phi 3:9.
21 "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him," 2Co 5:21.
The righteousness of justification is one of the attributes of God's divine nature. To be conformed to the image and likeness of God, we must be born again into His divine image and state of being. The righteousness of God is one of God's divine attributes, which we do not currently possess, except through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives to us and then works in us the gift of faith. In this life we are only credited as being born again into His divine righteousness. We must walk in the steps of Abraham's faith and be progressively justified as he was, Rom 3:21-26; 4:1-25; Ja 2:21-23; Gal 5:5; Phi 3:9. Otherwise we will make shipwreck of the gift of faith (1Ti 1:18-20) and fall from grace, Gal 5:1-4.
3. The Righteousness of God (Justification) and the Fath of Christ.
16 "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to (covenant) salvation for everyone who is constantly believing, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17 "For in it (in the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed out of faith into faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith,'" Rom 1:16-17.
16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but by faith OF Jesus Christ, even we (even we Jews also, Gal 3:15) have believed into Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith OF Christ and not by the works of the Law; for by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified," Gal 2:16.
We still have three spiritual gifts remaining (1Co 13:13): faith, hope, and love. In the body of Christ we have "the mind of Christ," who is the head of the body, 1Co 2:16; Eph 4:15-16; Gal 3:22-26, and having the mind of Christ we also have the faith of Christ (His mind and His faith) through the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit, 1Co 2:9-16. Observe also, in Gal 2:16 quoted above, that we have believed INTO Christ in order to be justified by "the faith OF Christ." (The faith of the Old Testament saints qualified them for and led them to the faith OF Christ).
"The faith of Christ" is "the faith which should afterward be revealed," in the person of Christ and by the Holy Spirit in the church as the body of Christ. The faith of Christ is the system of doctrines in the New Covenant, but it is equally the personal faith of Christ being worked out in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is Christ's Vicar working in and through the church as the body of Christ, Gal 3:22-26; 1Co 2:9-16.
We are now earnestly waiting for the righteousness of God which is the new birth by grace through faith:
5 "For we through the Spirit are eagerly waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith," Gal 5:5; 6:7-9.
9 "And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by the faith," Phi 3:9 (3:7-14,21).
4. The Righteousness of God (Justification) and the Gospel of Christ.
8 "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed,'" Gal 3:8.
16 "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who is believing, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17 "For in it (in the Gospel) the righteousness of God is being revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just (righteous one) shall live by faith,'" Rom 1:16-17.
Here the righteousness of God is directly and appropriately associated with the Gospel, so that the resurrection from the dead into a divine state of being (the new birth) is seen in both justification and the Gospel, therefore the new birth is essentially inherent in both of them. Christ is the firstborn from the dead into a divine human body, Col 1:18; Rev 1:5; Act 13:29-33; 1Co 15:44-50; Col 2:9.
Likewise, God's divine attribute of righteousness is progressively being credited to every faithful covenant person, as it was about Abraham, Gen 15:6; Rom 4:12-25; Ja 2:21-23. Observe how justification is associated with the resurrection of the dead:
19 "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb," Rom 4:19-25. Both were dead as far as bearing the necessary son was concerned.
The discussion here in Rom 4 is on justification, tying it in with the deadness of both Abraham and Sarah as far as Abraham and Sarah having a son was concerned. Also, twenty-five years later Abraham by faith offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, and the Scriptures say that Abraham was credited with receiving Isaac from the dead, Heb 11:17-19.
23 "Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 "But also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 Who was delivered up because of (in order to put away) our offenses, and was raised because of (in order to perfect) our justification," (the new birth), Rom 4:23-25.
Justification was perfected by the resurrection of Christ's human body into a divine, spirit, heavenly body, possessing all the fullness of God's divine attributes, 1Co 15:44-50; Col 2:9-10. We are therefore earnestly waiting (Gal 5:5) for that "better resurrection" (Heb 11:35; Phi 3:9-11,21), into God's divine fullness, which is the new birth. No wonder Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Are you a teacher in Israel, and do not know these things?" Jn 3:10 (1-10). The traditions of the elders in our day have gotten about as far away from the new birth as the Pharisees were in the day of Christ.
May we remember that both justification and the Gospel require the perseverance of the saints, Eze 3:20-212; 18:25; 33:12-13; 1Co 15:1-2; et al. However, not all saved people persevere, 2Pe 1:3-10; 1Co 9:27 thru 10:12; Jn 15:1-6; Rom 11:11-22. The Scriptures are clear that God's purpose includes two kinds of sons, 1) firstborn sons who will be conformed to the image and likeness of God in a divine oneness, and 2) servant sons who do not qualify for the firstborn sonship, and will not share in the divine oneness of God's image and likeness.
5. Justification and The Blessing of Abraham.
8 "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed' (justified).
9 "So then those who are of faith are blessed (justified) with believing Abraham," Gal 3:8-9.
The "blessing" of Abraham is "justification," Rom 4; Gal 3. And we have demonstrated that justification is God crediting His divine righteousness to Abraham and to all the faithful covenant people from Adam on. This was and is a covenant matter – a last will and testament inheritance for the first-born sons only, Gen 27:27-37; Ex 4:22-23; Rom 8:28-30; 9:4; 11:1-11; Heb 12:1-23. Every covenant person, both man and woman, can qualify for the firstborn sonship inheritance of the divine image and likeness of God.
6. Justification and a Divine Sonship Above Other Servant Sons.
30 "Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.'"
31 "So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free," Gal 4:30-31.
This allegory is of paramount importance to a full and proper understanding of the Scriptures. How much clearer can God be? The people to whom Paul wrote these words were the churches of Galatia – not the people of the province of Galatia, but the churches in the province of Galatia. These are not unsaved unbelievers. They were saved and scripturally baptized believers who possessed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These were churches that Paul and his helpers had established properly in the faith of Christ.
They were being deceived by emissaries out of the church in Jerusalem, which church was a staunch Law-keeping church, Act 11; 15; 21. The church in Jerusalem was mixing the New Covenant with the Law Covenant and trying to keep both. Paul shows in the letter to the Galatian churches that to do this would cut them off from Christ, Gal 4:31 thru 5:4. This would bring the curse of the Law Covenant back upon them (Gal 3:10), and they would thereby be cut off from Christ (Gal 5:1-4) and from all the promises of all the covenants (of all the last will and testaments).
Until the New Covenant officially replaced the Law Covenant, the covenant people were under the curse of the Law Covenant, but could still serve God by the "faith" provision of the Law Covenant, Deu 10:16; 30:6; Rom 2:28-29. This "faith" provision flowed through vicarious animal sacrifices, which pointed to the Seed of the woman as the Lamb of God, Gen 3:15,21; Jn 1:29,36.
However, with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the Lamb of God, the New Covenant replaced the Law Covenant. Christ as High Priest of the New Covenant would therefore not benefit anyone trying to keep the Law Covenant after it was replaced by the New Covenant, Gal 4:21 thru 5:4; 2Co 3:1-18.
7. Justification, the Blessing of Abraham, and Receiving the Holy Spirit in the Firstborn Sonship.
14 "That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through the faith" (of Christ), Gal 3:14.
39 "But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing into Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified," Jn 7:39.
1) Having God as our reward in the full range of His divine attributes is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 2) Being justified (or credited) with the righteousness of God is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 3) Qualifying by grace through faith to receive the righteousness of God in the resurrection is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 4) Being in the position to qualify for the firstborn sonship of Christ is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 5) The giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as a down payment and guarantee of receiving the fullness of God in the resurrection is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 6) The perseverance of the saints in faithful service by grace through faith is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 7) The inheritance of the glory and fullness of God is restricted to the faithful covenant people and is a part of the blessing of Abraham. 8) The Gospel, its required perseverance of the saints in covenant standing, and its resurrection new birth into the divine firstborn sonship is a part of the blessing of Abraham.
TWO SONSHIPS: A FIRSTBORN DIVINE SONSHIP, AND A SERVANT HUMAN SONSHIP
5 "Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.'
6 "And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness," Gen 15:5-6.
10 "Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac,'" Gen 21:10; Gal 4:21-31.
Abraham knew that Jehovah, as testament Testator, as the Kinsman Redeemer, and as the Seed of the woman, would be his descendant, because:
14 "The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant," Ps 25:14.
Since this verse is true, we can be assured that God revealed His covenants to Abraham, all the way from the Garden of Eden on down to the covenant He was now in the process of making with Abraham in Gen 15. Abraham had already been faithfully serving God for well over 25 years, and may have already been given the vision of the Lord's day (Jn 8:56), and of the heavenly city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God, Heb 11:8-16.
Abraham earnestly desired a son through whom the treasured firstborn sonship would pass. The redemption cycle and the unique and divine firstborn sonship were clearly demonstrated and taught to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and they obviously faithfully taught it to their children. Abel demonstrated this by offering the firstborn lambs of his flock, Gen 4:4. This revealed that Abel (and Cain also, Gen 4:7) had been correctly taught, and that they understood the redemption cycle and the uniqueness of the firstborn sonship. Those who believe and obey the stipulations contained in the last will and testament will qualify for the firstborn sonship, and will rule all other servant sons who do not believe and obey, Gen 27:27-37; Ps 82; Ex 4:22-23; Heb 12:1-23.
Abel's offering revealed that this sonship was to be portrayed in sacrificial worship, and that sacrificial worship was to be the order of the day, obviously having its origin demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. There in the Garden of Eden was 1) where blood was first shed, 2) where death was first projected in animal sacrifices, 3) where the covenant people were first forecast as being clothed with the righteousness of God (God's divine nature), by being clothed with the skins of the slain animals (Gen 3:21; 2Co 5:21; Phi 3:9; Rev 19:7-8), 4) where the redeeming Seed of the woman was first represented by animal sacrifices, and 5) where the body of animal sacrifices first represented our Kinsman Redeemer and testament Testator in the redemption cycle.
God's purpose provided for Sarah to bear a son, Isaac, through whom God would generate a firstborn sonship of divine sons, Gal 4:19 thru 5:5. These firstborn sons 1) will be born into a divine state of being when Christ returns (1Co 15:45-50; Lk 20:34-36; Gal 4:19 thru 5:4); 2) being divine, they will be free sons (Jn 8:31-32), free from all the physical or natural laws of the universe (Gal 4:3,9; Col 2:8,20-21); and 3) being divine, they will rule over all creation together with the Kinsman Testator who is the firstborn Son from the dead, Col 1:18; Rev 1:5; Act 13:29-33; Heb 1:5-6; 5:5; et al.
God's purpose also provided for Hagar to become Abraham's wife and bear him a servant son, Ishmael. Ishmael represents a servant sonship of saved people who will never share in the divine nature, 1Co 9:23 thru 10:12; Heb 3:6-19; Gal 5:1-5; 2Pe 1:4-10; et al. They will make up the nations on the new earth, Rev 21:23-26; Mt 15:22-28; 18:17; 2Th 3:6-15; 2Ti 2:20; et al.
HOW SHALL I KNOW THAT I SHALL INHERIT IT?
8 "And he said, ‘Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?'" Gen 15:8.
Inheriting the promised land of Canaan was not all that God had in mind, and Abraham was aware that there was much more after death and resurrection. Being precisely conformed to God's image and likeness has always been and still is the primary objective in God's last will and testament. This was portrayed by the constant flow of animal sacrifices and in numerous other ways, many millions of times through past ages.
We also must be daily bearing about in our bodies both the death and the resurrection life of the testament Testator, 2Co 3:18; 4:9-12; Rom 12:1-2; et al. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did this by living separated lives from the world, and looking for the heavenly city according to God's last will and testament, Heb 11:8-16.
14 "The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant," Ps 25:14.
The secret counsel of the Lord is with those who fear and love God. The Lord is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and is constantly in the posture of revealing the hidden mysteries of the heavenly kingdom to those who love Him and walk with Him (Pro 27:9,17), as Enoch and Noah did, Gen 5;22; 6:9. God was pleased to reinforce His revelation to Abraham and to us of the hidden counsel of His testament.
DIVIDED THE SACRIFICES IN HALF
9 "So He said to him, "Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."
10 "Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two," Gen 15:9-10.
This was God's way of ratifying His covenant, as a last will and testament. It was a certification that Jehovah (the Son of God) would become the Seed of the woman (or Son of man) and die, in the process of conquering death, crushing the head of the serpent, and redeeming the covenant people into the image and likeness of God, Gen 1:26-30; 3:15; Ps 2:7-9; 8:3-6.
In all cases of shedding of blood and sacrificial worship, God intended to portray and strengthen the worshiper's knowledge and awareness of the redemption cycle. The redemption cycle generally is: 1) the virgin birth of Jehovah into a human body; 2) His perfect life in obeying the will of God, signified by "clean" animals or fowl, unleavened bread, etc; 3) His death for the sins of Adam and his descendants; 4) His burial as necessary part of the redemption process, during which time Christ in Spirit descended into the lower parts of the earth to proclaim His victory as the human Redeemer and move Paradise into the third heaven; 5) His resurrection out of the grave in victory over death, hell and the grave; 6) His human body be born into a divine body possessing all the fullness of the divine nature; 7) His ascension into heaven to serve as the testament Mediator until the seventh millennium; and 8) His return to earth to deify His faithful covenant people, and reign with them through the seventh millennium of "rest."
WALKING BETWEEN THE HALVES, A TESTAMENT RATIFICATION AND PLEDGE OF FAITH OBEDIENCE
18 "And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it --
19 "the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf," Jer 34:18-19.
This helps us to understand the cutting the sacrifices in half, with the smoking furnace and burning lamb passing between the halves. We interpret Gen 15:9-20 and context from the rest of the Bible. The sacrifices first represent Christ as the Lamb of God, as God's vicarious Sacrifice for the sins of Adam and the whole human race. Each sacrifice and bird first represented Christ.
There is another major factor that God intended to be understood and remain resident in the understanding of the covenant people. That is, the sacrificial animals also represent the faithful covenant people as "one" together with and in the sacrifice: one together with and in the body of the animal sacrifice, which represented Christ. God's purpose has always been that the faithful testament people be conformed to the image and likeness of God, so that they are "one" with God, Gen 1:26-27; Eph 1:22-23; 3:19; 5:31-32; 2Pe 1:4; Jn 10:30-36; 14:8-11; 17:21-23; et al.
The New Testament explicitly describes the covenant people as "one" in the body of Christ, 1Co 6:15-17; 12:12-27; et al. So much so, that the testament people are metaphorically counted as 1) being crucified together with and in the body Christ, 2) dying together with and in the body of Christ, 3) being buried together with and in the body of Christ, 4) being raised from the dead together with and in the body of Christ, and, in His resurrection, and 5) being born again from the dead into a divine state of being together with and in the body of Christ, Rom 6:3-6; 1Co 6:15-17; et al.
In the Old Testament this oneness with Christ was witnessed in 1) eating the Passover lamb, 2) eating the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs, 3) eating the manna, 4) drinking the water from the rock, 5) eating of the sacrifices, 6) eating of the food offerings, and 7) eating the show bread, etc.
The testament people are represented as walking between the pieces or halves of the animals. Thus, they are enclosed within the animals, within Christ, in life, in death, and (the promise of divine life with Christ) in the resurrection. Every sacrificial animal projected resurrection into divine life after death, or else the sacrifice was in vain and the promise of no effect. The promise of the tree of life was and is divine life, and the promise of Gen 3:15 requires the Seed of the woman to have the same divine life as offered in the fruit of the tree of life. See also Rev 2:7.
A SMOKING FURNACE PASSED BETWEEN THE HALVES
17 "And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces," Gen 12:17.
10 "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction," Isa 49:10.
Again, the smoking oven or furnace first represents Christ being tested throughout His life. Also, it has always been God's will that the covenant people strive to do His will without wavering into things contrary to His will. Of Christ it is written:
7 "Then I said, 'Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of Me - To do Your will, O God,'" Heb 10:7.
This was true from the virgin birth to His death on the cross. He had to be a Lamb without blemish and without defect, 1Pe 1:18-20.
And again, we must recognize that Christ and the testament people are "one." The smoking furnace also represents the testament people as one with Christ in covenant discipline. As Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered, so must we survive within the fiery furnace of affliction. We must bear His cross with Him in this life in order to be dressed in His divine righteousness in the resurrection and forever thereafter, Heb 5:8-9; 12:1-11; 2Co 3:18; 4:6-12,17; 5:21; 2Ti 2:10-13. We are therefore enclosed with Christ and He with us in the furnace of testament discipline between the two halves of the slain Lamb.
A BURNING LAMP PASSED BETWEEN THE HALVES
17 "And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces," Gen 15:17.
In the tabernacle there were no windows, only Christ represented in the candlestick and the testament people as "one" with Him in the candlestick. The oil in the candlestick represented the Holy Spirit in Christ and in the covenant people.
8 "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,'" Jn 8:12.
Jesus also said, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden," Mt 5:14-16; 1Th 5:5-7.
Since the smoking furnace speaks of a refining furnace, the burning torch or lamb speaks of a light giving source within the sacrificial halves of the body of Christ. We still must put our all on the altar of sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2), and take up the cross that the testimony of both sacrificial death and resurrection life (divinely born again life) of Christ may be manifest in us, 2Co 3:18; 4:6-12; 2:14-16.