Begotten Not Made, Part 2
Oct 13, 2015
As far as I know, the Bible is unique in teaching that we may be begotten of God and thereby become sons of God. Most religious goals are to achieve the highest potential for man as a created being. Islam, for instance, seeks to turn men into the greatest servants of God and consider the idea of Sonship to be blasphemous.
There are some others who seek to transcend humanism and to become an “ascended master,” but these religious groups attempt to achieve this by the will of man through hard work, self-discipline, and looking inward.
John 1:13 presents a different path, whereby we become sons of God, not by the will of man or by the will of the flesh, but by the will of God alone. That is, man cannot beget himself to become a son of God. The best that a man can do is to beget another like himself.
Many biblical stories are historical allegories that teach us of this through parallels between two people, one fleshly minded and the other spiritually minded. The most basic parallel is between the first and last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Others include Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and even Jacob and Israel. Each story contributes to our understanding of the path to Sonship.
Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel show us that Love is the distinguishing mark that differentiates the sons of God from others. 1 John 3:10-12 says,
10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
Abel was motivated by Love, while Cain was motivated by Hate, or lack of Love.
Isaac and Ishmael
In the case of Isaac and Ishmael, the lesson is explained to us in Galatians 4:22-31. Paul tells us that the Old Covenant is Hagar, and the New Covenant is Sarah. Their children are the offspring of the covenant that each represents. Ishmael was a child of the flesh, because he was born in a natural way by the will of the flesh. Isaac was born on account of the promise of God after Sarah was past child-bearing age. There was nothing Abraham could do sexually to beget Isaac. Divine intervention made this happen.
Jacob and Esau
Jacob and Esau were twins (Genesis 25:23), but only one was called by God. Paul says in Romans 9:10-12,
10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father, Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”
The lesson here is twofold, one overt and the other implied. First, Paul says, Sonship is based on God’s will, not upon man’s will. This is a restatement of John’s main point in John 1:13.
The implied lesson is in the fact that Jacob and Esau were twins, having the same genetics. Rebekah “conceived twins by one man, our father, Isaac.” It was not possible for either parent to decide which son would become the pattern for Sonship and which would not. During the nine months of pregnancy, from conception to birth, they did not know which would be born first. Only when they were born could they have understood that “the older will serve the younger.”
So first we see that being “chosen” is by grace, having nothing to do with the will of man. To beget fleshly children is done by the will of man. To beget spiritual children is done by the will of God. This principle aligns perfectly with the nature of the two covenants as well, because the Old Covenant was man’s vow to God (according to his own will), while the New Covenant was God’s vow (promise) to man.
So we understand also that Sonship is not by genealogy. Esau was as much a child of Isaac as was Jacob, for they were twins. So one cannot say that Esau was rejected on account of his genealogy, nor can it be said conversely that Jacob was made a son on account of his genealogy. In either case, genealogy from Isaac was irrelevant, for if their father had anything to do with it, then Sonship would have been determined by the will of the flesh—in this case, the will of Isaac.
Jacob and Israel
The manner in which Jacob achieved Sonship (and the name Israel) is our final notable example of Sonship from the book of Genesis. This example is built upon the previous example showing how one’s genealogy is irrelevant. Though God had predetermined that Jacob would be “loved,” and thereby given the inheritance as the “son,” Jacob did not achieve Sonship until his character changed.
Just because something is prophesied does not mean it is seen immediately. In fact, the nature of prophecy is to give us hope of a future event or condition. So it was with Jacob. While he was called Jacob, he was not yet qualified to receive the title Israel.
Jacob literally means “heel-catcher,” on account of the fact that at birth his hand had taken hold of Esau’s heel. A heel-catcher was a usurper or a deceiver. The word is defined more precisely by Jacob’s life and actions toward Esau. No doubt he knew the prophecy that had been given before his birth and understood from it that he was to be the heir of the promise. But he used the power of flesh to help God fulfill His word.
When Esau was famished, Jacob found opportunity to purchase the birthright at a bargain price. Later, he thought it necessary to deceive his father into giving him the blessing. No doubt he justified his actions by the prophecy that had been given before his birth. But although he believed the word of God, he tried to fulfill it by the will of the flesh and even though sin (lying). The story should not be used to justify sin, but to show the difference between true faith and fleshly faith.
Jacob was a believer all of his life, but it was not until he wrestled with the angel that he achieved Sonship. Jacob received a marvelous revelation at Bethel (Genesis 28:12, 13, 14, 15), but he was not given the name Israel at that time. In fact, his Bethel revelation was the equivalent of Mount Sinai some centuries later. At Bethel, Jacob made a vow to God (Genesis 28:20); at Sinai, his descendants again made a vow to God (Exodus 19:8). In both cases, their vows were done by the will of man and were thus based upon the main principle of the Old Covenant.
Bethel, then, was Jacob’s Pentecost, even as Mount Sinai was the first Pentecost under Moses. Pentecost is dominated by the Old Covenant, even though it also foreshadows the New Covenant. Jacob vowed obedience to God if God would protect him and help him survive the journey. His descendants under Moses vowed obedience to God as well, and God promised them salvation if they would keep their vow of obedience.
In Acts 2, when the day of Pentecost was fulfilled in the Church, “the promise of My Father” (says Jesus) was sent to them (Luke 24:49). Theologians assume that this was the apex of God’s promises. However, Pentecost was not Tabernacles, and as time passed, the difference between these two prophetic feasts became more and more evident. The Church’s path to salvation became more and more a matter of the will of the flesh and the will of man than the will of God.
I do not mean to malign the feast of Pentecost, but to remove it from its pedestal, where it has been elevated to an unwarranted position of prominence. Great things have happened under the Pentecostal anointing, but it can never take the place of Tabernacles. By the same token, Tabernacles cannot be achieved apart from the first two feasts: Passover and Pentecost. Learning the place of each in a balanced way is important. Passover begets Christ in us. Then Pentecost causes that holy seed in us to grow spiritually and thereby qualify us for the feast of Tabernacles.
But overall, we should understand that Sonship is not achieved by the will of the flesh or by the will of man, but God’s will alone. God’s sovereignty precedes man’s authority. All the decisions (vows) that we make toward God, by their very nature, are part of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is not bad or evil, but it is inadequate, for in the end man is incapable of fulfilling his vows. A vow has value only if one can keep it.
Today, church denominations teach a variety of salvation messages, most of which are based on the Old Covenant. Some are blatantly fleshly, telling people that the path to salvation is to do good works. They say men are righteous by doing righteous acts. The problem with this is that “all have sinned” already (Romans 3:23), so all men have already been disqualified even before they decide to start doing righteous things.
Others say that to be saved one must join their “true church.” Their leaders are righteous examples that can lead us to salvation. People are told to make this decision and to vow obedience to the organization and its leaders as a condition for salvation. This too is just another Old Covenant method of salvation, for it requires making a fleshly, willful decision to achieve salvation.
Others emphasize grace, saying that if you decide to follow Jesus, then God will give you grace. That is not Paul’s definition of grace in Romans 9:11, where Jacob was called before he was even born in order for it to be truly by grace. No, grace is something God does out of His own sovereign will. If grace must be obtained by the will of man or by man’s vow, then it is no longer grace, but conditional grace.
If grace is based upon the will of God, as both Paul and John tell us, then it is plain that it is an attribute of the New Covenant, which in turn is based upon the promises of God alone. This is why Isaac was a child of promise (Galatians 4:28). This is why the Holy Spirit was “the promise of My Father” (Luke 24:49). All of the biblical promises of God not conditioned upon men’s vows of obedience are based on the New Covenant.
At the same time, it pleased God to allow the flesh to try to achieve salvation first. God’s intent was not to show man’s success, but man’s utter failure to fulfill his vows regardless of his good intentions. In the end, we must all recognize that in spite of our desire to follow God, our flesh ends up struggling, even as Paul struggled in Romans 7:18-21,
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing [from thelema, “will”] is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish [“will”], I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish [“will”]. 20 But if I am doing the very thing that I do not wish [“will”], I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
The same problem dwelling in Paul’s flesh also lies in the flesh of denominational leaders today. The will of the flesh (i.e., the “old man”) cannot possibly be disciplined into a state of righteousness, because “nothing good dwells in… my flesh.” Good intentions to follow Jesus are inadequate and cannot bring us salvation.
Salvation is given by a different path which is truly by grace. God intervenes in our lives, opening our eyes and ears to hear and to receive His word. God is then given credit as the First Cause of all things. Man’s will retains its subordinate position under God’s will. At the same time, God’s sovereignty does not cast aside man’s authority, but directs it behind the scenes until the will of God is fulfilled at the end of time.
This imperishable or immortal “seed” (1 Peter 1:23, NASB) begets Christ in you. This is a New Creation Man, an entirely different “real you,” a combination of two parents—a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. It is Christ on account of its heavenly Father; it is the real you on account of its earthly mother. It is distinct from one’s fleshly identity that was inherited through our parents and ultimately back to Adam.
Colossians 1:27 says that it is “the hope of glory.” Biblical “hope” is not wishful thinking but is better translated “expectation.” To expect a baby in this sense is to be pregnant, knowing that a day will come when that baby will emerge into the world as a son of God. All of these sons, being begotten of God, will rule that which has merely been created.
This is part 2 of a series titled "Begotten Not Made." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones