God’s people: a kind of first fruits
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a great transformation of humanity. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he tells us that, through His resurrection, Jesus became the first fruits of those who have died [1 Cor. 15:20]. His resurrection was a foreshadowing of the resurrection of many to come. However, the reference to Christ in this verse as the first fruits is more than simply a metaphor. He was the act or first portion of a sacrifice. God’s offering His son for us would precipitate our offering ourselves for Him. These are two different sacrifices but both part of a greater harvest
The word which means first fruits in 1 Corinthians is the same word used by James in his letter to the scattered Hebrew tribes. James, however, does not use this word in reference to Christ. He uses this word in reference to us
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. It was of His own will that He gave us birth [as His children] by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a prime example of what He created to be set apart to Himself—sanctified, made holy for His divine purposes].
We have just learned that Jesus is the first fruits of those who have died, the first of many to be resurrected. He became a first fruits through death and resurrection. James says that our designation as a kind of first fruits comes from our birth by the word of truth. This is salvation. This is the process of our death of the old self and rebirth of the new self in Jesus Christ. In both instances, death brings forth life after a life is offered as a sacrifice.
In the old testament, a first fruits offering was most literally the cream of the crop. The first grain harvested would be separated and sacrificed with other offerings before one would be permitted to partake of the harvest [Lev. 23: 9-14]. The first fruits was a specific type of offering, different and set apart from the other offerings God required. The symbolism is clear in that offering to God the first and best of what one has is true sacrifice.
Our lives are a first fruits offering. We are given only one life, and it cannot be given in parts or sections regardless of whether we think it can. When a soul makes the choice to give his life to Christ, it is not only an offering of the first and best, it is an offering of the only. We each have only one life to give. Salvation has become available through a first fruits offering by God himself and can be accepted only through a subsequent first fruits offering by us.
Justification, the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice and rebirth of the spirit, is only the beginning of this first fruits offering. As we learned, the offering of our lives must be wholly. Through sanctification, as we walk out our salvation with fear and trembling, we do not give God the remainder of our time. We give Him the first and best of our time. This also applies to our finances, our energy, our resources, our hearts, our minds, our relationships, our abilities and so on. We place them on the alter in perpetuity to honor Him first. Once we give God the first and best, we then can partake of the harvest of these things
As we offer ourselves to God in exchange for His offering of Jesus, He makes us a sort of first fruits relative to the remainder of His creation. Now, this is not a designation carried by all people. James specifically tells us that this comes about only through the process by which God allows us to be born as His children. Yes, human beings are different from plants and animals and stones and soil, but this speaks of something more. When God sets us apart from the remainder of creation, that speaks of sanctification. Not all people gain membership into this group. Those who reject Christ are not designated by God as first fruits. Those of us who accept Christ are set apart by our being in Him and His being in us. We carry His spirit, His countenance and His power. We are stamped, and the world should notice.
Remember, first fruits are the best of what one has harvested. When we become sanctified, God proclaims that we are His best as we are living in the manner He has designed. As our lives continue according to His purposes, he tells the world, “this is how life should be lived.” Being a kind of first fruits means being an example of what God desires for humanity as a sign for the lost, so that His holiness can be seen by others through us and draw them to Him
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives us added dimension to this idea of being a kind of first fruits:
2 Thes. 2:13-14
But we should and are [morally] obligated [as debtors] always to give thanks to God for you, believers beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through the sanctifying work of the Spirit [that sets you apart for God’s purpose] and by your faith in the truth [of God’s word that leads you to spiritual maturity]. It was to this end that He called you through our gospel [the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection], so that you may obtain and share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ is the first fruits. We are a kind of first fruits. As Christians, we carry Christ with us. We are to be Jesus to the world. We are His image, His hands, His feet, His voice and His compassion. Not only that, but we are permitted by the Father to obtain and share in Christ’s glory. Being a kind of first fruits, we are a kind or type of Jesus. He is the vine; we are the branches grafted into Him. We are part of Him. It is our job now to do the work that He did when He was a man. We are to heal the sick, cast out demons, care for the poor and teach the Gospel.
Jesus is God’s first fruits offering to redeem mankind. When we accept salvation through Christ, we make our own first fruits offering. This is an offering of our whole lives, giving God the first and best of all we have. In turn, He makes us a kind of first fruits, holy and set apart for the word to see through us the example of His purpose for humanity, a picture of sanctification. Jesus lives in us and we in Him. The Father turns us into a picture of His son, in which the lost can see His hope and grace. And in the end, the Father allows us to share in the Son’s glory.