Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:…
The firstfruits under the law were an offering made to God of the first ripe fruits before the harvest was begun. In allusion to this Christ is called "the firstfruits of them that slept," because His resurrection is an earnest and pledge of the resurrection of believers. The sanctifying and comforting influences of the Spirit are called the firstfruits of the Spirit, as earnests of heavenly happiness. James tells us that God hath begotten us "that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (Revelation 14:4). By a like allusion the apostle calls the first converts in a particular place the firstfruits of that place unto Christ. Now consider this man, dwelling in the midst of heathen, on the preaching of the apostle, coming out from among a corrupt and idolatrous multitude, and, by his example and conversation, inviting his fellow-citizens to turn to the living God; and will you not admire his integrity, zeal and fortitude? Note —
I. HOW A FORWARDNESS IN RELIGION MAY DISCOVER ITSELF. In —
1. Early religion. Epaenetus enjoyed not your early advantages, but it seems probable that he accepted the first invitation to Christ. He gave to Christ the firstfruits, if not of life itself, yet of that part of life in which he was favoured with the heavenly call. All have now this call in their youth.
2. An open profession of it, and a diligent attendance on the means of it.
3. A maintenance of the profession and practice of it, though it should involve the charge of singularity. Epaenetus professed the religion of the gospel when all around him were in a different sentiment and practice.
4. A zeal for great and essential things. There are many who are forward in little matters; zealous for or against opinions, forms, etc., but this is only forwardness in a party design. The Christian is zealous to maintain good works, and abounds in the proper fruits of the Spirit.
5. Labours to promote it among others. When Paul calls his beloved Epaenetus the firstfruits, he intimates that a rich harvest followed. This forward Christian doubtless assisted Paul greatly.
6. Aspirations after greater eminence in religion.
II. THIS FORWARDNESS IS COMMENDABLE.
1. As an evidence of sincerity.
2. On account of its usefulness. The slothful, negligent Christian emboldens sinners in their transgressions, and confirms them in their stupidity.
3. As it is honourable to Christ, To Him belong the firstfruits of your lives. He is honoured by the increase of His subjects. By your forwardness you will contribute to this increase.
4. As an imitation of Christ. He was in early life about His Father's business.
5. Because it is in the highest degree rational. It is regarding things according to their nature and importance.
6. We have no promise of success on any other condition.
(1) This is the command of Christ. "Seek first the kingdom of God." Strive to enter in at the straight gate.
(2) This is the direction of the apostle. The promise is only to those who give diligence to make their calling and election sure.
(3) It is by forwardness in religion that you become entitled to the constant aids of God's grace.
(J. Lathrop, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: