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The Downpayment


Text: Ephesians 1:13-14 

Paul tells us that the Ephesians were ‘sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise’ Let’s ask some relevant questions about this strange phrase:-

  1. When Does This ‘Sealing’ HappenIn whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 

I’m going to suggest to you here that this ‘sealing with the Spirit’ is an essential part of our personal salvation, that his is all something that happens to every believer at conversion. I’m emphasising this, because there are good, gospel preaching pastors and preachers who believe that this ‘sealing’ is a separate event a spiritual work in the believer, where they obtain a second work of grace, or a second blessing, or come to a realisation of assurance in the faith. This is a view held by entirely orthodox preachers. For example, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones viewed the sealing of the spirit as a separate, later spiritual dealing in the life of the believer, and one that must be SOUGHT by the believer. Now, despite my admiration of Lloyd-Jones, I do strongly disagree with him on this matter. Here’s why:-

  1. Because of the Greek text! The KJV which Lloyd-Jones strongly defended, reads, “After that ye believed.” It’s NOT a mistranslation, In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, But if we go to the TR, the word ‘after’ simply isn’t there. So, for ‘after that ye believed’ the 1550 TR reads, και πιστευσαντες.  Now that word is AORIST – in other words, it is past tense, a single point in time past. This sealing doesn’t happen after conversion, it happened to these believers – at a point simultaneously with the other elements of conversion, – in fact all these verbs – ‘hearing, believing, and sealing’ are aorists. So the text would suggest they are three definite acts happening at the same time. (so John Owen, in The Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, 299)  But there’s another reason…
  2. Because of the context of the passage. In this passage the believer is passive throughout. It is Jesus who is active – all of this is the work of Christ, not something we chase after ourselves, without the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why then, when Paul turns to the work of the Holy Spirit himself would he insist that this ‘sealing’ is something that we or the Ephesian believers must seek after? It is contrary to the whole, overall purpose of this passage, to praise God for his sovereign saving work. And also…
  3. Because of Paul’s theology. Paul never teaches anywhere that there are two separate types of Christian, ordinary Christians, and those who have been spirit-filled and spirit-sealed. In fact this passage, is about how God’s purpose is to UNITE believers in Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is always a unifying factor, not a cause of division among believers.
  4. Because of the nature of the seal. The believers who take the ‘second experience’ view of this verse believe that the ‘sealing’ is something that the Holy Spirit DOES, it is a work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. But the text is very clear, the sealing is the Holy Spirit himself. We are not sealed BY the spirit, but with the spirit. That’s important, – it is that indwelling presence of God that is the ‘earnest of our inheritance.’ Having the Holy Spirit within us means that we have a deposit of heaven, a downpayment that guarantees that one day we will be with the Lord Jesus for ever and ever.  And note that this ‘sealing of the Spirit’ is linked by Paul to the certainty of God’s promises he Holy Spirit indwells us at conversion. Every believer is ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit

So, the text and the context are clear and the meaning is clear, God has blessed us (past tense) with every spiritual blessing – and that includes the ‘sealing with the spirit.’ Now, why is this so important? It is because this sealing is a DOWNPAYMENT – GIVEN TO EVERY BELIEVER. The Greek used here is the well known noun αρραβοων and  God will one day bring us safely to heaven to be with him!  

2. What Does This ‘Sealing’ Do? 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until …

Now, let’s go a step further.  If you are a believer, you have been sealed, marked with the sign of God.  You have been stamped with his image.  What does this sealing mean? To be sealed is:-

  • To be PROTECTED. Especially to be protected from anything trying to tamper with what is behind the seal.  In Revelation7, we see an account of those who are in heaven. they are those who have been ‘sealed.’ 
  • To be OWNED.  Song of Solomon 8:6,  A seal is a sign of ownership.  1st Cor 12:13   
  • To be REAL. A seal can be a sign of authenticity, such as when a certificate is issued, there would be a seal upon it, guaranteeing that it is real. There’s an example in Esther 3:12  

Now, the Christian is sealed in every one of these respects. We are protected by God, and we are owned by Christ, who has bought us by his precious blood, and we are authenticated, by the indwelling Holy Spirit.   1 Corinthians 6:20   Romans 8:15  

Those who are God’s children, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. He is able to make me stand!

3. What is the Result of This ‘Sealing?’ 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

One day the downpayment will lead to the transaction being completed.  The believer will be in heaven, claiming our inheritance. There is a theme that runs throughout the whole of the NT, – Now, but NOT YET. There is always an eschatological element to our Christian experience.  

But what is that inheritance and what is the purchased possession? It is, of course a mansion in heaven. It is of course eternal life, a new heaven and as new earth. But I think that our primary inheritance is CHRIST Himself. It is to live forever, unto the praise of His glory. 

© Bob McEvoy 2023

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