In a sense, they were Version 1.0 . . . the initial release. Those of the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” were more than a prototype . . . as there was nothing that had to be tweaked or improved upon before “general release.” But they were among the first to experience the miracle of regeneration . . . to know the beginning of the dynamics spoken of by the prophets . . . hearts of stone replaced with hearts of flesh . . . minds able to be filled with the knowledge of God . . . and souls and spirits that would be invaded by the Holy Spirit. As James reminds me this morning, they were a kind of firstfruits.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:17-18 ESV)
When I became a Christian, I was able to immediately connect with those who had already run a couple of laps of the race set before us. Those who had had some experience with being born again . . . had some experience with the implications of resurrected spiritual DNA. While my early church family and mentors didn’t know all the answers, they knew quite a few. But what of these “hot off the presses” early believers? These Jewish Christians who were among the initial converts to the way of faith? Everything was brand new. There were very much learning to ride the bike as they were . . . well, riding the bike. But of this James reminds them, they were a kind of firstfruits.
Begat through nothing of their own merit but solely by the will of God. Given life by the power of the word of truth. The Holy Spirit speaks through James that they were a new creation unlike any creation before them. They were a kind of firstfruits.
MacDonald states three implications of being a kind of firstfruits. First, they were the first . . . literally. Among the first believers of this Christian dispensation. They were the initial harvest, as it were. Second, as patterned in the Levitical law, the implications of firstfruits is that they were offered to God in gratitude for His provision. The immutable Father of lights is the giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” and, as such, the firstfruits should be freely given to Him as a sacrifice. Third, “the firstfruits were a pledge of the full harvest to come. James likened his readers to the first sheaves of grain in Christ’s harvest. They would be followed by others down through the centuries, but they were set forth as pattern saints to exhibit the fruits of the new creation” (MacDonald).
While I might not be technically among the firstfruits as were these early Jewish believers, I am very much a part of the new creation . . . and a part of God’s ongoing harvest. And as such, I am also encouraged to respond according to firstfruits principles. I should willingly offer the firstfruits of my time and possessions . . . both good gifts from the Father of lights. As I should, the firstfruits of the sacrifice of praise . . . thanksgiving born out of a continual awe concerning God’s grace . . . worship sourced in an ever fresh remembrance of the perfect gift of salvation given freely according to the the will of a loving God. And finally, the offering of the firstfruits of my very being—having been bought with a price, the precious blood of Christ, the Gift come down from heaven—acknowledging that I am no longer my own and thus offering myself as a living sacrifice, which is my appropriate spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1).
I may not be part of the “initial release” . . . but I am part of a work to be completed. To Him be all glory!