The Offering That Connects Us to Apostolic Ministry
It is well known in the church that finances are an integral part of worship given to God. There is no need to explain here the role of tithes, offerings or alms, principles that are thoroughly explained (at least one hopes) in the basic training that believers receive.
It is also not necessary, in the scope of this article, to explain either the law of sowing and reaping, or how the amount of seed used determines the size of the harvest that follows. Applications of this law are well known, so I will only mention the story of the widow and her son who, in 2 Kings 4:1-7, received miraculous provision of oil. They are the ones who determined, by the number of vessels they presented, the amount of oil they would harvest.
There is also no need to mention neither the virtues of generosity, nor the benefit there is in giving with joy. We are all well aware of these things.
There is, however, another side to the financial aspect of our relationship with God that is discussed at length in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, and it is probably one of the most misunderstood of all, that of firstfruits.
The principle of firstfruits is simple: in dedicating the first part to God, what follows will be blessed. In the agricultural context of the Old Testament, it meant that offering the first sheaves of grain to the Lord before the fields were ripe guaranteed in advance God’s blessing on all of the upcoming harvest. In other words, what we do with the firstfruits determines what will become of the rest. The same principle is repeated in the New Testament:
If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16)
Jesus himself saves us according to the same principle. He became, by identifying with us, the first portion that redeemed all of humanity:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
A DIFFERENT OFFERING
We are all accustomed to tithing, but in general, much less so to firstfruits. In the Old Testament, they both follow the cycles of the different crops of the year, but in very different ways. The tithe is a fixed percentage on the harvest, but only after the crops have been harvested, or if you will, after the income has been received. On the other hand, the firstfruits offering is not a fixed percentage, but rather a portion that is offered before the harvest is ripe, which involves an element of faith for that which has not yet been revealed. The same principle applies to the management of the herds.
Another aspect of the firstfruits offering is that it is given directly to the priest:
Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. (Leviticus 23:10)
Ezekiel goes in the same direction and adds the benefits that we will receive from it for our homes:
The best of all the firstfruits and of all your special gifts will belong to the priests. You are to give them the first portion of your ground meal so that a blessing may rest on your household. (Ezekiel 44:30)
Numbers 18 clearly makes a distinction between tithes and firstfruits. The tithes are given to the Levites for their service (verse 21), while the firstfruits are for Aaron, the high priest (verses 12-13). Many agree that the Levites are represented today by the pastoral ministry in the church. But who are the modern-day equivalents of priests? Hebrews 3:1-2 takes the ministry of the high priest, which belonged to the old covenant and connects it to the ministry of the apostle, which appears in the new covenant:
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
In following that parallel, we see that today the firstfruits should therefore be directed to the apostles that the Lord has established for the edification of the body of Christ and with whom we are aligned for our spiritual covering.
APPLICATION FOR TODAY
Firstfruits offerings should be given to the apostolic ministry with which we are linked, but how?
To implement the model from the Old Testament into our lives today we should give the firstfruits on a regular basis, throughout the year, for each new harvest that comes. What are these harvests? They can come in different forms: a new job, a raise, a new contract, new profits, a new market for your business, gains on investments, gifts that you receive, a blessing that comes… in fact any improvement in your finances. Now, how much should you give? Remember that the firstfruits are not regulated like the tithe, nor do they replace it. Both have their own characteristics. The firstfruits leave a lot of room for the expression of freedom and faith. Just as the size of the sheaf that we should present is never specified, there is also no fixed measurement to determine the amount for a firstfruits offering. You could give your first paycheck from a new job, your first raise, the first investment income received in a month or year, the first payment received from every new contract, etc. You could even give by faith the firstfruits from a harvest that is hoped for, even if it has not yet been seen. The principle in all of these cases is to give regularly and generously, knowing that the seed put into good soil produces an abundant harvest.
To summarize, the firstfruits are a portion of any growth, of any increase, of any progress that God gives us, an offering of gratitude and honour that connects us with the apostolic ministry. A great promise of prosperity is attached to it:
Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Peter Wagner was the first one to explain the concept of firstfruits to me when he invited me to be a part of Global Spheres. He then directed me to an extraordinary book on the subject written by Robert Henderson, The Caused Blessing. My article is largely inspired by what these two men have written on the subject. To learn more, you can consult the article written by C. Peter Wagner, Making Firstfruits Practical, on the Global Sphereswebsite: