The Holy Spirit: Our Seal & Down Payment

Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “When I went to school, we drew such things as houses, horses, and trees, and used to write the word house, under the picture of the house, and the word horse under the picture of the horse.  Otherwise, some persons might have mistaken the house for a horse.  So there are some people who need to wear a label around their necks to show they are Christians, or else we might mistake them for sinners.”

In the days of the apostle Paul, there were people who insisted that the necessary “label” to indicate that a person belonged to God was the mark of circumcision.  But such a “label” applied only to men and was not easily visible.  Paul argues that God is using a different mark on people now.

In Ephesians 1:13, Paul states that when the Ephesians believed in Christ, they “were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”  In ancient times, to create a seal by which a person could indicate his or her ownership of some piece of property, a symbol or figure that would represent the person was engraved into stone or metal or some other hard surface.  This mold would then be pressed down upon a soft substance such as wax or clay, leaving behind the impression that represented the owner.  The imprinted seal provided evidence of the ownership of the one whose seal it bore. 

Paul tells us that those who receive Christ are marked with such a seal to provide evidence that we belong to God.  We are marked with a seal that bears the likeness of the owner—a seal that bears the likeness of Christ.  This seal leaves it mark not upon our flesh, but upon our soul.  Thus we reveal evidence that we belong to God not by something on our bodies but through the way in which we live. 

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.”  Jesus makes it clear that our lives become the evidence by which people discern the presence of God.  In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul spells out that the fruit that reveals Christ is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  In John 13:35, Jesus stresses, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Significantly, for the mold to make its mark, the substance on which it is applied must be soft enough.  A mark cannot be made on something hard, like metal or stone.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit can only imprints its mark upon a soul that is humble and receptive.  The Holy Spirit cannot imprint its mark on a soul that is overly proud or bitter or stuck in its ways. 

In Ephesians 1:14, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as “the pledge [or the deposit or the down payment] of our inheritance.”  Our spiritual inheritance is not complete during our lifetime on earth.  It will not be complete until we get to heaven.  Yet the Holy Spirit gives to us a down payment, or foretaste, of what will be coming.  The way in which the Holy Spirit ministers to us now, comforting us, encouraging us, lifting up our sagging spirits, gradually transforming us into the likeness of Christ’s character, is a glimpse of how graciously and thoroughly God will care for us in heaven. 

I believe Don Kimball captures the essence of this dynamic in “Traces”: “I spoke to the apple tree: ‘Speak to me of God,’ and the apple tree blossomed!  I spoke to the sky: ‘Speak to me of God,’ and the sun shone.  I spoke to the grass, and it offered me a place to rest.  I spoke to the bird, and it soared a little higher.  I spoke to the child, and he offered to play with me.  I spoke to the water, and it refreshed me.  It seemed to me that everything I spoke to spoke about God because it spoke of the source of life.  Finally, on my journey, I spoke to my own heart, ‘Speak to me of life,’ and my heart cried out for God!”

For now, we have received in our souls the Holy Spirit as a down payment and foretaste of the glory that lies ahead for us when we are truly united to God. 

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