The Seal and Security of the Holy Spirit

Rockwall Presbyterian Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
26 May 2019
Easter Season

A Personal Note: It was early Summer 2008 when my family and I visited RPC for the first time. (It was still Trinity Harbor Pres in those days.) It was the first presbyterian church we ever visited and it left quite an impression on us. The service was sober yet joyful. The elders and members were welcoming. I remember telling my wife on the way home that I had some growing up to do as a pastor, and so did our congregation. Shortly after our visit, I introduced printed worship orders at our church. The following year I entered seminary where I met and studied with the (now) Associate Pastor of RPC. In the meantime, we visited a few other PCA churches, events, and presbytery meetings. In 2016 I was ordained a Presbyterian minister and our congregation joined the PCA. In November of 2017, I was invited to administer the Lord’s Supper at RPC. I fumbled the trays of wine and made quite a mess. It was a tragi-comedy. Last week, I was invited back to RPC to minister word and sacrament. I gave a bottle of sweet red wine to the church as “restitution” and a bottle of blush to the elder who handed me the trays which I fumbled. So much has happened since that first visit eleven years ago. It was so sweet to come full circle, to say thank you, and to serve those who once served me unawares.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we will focus on the Holy Spirit and his glorious grace.

The glory of the Spirit’s grace is revealed in his sealing and securing our salvation in Christ.

This is what we will explore today.

Our sermon text is Ephesians 1:13–14.

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.

The word of the Lord.

“Kill the dragon get the girl!”

That’s how Nate Wilson summarizes the whole story of the Bible in his book Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl.

“Kill the dragon get the girl!”

According to the Scriptures, that’s just what Jesus did.

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul calls the relationship between Christ and the church “a profound mystery” (vs. 32).

+ Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. We see this in his gracious sacrifice at the cross. (vs. 25)

+ Christ cleanses her by the washing with water through the word. We see this in his gracious sacrament of baptism. (vs. 26)

+ Christ will present her to himself as a radiant bride, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. We see this in his gracious word in the preaching and teaching of the gospel of grace. (vs. 27)

+ Christ loves the church as his own body. He feeds and cares for his body. We see this in his gracious sacrament of the Lord’s supper. (vs. 29)

Jesus Christ came into the world to kill the dragon and get the girl.

He went to war for her and laid down his life for her.

He purchased her life with his blood.

He paid the bride-price for her, in order to earn the right to take her as his bride.

And not only that, he also gave her a glorious gift as a sign and seal of his promise to take her as his bride, and to keep her safe and secure. Always.

What is that glorious gift? The Holy Spirit.

Now, as you have seen and heard in this series, the Holy Spirit centers you on Christ, consecrates you to God, convicts you of sins, conforms you to the image of Christ, comforts you in sorrows, counsels you in life.

The Spirit’s gracious work is to change your life for your good and God’s glory.

The point Paul is making here is that the gift of the Holy Spirit seals us with the unbreakable promise of divine love — and the gift of the Holy Spirit also secures us with an eternal pledge of redemption. 

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at these two things — the Seal and Security of the Holy Spirit.

The Seal of the Spirit

To help us understand the biblical roots of seal, I will hold up three examples for your consideration: Esther 8:7-8; Song of Solomon 8:6; 2 Timothy 2:19

In Esther 8, a Gentile King gave a Jewish man his signet ring and said to him, “You may write whatever you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” So the Jewish man wrote a law and sealed it with the king’s ring. When the ring was pressed into the hot wax it left the image of the king’s ring, an imprint of the king’s authority. 

If that is true of a sinful, human king, how much truer is it of our righteous, divine King? The word and seal of the gospel cannot be revoked. The gifts and call of God are irrevocable. They cannot be broken or taken back. The Spirit presses the sign of the cross upon our hearts; thus, we are sealed by the Spirit with the image and likeness of Christ.

In Song of Solomon, the bride says to the groom, the lover to the Beloved, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

In the gospel, the Church prays that Christ will set her as a seal upon his heart, and Christ answers that prayer in love. His promises to his church-bride are sealed with the Holy Spirit, not only upon our hearts but also upon his heart.

The apostle reminded a young pastor that God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Here, seal is used as an emblem or banner with a message. If you do not yet have the Spirit of Christ, you are not yet Christ’s people / person. But if you have the Spirit of Christ, then the Lord knows whether you are his, and you know whether you are the Lord’s, not only because you bear the seal of the Spirit subjectively. But also because you bear the signs and marks of the Spirit on your life objectively.

The Spirit is an indelible mark of grace that distinguishes God’s people from the rest of the world. (For more on sealing see Ezekiel 9:4; Revelation 7:3; 9:4 = water-baptism is an outward sign of this inward seal.)

All that to say, the seal of the Spirit impresses the image of Christ on us, and identifies us with Jesus as the church-bride he purchased with his blood.

The Security of the Spirit

When describing the security of the Holy Spirit, most translations use the word guarantee, deposit, or pledge. That’s fine and good as far as it goes. My personal and pastoral concern is that it feels too much like a business transaction.

Is there another way to imagine the security deposit of the Spirit?

Yes. In context of the story of the Bible, and especially the Book of Ephesians, we may  imagine the Spirit’s security deposit in romantic terms.

The Greek meaning of the word for guarantee evolved over time. In modern Greece it (arrabona) has come to mean engagement ring.

When a man proposes marriage to a woman, he usually gives her an engagement ring as a gift. The engagement ring is a security deposit of his love and commitment towards her.

So, let’s think of the Holy Spirit as Christ’s engagement ring to the church. (I don’t think Paul would object to this updated — romantic — illustration.)

In Mexico, there is an old wedding tradition in which the groom gives his bride a gift of arras (from Gk. arrabona). Arras is a gift of thirteen gold coins in an ornate box. Some say thirteen refers to Jesus and the apostles, who serve as witnesses of the promise. Other say thirteen refers to months in year, twelve for prosperity, thirteen for poverty: “for richer or for poorer”. The coins are an earnest sign and security deposit of the groom’s promise to provide for his wife and their family. They are also a sign of the bride’s trust in his ability to do so. (Source: Based on Conversations with Mexican friends, a Jeweler in Oaxaca, Mexico, and other sources.)

Christ has given us the true and better arras — the true and better engagement ring — of the Holy Spirit to secure our redemption.

As it is written:

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21–22

Christ will come for the church no matter what. He will take her as his bride, and treat her as his treasured person.

until we acquire possession of it = a better translation is “until God redeems his possession” (ESV / Study Bible) // “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (NIV / much better than the ESV)

Like the Levites and priests in the OT, our inheritance is not found in land, money, homes, or things – it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As baptized believers, we are the Lord’s special treasured possession.

The Holy Spirit guarantees that we will inherit the Lord, and the Lord will inherit us. For this reason we sing, “I am my beloved, and he is mine!” (Song of Solomon 2)

The Holy Spirit applies salvation to all the church, the vast community of God’s elect throughout all history from the creation of the world to the consummation of it.

The Spirit was set as a seal upon your heart to secure your salvation in Christ.

By the grace of the Spirit, the Lord’s church will stand before God in the judgment and say, “Here I am, signed, sealed, delivered – I’m yours!”

Signed in baptism. Sealed by the Spirit. Delivered by the cross.

That’s the crux of the matter:

The Father loves you. Jesus is on your side. The Spirit is for you.
God is relentless in his pursuit.* (*adapted from a saying by Eugene Peterson)

Our response: Eulogy, a good word of praise, for the Triune Savior — “to the praise of his glorious grace

“Now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God” (Calvin): 

O God, Father of glory, I give you thanks for Rockwall Pres, and I pray that you may give us all the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Father-God, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know — what is the hope to which you have called us, what are the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of your power toward us who believe, according to the working of your great might, that you worked in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (echoes of Ephesians 1:16-21)