The Sealing of the Holy Spirit - Part 1

by J. D. Watson

Ephesians 1:13b-14 declares the last of eight great riches we have in Christ: "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." The doctrine of "the Sealing of the Holy Spirit" is an extremely important one. It is, in fact, one of the most comforting and irrefutable doctrines in Scripture (if not the most), when it comes to the Christian believer's security in Christ. No other doctrine makes the believer's security so vivid and undeniable.

The concept of "sealing" is actually quite ancient. In fact, this concept can be traced back centuries before Christ. Herodotus, the first of the great Greek historians (fifth and sixth centuries BC), wrote in his book, History, that ancient man possessed not only his staff but his seal.

The Greek verb for sealed is sphragzo\, which means "to set a seal" or to "mark with a seal." This comes from a similar word that refers to a signet ring that possessed a distinctive mark. There are many illustrations of seals, both from ancient and modern times. We can see many of these by showing the four pictures sealing gives.

First, sealing pictures acquisition. By this we mean that sealing shows a finished transaction. First and foremost, sealing paints a legal picture; it shows the completion of a legal transaction. The Ephesian believers understood this, since Ephesus was a seaport and supported a large lumber trade. [This was also well known in Corinth, which explains why Paul mentioned sealing to the Corinthians as well as the Ephesians.] A raft of logs would be brought from the Black Sea and notice sent to the various lumber firms that the raft had arrived. A lumber merchant would come, purchase his timber, and then stamp it with his seal. Usually he would leave his purchase in the harbor, sometimes for several weeks, and would send a trustworthy agent later to identify his master's seal and take away the purchased property.

This is equally true in more modern times. Beloved pastor Harry Ironside recounted an incident in his own experience here in America around 1930: "I was standing on a high bridge at St. Cloud, Minn., 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 from 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."

Another modern illustration of a seal, is a "notary public." A notary signs and seals a document, thereby finishing the transaction and sealing the agreement.

The spiritual parallel is that we have been "bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and we have been redeemed by the Christ (Eph. 1:7). The indwelling Holy Spirit is now proof of that finished transaction. Again, as Ironside put it, "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."

This leads us to the remaining pictures, which we'll examine next month.

Dr. Watson is pastor-teacher of Grace Bible Church, Meeker, Colorado

His full exposition of Ephesians and other resources are available on-line at www.TheScriptureAlone.com  

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