Since writing about adoption last week, I’ve been pondering related aspects of becoming children of God. I described what is called “adoption” in Romans 8 and 9, Galatians 4, and Ephesians 1 as “the process by which we become God’s children.” There is much more to it, however, and I’m hoping this post will begin to explore our relationship to God and Christ as people who They want to become members of Their family. To do this, I think it is important to spend time studying our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 2:9).
It should be obvious that our relation to God as His children is different than the relationship Jesus has as His Son. After all, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” before He became “flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). As such, John uses a different Greek word to distinguish Jesus Christ from believers who are called children of God. The word is monogenes (G3439), meaning an only child. Zodhiates says the word appears to “serve to distinguish the Sonship of Christ to God from that spoken of other beings, i.g. Adam (Luke 3:38), angels (Job 1:6), or believers (John 1:12).”
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
Though He is described as the only begotten Son of God, Christ is not intended to be an only child. Rather, God has predestinated us “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). The word for “firstborn” is prototokos (G4416), and it is used as a title of Jesus Christ in five NT passages. In all these cases, Zodhiates points out that the word can mean firstborn child, but also and identifies “Christ as the preeminent or ranking member of the group” in Romans 8, and indicates an “an inherent right [to rule] by virtue of His nature” when the word is used in Colossians 1.
In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. 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. (Colossians 1:14-18)
One meaning Zodhiates does not discuss is the first one that popped into my head. I would be curious to know why it isn’t in his dictionary, simply because it seems to obvious to me and I wanted to at least read a reason for it’s exclusion.
“Firstborn” implies there are other children. If I did not have siblings, I would be an only child. Since I have a younger brother and sister, I am a firstborn. Similarly, Christ being called the “firstborn of the dead” reassures me that He is not the only one who will be resurrected, simply the first. Calling Him the “firstborn among many breathren” gives me hope that I might be counted worthy to be one of His younger siblings.