Note: More exposition from Sunday before last's sermon on James 1:17-20. In that message I suggested three themes: Who is God (vv. 17-18a)? Who are we in Christ? (v. 18b)? How should we live? (vv. 19-20). The exposition below addresses the second of those themes.
James 1:18b: …that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Again, notice the first-person plural pronoun: “We.” James is identifying with his Christian readers, of the first generation and every generation thereafter.
Believers are described in many different ways in the Scriptures. We are disciples, followers of the Way, Christians, saints, the elect, the redeemed, pilgrims, aliens, strangers, the called, the adopted, the sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, etc.
As with many things in James, however, the description here is somewhat unique. And I think there is a good argument to be made for the fact that this description especially relates to the first generation of believers.
He describes the believers to whom he wrote as “a kind of firstfruits [aparche] of [God’s] creatures.”
This seems to combine two ideas we see in Paul:
First, Christians are a new creation or new creatures in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Second, the risen Christ is described by Paul as a kind of “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [aparche] of them that slept.”
The point seems to be: Just as Christ’s resurrection from the dead anticipated the general resurrection that all men will experience at the end of the ages, so the regeneration of that first generation of believers anticipated the regeneration of countless believers through many coming generation until the glorious return of Christ.
In that sense it can be applied to us also, anticipating the ones who will come after us.
We are new creatures in Christ, and we anticipate an even greater harvest that is yet to come. In our Father’s house there are many mansions!