We’ve gotten a long way from the farm. Many of the concepts in the Bible are based on the farm and principles of life on the farm. Throughout the Old Testament God asked of His people that they bring of the firstfruits of the harvest to make that an offering to God. If you go all the way back to the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis, the worship that was accepted and rejected is tied to the concept of first fruits. Cain was a farmer and when his harvest began to come in he brought some of the fruit from his fields and made them an offering to God. Abel was a cattleman and he brought of the first of the flock and of the fat of the flock to make them an offering to the Lord. God was moved by the offering of Abel and accepted his offering that was said by the writer of Hebrews to be an offering of faith in the Lord. Cain’s offering was rejected, not because it was a bloodless sacrifice but because it wasn’t the first or the best of what he had. He just took from the harvest and gave some of it to God. When God rejected Cain’s offering it wasn’t some arbitrary rejection because he didn’t like Cain. He even challenged Cain that if he would do well and make the offering that was available he would be accepted just like Abel. But he allowed his anger and jealousy to turn him away from God’s offer of acceptance and to turn him toward vengeance on his brother so he led him out into the field and murdered him.
God always demands of us the first fruits. But he always gives the first fruits to us. One of the the descriptions God gives of the church is that it is the “church of the firstborn ones” in Hebrews 12:23. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 Paul writes “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as fristfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” There are times when Paul used the words “firstfruits” to refer to special groups of Christians as in Romans 8:22-23 where he said, “We know that he whole creation has been groaning, as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of the bodies.” Notice the firstfruits of the Spirit likely referred to the fullest and greatest gifts of the Spirit that were shared in particular by the apostles. But here in 2 Thessalonians when he said that God chose these Christians in Thessalonica as first fruits to be saved it wasn’t that they were given something special other Christians didn’t receive. He is instead speaking of them as regular, ordinary Christians or disciples of Jesus. Thus he refers to all those who follow Jesus as being “firstfuits” before the Lord.
Remember that the first born son was special. Since God had the firstborn of all the people, cattle and sheep in Egypt to die on the night he passed over the land if they didn’t have the blood on the lintel and doorpost of the house. Since the firstborn children of the Israelites were spared because they had the blood on their houses, God decreed that the firstborn child would always belong to him. In time he would say that the Levites would take the place of the first born child so that they didn’t have to become special before the Lord. But he never took away the special place the first born had. That firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance when the father died. If there were ten sons and all were to inherit from the father’s fortune, the first born would get two shares and all the others a share each. Not only that the first born son would become the leader of the family when the father died. For God to refer to the church as the church of the firstborn ones was to declare that every member of the church was that special child. They were each to receive the double portion of the inheritance from the Father. We all have that special place before the Lord as ones who take the role of leadership as firstborn.
God treats us as his first fruits, first born ones. He demands we put him in first place in our lives. In the church Jesus is the head of the church the one who has first place according to Colossians 1:18. When Diotrephes tried to take that first place in the church he was living in sin away from God as described in the Book of third John. Is God in first place in your life? Is His will most important? Do you put him first in everything you do? When we try to get by with just giving God a gift we follow Cain and it doesn’t lead to a good end.