Sealed with the Holy Spirit
“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, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”—Ephesians 1:13-14
You will notice that these verses carry us back in thought to what has immediately preceded in the twelfth verse. There the apostle Paul says, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ,” and he speaks as a representative believer from Israel. The Gospel of God was to the Jew first. Those who received the message on the day of Pentecost were all of Israel although they came from the many different parts of the world into which they had been scattered because of their sins. Wherever the message went it was to the Jew first in those early days, and the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, could speak of the glorious privileges which belong to them who are now the people of God in Christ.
In verse thirteen he turns to the Gentile converts; therefore, the words are especially appropriate as applied to ourselves, “In whom ye also trusted.” Notice the different pronoun. It is “ye,” Gentiles. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth.” He does not necessarily imply any lengthy period after they had heard the word of truth. It might be rendered, “In whom ye also trusted, upon hearing the word of truth.” The Gospel message believed results in immediate salvation. It is not necessary that people go through a long season of soul exercise and travail of spirit after hearing the Gospel before they are converted to God. A man may hear the message for the first time and hearing, believe and live. Yet one can quite understand the pitiful question of the Chinese woman who had lived in the darkness of paganism all her life. The itinerant missionaries came to her village and for the first time, she feared the only time, she heard the message of grace. She came trembling and said, “It is a wonderful story. I have never heard it before and you are leaving us tomorrow. I may never hear it again but I believe it. Do you think once is enough to make my soul secure?” Yes, once is enough!
“Once for all, O sinner receive it,
Once for all, O brother, believe it:
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”
Most of us have heard it over and over again. I wonder how many can take those words to ourselves, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” The Gospel is indeed the “good spell.” That is the exact meaning of the Anglo-Saxon word, “gospel.” Some of the words that we think of as slang are really ground deep in our language. We speak of a soap box orator as a “spellbinder” and think of that as slang, but the fact is, the word “spell” was used in that way centuries ago. The Gospel is the good spell, the good message, God’s good news for poor lost sinners, it is God’s good news about His blessed Son. It cannot be too often emphasized that the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed; it is good news to be believed. It is something that God has told us about the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we believe the message, we are saved. Now, following our salvation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit—“In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” A good many have been misled by the rendering here given. “In whom also after that ye believed—“ they have thought that this necessarily implied an interval between believing and being sealed with the Spirit; but I would call your attention to the fact that we have exactly the same word as in the previous part of the verse—“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth.” Not necessarily a week or a month of yet ten minutes after but upon hearing. And so we read in the latter part of the verse that upon believing we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.
There is, of course, a difference between the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work and the sealing. The difference is as great as that between building a house and moving into it. You may move into it the moment it is ready. When the Spirit of God creates man anew in Christ Jesus, that moment a house is built, a temple is prepared, and then the blessed Holy Spirit of God moves in and takes possession of him. “Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” That is, the Spirit who had been promised in past ages and by our blessed Lord when here on Earth, has now come to indwell every believer. Three times in the New Testament we read of the believer being sealed with the Spirit. We find it here, in 2 Corinthians 1:22, “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts,” and then in our same epistle, chapter four verse thirty, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” These are the only three direct references to the sealing of the Holy Spirit in connection with the believer but in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, the twenty-seventh verse, we read of the blessed Lord himself that He was sealed. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” You remember when He came forth from His baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and abode upon Him and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That is the sealing of the blessed Saviour. It is always interesting to note that it is in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel where he dwells on the fact that He is the Living Bread which came down from heaven, which if a man eat he shall live forever, that our Lord speaks of Himself as sealed.
A seal was a stamp, a mark of ownership, a mark of approval. You go to the grocery store and get a loaf of bread and it has a little stamp on it, or perhaps it has the name of the bakery or the trade mark impressed upon the bread. This was done by pressing the dough into the pan which had the name in the metal. That name upon the loaf of bread is the maker’s guarantee. It is as though he says, “I stand back of this bread.” It is just so with our blessed Lord. He is the Bread of God, the Living Bread, the Bread of Life and God the Father sealed Him when He gave Him the Holy Spirit without measure. And now when we believe in Him, trust Him as our Saviour, the same blessed Holy Spirit comes to live in us. God the Father seals us by the Spirit and says, as it were, “This man, this woman, belongs to me, henceforth I stand back of him, I own him as mine.”
It is a remarkable thing that the only two epistles in which we read of sealing by the Spirit are Corinthians and Ephesians. Corinth and Ephesus were great centers of the lumber industry in ancient times. A raft of logs would be brought from the Black Sea and notice sent to the different lumber firms that the raft was in the harbor. These firms would send their men out and they would look over the logs and make their selection. One would say, “I will take all of those logs,” another, “I will take those,” and they would pay down a little earnest money and then cut a certain wedge upon each log that the firm had agreed to take. This was called the seal. The logs might not be drawn out of the water for many weeks but each was sealed by the mark of the firm that had undertaken to purchase them. I was standing on a high bridge at St. Cloud, Minnesota, watching a lumber jam and as I saw the men working I said to my friend, “Do all these logs belong to one firm?” “Oh no,” he said, “there are representatives of many different firms working here in the Minnesota woods.” “Well,” I asked, “how on earth can they distinguish between the logs?” He showed me from the bridge how they were marked so that when they reached their destination down the river, the various firms would be able to select their own logs. Though you and I are still tossing about on the waters of this poor scene we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise and when the appointed day comes and the blessed Lord takes His own to be with Himself, that will be the day of the redemption of His purchased possession, and He will take out of this world all who have been sealed with His Spirit. We will go to be with Him in yonder bright glory.
This enables us to understand the transition of thought as we pass into verse fourteen. In verse thirteen the Holy Spirit is a seal and in verse fourteen He is the earnest, “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” I mentioned the lumber dealer paying down a small sum as an earnest, the rest to be paid in full when the logs were drawn out of the water. Our blessed God has given us the Holy Spirit as the earnest, the pledge, that eventually we are to be taken out of this scene and fully conformed to the image of His Son. Now we are privileged to appropriate in a small measure what we shall have in all its fullness when we get home to heaven. Everything of Christ which we enjoy at all, we enter into by the Holy Spirit.
“If here on earth the thoughts of Jesus’ love
Lift our poor hearts this weary world above,
If even here the taste of heavenly springs
So cheers the spirit, that the pilgrim sings,
“What will the sunshine of His glory prove?
What the unmingled fullness of His love?
What hallelujahs will His presence raise?
What but one loud eternal burst of praise?”
What will it mean when we see Him face to face, when the last vestige of sin and infirmity will disappear and we shall be like Him for whom we wait—we shall be to “the praise of His glory.” Think of it, every saint of God, every redeemed one, every sinner saved by grace divine will add to the glory, to the satisfaction of the heart of God throughout eternity. It was in order that we might thus be won for Christ, that we might be set apart for Himself, that our blessed Lord came in grace from the throne of heaven down to the cross of Calvary. It was that He might redeem us to God with His own blood and make us suited habitations for the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, that He saved us and made us His own.