Summary: The first fruits are when we feel the forgiveness of sin that salvation offers. When that fruit is felt, we are no longer condemned, but strengthened in the fact that is not ours, but God’s strength we rely on.
“The First Fruits of the Spirit”
John Wesley Sermon Series
(taken from John Wesley on Christian Beliefs, The Standard Sermons in Modern English, Vol. 1, Abingdon Press:2002)
July 13, 2003
I. Introduction – How many of us have ever felt condemned? What’s the first word that comes into your mind when I say condemnation?
Story – Martin Luther. In his search for salvation, found himself at a monastery. In the Catholic faith, salvation comes through the church, through its priests and the sacraments. For Luther, this system wasn’t working.
As a monk, Luther denied himself all the creature comforts. He gave up food. Often slept outdoors with only his cloak to cover him even in the midst of winter, and even beat himself causing open wounds in order to identify with this Christ and the salvation he sought.
But then it came to him. As a Bible professor in a small Catholic seminary, he came across this passage in Romans and of others which spoke of grace and benefits of that grace…and it changed his life.
So much so that he began to teach, preach, and live out this “new form” of grace-filled, Spirit-filled living. He even began to write about it. And on the evening of May 24, 1738, a young troubled-filled Anglican priest, by the name of John Wesley, heard the words of Martin Luther on this very text, and his heart became strangely warmed.
So warmed it was that 265 years later, we sit here with Methodist in our name, representing our belief that grace is the greatest gift ever given, because Martin Luther made the discovery and decided to share it.
Romans 8 is a powerful chapter in the Bible, not only were Martin Luther and John Wesley affected by its words, even St. Augustine was convincted by its 13 & fourteenth verses.
But Romans 8 is also one of those passages of Scripture that has been frequently and dangerously misunderstood. On one extreme, some Christians read this passage and then neglect repentance and personal discipline.
On the other hand, some Christians get so overwhelmed with a sense of guilt about their sin, that they lose sight of the joy, peace and victory that the Gospel message brings leading them to depression and despair. In reality, this passage talks about a Christian principle that says we hold both tendencies in tandem with one another.
For those who have come to a living relationship with Jesus Christ, who have accepted the free gift of God’s grace, we realize that sin cannot be ignored or overlooked in our lives. Our willful transgressions and involuntary human weaknesses often try to outdo us.
But, we do not have to be overwhelmed. We do not have to be depressed. We don’t have to be in despair. We are not condemned! Even though our sins may overwhelm, depress, and create despair, we have a hope, we have a peace, we have a joy, and that is found in the mercy of the One who invited us to His table of redemption in the first place, Jesus Christ.
For those who may not have that relationship, I invite you to listen closely, this message is one of the greatest benefits of walking the journey with Christ.