Sometime back the Associated Press carried this dispatch: “Glasgow, Ky.–Leslie Puckett, after struggling to start his car, lifted the hood and discovered that someone had stolen the motor.” Kind of silly, isn’t it? It is rather obvious to say that a car will not run without its engine. But it is equally true to say that we cannot live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit working in our lives, being the engine. Paul says that the life he lives is no longer him living, but Christ living in him. Christ lived in Paul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also lives in us, if we are united to Christ by faith. Here in our text, the metaphor is that of a seal. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit.
What is a seal? I suppose that if we were asked that question, we would probably think of the seal of the President of the United States, and use that as an analogy. There is truth to that analogy: the seal of the President is used to indicate that something is genuinely belonging to the President. You know that the President is coming to speak, if the podium has his seal on the front. In the same way, you know if you are a Christian if you have this seal of the Holy Spirit. What is the seal? It IS the Holy Spirit. It is not as if the Holy Spirit seals you with something else. No, the Holy Spirit IS the seal. Let me explain.
The Holy Spirit works in the Word of God to bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ. This is called regeneration. In that act of the Holy Spirit, we are given new hearts instead of our old, dead hearts. This happens because of the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit makes alive in us, as a seed that sprouts and starts to grow. That is what the Word of God does.
In that same instant in which we are saved, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. He puts His mark on us, which is He Himself. God can then look at us and call us His possession. Just as the presidential seal is on that podium, marking the podium as belonging to the President, so also the Holy Spirit puts His mark on us, Himself, so that everyone in the world can know who owns us.
The second way a seal is used is to secure something. The Holy Spirit is a seal for us in this way as well. When the Holy Spirit acts in a person’s life, there is no going back. There is a certain finality to being sealed by the Holy Spirit. When the stone was placed over the tomb of Jesus, the thought was to secure the tomb from the disciples, lest something happen to the body, and the disciples claim that Jesus was resurrected. Of course, that seal didn’t work very well, given the fact that the power of God was inside that tomb, and unleashed the full force of resurrection power against that seal. Still, when the high priests put that seal on the tomb, the idea was to make it secure. How much more secure are we when we have the seal of the Holy Spirit! It is magnificently secure, absolutely secure. No one can gainsay the power of God to keep his people. Does that give you some comfort in this insecure world?
We live in a world that wants security. They want to know what is going to happen in the future. Unfortunately, they look in all the wrong places for this security. They look to money, and pleasure, and land, and power for these things. Those things are not very helpful for security, since they can blow away with the brush of a hand. However, the Holy Spirit, which seems less tangible, less physical than these other things, is, however, much more secure than these worldly things. The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit seals us into Christ. That is what the first part of verse 13 tells us. The basic sentence is this, “In Christ you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.”
Thirdly, a seal marks something off as genuine. People used to seal envelopes with wax, putting their signet ring into the melted wax, such that the mark of the ring would seal the envelope and seal the letter. The person receiving the letter would see the seal, and know that it could only come from that person. They knew that the letter was genuine. In the same way, when the Holy Spirit seals us, He testifies to our hearts and minds that we are genuine believers in Christ. This happens to every person who becomes a Christian. Every Christian has this seal. Are you sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit?
Paul then switches metaphors. Now, instead of a seal, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the deposit guaranteeing the inheritance. Now, “deposit” is an unfortunate translation, since many deposits can be returned. That is not true of this kind of deposit. It is more like a down-payment that ensures that the rest will also be paid. A very important characteristic of this kind of down-payment is that the rest of the payment is in the same kind. One does not pay this kind of payment in money, and then the rest of it is in land. No, if the Spirit is the down-payment, then the rest is also by the Spirit. What is the rest of the inheritance? It is the resurrection body. The Scriptures say that the new resurrection body will not breathe normal air, but will breathe the Holy Spirit. This is from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says that God breathed into Adam the breath of life, but into Christ the Holy Spirit. We will live, move, and breathe in the Holy Spirit in the future world. Sound scary? It shouldn’t. It means that we will have the same kind of body that Jesus has. The Spirit breathes into our soul right now, the breath of spiritual life. The Spirit will breathe into our bodies physical Holy Spirit-breath when our bodies are resurrected on Judgment Day. We have a down-payment on our souls. The rest of it is coming in the form of the new body. However, the down-payment means more than just the resurrection body. It also means that the curtain between heaven and earth will no longer exist. We will then see God face to face. We will see Him as He is, for we will be like Him, says John the apostle.
Do you often think of your inheritance? Do you think about your resurrection body? As I have said before, it is quite possible to be so earthly minded, that you are of no heavenly good, to reverse the more common proverb. We can be so earthly minded: we love to think about our land, and increasing how much land we have. Do we know that our heavenly inheritance is not only infinitely greater, but so much more important? If we were to compare how much time we think about our land versus how much time we think about our heavenly inheritance, how many of us would score high on thinking about our heavenly inheritance more than our earthly inheritance? I would venture to guess none. And yet, how much more important is it to be concerned about our heavenly inheritance! Instead of fighting and clawing your way to more land, you should fight and claw your way to sharing the Gospel in love with your neighbor, for that would increase your heavenly goods. I’m not talking about earning salvation. Salvation is a gift from first to last. What I am talking about is rather the reward that people can get in heaven. Do you think about that? You know, thinking about heaven and the resurrection body that we will have in the new heavens and the new earth is one of the very best antidotes to greed. I use greed as an example, but there are many other sins to which this would apply as well. Use your creativity in applying these truths to your entire life. What you will find is that if you are a signed, sealed, and delivered Christian, then you are a pilgrim in this world, just passing through. You do not belong here. This is not your home. The story is told in C.S. Lewis’s book The Last Battle, where the children are in the land of Narnia, but the land ends. Aslan destroys the land, and takes His children into the new land of Narnia, the heavenly land of Narnia. When reflecting on this change, it is said in that book that the only reason we liked the old Narnia so much, is that it reminds us just a little of the real Narnia. As Lewis would elsewhere put it, we live in the shadowlands right now. This land is but a poor reflection of the new heavens and the new earth. That is the real thing. This is only a dim copy. So, let’s stop acting like this is the real thing, and the future world only a dim copy. Don’t hold on so tight to possessions, relationships, your own ego or social standing, your grudges, your land, or anything else which is tempting to turn into an idol. Instead, trust in Christ that you have been signed, sealed and delivered for the new heavens and the new earth.