Holy Spirit: Guaranteed Inheritance
“11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
When spending a great deal of money on a car repair or purchasing an expensive piece of equipment, it is often desirable to obtain a guarantee or warranty. However, there is no such thing as a completely reliable assurance. Only God can and will assure that the thing promised will be received.
Salvation is past, present, and future. At the point of baptism the sinner was saved from his sins. Presently a saint is saved as he remains faithful to God, knowing God is faithful to forgive him daily of the sins he repents of and confesses to God. Through Christ, an inheritance waits all those faithful in Christ. This is a faithful Christian’s hope of eternal life to be given him by God in the future. What assurance does a Christian have that they will receive this inheritance in the future?
Inheritance Obtained in Christ
God had made an inheritance of the land and the promises to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:20; Psalm 33:12). Today, all Christians have an inheritance obtained by being “in Christ.” (cf. Col 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Paul describes the Christian’s relationship as being “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).
This inheritance is part of God purpose or plan which He chose for His children. This inheritance is not an accident or a whim.
Paul has in the mind the inheritance “in Christ” for both the Jews and the Gentiles. He speaks of “we who first trusted in Christ” referring to himself and fellow Jews. Then he goes on to include the Gentiles when he writes “you also.” The apostles and early Christians were all Jews who became believers and later shared the Gospel with the Gentiles starting with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10,11). Early on Judaizing teachers arose among the saints demanding Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. However, the apostles met with the elders at Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit showed them this was not part of God’s plan. “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:6-9).
There were three things the Ephesians did before they were sealed. First, Paul tells them they were sealed “after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). They heard the gospel and then they believed the gospel – “in whom also, having believed.” It was only after hearing and believing, they “trusted” in Christ. Trust in this case means: they obeyed. The gospel contains facts to be believed and commands to be obeyed. Those who do not obey the gospel cannot be saved (2 Th. 1:7-9).
Being Sealed with the Holy Spirit is NOT…
“Sealed” translates to sphragidzo meaning to “‘lock up’ In Rev. 20:3 it refers to Satan being prevented from deceiving the nations…John 6:27 affirms that God sets his seal on Jesus Christ in order to validate his status as the Son of God” (Renn 862). In this context, the one is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee they will receive the inheritance.
What is the sealing? First, focus on what it is not.
It is NOT Holy Spirit Baptism
Joel promised the Holy Spirit to “all flesh” as well as “your sons and your daughters”(Joel 2:28), (Acts 2:17). Peter claims this was fulfilled when the Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Later the household of Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10, 11). On that occasion, the Gentiles were marked and authenticated by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit baptism was not given to seal a saints’ inheritance.
It is NOT the Reception of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The miraculous gifts given to the early Christians were by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Not all Christians had the laying on of the apostles’ hands and not every Christian received a gift. Since the seal of the Holy Spirit is for all baptized believers, it is not the same as tongue speaking or other miraculous spiritual gifts.
It is NOT the Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit on the Heart
Some believe the sealing has to do with the Calvinistic doctrine that the Holy Spirit works directly upon the heart of the sinner which caused him to believe and thus be saved. Neither this nor any other passage teaches that the Holy Spirit must miraculously accompany the preached Word to cause the sinner to believe. The order of events in verse thirteen are hearing, believing, and trusting before one is sealed. Furthermore, if it takes the direct operation of the Holy Spirit to cause the sinner to believe and obey, the power to save is in the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit rather than the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
It is NOT the Promise of “Impossibility of Apostasy”
Still other Calvinists claim the sealing of the saints with the Holy Spirit is a part of the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. A metaphor is used to explain this process. A Christian is the preserves which have been placed in the jar representing Christ. The seal is the wax poured on the jam to protect it from going bad or in this case sinning. The devil can never break the seal or wax and eat the preserves. The illustration neglects to deal with the Christian’s responsibility to resist the devil (1 Peter 5:8,9).
What is Being Sealed with The Holy Spirit?
Who does the sealing: God or the Holy Spirit? Paul says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit not by the Holy Spirit: “you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.” It is God who has sealed us. God “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22).
Sealant: The Holy Spirit.
With what are Christians sealed? It is the Holy Spirit. He acts like a seal. If the future inheritance of eternal salvation is a legal agreement, the Holy Spirit is the seal of God guaranteeing Heaven for the faithful saint. The Holy Spirit spells out the terms of the agreement in the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” It promises in the Word, the reward to those who obey.
Significance of the Sealing
The first significance of the sealing is the concept of completion. When a transaction between two parties is completed, it was then sealed. Sort of like saying, “signed, sealed, and delivered.” Jeremiah said, “so I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money—seventeen shekels of silver. And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales” (Jer. 32:9-10). Like today, seals were used in New Testament time to guarantee that the contents of a package were complete and not defective. The ancient seal was made by pouring hot wax onto the flap of the envelope or the string that bound the box. Afterward, the sealer pressed his insignia into the wax which represented his unique individual mark. Our salvation has been procured from God through Jesus Christ and the deal has been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Second, seals signified ownership. A person’s seal on a jar or container indicated ownership of the contents. “Sealed’ meant to ‘mark (with a seal) as a means of identification…so that the mark which denotes ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner” (A&G 804).
The dominant idea of a seal is that it was a mark of ownership. When a person surrenders himself completely to Christ, to belong wholly to Him and no longer to be his own property. While Jerusalem was under siege by Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah was under arrest by King Zedekiah for prophesying against the king and the nation, the Lord gave special instructions to His prophet. In presence of the witnesses the deed was signed and sealed, establishing Jeremiah as the new legal owner of the property (Jer. 32:10). “So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison” (Jer. 32:11-12).
When we are sealed it establishes the fact we are owned by God. We are His possession. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19).
King Ahab tried unsuccessfully to get Naboth to sell or trade his vineyard. Queen Jezebel volunteered to get the vineyard her way. “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal” (1 Ki. 21:6-16). The seal was his signature. The seal authenticated the letters as legitimate royal correspondence. Like a notary public will impress his official seal to a document to demonstrate that it has been duly authenticated. College transcripts are authenticated by an official stamp of the college or university.
When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, King Darius along with his nobles, placed their seals on the stone placed over the entrance to the den, “so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel” (Dan. 6:17). The Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation were sealed to conceal the information until the proper time of disclosure. The Romans sealed the stone to the entrance of Christ tomb as a security measure. The Romans required a adoptive father’s seal on adoption papers. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, puts it seal on dairy products and medications for security purposes. A seal therefore signifies security.
Seals are used for confirmation. Major companies have copyrighted seals or stamps which appear on their products to identify them with their rigid standards approved. Other seals denote a confirmation of the quality of a product like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” God has sealed or confirmed that Jesus is His Son. “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27). It also involves verification that God is true. “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true” (John 3:33).
When Haman’s hate for Mordecai grew into a plot to kill him and all the Jews of the Medo-Persian Empire, he needed a sealed decree from King Ahasuerus. The king’s seal on the decree had such a binding authority that even the King could not revoke it (Est. 8:8-12). The seal represents authority
What is the significance of God sealing us with the Holy Spirit? Our adoption has been completed, we are now redeemed and owned by God, the Holy Spirit has authenticated this promise of becoming an heir of God. We have confirmation of the heavenly transaction. We have the hope of heaven by the authority of God’s Word. The security of our inheritance is not in question, so long as we trust and obey.
Responsibility Toward the Seal
Having been adopted and redeemed the saint looks forward to inheriting eternal life. To do so he must walk by the Spirit’s direction and produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). Christians should live is such a way as not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
The Holy Spirit Is the Guarantee of Inheritance
Not only are we sealed with the Holy Spirit, but He is the guarantee of the inheritance. It also translated “earnest”. An earnest is a down payment, first installment, deposit, pledge, guarantee. The Greek word arrabon is used of the Spirit in three passages (Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). It is found in the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek word is from the Hebrew language. “Transliterated from the Hebr…Earnest money, a pledge, something which stands for part of the price and paid beforehand to confirm the transaction” (Zodhiates 728). Judah’s earnest is his seal, cord, and staff ( Gen. 38:17,18,20). Arrabon is a “legal and commercial technical term” meaning “first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge, that pays a part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in question, or makes a contract valid…In any case, arrabon is a payment which obligates the contracting party to make further payments” (AG 109). It was used as a deposit for the future purchase of an animal or even a slave. Today, earnest money is used most commonly in real estate transactions. The real estate agent will say to the prospective buyer: “I am going to take your offer to the owner of the house, so that he can decide if he wants to accept it. I will need your check for one thousand dollars to show him that you are in earnest about this offer. Your check will prove to him that you really mean business and that you are not going to back out halfway through the deal.” We have a home in Heaven but this eternal inheritance comes with a deposit by the Holy Spirit. Various translations of the passage are “the Spirit’s security deposit” (Berkeley Version); “a pledge” (Moffatt); “as a guarantee” (Weymouth); and “as a first installment of future rewards” (Charles B. Williams). Thayer says “money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will subsequently be paid…” (Thayer 109).
He is the Holy Spirit “of promise” because He was promised in Old Testament prophecy (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21). When the Holy Spirit speaks God’s promises, He becomes our down payment on salvation. The earnest is always merely a token, not the full amount. In modern Greek it is the word for an engagement ring. Colly Caldwell wrote, “The proposal of marriage to the young woman that she will belong to her beloved. She announces her engagement. She spends what she has to purchase her wedding gown and prepare a wedding. She sends invitations to everyone she knows. She dresses and appears a the altar. She does all that because of the promise of a young man that he loves her and will marry hear. She needs nothing more.”
Item Guaranteed: Eternal Inheritance
Eternal life is assured with the condition of faithfulness by the believer. However, the possession of eternal life has yet to be delivered. Peter promised the inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). The eternal life was reserved for “the world to come” (Mk. 10:30). “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
Grantor of Guarantee: God
If the Holy Spirit is the down-payment or earnest money, God is the source. “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:5).
Duration of Guarantee: Till Redemption
The Holy Spirit will be the earnest until “the day of redemption.” The day Christ returns and the saints receive their final reward. The present possession of redemption is from sin. The future promise is redemption from death. What has been promised is paid in full.
Purpose of Guarantee
What is the purpose of the guarantee. First, it is for the redemption of God’s possession “the redemption of the purchased possession”. The redeemed slave belonged to the redeemer. We were sealed, so we could be God’s possession forever. “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’” (2 Tim. 2:19). This only makes sense if redemption is a present event (Eph. 1:7) and a future redemption (Eph. 4:30). The second purpose is “to the praise of His glory.” God’s ultimate goal in redeeming men is the praise of His glory. The phrase is repeated throughout the sentence (3,6,12,14). The final aim of the whole unfolding of salvation is for God’s glory.
Location of Guarantee
Paul tells the Corinthians where this seal is set an earnest is given. “Set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 1:22, NIV). Perhaps this is what he had reference to in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “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?”
The pagans often would have tattoos cut into their skin as a seal of a deity’s ownership of them. But for the Christian it is God the Holy Spirit who is the seal on our souls and the earnest in our hearts. The Holy Spirit provides all the documentation for our inheritance. We have a secure passport to Heaven as a result. However, we do need to remain faithful till death.
The day we obey the Gospel by repenting and being baptized into Christ is the day one is sealed with the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:38,39). Peter preached, “we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).
One day a Scottish lass was making her way to a church meeting. Overtaken by a troop of Dundeee’s dragoons, the leader demanded to know where she was going so early on a Sunday morning. She knew her danger and the danger she posed to her follow saints, if she told the truth, but she could not lie. She looked the captain in the eye. “Sir,” she aid, “My Elder Brother has died and they’re reading his will. I want to be there to see what he has left for me as an inheritance.”
– Daniel R. Vess