There is a sense in which I, for my part, am not concerned about the terminology with regard to sealing with the Spirit or baptism with the Spirit. To me it is very regrettable that many are so much concerned about the terminology, and especially about the word baptism, that they fail to face the real question. That question is, Do we know that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit? The question that should be uppermost in our minds is not the question of terminology but the question of whether we have the Spirit of adoption, whether we really are crying Abba, Father from the depths of our hearts. Terminology has its place and it is important that we should have ideas clearly in our minds; but it is the experience itself that matters most. So we continue with our description of this blessing in order to bring truth out yet more clearly.
He then reminds us of several things which result from what he calls the sealing of the Spirit:
The first result . . . is the immediate, direct, blessed assurance that we are the children of God, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. That is what the Apostle is concerned about chiefly here . . . [Paul] is writing about an inheritance which Jews and Gentiles have received together in Christ.
Second, in Romans 5:5 we read: Experience worketh hope, and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
Note the expression, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. It is comparable to the term used in the second chapter of Acts about the Holy Ghost being poured forth. It is the same idea exactly; not something vague and indefinite, but the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts so that we are filled to overflowing with this love of God. The sealing of the Spirit leads to that shedding abroad of God’s love in our hearts.
The third result of the sealing is found in 1 Peter 1:8:
The relationship of these people to the Lord Jesus Christ is that they love Him and rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The Doctor now addresses the question of spiritual gifts. His comments will be uncomfortable both to the typical charismatic and to the typical cessationist. Rather than pointing out the areas where I agree and disagree with the Doctor in this post, I have decided to simply let him speak for himself:
Every time a person is sealed with the Spirit, is he given some of these particular gifts?
. . . it is clear from the second chapter of the book of Acts that those who were at that time baptized by the Spirit received certain gifts; they spoke with other tongues, and there were clearly other manifestations. It is clear that on the day of Pentecost and subsequently, this sealing with the Spirit was accompanied by gifts. This has emerged in the various Scriptures which we have examined. So it is right that the question should be asked as to whether it therefore follows that, every time a person is sealed with the Spirit, of necessity he has some of these particular gifts. Fortunately we are given an answer to that question [in 1 Cor. 12] where the teaching is that the Holy Spirit is the Lord of these gifts, and that He dispenses them and distributes them as He sees fit. To this man He gives one gift, to that man another gift. They do not all have the same gifts, they do not all have any one particular gift. Paul asks the question Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret ? Do all work miracles ? And clearly they do not. There are many gifts, and the Apostle gives a list of them wisdom, “helps, “understanding, and so on.
There was trouble in the church of Corinth because of this, for the whole church of Corinth had become divided into groups and factions over the possession of particular gifts. Some were more spectacular than others, and the men who had the spectacular gifts despised those with the lesser ones. So Paul gives his teaching concerning the church as a body ; but his main emphasis is that the bestowal of gifts is the prerogative of the Holy Ghost. He can give gifts, He can withhold gifts, as He chooses and as He pleases.
It is interesting to observe that when we read the history of the Christian Church, and especially in terms of this doctrine of the sealing with the Holy Ghost, we find that many of these gifts given at the beginning do not seem to have been given in subsequent ages of the Christian Church. This becomes quite clear as we recall the experiences of the great men to whom we have referred, and who lived in different centuries and places and who were so varied in their natural gifts. Not one of them ever spoke with tongues ; but they had other striking gifts. Some had the gift of understanding, others the gift of teaching. Wesley had his amazing gift of administration, and organization. But none of them seems to have had the gift of miracles. But they clearly had the sealing with the Spirit.
So it is important that we should differentiate between the sealing itself and the gifts that may or may not accompany it. The central truth concerning the sealing with the Spirit is that it seals the inheritance to us, that it gives the assurance of sonship, and the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba, Father. Unfortunately many have become confused over this question of the sealing because of their confusion about the whole question of gifts. Many are even afraid to consider it merely because they know people who claim t
o have had this sealing with the Spirit, but who insist upon some particular gift as evidence. But Scripture . . . does not give us the right to postulate any particular gifts in connection with the sealing of the Spirit. There may be gifts, there may not be gifts . . . Therefore, I do not ask whether you have spoken in tongues or not; what I ask once more is whether the love of God has been shed abroad in your heart? Are you rejoicing in Jesus Christ with a joy unspeakable and full of glory ?
What is the relationship of the conversion experience to this sealing with the Spirit?
Being justified by faith we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). Now what is the difference, someone may ask, between that and the sealing with the Spirit? . . . When a man has this rest of justification he knows that his sins are forgiven, and he is given a sense of peace and quiet. Is that therefore not the same thing? The answer is that the sealing with the Spirit goes well beyond what is experienced at conversion.
. . . this is God, if I may so express it, endearing us and showering His love upon us, overwhelming us . . . There is always an overwhelming element . . . Such is the difference between the two experiences.
What is the relationship of sanctification to the sealing with the Spirit?
Lloyd-Jones compares the relationship between sealing and sanctification to the relationship between rain showers and sunshine to a seed that’s been planted in the ground. Weeks of cold, dry weather pass without any evidence of growth. But when rain finally falls, followed by a burst of warm sunshine, the seed sprouts. From the moment the seed was sowed, the process of growth had begun. In the same way, the moment a man is born again, the process of sanctification has begun.
Sanctification is not an experience to be received, it is the working out of the life of God in the soul, and it starts from the moment of re-birth. This must be so, because you cannot have the life of God in you without the activity of that life. But while that is true, the process may appear to be quiescent for some time. But then this blessed experience of sealing is given, and like the shower and the sunshine on the earth it has a marked effect upon one’s sanctification. It is not sanctification, but it has an inevitable effect upon it. The rain and the shower do not contain life; the life is in the seed; but the rain and sunshine greatly promote and stimulate the growth of the seed; similarly with this experience.
Is it correct to say that we have not been sealed with the Spirit until we have had some overwhelming experience?
The answer is that . . . the experience itself is unmistakable, but the intensity varies even as the intensity of any experience varies . . . it is always certain and unmistakable; there is no question about that! If you have to persuade yourself concerning it, you do not know it. It is of the essence of sealing that it is unmistakable when it is given, for it is God’s action.
What is the place of emotion in this experience?
Modern Christians seem to be more frightened of emotion than of anything else. This is due to their failure to draw the distinction between emotion and emotionalism . . .There is a real difference . . . But . . . what about the excesses, the fanaticism, and the various phenomena . . . are you not tending to encourage disorder? . . . In reply we must emphasize that for God to visit a soul is the most overwhelming experience one can ever know; and it is not surprising therefore that sometimes the physical frame cannot stand it . . . it is not surprising if, sometimes, when the Spirit of God enters into people with great power, they should lose their self-control for a while. This should not trouble us. But should it still do so, the best course to adopt is to read a great book by Jonathan Edwards entitled On the Nature of the Religious Affections . . . The essence of his argument is to demonstrate that it is not at all surprising if when the Spirit of God enters into a man’s soul in power, unusual things should happen, and that his normal balance should be upset temporarily. This does not justify excesses, but helps to explain them . . . We must remember also that at such a time of revival the devil is anxious to produce counterfeits and cause confusion. He turns people’s attention to the phenomena, to the experiences, to the excitement; and there are always people who look only for such things.
How can we tell the difference between the true and the counterfeit?
There are certain tests which can always be applied. True emotion produced by the Holy Ghost ALWAYS leads to humility, to reverence, to a holy love of God. A man may sing, or may dance for a while; but that does not persist . . . what is permanent, and what proves genuineness, is that the man is filled with a sense of awe. He has been near the Majesty of God and is of necessity humbled. This emerged clearly in the accounts of the experiences of several of the great men of God which I have quoted. They very rarely spoke about it; there was no boastfulness.
No man ever knew more about these matters than the Apostle Paul . . . with all his burning passionate love there is always reverence. The two elements are always present in the same man.
In closing, Lloyd-Jones warns us:
Let us then be careful lest in our fear of excitability and emotionalism and strange enthusiasm and some odd phenomena, we may become guilty of quenching the Spirit and thereby robbing ourselves and others of these wonderful blessings that God has for all His people. The question for each of us is: Is the love of God shed abroad in my heart? Do I know, beyond argument, beyond having to convince myself, that I am a child of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ? Such is the result to which the sealing of the Spirit leads.
All emphasis is mine. Excerpts from this post were taken from: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose An Exposition of Ephesians 1, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978, chapter 24, pp. 279-288.