Let us look at some of those who were second yet favored in the eyes of God. The first pair we will consider is Cain and Abel. When Cain, the firstborn, was born, Eve said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord."
Thus, beginning with Eve, society honors the firstborn. When Abel the second child was born there was no such proclamations. In God's eyes, however, things were reversed as we read, "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering: but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect. First God had respect unto Abel and not Cain. Next God had respect unto Abel's offering and not to Cain's offering. According to the scriptures God has respect of persons only based on his covenant. Thus we see God's eternal covenant embracing Abel, but not embracing Cain. God favored the second born and then God favored the offering of the second born as it gave glory to God for his salvation, whereas God had no respect to the offering of the firstborn as Cain sought praise for man's works.
Second, we compare the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael's birth was the design of Sarah and Abraham as they thought God needed help fulfilling his promise to Abraham that he would make him a father of many nations for Sarah was old and had conceived no child. Sarah and Abraham schemed that the handmaid Hagar would be given to Abraham for a second wife and she would bear a son to fulfill the promise. However, God had another plan for Abraham and Sarah. When both were well past the time to be able to have children God told Abraham that he would restore them to the time of life and that Sarah would bear him a son at the set time in the next year. The name of this second son of Abraham was called Isaac. Isaac, the second born, was a child of promise whereas Ishmael was the child of fleshly design. God favored Isaac over Ishmael. Isaac's birth was a figure or type of the new or spiritual birth. Gal. 4:28 reads, "Now we brethren as Isaac was are children of promise." Isaac was born according to God's promise and at God's appointed time. Isaacs birth also was contrary to fleshly ability. Similarly, when we were born of the Spirit it was according to God's covenant promise, at God's appointed time, and contrary to our natural abilities.
Third, we compare the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. For twenty years after they were married Rebekah was barren. Isaac entreated the Lord on her behalf and she conceived with twins in her womb who struggled together within her. For this she inquired of the Lord who said unto her, "Two nations are in thy womb and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people will be stronger than the other people: and the elder shall serve the younger."
In Rom. 9:11 13 we read, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Thus God chose the second born and loved him, but passed by the first born and hated him. The pair of sons illustrate God's sovereignty in election for according to Eph. 1:4 God chose a people in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before him in love. This choice was not based on any works either done or foreseen, but rather according to the divine will and sovereignty of God.
Fourth, we read in Gal. 4:22 31 of the two covenants of worship that God has established for man to worship him. He used the story of Hagar and Sarah and their births of Ishmael and Isaac to allegorize these two covenants. He says of the first covenant, "the one from mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." However, of the second he says, "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Also we read, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." Thus we see that God has designed the second covenant of worship (new testament) to be far better than the first covenant of worship (old testament).
Finally, we read of the first Adam and the second Adam in 1 Cor. 15:45 49, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also which are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Obviously the favored here is the "second Adam" or "second man" which is the Lord. In addition the promise is that as we have been like the first man or first Adam, we shall also be like the second man or second Adam!!
Elder Vernon Johnson