Ephesians 1:13-14 - The Holy Spirit's Sealing
Let us then take a moment to read all of Ephesians 1:3-14 as a way of reminding us what we have considered over the last month. And then we will primarily look at verses 13-14 today.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 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, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Charles Spurgeon once recounted a time when he visited one of his elders who was laying on his death bed. The elder looked at Spurgeon with some new found clarity due to his impending death and he said, “How silly all those arguments against the gospel now appear to me! I have read some of them, and I have noted the attacks upon the old faith, but they seem quite absurd to me now that I lie on the edge of eternity. What could the new doctrine do for me now?”
Spurgeon described this man on his death bed in this way, “I never saw so much joy at a wedding as I saw in that quiet chamber. He hoped soon to be with Jesus; and he was joyful in the prospect. He said, ‘I have no doubt, no cloud, no trouble, no want; nay, I have not even a wish. The doctrine you have taught has served me to live by, now it serves me to die by. I am resting upon the precious blood of Christ, and it is a firm foundation.’”
Spurgeon then said these words, “We shall evermore keep to the Word of God, because we have had experience of its power within ourselves...Like a hammer the Word of God broke your hardened heart, and brought down your stubborn will. By the Word you were brought to the cross, and comforted by the atonement. The Word breathed new life into you; and when, for the first time, you knew yourself to be a child of God, and felt the ennobling power of the gospel received by faith. The Holy Spirit wrought your salvation through the Holy Scriptures...It was neither human reasoning, nor the force of eloquence, nor the power of moral persuasion, but the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, applying the Word itself, that gave you rest and peace and joy through believing. We are ourselves trophies of the power of the sword and the Spirit.”
I could not think of a better story to introduce us to our text than the one I just shared. In that story we see a man on his death bed celebrating the fact that his heavenly inheritance was soon going to become a reality to him. In that moment, when death was creeping up on him, this man said, “I have no doubt, no cloud, no trouble, no want; nay, I have not even a wish.”.
This man could see that that LORD had kept him and had sealed him in this life. As a result of this sealing and guaranteeing work of the Spirit, this man was not led away by all of the attacks against the gospel in which he had put his trust.
Interestingly enough it was in this moment, when his strength was failing and the light of his eyes were fading that he was able to see with the greatest clarity. He said, “I have noted the attacks upon the old faith, but they seem quite absurd to me now that I lie on the edge of eternity. What could the new doctrine do for me now?”
He is on the edge of eternity and from there he sees more clearly than ever before saying, “I am resting upon the precious blood of Christ, and it is a firm foundation.”
Who is this that this man spoke of during his final hours here in this earth?
Who is the man whose blood is a firm foundation on which to set our confidence and hope?
It is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. The apostle John describes him in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3, 14)
John the Baptist describes Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
While laying upon his death bed this man considered the eternal Son of God who had died for him. While doing so, this man was at peace and content.
Brothers and sisters, how much more ought we be experiencing such spiritual blessings as these?
In the verses that we have considered Paul has had us peering into eternity from two different directions; not just into one. In Ephesians 1:4 we read, “...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” From there, Paul has us looking back in eternity past before the foundation of the world to where the council of the Trinity worked out this plan of salvation.
In our text today, Paul has us looking forward into the eternity yet to come. In Ephesians 1:13-14 we read, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Also be mindful that in these verses Paul has been speaking of the Trinity and their work of salvation. We have considered The Father, the Son and the Spirit.
It was the Father’s plan and will to save sinners by a profound act of mercy. Finding nothing good in sinful people that would cause Him to respond to them, His salvation was a display of His mercy and glorious grace.
Secondly, Paul showed us that the Son, Jesus Christ, would redeem a people from their sins. Through His death He would forgive many people of their sins and make them holy and blameless before God by faith alone. Those He saved became the church that is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Together they would receive all of the promises of God that He had promised in the Old Testament to Israel.
Thirdly, in our text today Paul will show us the Spirit’s work in His sealing of us and in His guaranteeing us until we acquire possession of the inheritance to come. And all of this results in our praise of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
This is our text this morning, Ephesians 1:13-14, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Let me simply discuss two observations about these verses.
Who is Paul speaking about?
What is the Spirit doing among us?
First, notice with me who Paul is speaking to in these verses. In verses 11-12 Paul is speaking of the Jews who have found salvation in the Messiah. Paul says, “In Him we (Jews) have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we (Jews) who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.” And having believed, they have been saved. But is this salvation for everyone or for just the Jews?
Picture with me that Paul is worshiping the Lord. He is saying all of these wonderful things concerning God’s plan of salvation when he notices that not everyone is praising the Lord for these things. In that moment Paul concludes that those who are not praising are Gentiles who are not sure that this salvation, this Good News, belongs to them. Until Paul shows them that Jesus Christ is the way of salvation for Jews and for Gentiles, they will not be able to praise the Lord.
Something like this did really happen to a group of Gentiles in Ephesus. The event is recorded for us in Acts 19: 1-7, “And it happened tat while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And Paul said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.”
In Ephesians 1:13 Paul praises God that these Gentiles can praise God for this salvation. He then says, “In Him you (Gentiles) also, when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Then in Ephesians 1:14 Paul brings the Jews and Gentiles together in one voice to praise by saying, “Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we (all) acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Is there anyone here today who is convinced that your that one person who cannot be saved? Do you believe that you cannot be part of God’s eternal plan to redeem those whom He has chosen? If so, you need to notice that God is using Paul, the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), to tell these Gentiles that they can be saved to the praise of God’s glory. So can anyone in this room who will respond in faith and repentance to the Good News concerning Jesus Chrst.
Secondly, let us consider the work of the Holy Spirit as our sealer and as the One who guarantees our inheritance.
The sealing work of the Holy Spirit provides every Christian with two things. First, it gives to the believer security because of the impression that the Holy Spirit makes upon the believer. Secondly, it is a confirmation of the authenticity of their salvation and of their being owned by God.
Ephesus was a city full of idolatry, magic, and sorcery. These Ephesians desperately needed to know that the LORD could preserve them. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says that “a deep-seated fear burdened these young Christians. They were, after all, in Ephesus. It was a city in which darkness stalked the streets...Many in the city remained hardened to the gospel. There were reasons that might have led some to fear that they would not be able to stand in the evil day (6:13).”
Consider Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-30, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples after them.”
Paul had protected this church throughout his ministry but he was leaving and he was not going to return to Ephesus again. Notice again what Paul says, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you...from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things.”
How could Paul leave them knowing that all of this was going to happen to the church? How could he leave this church when He knew that fierce wolves would soon come and teach twisted things?
Paul gives the answer Acts 20:31-32. “Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”(31-32)
First, Paul tells them to be alert. Then he reminds them that they have been well taught saying, “...for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish every one with tears.” After Paul says these things he then reveals why he can leave them even though they will face such difficult things. Paul says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among those who are sanctified.”
Paul could leave because he knew that he could release them to God. Paul knew that the Holy Spirit was able to build them up, to give them the inheritance, and to sanctify them in this world.
Paul could leave them at this time because the Ephesians had heard, received and accepted in faith the word of God’s grace. This too would build them up, grant them the inheritance, and sanctify them in this world.
These are the two things that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:13-14 saying, “In Him you also, when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Like the Ephesians, we all live in a dark and scary world. And one day every parent will have to be like Paul, and one day release your kids into this world. At some point, all of us will have to release a loved one as they pass on from this life into eternity with Christ. Every week churches say good-bye to members as they move to a new place.
What will you hope in on that day? What will you trust in on that day?
Our text reminds us that we can trust in the Lord and in His Word. They will sanctify us in every place and they will keep us till the day of our inheritance. And because of this we can rejoice and praise God in all things.