My experience is as the third born child in our family. I will never be first born. The first-born bears weight and responsibility that the rest of the children will never have to bear.
- If the parents go away, he is the one put in charge.
- When he is learning “lessons” of obedience, he has no other siblings to look to as examples. Younger siblings learn obedience, partially, by watching how the older siblings respond to their parents’ commands.
- Until his siblings are born, he is the only child. During that time, his parents’ time is spent only with him. There is no division of that attention with other children.
- His training in obedience is to “mature parents” never to older siblings who are more mature but still limited in their maturity.
The younger siblings must submit often to a less than “worthy” older sibling. When an older sibling, in his immaturity, leads out of his “flesh” the younger sibling ends up a victim of oppressive leadership. The younger sibling must still submit and learn to forgive, but he does so with a growing awareness of the faults and mistakes.
Some first-born tend toward over-conscientiousness. There is a potential for legalism. Parents are “in their learning curve on the first”. The first born in the family feels a need to lay foundations. This is similar to the legalism or “Judaizer” danger against which Paul warns. A more mature older sibling is more gracious, less legalistic.
As third born, I have come to realize that I am no less important in our family. However, the first born gets a double portion. I am free to walk in all the heritage of my parents. I have a full inheritance and destiny in the family. But it would be a waste of my time and energy to want to be or try to be the first born. In my family I’m third. That’s just the way it is.
We are told by Paul that the gospel was “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Paul repeats this formula many times. The Jews were the first of the first fruits (after Christ). As a “grafted in” believer in Christ, I will never have the responsibilities that the Jews carry. Theirs are the covenants, patriarchs, Torah etc. The Acts 15 council clarified that Gentile Christians are not responsible to carry the burdens that were reserved for the Jews. Jews were the first-born in that sense.
The weight of the “Jewish” culture is something that no Gentile is expected to bear. Our adoption is similar to a sibling-relationship to the first-born. We bear our own responsibilities as the Spirit guides us into all righteousness. Our responsibilities are no less significant. They just will never be the responsibilities of the Jews, the first-born. Ultimately, Christ is the first born among many brothers.