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Faith Bible Church, NY
June 9, 1996
The Blessings of God: Sealed by His Spirit
We live in a world filled with worry and fear. In part this anxiety rises from being the victim of broken promises. Products that do not live up to their advertisements. People who do not keep their word. In order to protect ourselves we arrange and pay for warranties, guarantees and contracts, which are nothing more than promises written on paper. Then on occasion we still get to go to court to try and make the person keep their written promise.
What can we be certain of? Things fail and people both fail and lie! This morning we are going to look at something that can be trusted. We are going to examine the third blessing from God that Paul sets forth in longest sentence of the New Testament, Ephesians 1: 3-14. We are going to look at God’s promise to us for the future. God does not fail and neither does He lie, so when He makes a promise we know that it is true and that it will be fulfilled.
Turn to Ephesians 1. Paul begins this section with a statement of fact and then expands on the results of that fact through the rest of the section. “Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God is blessed (honored and praised) by the very nature of Who He is and what He is like. He also is the only One Who is due honor and glory. It is owed to Him by all that He has created. But, as we have already seen, God the blessed One is also the blesser. He speaks well to us and gives to us His benefits.
The first blessing is that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world and that In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself… Why did he do so? His motivation toward us was simply His love. Not because of anything in us because there is nothing attractive about us. As Isaiah says, even all “our righteous deeds are as a filthy garment before Him” (Isa 64:6). It is “according to the kind intention of His will,” that God simply chose to love us and call us to Himself, even adopting us as His children.
What was the purpose of this? Not because we deserved it because we didn’t. Not because we are special or so that we could get what we wanted, but because God is blessed and deserving of His praise. He chose us and adopted us so that we could fulfill the purpose of our creation. He saves us so “that we should be holy and blameless before Him…” that we might be 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
That is the first blessing God gave to us. The second blessing was the means by which He could fulfill His choosing of and adopting of us. Verse 7, In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us.” We were slaves to sin and held in bondage to all its consequences. God the Son, became a man, Jesus Christ, that He might redeem us from our sin. By becoming a man and living a sinless life He met all the qualifications needed. He was the perfect substitute because as a man He is like us and so could die in our place. By being sinless Himself He could pay the price, and because of His rich grace He met the third qualification and willingly died for us. In redeeming us He also forgave us our trespasses. He not only became the sacrifice for our sins but took the blame of them on Himself that we might be made righteous, being holy, clean, and blameless before the Father.
In eternity past God chose us. In history past Christ died for our sins. In the present His sacrifice is personally applied and those who believe in Him are saved. But there is a future aspect to all this as well. Jesus Christ has redeemed us and we are now God’s children, yet, as Rom. 8:23 explains, we are still “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” We are still waiting for all that God has done for us and all the promises He has made to us to be completely fulfilled.
It is this future aspect that Paul is talking about in verses 9 and following. After we have been redeemed God consents to remove the mystery and reveal to us His will the purpose of which is so that we will see how we fit into the bigger picture of eternity. Verse 10, “with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is], the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” is referring to the consummation of the ages after the Millennial kingdom.
Paul continues on with that thought in verse 11, In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. The third benefit of our blessing in being redeemed through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ is this eternal inheritance. As adopted sons we are also heirs (Gal. 4:7), we are fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
We find here that this too was something God predestined. It is a consequence of His choosing us in eternity past. It flows out of God’s sovereignty, omnipotence and omniscience. It is God, not man, that “works all things after the counsel of His will.” Add to this verse 12 which repeat the thought of verse 6; it is all done so that God’s glory should be praised!
Bible commentator William Hendriksen’s remarks on this are worth repeating here. “Neither fate nor human merit determines our destiny. The benevolent purpose, that we should be holy and faultless (verse 4), sons of God (verse 5), destined to glorify Him forever (vs. 6, 12 & 14) – is fixed, being part of a larger, universe-embracing plan. Not only did God make this plan that includes absolutely all things that ever take place in heaven, on earth, and in hell; past, present, and even future, pertaining to both believers and unbelievers, to angels, and devils, to physical as well as spiritual energies and units of existence both large and small; he also wholly carries it out. His providence in time is as comprehensive as is His decree from eternity.”
The sovereignty of God and the doctrine of election does not remove man’s responsibility to respond to God’s commands and call for all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). As one commentator put it many years ago, “As you approach heaven there is a sign which says, ‘Whosoever will,’ but after you enter and look back that same signs says, ‘Chosen in Him before the foundations of the world.'”
God works all these things for the purpose of His glory. That is the truth behind the wonderful promise in Romans 8:28 that “ God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.” God’s purpose is His glory and that is why He is patient and longsuffering with you and me. He uses even our sin and the consequences of other people’s sin to mold us into individuals that can glorify Him (we will expand on this tonight when we look at James 1:2-4).
Notice als o in verse 12 that Paul refers to himself and those first Jewish Christians as those “who were first to hope in Christ.” The Jews are a people specifically set apart from all other nations to be a people that would bring glory to God. It is because of their failure to do so that they have continually been under His hand of chastisement, yet God still has a plan for them. His work is not done and they will yet fulfill the purpose for which He set His name upon them in the first place.
As Paul starts into verse 12 and tells us the third great blessing given to us he also makes a statement that was especially meaningful to the Ephesians Christians and to us as well that are not of Jewish heritage.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed. We gentiles have also been included in God’s eternal plan. As Peter put it in 1 Peter 2:10 “for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Hope in Christ was not reserved just for the Jews, but His grace was extended to us as well. We who have believed the “message of truth, the gospel of salvation” are included in the family of faith, the children of God.
Notice here how salvation is applied in time and space. The gospel is preached and the elect respond in belief of the message of truth. Jesus said in John 8:31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. “Those who will be saved recognize and respond to the truth of God and they are set free from their bondage to sin. The blindness caused by the lies of Satan clears up and they see the light. They believe Jesus’ claims, place their trust in Him alone, and are forgiven.
Paul has a more full explanation of this topic in Romans 10:8f, 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same [Lord] is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”
It is in God’s graciousness that He has chosen to use men and women as the vehicles for proclaiming the message of truth, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which brings salvation. God chose us in eternity past, but the reality of that choice came into time when we heard the truth and responded in belief to the gospel of Christ.
Paul now goes on in Eph. 1:13 to state the third great blessing from God: “having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of [God’s own] possession, to the praise of His glory.”
We are sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. We will look at God’s promise and what our inheritance is in a moment, but first let’s look more closely at what it means to be “sealed in Him” with the Holy Spirit.
The seal is the second level of assurance that God will carry out His promises. The first level of assurance is simply that God said it. While we cannot trust men and so we make them swear in court, sign affidavits, post surety bonds and give us warranties, etc. as a means to make sure what the person says is true, ” God is not a man , that He should lie, Nor a son of man , that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
The seal brings a higher level of security in the promises made. Until recently a seal was usually made by dripping wax on an object and them making an designed impression in the wax, often with a signet ring. Today we also make seals by attaching pieces of paper, plastic, metal, etc. bearing an emblem to the object. Our signature is a type of seal. A seal is an official mark of identification and could be used in several ways. It could signify security, authenticity, ownership and/or authority.
When a seal is placed on a letter or a document it is an authenticating mark of origin. When I sign a letter it indicates I am the one that wrote it. I find it interesting that when I write a letter to the editor the newspaper calls me up to verify that I wrote the letter. I guess they have been the victims of fraud a few too many times. The Holy Spirit is the authenticating sign of the origin of our promises from God. You cannot duplicate what the Holy Spirit brings. Certainly you can duplicate what the Charismatic movement says are the signs of the spirit, but you cannot fraudulently produce His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
A seal on a document also designates ownership. In Jeremiah a real estate transaction is described. After the full payment was made the deed to the property was properly witnessed, being signed, then it was sealed and delivered to Jeremiah. The sealed deed represented his ownership of a piece of land. In a similar way when God sealed you in Him with the Holy Spirit He designated that you belong to Him. You are now His child. No ifs, ands or buts.
A seal could also insure security. When Jesus had died and had been buried, the Jewish leaders were concerned someone might steal Jesus’ body so they had Pilate set a seal on the tomb and set a guard in place. The seal represented the full power of the Roman government. To break that seal would be to invite the full power of Rome to come against you. That very seal became an authenticating factor proving the resurrection, for no man would have dared break that seal.
In a similar way you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. You belong to God and you are secure in Him. The devil may accuse and make false claims and sin may try to entice you away, but you now belong to God. And as Jesus said in John 10:29, “no one is able to take [you] out of the Father’s hand.” And God doesn’t drop anything either! You are secure in Him!
And finally a seal represented the authority of the one making the decree. When a king made and set his seal on a decree he gave full authority for that decree to be carried out. Your signature on a check is a seal and with that signature you authorize the bank to transfer your money to the person you wrote the check to.
God has set His seal of the Holy Spirit on you and given you authority to serve Him according to however He has gifted you.
How does one get the sealing of the Holy Spirit? He is given to you when you believe in Christ. The charismatic movement has caused a lot of confusion about this, but the Scriptures are clear. Jesus’ promise to the disciples was that the Holy Spirit would be sent after His departure (John 16). Acts 2 records His arrival and coming upon those in Jerusalem. In 1 Cor. 12:13 Paul says, For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. You don’t become a part of the body of Christ without the Holy Spirit. Just in case this is not clear enough, look at Romans 8:9: However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he d oes not belong to Him. It is simple. It is clear. If you do not have the Holy Spirit, you do not belong to Christ. If you do not belong to Christ, you are not a Christian, you are not saved.
How do you get Christ? By believing the message of truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ, as was pointed out earlier. John points it out clearly in 1 John 5 vs. 1, Whoever believes that Jesus it he Christ is born of God… 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself… And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. If you have the Son, you have His Holy Spirit, and you are saved. If you don’t have His Spirit, you don’t have Him, and you are still lost in your sins.
The Holy Spirit also brings another level of security for vs. 14 points out that he is “given as a pledge of our inheritance.”
A pledge is a payment made as a non-refundable deposit or a first payment. It was given as a guarantee of the final purchase of the item. In modern Greece, the word used here is used for an engagement ring. Proper edict understands the importance of the pledge, that is why a man who breaks an engagement forfeits the ring, and the woman who breaks the engagement must give the ring back.
The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the non-refundable deposit, that guarantees that God will carry out all His promises toward us. We will receive our inheritance.
What is that inheritance? The Bible does not describe it in detail, but it does mention a few things very specifically and gives indication of other things beyond our imagination. Let me list a few:
4) Eternal dwelling in heaven – a place without mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4); without any evil doers (Rev. 21:8); a place of extreme beauty (Rev. 21:10f); a place where God’s favor dwells (Mt. 25:34).
5) Eternal purpose in serving God (Rev. 22:3).
QUITE AN INHERITANCE! And we will receive it because we are sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit who is God’s pledge to us.
Paul concludes the sentence by once more reminding us that the purpose of all of this is to the praise of God’s glory.
God has redeemed us from the bondage of sin for Himself. We are His possession. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20), the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 3:18). As proud, independent, stubborn humans, our tendency is to fight against that. Our inclination, especially as Americans, is to think of ourselves as autonomous and free, but that is not the case. Never has been and never will be. We were in Satan’s domain held in bondage to sin, but Jesus Christ freed us from that and transferred us to His kingdom. We know belong to Him and we are to be slaves of righteousness instead of sin (Rom. 6).
The more we seriously live our lives in light of this great truth the better off we will be. Selfishness and all its ramifications disappear because self is no longer the consideration, only God’s glory. Fear, worry and anxiety flee because we learn to rest peacefully in His hand knowing God is the one who “works all things according to the council of His will,” so He will use us for our purpose of being. The fruits of the Spirit become more evident as well because the deeds of the flesh Cannot be done when we walk in His Spirit.
A century ago the book, “In His Steps,” had a major impact on American society by getting people to ask the question, “What would Jesus Do?” and then committing themselves to do it. You can have a major impact on those around you if you would simply ask yourself before you do anything, “How can I best glorify God in this?” and then commit yourself to do it that way. Apply that question to your work, how you do business, how you treat others, how you deal with your emotions, what you do as a family, what you do with your time, and what you do for entertainment. I guarantee your life will change for the better.
God’s glory is the reason you were chosen, it is the reason you were redeemed, it is the reason you were sealed with the Spirit, therefore living your life to bring praise to the Lord is the only reasonable thing you can do. People might think you’re crazy for living that way, but in truth to live any other way is illogical, irrational, absurd, insane.
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