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Teaching All Nations

Question about the Seal and Earnest of the Spirit

Can you please explain Ephesians 1:13-14 as pertaining to the Seal and the Earnest, was it miraculous or non-miraculous?

There has been much contention about these passages, and no doubt some will disagree, but I will give you my studied opinion in this matter in order to help make sense of this sometimes confusing passage.

 Eph 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 

Eph 1:14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 

 As we consider these verses we will pay close attention to three aspects of these verses.

  • First, we will consider what was a ‘seal.’
  • Second, we will discuss that “holy Spirit of Promise”
  • And third, we will discuss the ‘earnest’

What is meant by “Seal”

Definition:

A piece of metal or other hard substance, usually round or oval, on which is engraved some image or device and sometimes a legend or inscription. This is used by idividuals, corporate bodies and states, for making impressions on wax upon instuments of writing as an evidence of their authenticity. The king of England has his seal and his privy seal. Seals are sometimes worn in rings. (Webster’s Dictionary)

Purpose:

Seals are used primarily to authenticate documents, specifically those which carry some legal import. There are two main ways in which a seal may be attached to a document. It may be applied directly to the face of the paper or parchment (an applied seal); or it may hang loose from it (a pendent seal). (Wikipedia)

So we can determine then that a seal was a visual/tangible sign/emblem placed upon the message by a king or dignitary in order to authenticate that the message was approved by the king.

Recall when King Ahasueras in the book of Esther gave his ring to Mordecai he was showing that Mordecai had been given authority by the King himself.

And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. (Esther 8:2)

The ring was not for the benefit of the king. He knew the authority he had given to Mordecai. Mordecai was ‘authenticated’ by the King himself. The ring was the visual/tangible evidence to any who might question his authority. The sign (ring) was evidence that the king approved of Mordecai. It was proof confirming the authority of the King.

The New Testament Seal

So what was the seal given to followers of Christ in the first century to authenticate that their message was from God?

Recall in the book of Acts after Peter and John had healed a man and the whole town was impressed and many believed. The Jewish council called these two men and questioned them. Notice:

And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. (Acts 4:7-16)

The apostles argue that it was by the authority of Jesus that they were able to heal this man. It was the miracle that authenticated their message.

This is consistent with what we know from scripture:

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:15-20)

 The signs were visual/tangible authentication that the message was from the King. (Jesus)

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? (Hebrews 2:3-4)

The confirmation, the authentication that the message was from God was seen in the fact that they had been given miraculous abilities.

These Miracles then were the “Seal” that authenticated to everyone that these men had authority from God. Their message was supported by the fact of the ‘seal.’

The man who had been healed; standing in their presence attested to the fact that these men had authority and power from God because of the miracle that had just happened to him. The miracle was the seal; the visual/tangible authentication from The King.

And the text clearly states: “They could not deny it” and that “They could not speak against it.”

The “Seal” of the Spirit (miracles) then authenticated that the message was from God.

 What about today?

We still have the “seal” (authentication) of the spirit, but not in the same way. The evidence that we have that authenticates the message is still found in those same miracles.

Though they had the ability to do those miracles; we do not have the same ability today. However, those exact same miracles (the ones recorded) still are proof that the message has been authenticated/confirmed.

We don’t have the same ability, yet we have the same confirmation!

Notice what John says about it:

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.(John 20:30-31)

The effect of the miracles then, caused people to believe and to continue on believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that people could have life by his authority.

The effect of those same miracles today causes people to believe and to continue on believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that people can have life by his authority.

What is “that Holy Spirit of Promise?"

When we consider what is meant by that Holy Spirit of Promise, we must ask, are these thoughts elsewhere found in God’s Word? If so, what was under consideration?

As Jesus was preparing the disciples for his death he stated:

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)

 They were to wait in Jerusalem until the promise from God came upon them. They would recognize the fulfillment of this promise by the power from on high.

 Jesus had already told them of this event.

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. (Mark 9:1)

 So the kingdom would come and would be recognized by the power that would accompany it.

 In Acts 1:4-5 recall:

Act 1:4  And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 

Act 1:5  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 

 Continuing in verse 7 we notice:

Act 1:7  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 

 So there was a promise coming and the promise had to do with power from on high. It was to find fulfillment first in Jerusalem.

 In Acts 2 we have recorded the beginning of the church.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

 Peter and the others began to preach by inspiration and notice:

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?   Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel(Acts 2:12-16)

 According to Peter; Joel had promised that in the future some events would occur. What was Joel’s promise?

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:   And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (Acts 2:17-18)

 The promise was that miraculous abilities were to be given to different groups of people:

Your sons and daughters” would mean the Jewish family. While “servants and handmaidens” refer to the Gentile people.

God had promised hundreds of years before these events that God would pour out from His Holy Spirit power upon people and that they would be able to work miraculous works.  

When these Christians carried the Gospel to the world, the words they spoke were confirmed by the miracles (that Holy Spirit that was promised).

 What then is the earnest?

As we consider the earnest we look for this word in other passages and one of the earliest times this is found is in the events surrounding Judah and Tamar.

Earnest =  Pledge (Gr. arrhabōn)

 Gen 38:17  And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, (Gr. arrhabōn) till thou send it? 

Gen 38:18  And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 

Gen 38:19  And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 

Gen 38:20  And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not. 

 

Pledge: A pawn – To pledge for the fulfillment of a promise; as, to pawn one's word or honor that an agreement shall be fulfilled. (Websters)

Example: If I go to a pawn shop and want to borrow 100 dollars, I give the pawn owner my guitar as a pledge that my word is good, that I will pay the money back.

The guitar then becomes the pledge that confirms my word. This is the visual/tangible sign that what I am saying is the truth.

First: The guitar being given is NOT for my benefit, but for the pawn owners.

Likewise, the ‘pledge’ in these verses are proof, not for the sake of Judah. The pledge was for the sake of Tamar. To give her confidence that his word would be confirmed.  The pledge, (signet, bracelets, staff) then was a confirmation of his word.

Second: The guitar was visual/tangible confirmation that I was truthful. Likewise, the bracelets etc… were the visible confirmation that Judah’s word was trustworthy.

 Eph 1:13-14

Eph 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 

Eph 1:14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 

 The word ‘earnest’ (arrhabōn) is the same Greek word as we find in Genesis 38 which means a ‘pledge.’

The pledge was the visual/tangible evidence meant to confirm his word. Recall that the pledge is not for the sake of the one giving the pledge/earnest. It is for the sake of the one receiving it.

As we consider the first century church we must ask, what visual/tangible confirmation (pledge/earnest) did they have that confirmed that what they were saying was from God? Most obviously and scripturally; it was the Miraculous manifestations which were proofs that their message was from God.

 God’s Word Confirms This Conclusion:

Mark 16:20

And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. 

 Hebrews 2:3-4

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? 

 Since the word earnest is the same word as pledge, then we see that the earnest of the Holy Spirit was the miracles, given as a pledge of confirmation of their word.

This tells us that the visual pledge which confirmed the word, was the miraculous manifestations, the gift of the Holy Spirit given to them at that time.

Judah/Tamar Parallel continues:

Did Tamar need confirmation of Judah’s word? Yes! She had no real evidence that his word was trustworthy, so she needed confirmation of his word. (bracelets etc)

Do we need a pledge of confirmation that Judah was trustworthy today? No! Why?

  1. We were not living at that time
  2. We have the evidence in God’s Word that He was indeed trustworthy

Did people in the first century need confirmation of the words of the followers of Christ? Yes! Words with no confirmation are merely assertions. They needed to know that the words spoken and written were authorized by God.

Do we need a pledge of confirmation from the Holy Spirit today? No

  1. We are not living at that time (the beginning of the church)
  2. We have the evidence in God’s Word that they were indeed trustworthy (Jn. 20:30-31)

What about the phrase “until the redemption of the purchased possession”

 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 

Until = eis – (unto, in order to)

Redemption – final salvation

The purchased possession is the church

Unto = eis – in order to the praise of his glory

 The miracles confirmed the establishment of the church. The church that was established by the confirmation of the Word, was purchased by the blood of Christ,  and continued to give praise and glory to God.

Therefore we conclude that the miracles given were to be given in order to the redemption of the possession of the church, that it might continue to glorify him.

This leads into 1 Cor 13 which affirms that:

when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1Co 13:10) 

Affirming that at some point (when the complete/mature has come) then the in part (miracles) would be done away. But that will be a different study.

Conclusion: 

As we conclude then, what did we notice:

Eph 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promiseEph 1:14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 

 The early saints, once they had the hands of an Apostle laid upon them, received the ability to do miraculous things. (Acts 8:17-18) The miracles were promised all the way back in the book of Joel and Peter confirms that the promise was beginning in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:16) These miraculous abilities stood both as the Earnest (visible/tangible evidence) and the seal (visible confirmation) that their message was by the authority of God.

Again, as mentioned earlier, we have the earnest and the seal of the Spirit today,  but not in the same way. Those same miracles that stood as confirmation of the word, still confirm the word to us today when we read about those historical events in the Bible. (John 20:30-31) 

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