05 Apr FIRSTFRUITS
“But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The word “firstfruits” may be unfamiliar to you; or, if you grew up in church, perhaps you have heard it defined in terms of a tithe – giving God the “first fruits” of our earnings. While that idea is not invalid, the idea of firstfruits has a much deeper, spiritual significance for those of us who have put our trust in Christ, Who has been raised from the dead.
This past weekend, believers around the world celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus. Coincidently, the Jewish feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits coincided with our Christian celebration this year. Growing up, I understood that Passover was a holiday connected with the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and always seemed to be celebrated around Easter. However, when, as an adult, I learned that Jesus, our “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7), was crucified on Passover, buried on Unleavened Bread, and raised to life on Firstfruits, these foreign holidays began to take on a whole new meaning for me in my spiritual walk.
Leviticus 23 gives us insight into the biblical feasts of the Lord. God tells the people that these are His “appointed times, holy convocations” (vs 4). The Hebrew word for convocation is “miqra” which means “rehearsal meeting.” Every time an Israelite spoke of this holy convocation, they were calling it a rehearsal meeting. They understood that these feasts were rehearsals for something greater, although they did not know what. Instructions for the feast of Firstfruits are given in verses 9-14, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you and reap its harvest, you are to bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He will present the sheaf before the Lord so that you may be accepted…You must not eat bread, roasted grain, or any new grain until this very day, and until you have brought the offering to your God.” After Jesus reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene in John 20, He says in verse 17, “Don’t cling to me since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father to be accepted as a firstfruit offering and her touching Him would have defiled Him.
The Jews for Jesus website explains: “By giving God the firstfruits, Israel acknowledged that all good things come from God and that everything belongs to God. Giving the firstfruits was also a way of expressing trust in God’s provision; just as He provided the first fruits, so He would provide the rest of the crops that were needed.”
Jesus’ sacrifice as our Passover Lamb, to pay the penalty for our sins was crucial; but if it weren’t for His resurrection we would be without hope and still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). John Piper says, “the resurrection of Jesus is the reward of his sacrifice. It is the proof of how perfect and all-sufficient his sacrifice was. Therefore if God does not give the reward, it is because the sacrifice is defective and our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.” But praise the Lord, because Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God to make atonement for our sins! And if He, the firstfruits from among the dead was accepted, so too will all who belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23).
After Jesus appeared before His disciples, revealing Himself to be the risen Lord, He breathed on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) which sealed them as His own (Ephesians 1:13). Paul describes the hope we have as we await the resurrection of our own bodies in Romans chapter 8, “Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies…For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” (vs 23, 29-30).
Now as children accepted by God through Christ, we should follow the instructions of Paul in Romans 12:1, “in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Our acceptance isn’t based on what we have done, but on what He has done for us. When we truly grasp the mercy and grace that He has given us, the only reasonable response to to live lives that are pleasing and acceptable to Him.
We who are His have the joy of His calling, the freedom of His forgiveness, and the hope of sharing in His resurrection! Don’t let the celebration of Easter fade, rejoice in it’s truth each and every day!
Questions to reflect on:
- What does it mean to you that since Christ was accepted on our behalf, we don’t have to strive for acceptance from God?
- What causes your spirit to inwardly groan for the redemption of our bodies at the resurrection?
- How have you seen the firstfruits of His Spirit conforming you into the image of Christ?