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"And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:23 ESV.

ESV, NIV and KJB put "have the firstfruits of the Spirit."

CSB puts "have the Spirit as the firstfruits."

How might these "firstfruits" compare with the "fruit of the Spirit"? Galatians 5:22.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentfeness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23.

[A previous question asks "What translation issues centre on "firstfruits" in Romans 8:23?"].

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First, we should not confuse the two words:

  • ἀπαρχή (aparché) - first portion
  • καρπός (karpos) - fruit

The two are quite different words. (See the previous answer.) As BDAG notes, καρπός (karpos) is mostly used, not in a literal sense but it figurative sense of "product or outcome of something", eg, Matt 3:8, 10, 7:16-20, 12:33, etc, and frequently appears in Jesus' parables about the distinction in works between people who are converted followers of Jesus vs those who are not, eg, Matt 12:33, 13:8, 26, 21:34, 41, Mark 4:7, 8, 29, 11:14, etc.

The same is true in Gal 5:22 - the "fruit" of the Spirit denotes the outcome of works in the life of those who are motivated only by the Spirit of Christ:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

By contrast, the "first portion" ἀπαρχή (aparché) means the initial part of something - for more details, see my answer in What translation issues centre on "firstfruits" in Romans 8:23?

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    Up-voted. Should we perhaps say 'original portion' (suitable for -arche) as the portion taken out is that which then furnishes other portions (further 'portions' come not from the previous source, but come from the 'lump'). Thus aparche is the result of redemption (from a source). And further progress is from the 'original portion'.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 16 at 8:33
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    @NigelJ - that is a reasonable suggestion in that instance, agreed.
    – Dottard
    Nov 16 at 8:49
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The Hebrew word for first fruit is bikkurim—literally translated to “promise to come.”

Those who received the Spirit of Christ received a Spirit a sonship. These represent the first fruit. That means the rest of the harvest will come. On a tree there are a few pieces of fruit that ripen first but then the whole tree ripens.

5For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—Romans 8:15-17

Once the creation sees the revelation of the sons of God they too will be set free from bondage, decay and corruption and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God as well. Here is the rest of the fruit that will that follows the first fruits.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:21

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. 23Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

All creation is crying out for freedom from corruption. The first fruit is a promise of what it is to come.

Christ is the very first Fruit from the dead.

And now, Christ has risen out of the dead—He became the first-fruits of those sleeping, First Corinthians 15:20

For as indeed in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in the own order: Christ the firstfruit, then those of Christ at His coming, 24then the end, when He shall hand over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He shall have annulled all dominion, and all authority and power. 1 Corinthians 15:23-24

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  • "Once the creation-"it" or "they" will be set free.."the fruit that will[?]that follows.
    – C. Stroud
    Nov 16 at 9:42
  • C. Stroud, ALL CREATION is groaning is very revealing in this passage of scripture. 3956 pás – each, every; each "part(s) of a totality 3956 /pás ("each, every") means "all" in the sense of "each (every) part that applies." The emphasis of the total picture then is on "one piece at a time." 365 (ananeóō) then focuses on the part(s) making up the whole – viewing the whole in terms of the individual parts. We know there will be a time when animals will peacefully live with each other. Isaiah 11:6 Our Creator has a glorious creation coming that will be raised out of death. 1Co. 15:35-42 .
    – Sherrie
    Nov 16 at 15:46
  • 1 jn. 1:3-8 Says that the Son of God is destroying all the works of the devil. When the sons of God are delivered from their present slavery and death at our Lord's dissent from heaven, He will transfigure them to conform to His body glorious. (Phil.3-21). Later when we are unveiled the creation will be set at liberty from the bondage which now enthralled it. How it ought to comfort us to know that the patients suffering creatures, Who had no hand in their own degradation, will yet find a real relief from the pain and sorrow from which they have no escape now." Concordant commentary.
    – Sherrie
    Nov 16 at 15:49
  • "not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it". Romans 8:21 "it".
    – C. Stroud
    Nov 16 at 15:56
  • Amen! Would even add these two scriptures.and placed everything under his feet.” When God subjected all things to him, He left nothing outside of his control. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. Heb.2:8 8And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Co. 15:28
    – Sherrie
    Nov 16 at 16:38
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Galatians 5:22 New International Version

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Strong's Concordance:

G2590 karpos fruit καρπός
(a) fruit, generally vegetable, sometimes animal,
(b) metaphor: fruit, deed, action, result,
(c) profit, gain.

καρπός emphasizes on the end-product.

On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 16:

15a You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people.

Strong's Concordance

G536 aparché ἀπαρχή
the first-fruits, the earliest crop of the year

This word is made of two parts: apo and arché.
apo means from.
arché means beginning

ἀπαρχή emphasizes the beginning and not the end-product.

καρπός stands in contrast to ἀπαρχή.

Romans 8:

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

i.e., the first crop of the Spirit

groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

How might these "firstfruits" compare with the "fruit of the Spirit"?

They are different concepts. The fruit/καρπός of the Spirit points the end-products (love, joy, peace, etc.) produced by an individual Christian. The firstfruits/ἀπαρχή of the Spirit refers to collectively the first crop or the first batch of converts as a set first produced by the Spirit.

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What are the "firstfruits of the Spirit" in Romans 8:23?

Let's start by defining the "firstfruits". The topic "Firstfruits" in the Insight on the Scriptures offers the following:

The earliest fruits of a season; the first results or products of anything. The Hebrew word reʼ·shithʹ (from a root meaning “head”) is used in the sense of first part, point of departure, or “beginning” (De 11:12; Ge 1:1; 10:10); the “best” (Ex 23:19, ftn); and “firstfruits” (Le 2:12). “First ripe fruits” is rendered from the Hebrew bik·ku·rimʹ, which is used especially with regard to grain and fruit. (Na 3:12) The Greek term for firstfruits (a·par·kheʹ) comes from a root having the basic meaning “primacy.”

We see that "firstfruits" are the beginning of what is to come. The article explains how this applies during the first century:

Since the anointed Christians are begotten by the spirit as sons of God with the hope of resurrection to immortality in the heavens, they are said during their lifetime on earth to “have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit . . . while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.” (Ro 8:23, 24) Paul says that he and fellow Christians with hopes of life in the spirit have “the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit,” which he also says is “a token in advance of our inheritance.”​—2Co 5:5; Eph 1:13, 14.

How might these "firstfruits" compare with the "fruit of the Spirit"? Galatians 5:22.

The study note for this verse in the New World Translation provides insight:

the fruitage of the spirit: Or “what the spirit produces.” The Greek agricultural term kar·posʹ, “fruit; fruitage,” appears frequently in the Scriptures. Here it is used figuratively to refer to qualities that God’s holy spirit, or active force, can produce in humans. (Ga 5:16) Just as a tree bears fruit when it is properly cultivated, so a person produces “the fruitage of the spirit” when he allows the spirit to influence his thinking and actions. (Compare Ps 1:1-3.) Such qualities reflect the personality of Jehovah God, the Source of holy spirit. (Col 3:9, 10) The list of qualities mentioned here is not intended to cover all qualities that holy spirit produces in Christians as its fruitage. (See study note on Ga 5:23.) Together these qualities characterize the new personality. (Eph 4:24) Paul here uses the singular form of the Greek word kar·posʹ, “fruitage.” Bible commentators have noted that this use of the singular form may imply that the desirable qualities specifically mentioned here form a whole; all are important to cultivate, and they cannot exist separate from one another.

So the "firstfruits" are distinct from the "fruit of the Spirit". The apostles, disciples, and others that received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the first century became "firstfruits". Through the Holy Spirit, those anointed Christians could then produce the "fruit of the Spirit".

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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