In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.
If you give me an opportunity to speak about the Holy Spirit, I am instantly a little giddy. But I am going to resist temptation and stay on point. This passage talks about the Holy Spirit and while His gifts and fruit are always a part of the conversation there are some large topics at play here.
I want to answer the question what does this passage have to do with me?
In short; God seals and marks us as His own and gives us the power to follow Him.
Mystery is inherently part of the Christian faith and message. We can only explain so much and that is ok. It is ok to not have all the answers and it is ok to be left with questions. It is ok to only understand some things in part because the questions before us are God-sized questions. I struggle with this, but my wife has helped me tremendously.
In this passage, there are I believe there are some important things we can and should take away.
One question before us is this: Does God keep His people? You might have heard the phrase, “once saved always saved” or the classical doctrine “the perseverance of the saints.” But what does that mean?
God is able to keep what He owns. I cannot tell how you many times as a pastor, preacher, and leader people have asked me if once saved always saved is true. I get random messages from people I have not spoken to in years asking me this, and I always reply the same way. The right question is can God keep you? My answer is, you could not save yourself so you cannot keep yourself. This I believe allows for God to remain in control and you to still have your part. I believe the Bible teaches there are two parts although they are not equal. God seals us with the Holy Spirit and keeps us.
This passage teaches us that first that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and second that the Holy Spirit is a down payment for what comes next.
What is the sealing that is spoken of in this passage? Well to start with there are many nuances in this idea that I will try to look at as best as possible. What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit? First, we must understand that this sealing is for those who have heard the Gospel and believed. This is an important distinction because the sealing applies only to those who have heard and believed. No assurance is guaranteed outside of those conditions.
There is salvation in no other name than Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 10:9
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, “and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Peter in Acts 2:38 says that we must repent and then we can receive the Holy Spirit. To receive the message of the Gospel is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of our sins.
John in his Gospel (1:12) says,
“But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,”
The formula (if I may) is to repent, believe, receive. There is nothing else. Repent, believe, receive. That is, it. It is as simple as simple can be because we as humans tend to overcomplicate and exacerbate everything so God has made it as simple as can be.
The sealing of the Holy Spirit is only available to those who have heard the Gospel and received it. Once that occurs, the very moment it happens, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are marked as God’s and we join the worldwide body of Christ. We are in a moment saved and sealed as God’s people.
In the ancient world, they fully understood the idea of sealing because it was a common practice. Things, letters, and correspondence were sent on long journeys. Once they reached their destination people would look and see if the seal was still intact. If it was then the one who received the item or letter would know this was from the person who sent it. It was a mark of authenticity. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a mark of authenticity.
It was also a mark of security. Depending on who sent the item you would not dear break the seal because they might have your head (quite literally). If the person sending the sealed item was of power, then you know the sealed item was protected. The seal meant it carried the security of the person sending it.
The Igbo people in Nigeria seal a visitor with a chalk mark on their wrist and this tells the whole community that this person “is to enjoy the privileges and protection of the community.” A seal is a mark of authenticity and security. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a permanent mark on a person that they belong to God and are entitled to the privilege and protection of God.
Paul writing in Romans 8:38-39 expounds on this idea and says:
For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Once we are marked as God’s people we are under the protection of God. We are His and we can always call on that sealing.
As an American, you are protected by the American Government. If you are overseas somewhere and people are chasing, you. You can run to the American consulate and be granted access. Once there you are on American soil and the enemy who is chasing you cannot enter. They are outside the protection and security of the place you ran to for safety because you are sealed as one who can enter. Nothing can change that.
So, what is the sealing of the Holy Spirit, it is you being marked as God’s person! You are marked as one who is authentically and securely protected by God. God is able to keep His own.
To be continued.