Thesis #85 of 95. The elect are not the totality of God's children but their firstborn, the first fruits of all true humanity.
Heb12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn ones who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect
James1:18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
Rom8:23 We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body!
Rom8:29 Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that He would be the Firstborn among many brothers.
Rom13:9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Firstly, a word about the terminology. “Firstborn” in the bible can mean in the literal sense the first person out of a mother’s womb, for example Jesus being the firstborn of Mary. In the Old Testament the firstborn son is the one who inherits his father’s estate. It brings responsibilities as well as privilege and honour, which is why Esau incurred divine condemnation for disowning his birth right as firstborn son for the sake of a tasty meal. However, first-from-the-womb is not what is being referred to in the verses quoted above, either in the case of Jesus or His elect people. The title infers a superiority in privilege and authority over others, who nevertheless have a familial connection with that firstborn.
The clear and incontrovertible case is that of Jesus with respect to His faithful followers, aka the elect [Rom8:29 (above) which also indicates why they are referred to as “the elect”]. The amazing thing is not that Jesus is superior to His disciples but that He regards the latter as His own family. For as Paul affirms, the Christian is to be adopted into the bosom of God’s family, at least once his body has been redeemed (Rom8:23). [If you have been following my recent posts, you should know why that is.]
But the point of this thesis is that the elect (whose Firstborn is Christ – Rom8:29) themselves act as the firstborn of the whole human race. James also describes Christ’s people as “the first fruits of all creation” (James1:18). The writer to the Hebrews depicts the elect of God as the “church of the firstborn” (Heb12:23), the key point being that “firstborn” [Greek: πρωτοτόκων] is plural. It is not referring to Christ but His people.
Of whom are they the firstborn? It is of all who are “of God”, most of whom are not “the elect”. For as the New Testament also affirms, everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1Jn4:7); everyone who loves his neighbour as himself fulfils the spirit and heart of God’s law (Rom13:9); everyone who possess “agape” such that they show compassion to the needy (with whom the Son of Man personally identifies) shall be accepted into God’s Kingdom (Mt25:40).
Yet by no means are all the above “saved” in the gospel sense. For, referring back to my earlier post, that pertains to being delivered from “the body of this death” (Rom7:24-25) through a relationship with Christ and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It enables God’s chosen ones to “put to death the deeds of the body” and have their “consciences cleansed from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb9:14). Paul also refers to God’s elect as having the “first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom8:23). In all the above cases, “first fruit” is indicative that more shall follow. Likewise, the church being “the firstborn ones” infers that they have (or are to have) an overseeing/ruling/representational role within a much larger family.
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