Ephesians 1:13-14

Sermon preached on January 22, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

I sometimes like a sure thing. I think that's because I'm a Boston Celtics fan and because they lose so much. Even if they're ahead by 20 going into the last quarter—winning that game is not assured.

But actually a sure thing in sports isn't all that exciting (unless you're a Celtics fan.) I hate it when I record a game on a VCR and someone inadvertently tells me the final score before I've had an opportunity to watch the game. It takes some of the excitement out of it.

But sometimes you don't need that excitement, that uncertainty. What about your salvation? As a Christian should you be unsure about that? Is it something that you can't really know until the final buzzer, something that you should be uncertain of all your life?

No, not at all. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and one of the things we should be sure of is that He has made us safe. We Christians should praise Him and rejoice in Him because of this. Our text is part of a great section listing things we should be praising God for. Not to realize we have these things and not to praise God for them is a great tragedy. What I want to do this morning is to look at this great passage—so that we can see some of the great things Christ has done for us—so that we will lift His name high. Paul wrote,

"And you also were included in Christ
when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation.
Having believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit,
who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance
until the redemption of those
who are God's possession—
to the praise of his glory."

The first thing I want you to see here is that

you received the Spirit when you believed. You were sealed with the Spirit when you believed.

Every Christian receives the Spirit when they believe. When a person believes on Jesus, he receives the Holy Spirit of promise. That's what verse 13 teaches. We see this teaching in Romans 8:9 as well. The apostle Paul wrote,

"You, however,
are controlled not by the sinful nature
but by the Spirit,
if the Spirit of God lives in you.
And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,
he does not belong to Christ."

Quite clearly, if someone does not have the Spirit, he is not in Christ, he is not a Christian.

This is an important point because
many Christians believe that Spirit baptism is an experience distinct from conversion. That's actually a core doctrine of Pentecostalism. They believe that Holy Spirit baptism comes after conversion, sometimes long after.

Even the great
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, possibly the greatest preacher of the 20th century, and whom I admire immensely—held that the sealing of the Spirit is something that comes subsequent to conversion and that a person can be a Christian without it. Lloyd-Jones believes that the sealing of the Spirit primarily consists of an experience. He writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 262)

"Sealing is an experience, something that God does to us, and we know it when it happens."

He views the sealing as essentially a great sense of assurance—of having your heart ravished and experienced an overwhelming sense of the love of God. (p. 28)

Lloyd-Jones bases part of his reasoning on the construction of our text. To help us see his reasoning a little more clearly, consider how the
KJV renders our text. It reads,

"in whom also after that ye believed,
ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,"

Dr. Lloyd-Jones writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 249)

"The word is in the past tense, it is not 'as you believed', or 'when you believed', it is at the very lest, 'having believed'. The Revised Version suggests the past, 'having also believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise'; and I suggest that even the phrase, 'having believed' suggests that these two things are not identical, and that the sealing does not immediately follow the act of belief."

But that's an oversimplification. The Greek verb is an aorist and it's an oversimplification to regard it as a simple past.

This reminds me of what my
Hebrew professor (I believe) at seminary announced on the first day of Introductory Hebrew that when you teach a beginning language course,

"You have to lie a lot."

I was shocked when I heard a professor at seminary say that. I wasn't expecting it. I was shocked. A Christian professor was going lie to me and the other students? But what he meant was that when you first introduce a foreign language to new students, you have to simplify and make generalizations that aren't always 100% accurate because of the fact that they are generalizations and simplifications.

beginning Greek grammar lists the aorist as a simple past tense. As Gresham Machen writes in his New Testament Greek for beginners is,

"What the student needs to understand first is that the aorist is the simple past tense."

But my intermediate Greek grammar makes many more distinctions. It says in regard to time and the aorist,

"In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time with reference to the time of speaking (thus, 'absolute time'). Aorist participles usually suggest antecedent time to that of the main verb (i.e. past time in a relative sense)… Outside the indicative and participle, time is not a feature of the aorist."

One of the verbs in our text is an aorist participle and the other is in the indicative mood so the time element is a feature. But, it does not necessarily bear the construction that Lloyd-Jones puts in it. His saying that it's a past tense and that its use suggests that sealing does not immediately follow the act of belief is not necessarily so.

Let me illustrate. (from Donald Macleod, p. 50) In the Gospels it often says, (KJV)

"Jesus answered and said…"

That's the exact same construction (aorist participle followed by aorist indicative) that we have here in Ephesian 1:13. As Donald Macleod writes,

"it would be absurd to say that the Lord's saying was subsequent to the Lord's answering; and even more absurd to hold that it was possible to have answered without having said."

Thus Lloyd-Jones' point is not proved.

You often need to look at more than the Greek construction to properly understand its meaning.

You need to look at the context.

This whole section is prefaced by verse 3—that we should be praising God because He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. What we have in verses 4f is an exposition of those blessings. They include election, adoption, redemption and all things working out according to God's plan—so that we might be to the praise of God's glory. As Donald Macleod has written, (p. 51)

"Are we to break off there and say that the sealing belongs to a different order of thought—that it is not part of all spiritual blessings enjoyed by all believers but something quite distinct experienced only by some and perhaps only by a few.?"

No. The context suggests that the believing and sealing occur together. The Ephesian Christians had both of these blessings. And that's important. Paul does not make a distinction between those who were believed and were sealed and those who believed and were not sealed. He's writing to one group—those who believed and were sealed.

Thus, taking this point into view,
Peter O'Brien writes,

"The aorist participle 'believed' is best interpreted in this context as being coincident with the main verb 'you were sealed'. The participle does not here express antecedent action, as though the Gentiles believed and then subsequently were sealed with the Holy Spirit. Rather, the believing and being sealed were two sides of the one event."

The second thing from the context that lends support to this is

the fact that the Holy Spirit is referred to as 'the promised Holy Spirit'.

This indicates that the sealing with the Spirit is given by way of promise, not according to our works, efforts, or attempts to seek Him. Remember how Paul put it in Galatians 3:1f? He said,

"You foolish Galatians!
Who has bewitched you?
Before your very eyes Jesus Christ
was clearly portrayed as crucified.
I would like to learn just one thing from you:
Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law,
or by believing what you heard?
Are you so foolish?
After beginning with the Spirit,
are you now trying to attain your goal
by human effort?
Have you suffered so much for nothing—
if it really was for nothing?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles
among you because you observe the law,
or because you believe what you heard?"

The Spirit is the Spirit of promise. It does not come as a result of our efforts or works.

This goes to the heart of the matter.
Donald Macleod writes, (p. 54)

"Dr. Lloyd-Jones is seeking to create a sense of need and even a feeling of guilt and inadequacy which should not exist. He points the ambition of the Christian in the wrong direction, convincing him that without this special experience he is gravely defective and that the major concern of his life should be to obtain it. Instead the seal of the Spirit, like the presence of Christ, is the presupposition of our Christian lives. It is not what we seek, but what we begin with; and what we seek is, in the comfort, light and wisdom of the Spirit, to serve the body of Christ. It is not difficult to imagine the confusion which arises when Christians spend their lives seeking for what they already have and delaying their service until they get it."

You don't get the Spirit by works or effort. He is the Spirit of promise—the Spirit that comes to those who believe.

A third argument from the context relates to the phrase, 'in Christ'.

In verse 13 it is said that we were marked 'in Him'. All though this chapter Paul repeats this idea—the fact that Christians are 'in Christ'. We see this in verse 1,

"To the saints in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus."

We see it in verse 3 and 4.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings
in heavenly places
in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us
in him
before the foundation of the world,"

In verse 7 it is said that 'in Him' we have redemption. In verse 11 it is said that we were made God's heritage (chosen) 'in Him'. This is an idea that is used over and over again in Ephesians 1. We are blessed in Christ, chosen in Christ, redeemed in Him, forgiven in Him, had the mystery revealed in Him, have been included in Him.

Now what does this have to do with sealing? Well, I believe
it gives us a clue about Who does the sealing. Paul wrote,

"Having believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit,"

We were marked in Him with a seal. The seal is the Holy Spirit. Donald Macleod writes, (The Spirit of Promise, p. v)

"the Spirit is not the One who seals but the One we are sealed with. It is Christ who seals, with the Spirit."

Macleod draws a comparison with the earnest of the Spirit. He writes, (p. 52)

"The earnest of the Spirit, for example, is the earnest which is the Spirit and the baptism of the Spirit is not the baptism which the Spirit gives but the baptism which is the receiving of the Spirit and which Christ gives. (Acts 2:33) Similarly, the seal of the Spirit is not the seal which the Spirit gives but the seal which is the Spirit."

We are sealed in Christ. It is but one of the many blessings in the context that arise from being 'in Christ'.

But leaving the context,

the nature of a seal also indicates that it does not primarily relate to having a great and overwhelming sense of assurance, as Lloyd-Jones proposes.

Charles Hodge tells us that a seal had three main purposes. (Ephesians, p. 63) First, it authenticates. Documents that have a seal on them to prove that they're genuine. I think a modern day equivalent would be some of the measures that our government takes to prevent the counterfeiting of our currency. The bills have a seal on them. Sometimes you have to go to a notary with a document and they have to sign it and then they stamp it, put their seal on it to show that it's genuine.

Secondly, a seal is a
mark of ownership. Cattle are often branded to mark ownership. Each ranch would have it's particular brand. One look at a cow and you would be able to tell who owned it. In ancient times slaves were often marked with a seal as well. It showed who owned them. F. F. Bruce writes,

"By giving believers the Spirit, God 'seals' or stamps them as his own possession."

Thirdly, a seal was used to render things secure. In olden times when some documents were sent they were not just closed in an envelope, but the envelope was sealed with wax. If the way was broken or marred that would be a sign that someone had tampered with the seal.

So sealing authenticates, it is a mark of ownership, and it renders things secure. Charles
Hodge writes,

"In all these senses believers are sealed."

Charles Hodge says about this sealing, (Ephesians p. 63-64)

"It assures of the favor of God; it indicates those who belong to him; and it renders their salvation certain."

Now this indicates that there are at least some aspects of sealing that are objective.

And this means that it's not totally related to our consciousness or feelings. You can be sealed with the Spirit and lack assurance. Some Christians are like that. They're absolutely safe in Christ but they don't realize it. Donald Macleod writes, (v.5)

"The seal is objective in the same sense as a mark in the forehead is objective. Christ gives us the real Spirit, not just a feeling or a mood…"

But sealing has its subjective sides as well and Christians should open their eyes and realize what they have in Christ. Donald Macleod continues,

"On the other hand, to be sealed… is undoubtedly an experience. It is something that happens to us and in us and which leads to other experiences, such as peace with God, assurance of His love and participation in His power."

This means that you Christians should realize what you have in Christ! You have been sealed with the Spirit. He is the deposit which guarantees your inheritance.

The word that is translated 'guarantee' by the NIV is a word that belongs to the commercial realm. John Stott writes, (p. 49)

"in ancient commercial transactions it signified a 'first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge, that pays a part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in advance, or makes a contract valid' (AG) In this case the guarantee is not something separate from what it guarantees, but actually the first portion of it. An engagement ring promises marriage but is not itself a part of the marriage. A deposit on a house or in a hire-purchase agreement, however, is more than a guarantee of payment; it is itself the first installment of the purchase price. So it is with the Holy Spirit. In giving him to us, God is not just promising us our final inheritance but actually given us a foretaste of it…"

In other words, what we have here is quite different from a mere pledge. A pledge is not part of the payment. The pledge is restored to the original owner when the transaction is completed. You'll remember the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38. She wanted a pledge from him. So he gave her his seal and its cord, and his staff. We read that later, (Genesis 38:20)

"Judah sent the young goat
by his friend the Adullamite
in order to get his pledge back from the woman,
but he did not find her."

He was supposed to get the pledge back. The pledge is not part of the payment price.

But an earnest is. It's the first installment of the payment. It's never taken back. It's the guarantee and it is part of the payment—the first installment.

You have been given the Spirit, you have been sealed with the Spirit and He has been given to you and He will never be taken from you. As the apostle Paul wrote in
2 Corinthians 1:21-22,

"Now it is God who makes both us and you
stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us,
set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come."

Your future with Christ is guaranteed. No one, no power, no authority can take that away. Indeed, this passage reminds me of the end of Romans 8 where Paul talks about how nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We see the same principle here yet a different aspect of it—it's because we have been sealed with the Spirit. The Spirit has been given to you as a deposit. He is yours forever!

Christians—praise God for this! Christians, realize what you have in Christ!

What you have in Christ is the same as what you will have in glory! It's the same thing—lesser in degree, but the same. Charles
Hodge writes,

"Those influences of the Spirit which believers now enjoy are at once a prelibation or antepast of future blessedness, the same in kind through immeasurably less in degree; and a pledge of the certain enjoyment of that blessedness. Just as the first fruits were a part of the harvest, and an earnest of its ingathering."

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He has saved you. He has given you the Spirit. He has sealed you with the Spirit. You have been marked as God's own. You are the genuine article. You are safe and secure. You have been given the Spirit as a deposit and He will never be taken from you.

Secondly by way of application, this means that

you ought to be at least a one point Calvinist.

I hope you're a five point Calvinist. But after looking at our text, I don't understand how any Christian can not believe in the perseverance of the saints. You have been sealed with the Spirit. The Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance, guaranteeing what is to come. If you don't believe in once saved, always saved—you're shutting your eyes to the great truth of these verses. If you're a Christian you've been sealed with the Spirit. Jesus owns you, He claims you—and He has given you the Spirit to bring you to glory. The Spirit guarantees what is to come.

What we have here reminds me of
Philippians 1:6 where Paul wrote,

"being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus."

It also reminds me of John 10:28-29, where Jesus said about His sheep,

"I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father,
who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."


if you're not a Christian—recognize the danger you are in.

You don't have any of the great blessings we've talked about today. You haven't been sealed with the Spirit. You haven't been marked as God's. You're not safe and secure. You don't have the earnest that is the guarantee of eternal life. You are in a terrible situation.

What do you need to do? You need to go to Jesus. You need to ask Him to save you. You need to believe in Him, commit your life to Him. Go to Him and He will give you the Spirit who will keep you safe and bring you to glory.