Ephesians IV: Sealed With the Spirit - Ephesians 1:11-14

In Ephesians 1:11-14, the concluding section of Paul’s great benediction recounting the blessings God has given us in Christ, the Apostle presents three themes that come together to serve the great goal of God’s electing love: the identity of God’s chosen people, the inheritance we’ve been predestined for, and the role of the Holy Spirit in God’s great plan to unite all things in Jesus, all to the praise of His glory.

First, as we seek to understand who these blessings belong to, we need to look at the pronouns that Paul uses. In vs. 11, Paul says that “we” have obtained an inheritance in Christ, but who is he talking about? Then in v. 12, he speaks of “we who were the first to hope in Christ”, most likely referring to the Jews, since the gospel came to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles. But then he moves from “we who were the first to hope in Christ” to “you also”, by which he means the Ephesian Christians, who were largely Gentiles. Not just us, he says, but you too, when you heard the good news and believed in Jesus, you too were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit! And so finally in v. 14, Paul speaks jointly of “our” inheritance. Jews and Gentiles share the same faith in Jesus, we share the seal of the Spirit, and so we share the same inheritance, which means that we will all praise God’s glory together at the culmination of His redemption of His people as His prized possession.

Our second theme has to do with that good future, our inheritance. As if it weren’t enough to be redeemed and forgiven, God tells us that the best is yet to come! So what are the future blessings God has for us? Ephesians 1 doesn’t describe it in detail, but our future inheritance is what we heard about in our reading from Revelation 21-22: the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, uniting all things in heaven and on earth in the presence of God and under the blessing of God. God’s people in God’s place in a right relationship with God. We see this confirmed in Romans 8, a parallel passage that deals with these same themes of redemption, inheritance, and the Holy Spirit, and it concludes by describing our future hope as new creation and new bodies. That’s the inheritance that God has planned for us; that’s what we have to look forward to.

Third, what’s the role of the Spirit in all this? When you heard the gospel and believed, God sealed you with His Holy Spirit. This seal, like a logo or a brand, is an official identifying mark that you belong to God. Since you have the Spirit, you have a right to this inheritance, you’re a part of God’s prized possession. But this seal wasn’t just chosen at random: you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, referring to places like Isaiah 44:3 and Ezekiel 36:26-28. When God seals His people with the Spirit, He’s assuring them that His promises to renew them and deliver them are coming true!

And furthermore, the term “down payment” is the best way to describe the role of the Spirit in v.14. When you make a down payment, you’re giving a large portion of the full payment as a promise that the rest is coming. The Spirit is not just a placeholder to remind you that the inheritance is coming, and not just a seal to identify you as an heir. The Holy Spirit is the first and best part of your inheritance, because out of all God’s promises, the greatest one is this: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” And so while we wait for the new creation and our new resurrected bodies, we don’t have to wait to experience closeness with God, because the Spirit has already been given to us! And if God has already given you His Spirit, then you can be sure that He will give you the rest of your inheritance, as well.

Finally, notice the last phrase of v. 14, also the last phrase of v. 12 and similar to v. 6: all that God does, He does for the praise of His glory. Since the purpose of God’s eternal plan of redemption is praise, and since you are now a part of that plan according to the counsel of God’s will, having been redeemed by Christ’s work and sealed with the Holy Spirit, then get to praising! Praising the glory of our God is the main theme of the benediction that opens the book of Ephesians. May it be the main theme of your life, as well.

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 by CJ Bowen