Sonship, part 26: Israel goes first!
The only mention of “adoption” in the New Testament which we have not yet discussed is in Romans 9 where Paul says:
Romans 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service
of God, and the promises;
I need to make a point here. It is a concept which I have been trying to make clear on many occasions and in many lectures over the years. And that has to do with the exclusivity of Israel. I firmly believe the Israel message as strongly as I ever have, but over the years, I have come to understand that the exclusivity, or the “chosenness” of Israel, has more to do with primacy than anything else. Not primacy as in superiority, but primacy in terms of order, the order of events, or having to do with chronology and timing.
In other words, Israel was chosen to go first in God’s great plan to reconcile all creation to Himself. Just look at the items Paul mentions in this verse 4. Can we say that these are always and forever exclusively for Israel? That’s what I thought for many years. But let’s examine them one by one, beginning with the glory. Paul says the glory pertains to Israel. Yet Paul had also said in the previous chapter in verse 21 that…
21 [Because] the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the “sons” of God.
The glorious liberty which the sons enjoy first is ultimately for all creation. We are not going in depth on this because our subject is sonship, so this is just a brief and cursory view. The next item is the covenants.
The covenants, both old and new, were made with Israel. That is absolutely true. But Isaiah 56 and other places show us that non-Israelites can join themselves to YHWH as well. But again, the primacy of Israel is indisputable.
Next is the giving of the law. Israel is the first pizza out of the oven; they were given the law at Mt. Sinai, but it is part of Israel’s mission over the ages to take that law of God and administer it all over the globe, to all peoples, tribes, nations and tongues. God’s law is ultimately universal law.
Next, the service of God. We just mentioned part of it. Israel serves God by taking His law to all the other nations of the earth. But as other peoples come under His law and become part of His kingdom, they, too, will be serving God in the manner God has designed for them.
And the promises pertain to Israel—first! This needs a lot more dissection than we’re going to take the time to give it here, because we need to recognize that there are special promises for the overcomers of Israel that do not apply to all Israel, and there are promises that apply to the believers out of Israel that do not apply to the unbelievers in Israel. But certainly, the stranger, the non-Israelite can lay hold of the promises by faith.
And finally, the adoption pertains to Israel—first! They have first shot at it. Some are called to be among the church of the firstborn and receive the adoption of son-placing which receive the power of attorney to rule and reign with Jesus. Others receive the adoption of son-placing in the manner as we saw in the ancient Greco-Roman world, that a master adopts slaves or servants as his sons.
That does not necessarily make them firstborn. But recall the story of Abraham. Had he not ever had a son, he was fully prepared to make Eliezer, his servant, as his heir and by that, his firstborn. So all those items in verse 4 pertain to Israel, as Paul says, but Paul’s own writings among others, show that Paul meant it in the context of pertaining to Israel first.
The Pattern Son
Earlier in this series, we asked the question: How does one become a son of God. The first answer was: by adoption, and we have expounded upon that in terms of what adoption really is Then we asked when do we actually become adopted—and the answer is ….at the resurrection. The second answer to the question, how do we become sons of God is, by following the example of the Pattern Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have already expounded on that to some extent when we traced the many occasions when Jesus declared things like: I do only those things I see my Father do, or I speak that which I have seen with my Father, or I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And this is our goal, too. To become so much like Christ that there is nothing left of us, meaning the old, fallen Adamic nature.
Like Ephraim and Manasseh supplanted Reuben and Simeon as firstborn of Israel, so Jesus supplants Adam as the firstborn son of God. Adam was given what is called “the dominion mandate.” To subdue the earth, etc. If you think about it, what is that except that God placed Adam as king over all the earth?
But because Jesus takes Adam’s place as firstborn, therefore Jesus is entitled to be king of the whole earth. That is another reason He came of the tribe of Judah, to establish His right to kingship, not only over Israel but ultimately over the whole earth and all creation. Consider these Scriptures.
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten [same Greek word as “firstborn”] of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.
The word prince there is not to be understood in the sense of a subordinate position to the kings, as a prince is a son of a king. The Greek word there is archone which means the chief ruler or commander or leader.
Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature [all creation]:
16 For by him were all things created, …
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Some will follow the Pattern Son only insofar as attaining sonship. Others are called to follow the Pattern Son to the ultimate, that they might be part of the firstborn company of sons—overcomers. These are spoken of in chapter 14 of the book of Revelation.
Revelation 14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
There is the key requirement for those of us who seek to be part of the firstborn company. To follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. We mentioned earlier in these essays how wonderful it will be to be part of the “rulers and reigners” and we declined to wax eloquent about it and get all caught up in it because in reality, it is a long, hard road to get there.
It is not an ego trip; it is an ego death! The way up is down. What Jesus endured, we also must endure. And remember the Boanerges Boys, James and John, who wanted to have the key positions next to Jesus. We will look at that story next time. (To be continued.)