The Natural Right of Priority
1 Corinthians 16:15
I beseech you, brothers, (you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia…

The firstfruits of Achaia. We need not think of the household of Stephanas as being actually the first converts St. Paul made. in the Peloponnesus, as apparently another person is spoken of in the same terms m Romans 16:5: "Salute my well-beloved Epsenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ." The meaning need only be that the household of Stephanas was among those brought to Christ at St. Paul's first missionary visit. The apostle had an affectionate regard for his first converts in new spheres, as may be illustrated in the case of Lydia at Philippi. The interest we always feel in first things can be illustrated by way of introduction.

1. Firstborn children.

2. First forms of enterprise.

3. Firstfruits of our labour, etc.

Natural feeling gives all first things prominence; and the Old Testament history and religion rested on the recognition of the rights of the firstborn and the interest of first things. They are the key to the life; the strong impress of the character. They are like the first proofs of an engraving; every line is sharply defined in them. They may become the reproach of our weaker after doings, for they show what we did actually attain once, and prove that we could, through life, have done better. It is, however, the hope and promise of first things on which we now propose to dwell.

I. FIRST THINGS ARE DONE WITH INTENSE FEELING. Illustrate from the youth beginning business life; the man entering on a new undertaking; the missionary going forth to his new sphere, etc. Men brace themselves up to deal with new things. They have no experience to tell them what amount of strength the new work will demand, so they are likely to put too much into it. A vague but arousing wonder clings all about new things, and imagination makes them bigger and better than they are. At first we fail to estimate difficulties, qualifications, hindrances; we start out like Israel, and expect to reach our Canaan quickly: so all our hearts go out into our first things. And happily life is full of them, especially early life, and they exert a most gracious influence on us, for they again and again lift us out of ourselves and above ourselves.

II. FIRST THINGS HAVE A NATURAL PRE-EMINENCE. Of this the position and rights of the firstborn sons are but the illustration. First things are felt to have a representative character; they are the natural leaders of all that come after them - the specimens and examples of their sort. In all the spheres of life we give prominence to beginnings. When a servant comes to a new situation, the master or mistress watch the first actions to see "how they will frame." When a convert joins a Church, the pastor give prominence to the first forms in which Church responsibilities are met. Turning their thoughts back to their hopeful "first things," the apostle reproaches his converts thus: "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?"

III. FIRST THINGS HAVE PROMISE FOR THE FOLLOWING THINGS. As firstfruits have for harvest. The harvest need not be worse than the specimen firstfruits, but it may be much better. A man's first work need not be his maximum standard, but it ought to be his minimum standard. A first result may tell of power, and power always holds the promise of what culture can make it. Or, applying the point in relation to our text, one convert made in a new sphere of Christian labour holds the promise of a great ingathering; as we find at first one star in the darkening evening sky, which is the "glorious prospect of millions more."

IV. FIRST THINGS KEEP PROMINENT PLACE IN OUR MEMORY. Illustrate our first school; first steps in business life; first love; first communion; first convert to Christ by our influence; first sickness; first success in life, etc. The most treasured things in our memory are these first things of life; and, as such, their moral mission is

(1) to aid us in the review of life, by fixing attention upon points;

(2) to remind us that the spirit of energy in which we take things up is the spirit in which we should carry them through; and

(3) to show us that we need the Divine help for "patient continuance in well doing," as much as we remember we needed it for our anxious beginnings. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

WEB: Now I beg you, brothers (you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have set themselves to serve the saints),

The Natural Right of Priority
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