In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18 NASB)
In this verse, the brother of our Lord reminds us that Jesus, of His own volition, begot those of us that have been obedient to His word. And, as a result of our new birth (cf. John 3:3,5), we now have the opportunity to become “a kind of first fruits among His creatures”. This possibility serves as a contrast to the verses preceding wherein James pointed out that humanity is only able to beget sin (cf. James 1:13-15). In other words, on our own, we were incapable of saving ourselves. We needed the Lord and the power of His word (cf. Romans 1:16) to facilitate a noticeable and lasting change within us.
But what exactly does this term “first fruits” indicate? Literally, it means, “a beginning of sacrifice”. God’s message, then, is that those that have complied to the terms set forth in the gospel have been set aside from the remainder of creation to be a sacrifice to God (i.e., sanctified). As we will note, this sanctification is more than a mere designation. Instead, it carries with it a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling. James demonstrates this truth throughout the remainder of the book bearing his name.
Notice, then, some of what being the “first fruits” among His creation entails.
- It means that one controls his or her anger (1:19). As one that has been sanctified, a Christian is obliged to avoid outbursts of anger since such does not achieve the righteousness of God (cf. James 1:20). Implied by James’ inspired word is the fact that many such outbursts result when we allow our tongue to do more work than our ears. (Is not the tongue an “unruly member?” — cf. James 3:2-12) And, as James points out, the one that is unable to control his or her tongue has deceived him or herself, betraying a worthless religion (cf. James 1:26).
- It means that one puts away filth and wickedness (1:21). The sanctified are obliged to be devoid of the evil that is characteristic of this world knowing that such would make them the enemies of God (cf. James 4:4). Instead, he or she humbly submits to the word of God, allowing it to fill the void evacuated by his or her former sinful conduct. Yet, realize that this relationship with the word is not a casual one! The sanctified do not merely hear the word, they practice it (cf. James 1:22-25). Their faith is manifested by their deeds (cf. James 2:14-26).
- It means that one does not show partiality (1:27-2:9). In fact, the Lord would have us to “champion the underdog”. The sanctified are obliged to visit the fatherless and widows in their distress. This does not mean that he or she merely drops by the orphanage or the widow’s home to say “hello”. The word translated “visit” literally means to “relieve”. So then, the Christian sees the problems that such individuals have and set out to correct them. In the meantime, he or she avoids elevating the one that is rich while abasing the poor and downtrodden. Instead, the sanctified love their neighbors as they do themselves (cf. James 2:8).
Thanks be to God that He has enabled us to be “born again” through His Son. Clearly His will is that we been sanctified (cf. James 1:18). Let us, therefore, work on being the “first fruits among His creation”.