Now God takes believers, that they may be a kind of first-fruits unto himself of the creatures. He satisfies himself with believers throughout the world, to be first-fruits of the whole creation. And if God should cease from taking these first-fruits, he would destroy the world.

To what end should he maintain this fabric at such an expense of power, patience, forbearance, goodness, wisdom, if there came no revenue to him? Now, he never took any revenue but the first-fruits. And if any one (as I shall afterward show) do put forth his hands to this portion of God, he will be sure sorely to revenge it.

For the most part this is the state of things among worldly men, — the more they have, the readier they are to lay their hands upon the portion of others. But I am sure the more men have throughout the world, the readier they are to lay their hands upon the portion of God.

But saith he, Jer. ii. 3, “Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first-fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord;” — they shall contract guilt, and they shall have punishment fall upon them. “All that devour them shall offend.” If that were all, they would not much care for it; — but, “Evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord.”

Let us a little inquire how believers come to be dedicated, consecrated, and made holy unto God, — to be his temple, tabernacle, first-fruits, his lot and portion, as they are called.

Why, this notion is taken from the Old Testament, and it is spoken of in allusion to what was in use then, when both persons and things were dedicated to God.

By what way, then, were things dedicated and consecrated to God, made his portion, and became holy?

There were four ways whereby this was done:– I. By special call and legal constitution. II. By unction. III. By inhabitation. And, IV. By vow, and actual separation thereupon.

There is no other way whereby any thing was ever dedicated to God under the Old Testament. And we shall find [that] all these ways believers are dedicated and consecrated unto God.

I. There was a dedication to God by special call and law constitution. So Aaron was dedicated to God to be a priest, Exod. xxviii. 1, “Take to thee Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” What was this? “No man,” saith our apostle, “takes this honour to himself, unless called of God, as was Aaron.” Aaron was called of God to be dedicated a peculiar priest unto him. And this was confirmed by the law of the priesthood. He “was made a priest after the law of a carnal commandment,” saith he. And, Num. i. 50, God took the Levites to the service of the tabernacle, whereby they became his portion; and, chap. iii. 3, 4, they are separated upon God’s call.

This, then, is the first way whereby God takes any thing unto himself, and by which any one is separated and dedicated unto God; — it is by a solemn call, and legal constitution thereupon.

II. The second way whereby any thing was dedicated unto God, was by unction. So Aaron, after his call, to complete his dedication, chap. xxix., was anointed in his consecration; and so were his sons. In like manner Elisha was anointed to be a prophet in the room of Elijah; and David was anointed to be king over Israel.

It was the great consummating ordinance whereby any were dedicated unto God. In Exod. xxx. 22, etc., you have the institution of the making of this oil. “Ye shall not,” says God, “make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, shall be cut off from his people, or putteth any of it upon any stranger.”

What is the meaning hereof? Why, this anointing oil, wherewith the priests and all the holy utensils of the altar were anointed, was a type of the graces and gifts of the Spirit of God. And where God hath given the gifts and graces of his Spirit for holy ministrations, — for praying, for preaching the word, for administering the ordinances, — for any one to make an oil like it, by liturgies, homilies, and the like, is to act contrary to this command.

All that is done in the whole liturgical, ceremonial course, is nothing but to make an oil like the oil God hath made for his sanctuary, which he doth so severely prohibit any man to put his hand unto; for this reason, because it was a type of the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost that were to be poured out upon Christ, and believers under him. (source)

 John Owen

Further reading