Offense of the Firstborn
©June 2006 Asher Intrater
When Yeshua was born into this world as savior, He was God's only begotten son (John 3:16). However when He was raised from the dead, He was the first born son (Revelation 1:5) of all those others who will be raised from the dead with Him.
This was the master plan of God: to have others come into position as sons, with Yeshua as the older brother. Therefore the pattern of the "firstborn" underlies much of God's purposes. It is also a matter of spiritual controversy.
Ishmael was angry at Isaac for taking his position as firstborn son. Esau was angry at Jacob for taking his. This "offense" at the position of the firstborn son lies at the root of the anger found in Islam, and their oversensitivity to "honor."
God challenged the Egyptians that if they didn't release Israel, His firstborn, then He would strike down their firstborn (Exodus 4:23). God then demanded of the Jewish people to pay him "redemption" money for saving their firstborn sons (Leviticus 12; 27; Luke 2:23).
If God had wanted to keep the human race in a position of slaves, He would not have needed a Son to take the place as the older brother. But since He wants to raise us to a position of sons, He had to put in place a firstborn son to pave the way.
Yeshua holds now a position of double authority. First He is a representative of the Father's authority. Secondly He has the authority of the older brother. The authority of the older brother is secondary to the authority of the father.
Yeshua will maintain this position of double authority until the end of the millennium. At that time He will restore the kingdom to the Father, relinquish the "fatherly" part of His authority, and assume His unique position as older brother – over us, but under the Father.
I Corinthians 15:28
Abraham was the first "believer" in the full sense of the word. God expanded him to a family, then a tribe, then a nation. Since he was the first believer, the nation that came from him was the first nation with a core of believers in it. Therefore Abraham and his nation were "chosen" as the firstborn.
However, God's idea of "election" is inclusive, not exclusive. Anyone who chooses to believe in God through Yeshua the Messiah is also chosen, and becomes part of the "assembly" of the firstborn.
Yet, that inclusiveness does not do away with Israel's position. God sees the nations of this world as a large extended family. Each nation is a member of the family. Israel is the firstborn among those nations.
Yeshua is the firstborn from the dead; and Israel is the first nation with a remnant of faith. The nations of the world are offended at Israel for being the firstborn; Israel is offended at Yeshua for being the firstborn. The "bottom line" offense in both Islam and Christianity is Israel's position as the firstborn. The "bottom line" offense in Judaism is Yeshua's position as the firstborn.
Each family with multiple children has a firstborn son. The firstborn son has a "double" portion of authority among the other children. Why is this? When I look at my children, I realize that they will one day marry and have children of their own. If the Lord tarries, I will go on out of this world. What will happen to the family? I would like the family to be preserved in unity. They cannot be preserved in the same unity we once had in our nuclear family, because the family has multiplied.
The extended family is made up of a group of nuclear families. In each nuclear family, the father has primary authority. In the extended family, the firstborn son has authority, but it is secondary to the primary authority in each nuclear family. There are two spheres:
1.) Each extended family has its own firstborn son.
The same is true for a pastor: a local congregation is like a group of families. The head elder or pastor is like the elder brother in the extended family. He does not replace God's Fatherly authority, but his leadership is needed to provide unity and direction for the group.
A firstborn son can lose his position. Esau sold it to Jacob. Reuven (the firstborn of Jacob) lost it when he committed sexual perversion. Simeon and Levi (the second and third born) lost it through violence and murder. The opportunity then passed to Judah (the fourth born). When he volunteered to take Benjamin's place in jail, he secured his position as leader of the extended family. Judah had the birth right before Joseph (eleventh son), even though Joseph was more righteous.
The firstborn son leads the extended family. It is as if all the heads of families have one "vote" in tribal decisions, but the firstborn has a "double" vote.
The firstborn must go first. That is, he must lead. Judah had to go first in warfare (Judges 1:1-2). If we Messianic Jews are to take our position as firstborn sons in the international church, we must be the first to take the beam out of our own eyes, to repent, to forgive, to pray, to fast, to give to the needy, to preach the gospel.
If the role of the firstborn is to provide unity for the extended family, so must the Messianic remnant of Israel in the end times be dedicated to serving the unity of the international church, including reconciliation with Arab Christians.
Romans chapter 11 speaks of an Olive Tree with branches grafted into it. This is a symbol of unity. If we Messianic Jews become prideful of being the "natural" stock of the Olive Tree, we will violate God's calling on us to be a vehicle of unity for the rest of the branches. Our pride at being the "older brother" invalidates the very purpose of our being chosen for that role in the first place.
There is a strange "psychology" to being the firstborn in any family. There is a "hyper" sense of responsibility and seriousness, a tendency to worry, to be overly cautious, and to push oneself to achieve, a sense that others are expecting something of him. He can be tense and intense. [As a firstborn Jewish male (and Messianic at that), I am unfortunately quite familiar with the psychological dysfunctions often associated with the firstborn "syndrome."]
The concept of the firstborn is one of the most offensive things in the world. It stems from God's grace in wanting to bring us into His extended family as beloved children. What He meant for good, we have often twisted to something bad. However, in the "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:19), God will restore the position of the firstborn to fulfill its positive role in the predestined plan of God.