The Christian: Sealed by God – 2 Corinthians 1:22
A proper understanding of the true Christian way of life flows from a correct knowledge and application of the indicative and the imperative. “Huh? What are you talking about, pastor?” The indicative is the mood of facts. Here is Christ and the gospel, and what you have in him. The imperative is the mood of commands. Here is how you must live. The true Christian way of life is always based on the indicative of Christ and the gospel; the imperative of how to lives is the logical and necessary consequence of that basis. To attempt the Christian way of life by the imperative alone quickly mutates and deforms true Christianity into agonizing rules, ritual, frustration, and even despair. For example, try to live out 1 Th 5:16-18 apart from knowing Christ and experiencing the grace of the gospel.
Recently we considered what we share in God’s present work of confirming us. Last session, we began to look at what God did at the time of our salvation. The apostle uses three aorist participles (anointed, sealed, and gave) to explain more about God’s saving grace. We started with just one of these. God anointed us. Now we come to the two other participles, sealed and gave. Like anointing, these ideas of being sealed by God and being given the Holy Spirit as a deposit might be a new concepts to many of you. There has been a great neglect of the person and work of the Spirit of God in the doctrinal traditions that most people in this room come from. For example, recently Francis Chan wrote a book about the Holy Spirit called Forgotten God. Now why would anyone name a book about the Holy Spirit with such a title? It is because much of the western church has turned away from the Spirit of God to rules, rituals, and programs. So then, let’s go continue exploring what we share in Christ together!
I. Understanding the concept of sealing
A. We are unfamiliar with what sealing meant at that time.
1. We might have some idea about how the ancients made a seal, for we do similar things today. This can give us an illusion of understanding what this word means.
2. But we use the verb seal in a different way than they did. Besides some technical terms, here is how we use this verb.
a. “To affix, as a seal, as a mark of authenticity
b. “To make final or binding by or as by fastening a seal to
c. “To place, as a mark or sign, upon to confirm fulfillment of standard specifications
d. “To fasten securely to prevent undetected opening
e. “To close with or as with a seal
f. “To close hermetically
g. “To fix, determine, or finalize; as to seal one’s fate
h. “ To authorize or give under the power of a seal”
B. What seal meant in that cultural setting
1. “The real importance of the seal is a legal one: the owner puts his mark on his possessions, his beasts… his slaves… and thereby guards his property against theft. To that extent, one can call it a protecting sign or a guarantee…Things sealed were at the disposal of the possessor of the seal” (DNTT, Vol. 3, p. 497).
2. The main idea is that of a mark of ownership, such as the branding of cattle or a VIN.
II. Searching out this teaching
A. General observations
1. Being sealed with the Spirit is a matter of our position in Christ. Like other positional aspects of salvation, like justification or adoption, it is not something that you feel.
2. Being sealed with the Spirit is true of all Christians. The nature of Paul’s reasoning in this context and in Ephesians demands this interpretation.
Point: You do not have to seek some kind of sealing experience. There is also no reason to confuse this sealing with what is called the assurance of salvation, which is a part of our spiritual experience or condition.
3. Being sealed with the Spirit is part of the totality of the Spirit’s work in our souls.
a. We enjoy many benefits from the Spirit’s indwelling presence, such as anointing, filling, leading, helping, etc. Though all are interrelated, since they come from the same Spirit, they do not all speak of the same blessing or the same work that he carries on in us. It is like having many windows to look out of a house.
b. In other words we could say, “Yes, there are many things you know in your spiritual experience by the presence of the Holy Spirit; there are many things you feel. For example, you know the witness he bears to your spirit that you are a child of God. But sealing is not a matter of feeling, but of security. The Spirit seals you to identify you as belonging to God in Christ.”
B. The Holy Spirit himself is the seal (Eph 1:14).
1. We should not think of the sealing of the Spirit was something that the Spirit does that people can notice. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus do not wear a special glow or have some other kind of spiritual aura. Instead, the Spirit’s presence is something that the Father and the Son sees.
2. The Spirit’s presence in us is God’s seal of ownership of us (cf. Rm 8:9). “The Spirit, this given, is a ‘seal’—that is, a mark of ownership indicating that the believer belongs to God” (Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 71). Compare 1 Pt 2:9-10. So then, this teaching speaks of our share in the inheritance that belongs to the adopted sons of God; namely, that God is our God (cf. Rev 21:3).
C. The seal is permanent (Eph 4:30).
1. We bear God’s seal of ownership until the completion of redemption. God has a great plan for a great day—the day of redemption. The Father has acted to make sure that we are safely brought to that day and set free completely (cf. Rm 8:23).
2. Though we have struggles and sometimes fierce battles with sin, the Holy Spirit is always present as God’s seal with us. Have you ever thought, “How can all this suffering and misery keep on coming on another Christian? How can this happen to me? Does God care?” Yes, he does, the Spirit is present as his seal to indicate that we are his forever.”
Hymn: “I’ve Found a Friend”
III. Applying this teaching
A. Since we have this seal, we ought to live in a godly way (cf. Eph 4:30).
1. Negatively, we ought to avoid whatever grieves the Holy Spirit. Notice that in this context, it refers to speech that is out of order.
2. Positively, we should recognize that we belong to the Lord. He has chosen us so that he might take pleasure in us; for example, by enjoying fellowship or true friendship with us. When a Christian sins, we sin against the One who deeply loves us and who wants to enjoy life with us. To illustrate, I think a man and a woman marry each other to enjoy life together as best friends, not to fight. We must look at ourselves together as belonging to God. Each of us must say, “I belong to God, and you belong to God.” This must transform all our interactions with one another. This must transform our friendship with God.
B. Since we have the seal of the Spirit, we have a great reason for assurance (cf. Eph 1:14).
1. God has revealed this doctrine for our encouragement. He could have sealed us and have never told us, and we would have been just as secure. But our Father wants us to feel secure in our position in Jesus Christ. The triune God wants us to how great God’s love for us really is!
2. There are times in our experience when we need to reason with ourselves and pray that the Spirit of God would make this truth come alive in our souls. “O Holy Spirit, you have caused this truth to be written in God’s word for his glory and our good. But I don’t feel the power of the reality of having been sealed in Christ. Make me know all that I have in my Lord and Savior. Use this truth to rekindle my affections and refresh my weary soul. Remind me that you live in me as this seal of God’s ownership.”