(Heb. resit [tyivaer]; Gk. aparche [ajparchv]). The concept of firstfruits derives from God's creation work. Because God created everything that exists, all of creation belongs to him ( Psalm 24:1 ). Consequently, that which is first and best belongs to him and is to be given to him.
Because of God's creative power and ownership of all, the Bible instructs believers to give God the best of the animal sacrifices (see Lev. 1-5). The land is also viewed as a gift from God and the best of it, its "firstfruits, " is to be given to him crops ( Exodus 23:16 Exodus 23:19 ), the wheat harvest ( Exod 34:22 ; Lev 2:14 ; 23:20 ), olive oil ( Num 18:12 ; Deut 18:4 ), the finest new wine ( Num 18:12 ; Deut 18:4 ), honey ( 2 Chron 31:5 ), sheep wool ( Deut 18:4 ), and fruit ( Neh 10:35 ). The Old Testament makes it clear that everything that God's people have is to be viewed as from God and gained through his providence ( Psalm 50:10 ).
Believers are the "firstfruits" of God" a kind of firstfruits of all he created" ( Jas 1:18 ). Spiritual "firstfruits" may be the first converts in an area ( Rom 16:5 ). As "firstfruits" believers are a testimony to God's power in salvation. They are his first born, redeemed by Christ's blood. In their holy standing, believers are God's firstfruits" holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest" ( Jer 2:3 ). God's people are therefore to present themselves as holy firstfruits to God, as "living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" ( Rom 12:1 ). In having the "firstfruits of the Spirit, " the work of the Spirit in effecting the present redemption of their souls, believers are given the guarantee that they will have the future redemption of their bodies at the second coming of Christ ( Rom 8:23 ).
In 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, Paul teaches that Christ in his bodily resurrection is the "firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." As such, he is the guarantee that all those who belong to him will be raised from the dead at his second coming. In the natural world, the first sheaf of the crop was to be brought to God ( Leviticus 23:10 Leviticus 23:11 Leviticus 23:17 ) as a guarantee that the rest of the harvest was coming. So it is in God's redemption harvest. First, Christ the "firstfruits" has triumphed in his resurrection; then, the rest of his "crop, " the redeemed, will be raised triumphantly at his second coming ( 1 Cor 15:23 ).
In light of this, God's people, as his "firstfruits, " are to have a sanctifying effect on others ( 1 Cor 5:6-7 ), just as Abraham and the patriarchs had a sanctifying effect on disobedient Israel ( Rom 11:14-16 ). Believers are to be true followers of the Lamb, just as the saints in the second coming, who are described as holy in life, "purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb" ( Rev 14:4 ).
W. Harold Mare
Bibliography. P. Levertoff, ISBE, 2:307-8; J. P. Lewis, ZPED, 2:541.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Firstfruits'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".