So how is this frequently quoted concept of firstling to be understood? The Chief Apostle made it clear that this is not a question of the exclusiveness of an elitist group. Once again he explained that this is about the call to serve God and our neighbour.
On his trip to the District Apostle Area Western Pacific, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider visited the members in Australia, Japan, and South Korea. On 8 August 2023, the Chief Apostle conducted a divine service for the congregation in Adelaide, Australia. He based this divine service on James 1: 18: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
The firstfruits are no better
With regard to the status of firstling, the Chief Apostle clarified: “If we are children of God, it is not because of our merit, not because we are better than others. Not because we are holier, more gifted, or whatever. It is simply grace, and we cannot explain our election and our calling. All we know is that we do not deserve it.” However, he said, it is important that we accept and follow this calling: “It is a mystery, but it is important that the Holy Spirit can reveal to us and tell us for what purpose we have been called and elected.”
Offering the firstfruits
The Chief Apostle went on to elaborate on the subject and used the image of the firstfruits of the harvest: “According to the Jewish law, the Mosaic Law, the firstfruits of the harvest belonged to God. The Jews had to set aside the first yield of the harvest and bring it to God as an offering. They could not keep it for themselves. The firstfruits, the first yield of the harvest, they had to bring and offer to God; this portion was consecrated to God. These offerings were meant to express their gratitude.”
The Chief Apostle explained that, on one hand, this means that gifts, time, and strength are placed at the service of God and our neighbour. On the other hand, it is also important to understand that it is the first yield that should be offered. Not only what’s left. There is a risk of first reducing the portion that belongs to God.
Consecrated by God to serve
The Chief Apostle explained the purpose of our election as follows: “We have been consecrated to serve God and, as Paul said, to offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God. It is important that we are always aware that we have been chosen and called to serve the Lord and to make our contribution to the plan and work of salvation.”
Once again, Chief Apostle Schneider stressed the importance of understanding that we are no different from other human beings. The only thing special about the firstlings is their mission: “I have to prepare myself for the return of Christ and be part of the royal priesthood in the kingdom of peace because I have been called to be a blessing for many, many others. And whatever happens in my life, I must never forget to be aware of that.”
Belonging to God
As firstfruits there is a close sense of belonging to God, the Chief Apostle said with reference to Jesus’ statement: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” However, everything depends on our own will, the Chief Apostle went on to explain: “You belong to Him. No spirit, no disease, no accident, nor death can snatch you out of the Lord’s hand as long as you want to remain with Him. Everything depends on our will.”
This free choice is also a special power, he said, because: “The devil cannot do with us what he wants. We decide about our fellowship, our relationship with God. That’s my story.”
Already part of the harvest
“As children of God we are reborn out of water and the Holy Spirit.” These firstfruits do not yet represent the new creation in a perfect way, but in a new way: “We are already the firstfruit of creation, we have become a new creation in Christ through the baptism with water and the Spirit.” The Chief Apostle emphasised that this new creation, this fruit, should already be visible today: “We should bear the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, wisdom, peace, and self-control.”
However, the status of firstling is not characterised by exclusiveness: “We are not the only ones who will be saved,” he pointed out. “We are only the part of the harvest that heralds the greatest part of the harvest. The largest part is yet to come.”