Firstfruits of the Spirit- Romans 8:23

In Romans 8:23, Paul tells believers that “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”. The Greek term “have” here is the present active participle of echo- to possess. Paul here is telling believers here that we have as our present and permanent possession the “first fruits of the Spirit”. The term first fruits here is a concept Paul takes from the Old Testament and applies here to the Holy Spirit. The first fruits were the first fruit of the harvest, which God commanded be offered to Him. When this was done in obedience to God, He then guaranteed that the rest of the harvest would come in. In using the term first fruits here, Paul is telling us that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer is God’s guarantee of the fullness of the harvest of redemption. The phrase “of the Spirit” here brings us to a difficulty inherent in the Greek language and found many times in the New Testament, because this phrase is in the genitive case. The inherent difficulty is that a genitive can be either subjective or objective, and it cannot be determined which it is by the grammar alone, context determines which it is, since both the objective and subjective are written exactly the same way. The difficulty here is as to whether the Spirit gives the first fruits (subjective) or whether the Spirit is the first fruits (objective). It is contended here that this is an objective genitive, that the Spirit Himself is the first fruits referred to here. We learn, in this verse and another to be examined shortly, that the Spirit is the first fruits of redemption, it is the presence of the Spirit in us that is God’s guarantee that the process of redemption, the process of gradually being set free from our bondage to sin will be carried out and brought to completion, because the Spirit Himself is in us to move this process along as we grow in grace. The Spirit is in us to help set us free from sin, ever becoming less a prisoner of sin and more and more a servant of God, freeing us from the power of sin as we walk according to His leading. This process then reaches its culmination when we receive the “redemption of our bodies”, when are with the Lord forever, forever free from the presence of sin and its effects. The interpretation of this as an objective genitive is also supported by a parallel passage in John 14:16-17. In this passage, the disciples are at the Last Supper, and Jesus is telling them He is about to go away, but tells them here that He will “ask the Father, and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth”. What we must note here is that the Father is the one who sends the Spirit, that the Father is the subject (the one sending) and the Spirit is the object (the one sent), the Spirit Himself is the first fruits of redemption, God’s guarantee that the process of redemption will be completed. We also learn here something about the Spirit Himself, for Jesus refers to Him here as “allon parakleton”, as another counselor, one “of the same kind “(allon) as He. Jesus tells us here that the Holy Spirit is not a “force” or a “ghost” but a person, the third person of the trinity, equal with Jesus, divine just as Jesus is, and that the person of the Spirit is with us “unto the ages”, or for all eternity. Jesus also tells us here that the Spirit is the “Spirit of truth”, in this case the genitive being both subjective and objective, the Spirit is truth and also determines and defines truth. In summary then, we find that the Spirit Himself is the first fruits of redemption, that the Spirit Himself is the third person of the trinity, equal with Jesus and the Father. He is given to us by the Father to be forever with us and to live with us and be in us. His presence in us is both God’s method and guarantee of the process of redemption, that we will be set free moment by moment and day by day from our bondage to sin, gradually freed from its power until one day we are freed from its presence once and for all. We will next examine more of Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit to see how this process of redemption is carried out, just what the ministry of the Spirit is, both to believers and to the world.

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