Our title may shock the reader at first glance because normally the term “born again” connotes the spiritual renewal of a sinful life. But this article does not imply in any way that Jesus was in need of such a renewal. We do wish to deal with the Biblical concept of the two births of Jesus as they relate to Covenant Worlds. Jesus was born twice; physically, then spiritually. Both births were into specific Covenant Worlds.
THE LIMITATIONS OF JESUS’ FIRST BIRTH
Jesus was most assuredly born in the flesh of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1, Luke 2). As marvelous as that fact is, there were certain limitations inherent in the first birth of Jesus. These limitations were not accidental or coincidental; they were foreordained. These restrictions were foundational for the greater work of the Messiah. Let us explore these limitations.
BORN TO ISRAEL
Great emphasis is often placed on the “physicalness” of the virgin birth to the oversight of the Covenant relationship, or the covenant world, of that physical birth. We are in no way seeking to mitigate the uniqueness of the incarnation. We are seeking rather to place it in the Biblical framework. Jesus was born into the Old Covenant world of Israel! He was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians. 4:4). He appeared in the last days of that Old World (Hebrews 1:1f; 9:26). Jesus did not overtly minister to the Gentiles, (with some notable exceptions that foreshadowed the Gentile mission, see Matthew 8, 15, etc.), nor was he sent specifically to the Gentiles. Jesus was, “not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). This is not to suggest the Gentile salvation was not envisioned within the work of Jesus for as Messiah his salvation would extend to all the world (see my article on Isaiah 49:6f). But Gentile salvation would be accomplished when and only when the promises to Israel were accomplished (Romans 15:8f).
Christ came into his own–the world of Israel (John 1:10-11). He never traveled outside the confines of the land of Israel. This limitation of the first birth of Jesus is very often overlooked because of the emphasis placed on the “universal” kingdom of Christ. But we should never lose sight of the fact that Jesus, “was a minister of the circumcision, for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Romans 15:8). During his personal ministry Jesus sent his disciples on different “limited commissions” (Matthew 10; Luke 10), emphatically instructing them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
A Side Bar here: There is a reprehensible doctrine afoot that says God loved no one but Israel, the blood line of Abraham, and He offers no salvation to those not of the Abrahamic blood line. In this doctrine, Gentiles are defined strictly and exclusively (except when the adherents are cornered) as the “lost” ten northern tribes of Israel. However, notice Luke 10 a little closer.
Jesus delineated between Samaritans, and Gentiles. He told his disciples to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is a comprehensive term for all twelve tribes. So, there are three classes or groups here: Samaritans, Gentiles, and the “house of Israel.”
There is simply no way to identify the “house of Israel” here in any limited sense. What is important of course, is that later, the gospel was to be taken to the Samaritans (who are clearly not the “Gentiles” in Matthew and Luke), and, it was to be taken to the Gentiles (Paul’s ministry). So, the very groups that Jesus forbad his disciples to evangelize and offer the gospel to initially, were the ones later offered the gospel and invited into the kingdom!
Thus, Matthew 10 and Luke 10 demonstrate that while Jesus’ personal ministry was indeed limited, he foresaw and in fact later commanded the “expansion” of that ministry to the Gentiles, who were clearly not of the house of Israel, and they were not Samaritans. But to continue.
Salvation, said Jesus, “is of the Jews”( John 4:22), that is, salvation to the world could only come when Israel’s Messiah had fulfilled “all the law and the prophets.” Thus, Jesus’ first birth was limited in regard to the world into which he was born; the Old Covenant World of Israel. However, he was to be born again, into another, comprehensive world. More to come.