The Seal of the Spirit

Stained glass

EGARDLESS OF OUR cultural background, ethnicity, social standing, moral failings, theological aptitude, political opinions, or religious affiliation, everyone’s Christian life begins the same way: believing in Jesus and accepting His death on the cross as adequate payment for our sins. Once we are Christians, we continue to live for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is Christianity 101, but an understanding of this changes everything.

To begin with, we need to be reminded who and whose we are. We are Christians because we “received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col. 2:6). We become children of God by adoption (Rom. 8:15) and experience life on a new spiritual plane.

Yet there is another profound truth we need to embrace: The Holy Spirit lives within every Christian. You may not be enjoying the fullness of the Spirit, you may have grieved the Holy Spirit by unconfessed sin, and you may question the baptism in the Holy Spirit. However, if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit.

Ponder this great truth for a moment. Because of Jesus’ death on a cross, your sins were paid in full, the Holy Spirit resides within you, and you now belong to God. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NASB).

In Good Hands

As Christians, we are in good hands. We belong to God, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and we exist for His purposes.

Paul told the church in Ephesus, “In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14 ESV).

Paul was a pastor-theologian, and he wanted to provide the Ephesians with a Biblical worldview. He said they were redeemed by faith in the Gospel and given the Holy Spirit both as a seal and a guarantee of God’s work of grace in their life. In other words, God’s seal of the Spirit was a present acknowledgment that they belonged to God, the Holy Spirit lived within them, and He was now supervising their lives.

This message should be plastered on billboards throughout America, tweeted from every Christian’s Twitter account, and endlessly posted on Facebook. I’m sure Paul would have spread this message across social media if technology in the ancient world had provided Wi-Fi to his place of imprisonment in Rome. Thankfully, Paul’s inspired writings reveal that God purchased our salvation, placed His Holy Spirit in us, and will never forget about us—His sealed possession.

Two Great Truths

1. Because of God’s seal of the Holy Spirit, we can have a sense of self-worth. God’s love for us is so vast that He initiates our salvation and seals us with His Spirit. The seal is the Spirit Himself.

Paul’s use of the term seal may seem odd to Christians living in a post-Christian culture, but for Paul’s readers the image conveyed significance. In the New Testament, seal sometimes means a sign of authenticity or protection. In Ephesians 1:13, however, Paul uses the term to reflect the ancient practice of identifying an item and placing ownership on it.

2. Because of God’s seal of the Holy Spirit, we can have a sense of security. The Holy Spirit is God’s “guarantee” (v. 14), or “deposit” (NIV). This commercial term referred to a wax seal identifying an item that would eventually be purchased in full by its owner. This seal guaranteed the item was the sole possession of the owner and that the owner would not forget it.

So Paul establishes two great truths in verses 13 and 14. First, the Holy Spirit is God’s seal in the life of every believer, marking each Christian as God’s purchased possession. Second, as God’s seal, the Holy Spirit serves also as a deposit, driving home the truth that Christians belong to God, who watches over His prized possessions.

A Steady Faith

The seal of the Holy Spirit is more than a reminder that we can have a sense of self-worth and security. The presence of the Holy Spirit should also lead to a steady faith.

Life is difficult, and the use of the word seal should not be taken to mean God will protect us from all pain, problems, and pressures. Paul was no ivory-tower scholar writing about abstract ideas or feel-good pop psychology. Instead, he reminds us what God’s Word teaches elsewhere—we may not always be protected from evil and pain, but we can have the assurance that we belong to God.

The seal of the Holy Spirit means we are in God’s good care, especially during discouragement and, ultimately, even at death. God’s seal recognizes that the promises of God are ours to confess and claim.

Understanding the seal of the Holy Spirit will help us recognize God’s sovereignty and supervision over our lives and the fact that one day Christ is coming again and we will be glorified. With this perspective, we discover nothing is really accidental or meaningless.

Though we are already redeemed, we are waiting for the full reality of our salvation—that future day when God returns for His prized possession, which He sealed for Himself the day we accepted Christ by faith.

Randy Eaton, D.Min., is lead pastor of Cross Community Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where he lives with his wife, Deana, and their five children.

From May, 2016