If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (ESV)
Paul uses a couple illustrations to describe the Israelite people. Dough for a lump of bread and the root of a tree. He says that these represent firstfruits. We must immediately raise the question, "What are firstfruits? Firstfruits is a biblical concept that we find first in the Old Testament, and also repeated in the New Testament.
The Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines firstfruits in this way: "The concept of firstfruits derives from God's creation work. Because God created everything that exists, all of creation belongs to him ( Psalm 24:1 ). Consequently, that which is first and best belongs to him and is to be given to him."
The first and the best that were given to the Lord in regards to the people of Israel would have been Abraham. He was a faithful man of God who was called to be the father of the people of Israel. It is significant to understand that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God, and not by his works. His example and his life are a firstfruits for the whole nation of Israel.
The dough would represent Abraham. So also the root of the tree of Israel would be represented in Abraham. The whole nation of Israel is viewed as holy because at the root of the tree is a holy man, Abraham. Does this mean that Israel had no obligation to walk in faith because they were holy vicariously through Abraham. We will see in future verses that this is not the case.
Consider the concept of giving God the firstfruits of your life. He deserves the best that you have. Are you giving him the best, recognizing that he deserves all of you?