Sunday, 21 July 2013
Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23
The thought “not only that” is tying our personal groaning in with the “whole creation” of the previous verse. Everything in creation, and those who have been redeemed understand the glory ahead, and are jointly waiting for that wondrous day. Paul notes those he is speaking about – “…we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit.”
Firstfruits is a term which looks back to the Old Testament Feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23 (and as noted in other OT passages). There, in Leviticus 23:9-13, the details of the feast are given. As with all of the Feasts of the Lord, they were fulfilled in the coming of Christ during His first advent. This particular feast was picturing His resurrection. Paul specifically ties them together in 1 Corinthians 15:23.
The Bible uses nature quite often to make spiritual applications. The wind, water, rocks, and agricultural themes, among so many others, are used in a manner which tell spiritual truths of the work of God in Christ, in Israel, in the church, and in the world at large. The firstfruits of the harvest picture Christ’s resurrection and therefore the rest of the harvest looks forward to the great day when we likewise will see “the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
There are several opinions as to who “we” are and also to the exact application of the term “firstfruits of the Spirit.” Some say it is the Jewish believers who received the Spirit at Pentecost, but Paul wasn’t among them at that time and so this view is unlikely.
Another view says that this is referring to the Spirit as a “pledge” of the good things to come in Christ. This can be assumed because the firstfruits during Israel’s history were just that, they were an offering in hopes of an abundant harvest once the entire field had ripened. This also doesn’t seem likely based on Paul’s wording here as well as Christ being the actual Firstfruits.
What is more likely is that it is speaking in general terms of the early Christians during the apostolic age. This was still the time of signs occurring for the establishment and building up of the church until the Bible was complete. After that time, the signs were no longer necessary because the Holy Spirit has completed that portion of His redemptive work, a work which testifies to the truth of the message of Christ.
The Romans would have been included in this period, obviously, because the epistle written to them is a portion of the Bible which we now possess and which testifies to the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The roles are now understood and so the time of firstfruits of the Spirit have moved into the ripening of the fields for the time of greater harvest to come.
Life Application: It is always good to return to the fountain and think through our position in redemptive history in comparison to the earlier stages which are recorded for us. The Bible is the well-spring of our faith in Christ and it testifies to what has been accomplished in the establishment of the church and the doctrine of our faith. Is it sufficient for faith and practice or not? The answer is, “Yes.” Cling to the words of Scripture as you await the coming of the Lord Jesus and the redemption of our bodies.
Heavenly Father, You have bestowed upon us the wondrous gift which is Your word, the Holy Bible. In it I find riches and treasure unimaginable. I find there Your love for us, the giving of Your Son for us, and the work of Your Spirit for us. In it, doctrine is established, the avenue to life is revealed, and the path for our current walk in holiness is shown to me. Thank You for Your precious word! Amen.