PHOTO BY RYAN VAARSI “HUDSON RAIL YARDS” ; CC 2.0
“In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 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 [earnest payment] guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (NIV).
How do we know we are not only saved but safe? How do we know we are not only saved but secure? Because not only are we saved, but we are also sealed. We are saved and safe, saved and secure, because we are saved and sealed.
Earlier in the series we discovered that “Salvation is of the Lord” (not us), and it is by grace through faith. We can’t be saved by grace and by works. It is “not you holding out, but God holding on.” We also discovered that God uses definite, specific terms. He has a very precise vocabulary.
Now, let’s look at the fact that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Let’s isolate verse 13 from the passage at the top of this article from Ephesians:
“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” (NIV).
It’s extremely important when we study the Bible to interpret words in their context. If you were to ask any of my previous students what the single most important thing they learned, or remember, from my bible and theology classes was, or the thing I preached over and over in an attempt to drill it into their minds, chances are extremely high they would reply with, “Context, context, context.”
So, the word “seal” meant something very significant to the original audience in Ephesus, it brought to mind a specific image.
What do you think of when you hear the word “seal?”
If you’re a musician or singer you might think of the singer who adopted that name. If you’re a child or you work in a zoo, a blackish-gray (or brown) water animal who balances beach balls on their nose may come to mind. If you work in a cannery, or grow fruits and vegetables and preserve them, your first image is most likely that of sealing a jar of goods so it is air tight. If you’re a postal worker or you send a lot of correspondence through the mail, you probably think of the adhesive that keeps the envelope closed. And if you’re a car enthusiast, you may think of a seal for an engine gasket.
Some men would never think of the seal on a jar, and some ladies…and probably many men too, would not think of the seals on a car engine.
Here are three primary meanings of the word “seal” as found in the Bible:
First, a FINISHED TRANSACTION. Have you ever had something notarized? If so, you have some idea of what it means to have something sealed (notary embosses/imprints seal). Once it’s notarized it’s a done deal, it’s official. And when you are saved, God seals the transaction.
You can think of it as sort of a business transaction. God doesn’t just take away your sins and place them on Christ’s account, He also does something remarkable; He takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ and He places that in your account. Isn’t that incredible? We are so undeserving and yet God is still so gracious.
I’ve got a question for you: What does it take to get into heaven? In just one word describe what the entrance requirement is to get into heaven. The answer is “perfection.” The Bible says that no sin will enter the gates of heaven.
You might be thinking, “Well, God will let me in, He’s a God of love.” That is true, He is a God of love, but He’s also a holy God who even “turned His back” on His own Son when Christ took our sins upon Himself on the cross.
And so, the only way to get into heaven without Christ is to live an absolutely perfect life in thought and action, not just a good life, but a perfect life. Is anyone out there who is reading this perfect? Do any of you know a perfect person? No, of course not. No one is capable of perfection.
It takes perfection to get into heaven, and if you don’t have perfection, you’re going to need to find it somewhere. And since you can’t reach perfection, you’re going to have to receive perfection as a gift. And there is only one Person who can give it to you, only He can afford to pay the price for you. Hebrews 7:28b says, “…the Son, who had been made perfect forever” (NIV).
How did Jesus purchase that perfection for us? Initially it’s common to answer, “He died for me,” but that’s not totally accurate. When He died, it was because of your sins, it wasn’t His death that purchased perfection for you, it was His life. He lived the perfect life you and I could never live, and God places that perfect righteousness on your account when you acknowledge your gift of salvation by faith.
Jesus truly lived a perfect life, He never sinned, not in thought, word or action. And, when He died, he was paying a debt He didn’t even owe, and then He gave to you a perfection you don’t have and that you don’t deserve.
On your own, you can’t get to heaven, you’re not allowed, you can’t afford the “cover charge.” But, the very first person in line already paid for you. So, you can freely enter because you’ve already been paid for. In fact, you’re a special guest of honor, a guest of Jesus.
Our salvation is really so simple that even a child can believe and receive it, yet it’s so deep we can never fully understand just how far-reaching it truly is. The idea that you can lose your salvation is shallow thinking, especially compared to the depth of what salvation is.
If you’ve been saved, if you’re a Christ-follower, you need to understand that God no longer sees you as an evil, wicked, dirty sinner that’s been forgiven. No, He sees you covered in the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. He sees you through the lens of Christ’s blood, He sees you completely justified (“just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned”). He sees you as perfect.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “I sure don’t feel perfect.” That’s because you’re not. When we say a believer is seen as perfect, we’re talking about our legal position with God. That’s imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Christ becomes ours at the point we surrender to God’s call and are saved.
There’s another righteousness known as “imparted righteousness.” That’s the righteousness that’s lived out in our daily lives. God is still working on us with this issue, and we’ve still got a long way to go. In fact, we’ll never completely get there this side of heaven.BUT, and that’s a big but, legally, judicially, when you come before God you have received the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It’s a legal transaction that takes place like money changing hands. Your sins are traded for Christ’s righteousness, and then to complete the transaction He seals it with the Holy Spirit. A finished transaction.
THE SECOND MEANING OF “SEAL” IS OWNERSHIP.
Think of cattle… ranchers have their stock branded (or sealed) to show ownership. The Black Angus Ranch uses a particular brand (seal) to mark their cattle as their property. If any of them stray away, they can be identified by their seal and brought back to their proper owner. The seal is used so they can tell them apart from all of the other cattle.
The Bible tells us we are sealed, branded, with God’s signature “property of God.” It is stamped right on us and even if we wander off from Him, we are still one of his sheep. We know His voice, and He comes after us, bringing us back into the flock.
Remember the story of Job? Let’s look at Job 1:8-12 (NIV) for a moment:
“Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.'”
Satan had to go before God and ask His permission to affect Job’s life. There was a hedge of protection around him that said, “private property, no trespassing!”
We are sealed, it’s a finished transaction. We are His property if we are saved by grace through faith.
THIRD, SECURITY IS INDICATED BY A “SEAL.”
It’s a little like when you seal a letter or package, but it’s much, much more.
For instance, in Matthew 27:66, the Romans put Jesus in the tomb, rolled the enormous bolder over the entrance, and then sealed it. We find out from history that they would take a string and put it along either side and fix it in place with hot wax, and then the seal was pressed into the wax as it dried and hardened. You may be thinking, “yeah, but that seal was broken, it didn’t last.”
Well, you’re right. But, how long does the seal of the Holy Spirit last? Ephesians 4:30 tells us we are sealed “until the day of redemption.”
Let me say again, it’s a finished transaction. You’re His property and you’re secure!
So, we’ve looked at the seal, and now here’s the promise.
“…who is a deposit [earnest payment] guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14, NIV).
A “deposit,” or earnest payment, means that there is more to come. How much of a deposit one puts down shows how serious one is. If you put a down payment of $20 on a house you’re obviously not serious. God put the deposit of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, a down payment He would have to forfeit if He went back on the deal. In doing this, He was promising us several things in the future:
ONE, a new “home” in heaven.
Speaking of heaven, a used car salesman died and went to heaven. When he arrived there was a huge parade with balloons, confetti and people shouting and screaming with joy all in his honor. He thought to himself, “all of this for me?” Then, this used car salesman watched as Jerry Falwell died and went to heaven and nothing happened, everyone just greeted him with “hello.” And then Billy Graham died and he got the same simple response, just “hello.” So, the used car salesman said, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Shouldn’t there be a parade and celebration for these men instead of me?” The reply was, “No, we get preachers up here all the time, but we’ve never had a used car salesman.”
TWO, a new body. I’m very excited about this one. The body I have needs some “adjusting.”
THREE, a new “city” with no crime, no taxes (praise God), and no locks will be needed for our doors and windows.
FOUR, joyful reunions with friends and loved ones.
FIVE, eternal joy (Revelation 21).
AND SIX, eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Everything just listed is promised, and God says, just to make it real to you, just so you can know for sure that I am going to give it to you, I’m going to go ahead right now and place that down payment in your heart. The Holy Spirit became the deposit, or earnest payment, of your inheritance right at that moment.
It is not at all presumptuous, or egotistical, to say that you know you’re going to heaven, because you already have the deposit (earnest payment).
Let’s close this series with 1 John 5:13 from the NIV:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Be Sure to Check Out The Other Posts In The Series
This was a guest post from Dr. Jeff Hagan.
Jeff is an ordained Christian minister with over 23 years of ministry experience. He has attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Luther Rice Seminary, Tyndale Seminary and a handful of other institutes as well. He has earned several degrees including the Doctor of Christian Education and the Doctor of Theology.