THE SEAL AND EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. November 19, 1989)
Tonight I would like to speak on the subject of the Seal and the Earnest of the Spirit. I would like to set forth what I have learned in my own study, in the hope that it will help us all glean from God's word what he would have us know and enjoy of his blessings.
I ) Define "Seal"
Thayer: sfragizw, (sphragidzo) verb, means to seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal.
A) For security.
Mt.27:66 (Christ's tomb)
Rev.20:3 (Seal over Satan)
B) Trop. to hide, keep in silence, keep secret.
Rev.10:4 (seal up, write not)
C) To set a mark upon by the impress of a seal, to stamp.
Rev.7:3 (servants of God in their forehead)
Eph.1:13; 4:30; 2Cor.1:22, ("by the gift of the Holy Spirit indicates who are his.")
D) Trop. to confirm, or authenticate, place beyond doubt.
Jno.3:33 (set to his seal that God is true)
Rom.15:28 (seal to them this fruit)
So, a seal shows ownership, it is a mark of authentication and a mark of security.
Now, the seal can be the metal emblem with which the mark is made, like in (Rev.2:19) "the seal of God", or it can be the inscription on the seal when it is made, like (2Tim.2:19) "the Lord knows them that are his". It can also be the seal that is affixed to the item it authenticates or secures, like the seal on the Lord's tomb - the Roman guards could tell if it had been breached or tampered with, or like the Seven Seals on the scroll in Revelation that are broken off one by one.
It has been suggested that the Holy Spirit in Eph.1:13, is the seal like a signet ring that makes the mark in us and thus we are sealed - the mark being all the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit in the process of sanctification. I would suggest to you, rather, that the Holy Spirit is upon us as the seal himself. And I would like to give you several reasons for that.
1.) The phrase in Eph.1:13, "After that you believed, you were sealed with that promised Holy Spirit", is in the aorist tense - which means that it happened in a point of time in the past, while the sanctification of the Spirit on the other hand is an ongoing process whereby we through the Spirit have the fruit of the spirit realized in our lives. Being sealed with the Holy Spirit was something that happened once in the past when they received the promise of the Spirit by faith. (Compare Gal.3:14)
2.) Also the context suggests a personal presence as the seal when he goes on to say that he is the pledge or earnest of our inheritance. The very idea of an earnest or guarantee is that you have and hold that earnest until you receive the rest of the inheritance.
3.) His indwelling of us as God's sons is put forth as a characteristic and condition of our belonging to Christ of which the Holy Spirit is the seal of that ownership.
But you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.
That is briefly why I believe the seal is the Holy Spirit himself, and as we go on, that will become more evident.
II ) Why are we sealed?
1.) God marks us as his own.
When Jesus laid down his life for us, the Father was buying us back from sin with the purchase price of the life blood of his only son.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
This verse suggests that the Holy Spirit's inhabiting our bodies as his temple, argues for the fact that we belong completely to God. The Holy Spirit is God's seal of ownership. We belong to him now.
This verse also argues that the Holy Spirit's presence in us, according to his sanctifying work (to make us holy), impels us not to thwart his working and be found to be hindering the very purpose of God in us.
Now what kind of motivation to holiness would this be if the Holy Spirit is not really in us?
The same idea can be found in:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us his Holy Spirit.
The same motivational strength can be found in:
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
When our mouths pour out corruption and bitterness and wrath, it grieves the Holy Spirit with whom we are sealed.
But why should the Holy Spirit be grieved especially as distinct from the Father or the Son?
All these things coming out of our mouths have originated from where first? From out of our hearts. This is what defiles the man. And this is where the Holy Spirit happens to dwell - in our hearts. It would be like being a guest in a home where the family continually tore at each other in bursts of rage. We wouldn't feel comfortable there, and neither does the Holy Spirit from God. This whole exhortation of Paul's hinges on the personal presence of the Spirit with whom we are sealed.
2.) We are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Unto is eiV in the Greek which means "with a view to" the day of redemption. This word implies that the seal of the Spirit is a contribution toward the result described; it tends to realize it. Just like immersion "tends to realize" the remission of sins.
The day of redemption is the resurrection day when God's redemption (the buying back of God) had achieved its last and final victory in the redeeming of the first century Christian's body. This would be accomplished by God through the Holy Spirit who indwelled them.
And if Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of sin, but on the other hand the spirit is life because of justification.
But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through [because of] his Spirit who indwells in you.
This brings in the idea of the seal as security. This resurrection is only the culmination and perfection of the principle of Life that began in the believer back when they by faith obeyed the gospel and received eternal life, which is the life of the Son of God, who communicated his life to them through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that makes us alive - he is called the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. (Rom.8:2)
For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom he will.
For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of Man.
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice
and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
The condition of having life in the judgement is that they have come to Christ and believed on him and have had that new life begun in them. If they lived in the spirit and had the hope of eternal life, the great power of God that is at work in them would not leave them disappointed in the last day - but the power at work in them is the same power that was manifested when God raised Jesus from the dead and declared him to be the son of God according to the Spirit of holiness. That same power and that Spirit of Holiness will both be there in the last day for them and raise them to eternal life.
That is why the Holy Spirit is the seal. He is the mark of ownership that we are God's possession, and he is the living seal of the life begun in us through him, the life which secures for us the perfection of that life in the victory of overcoming the world.
III ) He is the Earnest.
Now let us look at the idea of the Holy Spirit being the earnest of our inheritance.
The word earnest is arrabwn, (arrabon) which means a pledge or guarantee of what is to come.
Thayer: "An earnest - i.e. money which, in purchases, is given as a pledge that the full payment will subsequently be paid." We call this a down payment.
So the Holy Spirit is the down-payment of our inheritance. Well, what then is our inheritance? What is the Holy Spirit to us that he could be a down-payment? In 2Cor.3:6, Paul says that the Spirit gives life. That is the key.
Normal <> Average
"Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins."
That is not normal - that is average, but God never intended man to die. He knew it was going to happen - but it was not in his purpose. So then God sent his son to live a normal life and realize in his human life everything that God had intended for a man.
Jesus realized God's will for a man's life and he thereby became the type and progenitor of a new humanity - the children of God in light.
The great fact of the resurrection is the crowning hope of the faith in Christ. And it is because, since Jesus rose from the grave victorious as a human over death, then it is demonstrated that we could experience the same thing.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, and is the firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep. For since through a man death came, also by a man came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruit, afterward those who are Christ’s at his coming.
Jesus was just the firstfruits of them that slept. Firstfruits were the very first taste of a coming harvest. So that those in Christ would follow after in fact the same thing that Jesus experienced.
...who also made us competent as ministers of the new covenant, not of [written] letter but of Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
It is the Spirit that gives life. But the life that he gives is the life of Christ.
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said in:
"And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another helper, that he may remain with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I am coming to you.
A little while longer and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you."
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even though he should die, will live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall by no means ever die."
Paul said in:
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Jesus is the life, and he has taken the Holy Spirit and is using him as his agency to communicate that life to us who believe in him and who follow and keep his word. That is why he is called the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. (Rom.8:2)
The Spirit was not only the earnest of the coming glory, but he was actually a foretaste of that inheritance - that is why he is called the firstfruits of the Spirit. He causes us to have experiential knowledge of that life.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also, who have the first-fruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of our body.
For in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
In this hope we were saved. That is what it is all about. The new life in Christ had been started in them even though they still had mortal bodies - but soon by God's power through the Holy Spirit, that holy life would be clothed with an immortal body. This is the great expectation of hope that filled the first century Christians.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Indeed, for in this we groan, greatly desiring to be clothed with our dwelling-place which is from heaven,
if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, in order that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
Now he who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the down-payment of the Spirit.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Therefore we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him.
"Prepared us" or wrought us. That is why God has made us Christians. In this hope we were saved. That is why Jesus went through it all before us. That is why he has become what he is now - so that we can follow after.
The earnest of the Spirit again is the down-payment of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that we have now and also looks forward to immortality in Heaven.
In Eph.1:14 this earnest is "unto [eis] the redemption of the purchased possession". The Holy Spirit as an earnest is also a contribution toward the result of the coming glory - he tends to realize it. That thought is found in 2Cor.3:17-18, that we by the Spirit of the Lord are being transformed into his likeness from glory to ever increasing glory.
This expectation or hope, of our inheritance is a spur for the Christian to live a holy life and be part of that resurrection to life.
... knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and will present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes, so that grace, having abounded through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
We live our life in this hope, as not being citizens of the world but of heaven, as those who are alive from the dead.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
If that hope is not yours today, then it can be - by a simple giving of yourself in humble faith to your God, with a commitment that you will live all your days in obedience to him. Through faith in the blood of Christ, be immersed into him and allow him to give you a new life - a resurrected life, like the one he lives now, but here in your mortal body. Then when you finally reach the the other side - you will receive that crown of life with which God so much wants to reward you.
Some might be thinking, "Larry, much learning doth make thee mad." And I would respond - "Nay brother, but I speak forth the words of truth and soberness."
Jesus can give you life now - a life that will bridge the great and fearful expanse of death and decomposition, and will, through his power, one day see death vanquished, the victory won, and life forevermore in Jesus Christ.
That is whereunto we have been sealed and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
~ Invitation ~