There are so many interesting things in Scripture, not all of which are “heavy duty” doctrinal matters but just the ordinary events of everyday life that sometimes perplex, sometimes amuse, but always warrant some level of meditation and musing. I want to share with you what I have been thinking about lately under the heading of “First Things First.”
We read fewer than 100 words in our English Bible before the word “first” occurs: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” That is important, of course, because of the “evening and morning” formula of the Jewish reckoning of a 24-hour day, which is critical in our conviction that God created the world and all that is in it in six 24-hour days (not in billions and billions of years, as evolutionists and “Day-Age” creationists would have us believe).
Moving on through the Old Testament, it is noted that when God ordained certain feasts for the nation of Israel to commemorate annually, one of them was the feast of “first fruits.” (Lev.23:9-14) One of seven religious festivals observed every year, the feast of first fruits affirmed that there would be a full harvest to come, and it found its fulfillment in the resurrection of Christ (I Cor.15:23), assuring the Church that Christ our Lord was indeed the first fruits of the resurrection and that there would be more to come—namely, the Church, comprised of “they that are His at His coming.”
Fast forward to the New Testament and we will focus on some “everyday, as-life-unfolded events.” When Jesus made His initial appearance to the disciples, John records that when two disciples of John the Baptist heard Jesus say “come and seek,” one of them, Andrew, “first findeth his own brother Simon.” Andrew was excited about having met the one that John had just announced was “the Lamb of God,” and he could not wait to find his own brother, first, to tell him that the Rabbi, Master, had come! Isn’t that the way it is? When you have some earth-shaking news—some exuberant, off-the-charts news—you cannot wait to first tell those you love the most and are closest to. Time has not changed that.
In fact, the Gospel of Mark is one of the four gospel accounts that makes sure we know that “when Jesus was risen the first day of the week (another “first”), He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.” (Mark 16:9) Later that day, he would appear to the disciples who were “hunkered down” and laying low, as it were. But He wanted to appear first to the woman who had seen Him hours before—beaten, battered, bloodied and bruised for our iniquities as He hung upon the cross, showing Mary of Magdala His resurrected body. He knew that this woman whose body had once been inhabited by seven demons would rejoice that day, probably as none other. Just an interesting tidbit that Mark thinks we’d be delighted in musing over!
Paul, the apostle to Gentiles, stressed that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it was the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) He would later remind the Corinthian believers that “I delivered unto you first of all that which also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” (I Cor. 15:3) Just another word, this word “first”? I think not. It is a word often used to show order or priority, and it is interesting to see how, when, and on what occasions it “pops up.”
And of a greater significance than in most other instances, let us not forget that Christ is “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Rev. 22:13) He is the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18); the “first begotten into the world” (Hebs.1:6); the “first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5); the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29); and the “firstborn of every creature.” (Col. 1:15) Need more be said about the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ?
There are other “firsts,” of course. The fourth commandment, to honor our parents, is the “first commandment with promise.” (Eph. 6:4; Ex. 20:12) We worship God corporately, as a church body, “the first day of the week.” (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16: 1,2) Women are to first learn piety at home (Titus 5:4), and judgment must begin first at the House of God. (I Pet. 4:17) And don’t forget that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (I Th.4:16)
But, at the top of our list of firsts must come these: (1) The one commandment that God considers utmost is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 23:38) Then, in His sermon on the mount, Jesus exhorted the great multitude gathered to hear Him preach, that they should “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33)
So, every “first” is important, but some are more important than others. The “great commandment” and the “seek ye first” exhortation in Christ’s message to the multitude are in a class of their own. How is it with you, my friend? Are you putting Him first in your life? He is not worthy of any place but first.
Obert Logan, a former safety for the Dallas Cowboys, was once quoted as saying, “The thing I remember most about my rookie season was he (Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry) asked us players on the first day of training camp what our priorities were. He said, ‘I don’t know what your priorities are, but mine are God, family and the Dallas Cowboys.’ That made quite an impression on me, because I thought football was going to be his top priority.”
What is first for you?
“And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.” (Col.1:18)