I don’t recall ever using a wax seal to secure an envelope. Before envelopes could be sealed with glue or wet-able adhesive the only way to secure its contents was with a wax seal. These seals served three purposes. A seal secured the contents with a simple mechanism to keep the flap shut. A broken seal indicated that an envelope had been opened. And the seal was not just a blob of wax but it held an impression declaring ownership. It was a positive indicator that the sender was authentic. Come to think of it, email doesn’t do any of those things.
So, what does the Bible mean when it says we’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit? For instance, “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.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, ESV) The utility of old-fashioned wax seals also applies to being sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Seal of Ownership
By accepting Jesus we’re under new ownership. Many don’t like to think that way, especially in our modern, I’m my own boss, world. But accepting that seal of ownership is key to walking with Jesus. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV)
That seal of ownership declares something about the value of the contents. The seal warns others who may be tempted to tamper with the contents who the owner is. More importantly, it reminds us who we belong to. Not in a proud “I’m better than you” way but a simple statement of fact. I belong to Jesus.
Seal of Security
Without opening a discussion on the various views of eternal security let’s just rest in the simple fact that we’re sealed and secure in the Holy Spirit. I think that “rest” is the operative word here. So often we hunt for signs, hints, and affirmations of our security in Christ. That if we do the right things we will be accepted in that final day. But Paul’s point is that we are already accepted in Christ, the surety of which is the Holy Spirit living and active in our lives.
How do we know the Spirit is active? The various gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are one way. But there are many other markers. Choosing love and forgiveness over hate and revenge. Reading God’s word and having something pop into a greater revelation is another. Becoming aware of sin that we were blind to in the past. Desiring to be with God’s people, to worship, to care, to pray, and to lay down our own wants are all markers of the Holy Spirit. Having faith, unexplainable, undeniable, faith that sees part of what God sees. Having peace in the midst of whatever storm of life comes our way. These are just glimpses of the fullness of our inheritance sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Seal of Promise
So often we get stuck in today while the good news of Jesus is eternal in scope. Yes, we want the Gospel to be relevant to today’s problems. And it is. Not because it gives us some blueprint to fix our world but because it promises something eternally and infinitely better. But the fullness of our inheritance has been sealed until it’s time, made sure by the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
More than just promised, the Holy Spirit is a surety, a kind of down payment of the fullness that is our inheritance in Christ. Most of the times we barely scratch the surface of that down payment. Later in Ephesians Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, ESV) The context is unwholesome speech. But I wonder if we don’t also grieve the Holy Spirit when we fail to accept all of the down payment and only access that which we find comfortable or exciting.
You are Sealed
Our being sealed with Holy Spirit by Christ should be a very comforting thought. Satan loves to challenge us. Are we right in our understanding? Are we worthy? Are we are doing the right things? The seal of the Holy Spirit in my heart is the best answer – I belong to Jesus. What about you?
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