1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
All shall rise at the last day, and be clothed with their bodies again. "But will all that rise enter into Christ's joy? Only if they rise after His likeness. The crop from which the first-fruits were picked was not all of the same quality. There may have been wild grapes and fruit of brambles amid the crop of the vineyard, and there may have been tares and thistles among the crop of corn. These would be cast into the fire, and none but what are of the same kind as the first-fruits, grapes and corn, laid up in store. So it will be at the resurrection harvest. None but such as are like to Christ, the first-fruits, will be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. There is, therefore, much to warn us here. That which goes into the ground as seed of bramble or thistle will rise bromide or thistle, so he that goes into the grave a child of wrath will rise a child of wrath. Note —
I. THAT WHICH IS THE GRAND PROPERTY OF EVERYTHING THAT BEARS FRUIT, GROWTH. As all men bear fruit of some kind, they are growing up from something and to something.
1. What, then, is the seed in our hearts from which we are growing? Is it the good seed of the Word of God? It is easy to determine. The manner of the plant's growth declares its seed.
(1) Is there in the heart —
(a) A spreading forth of the love of God?
(b) A continual rise, as if of lively sap, of the sense of the mercies in Christ, of the experience of the earnest of His promises, of the motions of the Holy Spirit, of the promptings of good thoughts, godly meditations, heavenly affections?
(c) The shooting upwards of the stem of the seeking of God, the believing in Christ, the hoping of the good things to come, the raising of the desires?
(d) The shooting downward of a good hold of faith, of a rooting in love, of a seeking of spiritual nourishment?
(e) Shooting sideways into branches of love toward the brethren, of exercise in good works, of example to edification? Who can doubt the seed of such a plant?
(2) But, on the contrary, if the heart —
(a) Rise and swell with the motions of ungodliness.
(b) Shooting upward in rebellion against God.
(c) Shoot downward in carnal desires, earthly affections, devilish inclinations.
(d) Shoot sideways in carelessness of living, bad example, indifference to God's honour and glory — who does not know that it is the bad seed sown by the devil in the heart of man when he was asleep in the unwatchfulness of this world?And who is not certain of the nature of its fruit, that it will be a poisonous berry, to the shame and scandal of the vineyard and field of God in which he has been suffered to grow up?
2. What is the fruit to which we are growing. There can be no doubt of a plant bearing its natural fruit, but there may be a doubt of its bearing fruit at all. But we hardly ever see worthless plants disabled from bearing fruit. Who ever saw the thistle blighted? It is the valuable fruits that are so uncertain, and the more precious they are so much the more tender they are, and require greater care to bring them to perfection, for they are not in their natural climate. And is the sinful world the natural climate for the precious fruits of holiness? No; all ungodliness thrives in it, blossoms without fail and in all abundance, and brings forth fruit most plentifully. But how different is it with the plant which comes up in the heart from the seed of the Word of God. The heat of temptation, the cold of indifference, the blight of unbelief, the floods of ungodliness, are all against it, and it requires to be nursed carefully, watched continually.
II. ON OUR GROWTH, WHETHER FOR GOOD OR FOR EVIL FRUIT, DEPENDS OUR PLACE ON THE DAY OF THE HARVEST of which Christ is the first-fruits. Our characters are decided for holy or unholy when we go into the grave; our place is decided, for happiness or misery, on the day that we rise out of it. It is astonishing how watchful some men are in keeping out such thoughts; it would be well if others would be as watchful in keeping them in. A person may indeed look forward to a happy resurrection without attaining it, because he may delude himself with false hopes; but no one will ever attain a happy resurrection without looking forward to it.
(R. W. Evans, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.