“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 11. Growing Up
Heb 12:23 “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.”
We talked yesterday about being like little children with our loving heavenly Father, free to just burble at God, sometimes with shopping list prayers, sometimes full of doubts and questions as children do, sometimes full of excitement and joy. We also said we would go on and think about ‘growing up’.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as ‘the firstborn’, the first of the God-men, the God-children, but our starter verse speaks of us by that designation, partly because we’re the church of Jesus’ followers and partly because we are made in his likeness and being changed into his likeness. (2 Cor 3:18) So if there are aspects of him being ‘the first-born’ and all that that means – more than just being the first one to be raised – there are things we need to think about that similarly apply to us.
Now in the Old Testament the firstborn son was privileged, he would be taking over the care of the family, he would take over the business, when the father died. The picture of ‘the first-born is one who grows in maturity to join in and take over the father’s business. We said yesterday that God loves all our prayers, but He loves it even more when we mature and understand His ‘business’ and share His heart as we pray.
So, as we said, Jesus is the ‘first-born’ because he was the first of the new kingdom to be raised from the dead, but there is more to it than that. Today, the Father has entrusted to him the oversight of the kingdom.
In recent days I find a delight in those verses that speak of that: “The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psa 110:1,2) Peter, anointed by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost to preach, used these verses because they were familiar to the Jews, but he pointed out that in this psalm of David the second ‘lord’ couldn’t be David because David didn’t ascend (Acts 2:34,25). No, says Peter, this refers to the Messiah, this is the Father talking to the Son who, when he takes over oversight of the kingdom of God, will rule in the midst of his enemies, will be administering ‘the Father’s business’ as he sits next to the Father in heaven.
Then the apostle Paul picks up the same thing when writing about the resurrection and Jesus coming again, and says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) This is the work of the ‘first-born’ who has taken over the ‘Father’s business’ and as the Lamb seen in Revelation 5 is undoing the scroll of the last days, presiding over all that is happening there. This is the work of the ‘first-born’ Son of God, granted to him by the Father.
But, we said, we are growing in his likeness. More than that Paul caught something even more incredible. First he says, “he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 1:20) God the Father raised up Jesus (see also Acts 2:24) so he is now exalted at the Father’s right hand, in a position of rule (see also Mk 16:19, Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55, Col 3:1, Heb 12:2, 1 Pet 3:22)
But then he adds later, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6) In the spiritual dimension, not only are we being changed into Jesus’ likeness, we are also to see ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:11), having died with Christ (Rom 6:8) and been raised with him (Rom 6:4,5) in order that now, by the Spirit, we may learn to join with him in administering his Father’s business, the kingdom, and this will carry on until he returns again.
Do you start seeing what I meant about growing up? Yes, the Father delights in us burbling at Him like little kids, but His desire is that we grow up and we learn to understand,
– our position and how Christ earned it for us,
– our role in sharing in his rule, as he leads us by his Spirit
– our limitations as simply being obedient to Jesus and only going as far as he says,
– our ministry extent that stretches out as he enlarges our faith. Ok, hold onto you seat. How do we do this? Remember, first and foremost, it is being led by his Spirit, but that involves using righteousness, acting rightly (2 Cor 6:7) as a weapon, being led in prayer by the Spirit (Eph 6:17) and taking the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph 6:17) so we proclaim the truth to set free (Jn 8:32), testify to the truth to overcome (Rev 12:11), command things to happen (Mt 21:21), bind the enemy (Mt 18:18), loose people or situations (Mt 18:18) and pronounce Jesus’ name as our authority (Jn 14:13 etc.). Remember it is as we are led by his Spirit, we speak out, whether in prayer or proclamation, by faith. When we start doing this as ‘The Church’ the world will be impacted and captives set free and the kingdom of God extended and God glorified. May it be so!