THE HOLY SPIRIT SECURES THE SAINTS’ FUTURE —
SECURES IT FOR US AND FOR GOD
God wants us to appreciate the blessings He has given us. Sometimes we need a little reminder to get our focus off of some of the areas of confusion and uncertainty in our life and focus on His blessings. Insecurity about the future affects our enjoyment of the present and our performance in the present.
Clinton Arnold: The Role of the Spirit
The Spirit imparts God’s blessings to us, marking us as belonging to God and assuring us of our future with him. The passage begins and ends with the Spirit of God (1:3, 13), as it likewise does with reference to the Father, yet Christ is at the center of the text. There is thus a strong Trinitarian character to this passage with the Father as the main planner and initiator of redemption, Christ as the central figure of the plan, who secures the redemption and becomes the nexus point for the relationship the redeemed have with God, and the Spirit now as the agent who bestows the blessings on the people God has redeemed.
In a context where people were seeking help and inspiration from a wide variety of spirit beings, this passage would be instructive in helping them to see that there is only one Spirit they should seek. God’s Spirit does not come alongside as a divine supernatural assistant (paredros) to fulfill our every self-serving demand. In the first place, this Spirit comes to abide with us as a sign of God’s presence; we are God’s property until the final redemption. This Spirit is also a powerful presence within us as a resource for living the Christian life. The Spirit, in fact, has his own agenda, which involves promoting and empowering a holy life (1:4). This is consistent with the fact that he is the Holy Spirit.
Frank Thielman: The fourth and final section of the benediction turns directly to Paul’s readers to remind them of their conversion and especially of the gift of the Holy Spirit that God gave to them at that time. When they heard and believed the gospel, Paul says, God sealed them by means of the Holy Spirit.
He did this for two reasons. First, the Holy Spirit’s seal protects them from the wrath that God will one day pour out on the wicked. Although Paul does not say this explicitly, it is implied in his use of such words as σωτηρία (sōtēria, salvation), σφραγίζω (sphragizō, seal), and περιποίησις (peripoiēsis, saved remnant). In the context of Paul’s theology and of the Scriptures that Paul used, these terms speak of protection from the destruction that will come to the wicked on the final day when God judges all people. Second, and more positively, the gift of the Holy Spirit also serves as a down payment on the inheritance that he will give to the remnant he has saved from his wrath. The Spirit’s presence with them is a guarantee that when God brings his purposes to an end, he will fully apply to them the redemption that Christ’s death has accomplished for them (v. 7).
As with all the other blessings for which Paul praises God in the benediction, these blessings are applied to the believer “in Christ” (v. 13 [2x]; cf. vv. 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 [2x], 11, 12). Paul’s readers have heard the gospel of salvation, have believed it, and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in the sphere of reality that Christ defines. The ultimate purpose for these blessings, moreover, is also identical to the ultimate purpose of the others: God has blessed Paul’s readers in this way so that he might receive their praise (v. 14; cf. vv. 6, 12).
Grant Osborne: Like today, the first century featured a bewildering kaleidoscope of competing religious claims, and it was critical to realize that the Christian claim alone is the true message. Now there are even more religious alternatives, and apologetics (defending the truth of Christianity) is more important than ever. We must remember that Christianity is an exclusive religion, and there is no hope for eternal life apart from Christ. This is clear in John 14:6 (“No one comes to the Father except through me”) and Acts 4:12 (“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”). Those Christians who in the name of tolerance think pious people from any religion can be saved by following different paths are tragically wrong. There is only one gospel, only one truth claim that can be the source of salvation!
I. (:13) THE HOLY SPIRIT SECURES THE SAINTS’ FUTURE AS A SEAL FROM GOD
A. Whom is Paul addressing here?
“In Him, you also,”
Clinton Arnold: By the time we reach this fifth and final section of the introductory eulogy, Paul’s use of “in Christ” almost reaches a monotonous level because of its repetition. He does this, however, to stress the importance of incorporation in Christ as the source of all of these spiritual blessings. Outside of Christ, such blessings do not exist.
Note the change in pronouns — in verses 3-12 all first person pronouns — Paul including himself and the apostles together with all the saints; in verse 13 introduces the second person plural; 2 options:
- Possibility that Paul is here just beginning to introduce the distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers that will be an important theme later in the Book as he describes how both have been united into one body — the church.
Certainly it would have been difficult for some Jews to accept that God was now treating the Gentiles so favorably and on an equal footing, so the fact of the sealing with the Holy Spirit should help to clinch this and give these Gentile believers the assurance about their future that they need.
- Otherwise the distinction would not be as dramatic, and would merely be between Paul and his associates and all the believers at Ephesus (with no special Gentile emphasis). Certainly it is true that all believers of all ages have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, not just Gentile believers.
Andrew Lincoln: With the ὑμεῖς v 13 introduces a change in the personal pronoun. Those who interpret “we” in v 12 as Jewish Christians take “you” here as a contrasting reference to Gentile Christians. However, the Jew/Gentile theme does not become part of the writer’s discussion until 2:11 and even then in 2:11—3:21 “we” is used of all believers, Jews and Gentiles, not just of Jewish Christians. The proposed distinction between “we” as Jewish Christians and “you” as Gentile Christians is one that simply does not hold for the rest of the letter. In fact the return to the first person plural in v 14 tells overwhelmingly against such a proposal. “Our inheritance” is that of all believers, not least of those who have just been described as having been sealed with the Holy Spirit, and is not just the inheritance of Jewish believers. Again, in 1:15–23 the second person plural in vv 15–18 shifts to the first person plural in v 19 but it would be extremely hard to see any Jew/Gentile distinction as remotely envisaged in such a variation. These variations in usage also make it unlikely that the distinction between “we” in v 12 and “you” in v 13 is one between first- and second-generation believers (contra Mitton, 57). It is far more likely that the “you” in v 13 marks the point at which the letter’s recipients are addressed and explicitly drawn into the blessing offered by believers in general as they are reminded of their reception of the gospel (cf. also Dahl, TZ 7  259–60; Gnilka, 62, 84; Lindemann, Aufhebung, 101; Halter, Taufe und Ethos, 229, Jayne, ExpTim 85  151–52). The writer makes a distinction between believers in general and his present audience, and yet is saying that the same blessings have come upon both groups.
B. 2 Prerequisites — Hearing and Believing
“after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—
having also believed,”
Paul is finally looking at salvation from the standpoint of man’s responsibility and response to the work of God in his heart; up to now the emphasis has been totally on God’s initiative and working.
Sealing with the Holy Spirit is not something that happens as some time subsequent to believing; not a second blessing or second work of grace; but rather is associated with our hearing and believing.
Proper content is essential — not so much the personality or manner of presentation by the speaker. Described here as:
“the word of truth“
“the gospel of your salvation“
We must expose ourselves and our families to the proper content.
Lack of security in any area of our life should be addressed in the same way — seek to hear God’s truth as it applies to that area and believe it. Trust the Savior who is able to deliver from insecurity.
Frank Thielman: When he attaches the gospel to the concept of truth elsewhere in his letters, he most often intends to draw a contrast between the true version of the gospel and a false version that is competing with it (Gal. 2:5, 14; cf. 2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Tim. 2:15). Such a contrast may have been in the back of his mind when he dictated these words, especially if he had recently written Colossians. That letter was designed to refute a specious philosophy that had melded its teaching with the Christian gospel (Col. 2:3, 8), and there Paul had also described the Colossian Christians’ conversion as a result of hearing τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (tō logō tēs alētheias tou euangeliou, the word of truth, the gospel; Col. 1:5; cf. Eph. 4:14–15).
Bryan Chapell: Belief itself indicates the presence of the seal (mark) of the Spirit of God that guarantees we are God’s children because without the Spirit we could not and would not believe (Rom. 8:6–9; 1 Cor. 2:14).
We fail to recognize belief as the indication of the seal of the Spirit when we fail to remember how supernatural is the gift of our faith. The gospel says you are a sinner, and Jesus, the Lord of all and Lamb of God, died for your sins. The world doesn’t believe that. The gospel says that even when you are faithless, the faithful God has forgiven your past, laid claim on your life, and secured your future. The world doesn’t believe that. The gospel says that though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Christ died for you, rose from the dead as the victor over your sins, gives purpose to your life now, and is coming to claim you eternally. The world cannot believe that. Not until the Holy Spirit comes and supernaturally changes a heart can anyone believe the truths of the gospel. Thus, says the apostle, your believing is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is in you.
The Holy Spirit who has already enabled you to taste the sweetness of God in the gospel of your salvation is giving you a foretaste of the glory that awaits you, guaranteed by his mark of belief in you. Already by the Holy Spirit’s using the gospel, your spiritual world has been turned upside down and made new. Your belief is the proof that the Bible speaks truth when it says that you are a new creation. In addition, this testimony of God’s Spirit in your heart affirms that what the Bible says about God’s work throughout creation can be trusted. The Bible says the entire creation is being conformed to God’s purposes and for his glory. Because we have witnessed the re-creating work of God in our hearts, we are able to trust that what the Bible says about God’s ultimate renewal of all things is also true.
C. Significance of the Holy Spirit as the Seal from God
(Remember, it is God who does the sealing)
“you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,”
Frank Thielman: Paul probably conceived of all three events as happening at the same time: hearing the gospel, believing it, and receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit all happened at once.
Andrew Lincoln: The “seal of the Spirit” is therefore baptism of the Spirit, to which in the conversion-initiation process baptism in water was the reverse side of the coin, an expression of the faith to which God gives the Spirit.
Steven Cole: Many teach that there is a time lapse between believing in Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit and that only some experience the sealing of the Spirit. This view was fostered by the old King James translation, which stated, “in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The word after implies a time lapse. Even Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, whom I greatly respect, err in arguing that the sealing of the Spirit is an experience that only some believers receive subsequent to salvation. But that undermines Paul’s entire point here, which is to assure all believers that God has sealed them with the Spirit at the moment of faith in Christ.
- Meaning of the seal
a. Marking as one’s own possession — ownership
This is the objective sense = the meaning of the seal to God and to others (cf. Branded); Believers belong to God forever; the issue of ownership has been settled. They had a number of ways of accomplishing this sealing function in those days. The seal usually was made from hot wax, which was placed on the document, letter, etc. and then impressed with a signet ring (cf. how we use a Notary today). Served as an official mark of identification.
R C Sproul: The word for sealing is used only a very few times in the New Testament. The concept is of an indelible mark, representing a promise. The closest thing to this in the ancient world would be whenever a king wanted to authenticate a decree and marked it with a wax impression from his signet ring. This signet ring wax impression, in the Greek world, was called a throgos, a seal, and it represented and guaranteed that what had been promised would take place.
Christians debate whether it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation. I believe that if we were left to ourselves then it would not only be possible for us to lose our salvation, but I wonder if it would be possible for anybody to persevere in salvation. But my perseverance in the faith does not rest in my own ability to persevere. My conviction that no Christian is ever lost is based on the promises of God and on statements like this from the first chapter of Ephesians: that when we believe in Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit is sealed on us and our souls are marked indelibly as the children of God.
b. Confirming or authenticating
Subjective sense — testimony to our own consciousness that we belong to God and enjoy all of these spiritual blessings (Rom. 8:16); people whom nothing can harm and for whom all things work together for good
c. Making secure — to protect against tampering or harm
(just like they sealed up Jesus’ grave and sealed Daniel in the lion’s den);
Primarily the significance of “a” and “b” are involved in our passage.
- Fulfillment of God’s promise — “the Holy Spirit of promise“
a. OT prophecies:
Is. 32:15; 44:3
Ezek. 36:26; 39:29
emphasis on a new heart and new spirit
b. NT promises of Christ
John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13
c. Fulfillment on Day of Pentacost
Acts 2:1-4; 16-21; 38
- Emphasis on Holiness
word position in the Greek makes this emphatic;
The primary nature of the Spirit’s work in those he seals is to make them holy (2 Thess. 2:13); This has been Paul’s theme throughout the first paragraph of Ephesians. We have been saved to be saints, to be holy.
This should be the objective mark of identification to others; they should know we belong to God because of our holiness; they should see our good works and glorify the Father. This should be the inward assurance of the reality of our union with Jesus Christ (cf. the tests of eternal life in 1 John). How are we progressing in this area?
II. (:14) THE HOLY SPIRIT SECURES THE SAINTS’ FUTURE AS A DOWNPAYMENT FROM GOD
“who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,
with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,
to the praise of His glory.”
A. Significance of the Holy Spirit as the Downpayment from God
First installment; partial payment in advance (cf. engagement ring); Our present possession of the Spirit is a sample and guarantee, a partial payment of our future inheritance.
Full salvation will be different from our present experience only in degree, not in kind
Bryan Chapell: The Holy Spirit is not just a mark of God that we are his possession; the Spirit also is a deposit guaranteeing the redemption that is to come. This deposit is similar to a down payment on a house that secures your position as the buyer, or the first fruits of a crop that indicate that the rest of the harvest is coming. The Spirit is the first evidence of the full grandeur of God’s completed purpose in our lives.
B. 2 Things that have been made Secure regarding the Saints’ Future
- With respect to the saints — Our Inheritance
Resurrection body which will correspond to our new position as adopted children of God free from sin and evil; full enjoyment of all spiritual blessings
Transition: our inheritance is marvelous, awesome and guaranteed, but it is not the primary purpose of our salvation
- With respect to God — Full Redemption and Possession of Us
We will be totally His for all of eternity; no undivided allegiance. This is the great overriding purpose of God’s redemption of men — the rescuing of what is His own possession.
“to the praise of His glory”
His ultimate goal is “the praise of His glory”
Frank Thielman: Paul concludes not only this fourth section of the benediction, but also the benediction itself, by stating the ultimate purpose for which God has sealed Christians with the Holy Spirit and intends to redeem and save them in the future. He has done this εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ (eis epainon tēs doxēs autou, for the praise of his glory). This statement recalls the benediction’s opening expression of praise: “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us . . .” (v. 3). It also recalls the expressions of praise that punctuate the benediction at the conclusions of the first and third subsections. God has predetermined that he will adopt his people as his children through Jesus Christ “for the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6), and he has predetermined that he will make them his heirs in Christ so that they may exist “for the praise of his glory” (v. 12). This concluding doxology therefore describes not only why God intended to redeem those whom he has sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit (vv. 13–14) but also why he “blessed [them] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 3). He did all this “for the praise of his glory.”
- Let’s appreciate our spiritual blessings.
- Our secure future should enable us to enjoy the present and to perform in the present.