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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians chapter 1. If you’re visiting today, we’re in a series on the book of Ephesians called Life Together. We looked at verses 1 and 2, and then for the last four weeks, this week included, we have been looking at verses 3–14. It’s one long sentence in the Greek, 202 words without any punctuation, so to speak. Paul is breathlessly, excitedly telling us of what God has done for us all. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” And we’ve been working our way—this is our fourth message and the final one—through to the end of verse 14. And this morning we’re going to look at verses 13 and 14. Keep your Bible open; follow along as I read. This is part four of a sermon called “Greatly Blessed.”
“In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
I like the story related to Lawrence of Arabia, who was a real figure by the way. He was visiting Paris with some of his friends from the Middle East, and the majority of them had never been outside the Middle East, never beyond the desert. Of all the sites and the signs that captured them in the great city of Paris, they were captured and attracted to the faucets in their bathrooms. As they moved the lever, water came out, and as they moved the lever, water was shut off. They were intrigued by this. And after several days in Paris, on the day that they were leaving, Lawrence of Arabia goes into one of the bathrooms in their bedrooms and finds them trying to detach the faucet from the wall. They assume that if they got this faucet to the desert, they would have water on tap, all right? And he had to remind them that they needed the plumbing that went with the faucet. It didn’t work the way they thought it did.
And I want you to bear that in mind, because if we come into Ephesians 1:3–14, Paul wants you to appreciate the source that stands behind the faucet of divine grace. Paul wants us to focus on the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing . . . in Christ.” The Father is the fountainhead. The Father is the faucet of every spiritual blessing. He’s the wellspring of our inner health and inner wealth, and as such, we ought to bless Him. We are to bless God for blessing us with every conceivable blessing.
And, for weeks now, we have been working our way through this one long sentence in the Greek, as Paul extols the love of the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We saw, if you look at the end of verse 6, this call to worship God. We saw, if you look at the end of verse 12, this call to worship God. And we see in verse 14 another call to worship God. And it’s interesting that the call to worship is always attached to some aspect of one of the persons of the Trinity and what they have done to bless us and bring about the blessing of our salvation. In verses 4–6, we have the will of the Father. In verses 7–12, we have the work of the Son. In verses 13–14, we have the witness of the Spirit. The Father administers salvation. The Son accomplishes salvation. And the Spirit applies salvation. The Father chose us and adopted us. The Son redeems us and forgives us. And the Spirit assures us and indwells us.
As we come to verses 13–14, we’re at the end of this sentence. We mentioned in the early sermon that what we have in these verses is cascading truth, one truth after another. For 202 words, Paul can hardly take a breath. This is what the Father did. This is what the Son did. This is what the Spirit does. And he wants us to be excited about that. And I don’t think it’s something to go unnoticed that there’s kind of a snowball effect in this cascading of truth, one clause tumbling into another clause. It’s not without significance that Paul ends with the present and permanent work of the Holy Spirit in your life and in my life. We must never allow the Holy Spirit to become the forgotten God. We must never settle for two-thirds of God. God the Father is at work in us. God the Son is at work for us. And God the Spirit is with us.
You see, the Holy Spirit brings God near. It’s the Holy Spirit who makes the Father’s choice and the Son’s work of redemption real. The Father administers. The Son accomplishes. The Spirit applies. He brings us to see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Father.
So, let’s look at what we call the sealing of the Spirit. There are several things we want to notice about this wonderful work of God through the Spirit within us. Number one, I want you to see the people involved. Who is it that God seals with the Spirit? Who is it that enjoys the indwelling, swelling presence of the Spirit of God? It’s the believer. Look at verse 13, speaking of Christ, picking up the thought of His work in the preceding verses: “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
The sealing and assuring ministry of the Holy Spirit is experienced by all believers upon believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. This isn’t a second or a subsequent work of grace. This is an integral part of your conversion. When you heard the gospel and you believed in the gospel, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit at that moment. Those who hear and believe in Christ through the truth of the gospel will be sealed by the Spirit upon belief.
I just want to unpack that for a few moments because there’s a sequence here you and I mustn’t miss. As you look back on the day you got saved, or the hour you got saved, Paul’s kind of slowing things down. He wants you to understand the sequence. If anyone’s a Christian here this morning, it started with hearing the gospel, right? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. No one can be saved without hearing the gospel. The Word of truth is described here. That is, the truth found in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. You and I need to hear the good news that God loved us and sent His Son to die for us on Calvary’s cross. So, it begins with hearing. Hearing precedes faith, and belief in Jesus Christ precedes the sealing of the gospel.
If anyone is going to be saved, someone needs to open their mouth and clearly share with them the content of the gospel—that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, virgin-born, sinless, who died on a cross for our sins. He became our substitute, the just dying for the unjust, that He might reconcile us to God. They need to hear the gospel, right? Which is what? That Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and then was raised and has ascended to the right hand of God, a Prince and a Savior.
They need to hear the content of the gospel, and they need to be pointed to the object of that content, which is Jesus Christ. But, you know what? You can hear the gospel and still be lost. You can go through the doors of a church, as much through the doors of a bar, straight into hell. Because you’ve not only got to hear—you must hear—but having heard, you’ve got to believe. See, the difference between heaven and hell is 12 inches. The gospel’s got to go from your head to your heart. Romans 10:9 talks about believing in your heart concerning the righteousness of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus. There has to come a part where you rest.
The Reformers talked about three components to faith: knowing, affirming, and entrusting. Okay? So, you come to hear the gospel, and you know the facts of the gospel. And then you might move, and you should move, and you have to move to affirming it: “That’s true.” So, you hear the truth, you come to say, “I believe that’s true,” but there’s one final step: “I believe that’s true for me.” And there comes a conscious moment. Jesus describes it as a born-again moment. You’re given a new birth. Although alive, you’re made alive. Although born, you’re born a second time when you say, “That’s true for me. Yes, He loved the world, but He loved me. And I believe that. And I’m resting and I hope for heaven on that.” My friend, I hope you’ve done that. In God’s goodness this morning, either literally in this auditorium or listening to us on the radio, you’re hearing the truth, and you’re comprehending the truth. But you’ve got to believe it.
So, did you notice hearing must move to believing?
Several years ago, June and I were in Toronto in Canada, and we visited the CN Tower, just magnificent. At one point it was the tallest building in the world. I think it’s been overtaken by several buildings in the Middle East. But we went to this floor; it was 116 stories high. This floor was 1,100 feet off the ground, and part of this floor was glass. Now, I’m not good with heights, and so I stood kind of away from the glass, maybe looking at it. June was walking across it. Five-year-old children were walking across it. I’m looking down, and my body’s beginning to tingle. My body’s fearing, and June says, “Come on. It’s safe.” And she pointed to a sign on the wall, and the wall actually talked about its construction. And it said it’s been rigged and certified. It can actually, theoretically, hold 35 moose.
Now, I read that, and I heard that, but I didn’t believe that. I went, “If I stand on that thing, it’s going to start to crack, and I am going to go through the floor, all 1,100 feet to the ground.” I didn’t get on it. I couldn’t. Now, I heard it, comprehended it. There was something in my gut. “That makes sense. I’ll bet you, that’s true. They’re not going to lie.” But I didn’t entrust myself to that floor. Heard but didn’t believe. And there’s some people like that, sadly. Hope that’s not you this morning.
But once you have heard and then you believe, you entrust yourself to the gospel. You put all your eggs in the basket of Jesus Christ. You know what, the Bible says at that moment, you’re born again, and you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The night you got saved, the day you gave your life to Jesus Christ, whether you were 5, 15, or 50, the Bible is saying in these verses that at that moment, you got sealed by the Holy Spirit. That’s why we’ve talked about the will of the Father, choosing and adopting, the work of the Son, redeeming and forgiving, now the witness of the Spirit, assuring and guaranteeing.
Now, when Paul says that, by the way, they would’ve identified with that very easily. Remember what we said about the city of Ephesus in our first study? It was a seaport; it was a commercial hub. It was a banking center for Asia Minor, so a lot of business went through Ephesus. And Paul, no doubt, has this image in mind. The Ephesians would’ve seen it. If they’re down near the port, they would’ve seen, perhaps, a consignment of lumber or timber. And a merchant goes down, picks out what he needs, and purchases it. He pays for it. And once he has paid for it, he usually takes a knife or some element, and he marks the wood with his seal, his stamp. He’s saying, “Hey, I’ll be back to collect that.” Signed, sealed, delivered. That’s kind of our phraseology.
And Paul is saying that’s what happened to you when you got saved. See, Jesus purchased you on the cross by His shed blood, and when you believe that, God seals you, marks you out as His own by giving you the seal of the Holy Spirit. And that’s the promise that someday He’s going to come back and collect you and take you to His heaven. So, that’s the people involved.
Let’s keep moving ahead. The picture involved. Now, we’ve kind of introduced the picture. I want to drill down onto it for a moment. The picture is the picture of a seal. A picture paints a thousand words, right? In preaching and teaching, metaphors, symbols, illustrations help move truths from the abstract to the concrete. Jesus is a master at that, wasn’t He? You can’t read or study the teaching of Jesus . . . but all of a sudden, He’s pointing to a door, “I’m the door,” or He’s pointing to a light and saying, “You’re the light of the world,” or He’s pointing the wineskins, birds, and seeds. And His apostles picked up that teaching style. So Paul is picking up this picture of the seal right out of the world of commerce down at the port of Ephesus. When someone buys something, they stamp it, brand it, mark it. It belongs to them, and they’re saying they’re going to come back and get it.
So, let’s develop this a little bit. I want to take the picture of a seal a little bit further. There are three things I want to say that I think speak to what the picture pictures.
Number one, ownership. Pretty simple, right? This is the primary meaning of the idea of a seal. When someone uses a seal, a brand, or a mark, that speaks of possession. They’ve purchased it, and they’re taking possession of it. It’s theirs. They now own it. Nobody can put their paws on it. You see that in Revelation 7:3–8, a future day in the great tribulation, 144,000 witnesses, and it says that God seals them or marks them as His own in the forehead. So that’s a wonderful picture. When you and I heard the gospel and then entrusted ourselves to Jesus Christ and believed in His work on our behalf, God marked us and sealed us by giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And God is saying to you and to Satan, “I own.” God wants you to know He owns you, and He wants Satan and the world to know you’re His.
That’s challenging, but that’s the language, isn’t it, of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: Your body is now “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” And what does Paul say? “And you are not your own.” Now there’s a verse our nation needs to hear in all this talk about the autonomy of a woman’s body. When it comes to the Christian, there is no autonomy, male or female. We’re not our own. We’ve been bought with a price, and we’ve been marked by the Holy Spirit, and we are now His. And every single day we get up, we need to be conscious of that fact. If we’re going to go somewhere, what are we going to do when we get there for His glory? If we’re going to spend some money, does it fit within a biblical stewardship idea of our possessions? You get the point.
I love what Paul says in Acts 27, on the boat right in the middle of the Mediterranean. He’s got a vision during the night. No one’s life is going to be lost in the midst of the storm. He assures that. He says, I need you to know the God who spoke to me last night is the God “to whom I belong and whom I serve.” That’s how Paul thinks. I belong to God. I’m His.
And, my friend, you need to constantly remind yourself of that, in the light of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, regarding your time, your treasure, and your talents. Are they dedicated to corporate America or the kingdom of God? Is it about you, or is it about Him? That’s why Paul says in Romans 12:1–2 that there’s only one logical response to the mercy of God and the gospel, and that’s to present your body a living sacrifice.
Now, in the Old Testament, sacrifices weren’t living; they were slaughtered. But in the New Testament, you and I are a living sacrifice, which means we are to take our eyes and our ears and our hands and our feet and our heart and our life and give them to God each and every day. That’s why the old Christians used to pray before they got out of bed, “Lord, this bed is the altar, and I’m the sacrifice.” And also, John Stott would remind us, the problem with the living sacrifice is it wants to crawl off the altar. And you and I want to crawl off the altar every day. Motherhood’s tough, calls for a lot of selflessness. We want to crawl off the altar of dedicated motherhood, so on and so forth.
Secondly, authenticity. Here’s another picture: authenticity. During biblical times, seals were also used as a means of validation, authentication, proving something to be genuine. There’s a couple of references, but the one I am thinking about is a sad story: 1 Kings 21:8, with Ahab and Jezebel and Naboth’s vineyard. Remember how Ahab pouts because he doesn’t own Naboth’s vineyard, which he sees out the window of his palace. He offers him money, and Naboth says, “I can’t take it. This is my family plot. This is my heritage for generations to come.” And Ahab gets all pouty about it, and Jezebel says, “What’s going on?” He tells her the story, and she concocts a plan to have a lowlife tell a lie on Naboth that will get him killed. And she sends a letter with the king’s stamp on it to certain villainous authorities. But the point is that she stamps it. It’s probably some wax with a royal stamp proving that the letter has come from the royal house.
So, the idea of seal isn’t just ownership. It’s authentication. It’s validation. That’s a beautiful thought, that when you and I are indwelt by the Holy Spirit—and to whatever degree we sense it and see it and He’s at work in us—it’s authenticating us as a true child of God. Listen to these words in Romans 8:9. What a wonderful chapter about the Holy Spirit and His work and about the believer’s future. But listen to these words: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
See, the Spirit indwelling us, producing fruit in us, changing us is proof that we are Christ’s. It’s evidence that we belong to Him. It’s validation. Look at verse 16: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” The sealing of the Holy Spirit is evidence of the believers’ incorporation into Christ. It’s like a passport. It’s like a car title. It’s like a trademark. It authenticates.
I love the story of old Will Rogers from Oklahoma, the American humorist. He once went to get a passport, and the official said to him, “We need to see your birth certificate.” To which he replied, “Why, and what for?” To which the person behind the desk responded, “For proof of your birth.” He looked at him and said, “Well, I’m here, ain’t I? My existence is proof of my birth.”
And Paul is saying that the presence of the Holy Spirit within validates and authenticates your new birth and your relationship to Jesus Christ.
Finally, value. Ownership, authenticity, value. That’s what these seals convey. It’s kind of just stretching the idea of ownership. See, if someone has purchased something and sealed it, they have paid a price for it, and it’s now theirs. And the fact that because they have paid a price for it, it is now a valuable piece of property for them. It’s something that they value. They have paid a price for it. It’s theirs. They value it, and they want it. They’re coming to collect it. And you know what? When the Holy Spirit seals us, God is saying that we are now valuable to Him. We’re special to Him. We belong to Him. And He counts us as valuable.
You ever notice how Peter describes the children of God? God’s “special people” (1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14). God’s “special people.” And that must have been a blessing to the Ephesians. Remember what we said about the culture in that city? It was dark. There was a lot of demonic activity and the black arts, so on and so forth. You’ve got the temple of Diana. And they’re being reminded, although in the world they’re undervalued and mistreated, to God they’re priceless. Although others treated them as worthless, God estimated them as valuable. They’re His purchased possession, marked, which speaks of ownership, authenticity, and value.
A man was rummaging through a garage sale one Saturday morning, and after pushing through a lot of stuff, something caught his eye that was partially concealed. It was an old Harley-Davidson motorbike. It was in terrible condition, so much so that the owner was willing to sell it for $35. Man bought it straightaway, thought he could restore it. He set about restoring it, and in fact he called a Harley-Davidson dealership to inquire of the parts that he needed to rebuild this thing. He gave them the serial number, and then when he gave them the serial number, the guy on the other end went quiet and then said, “Could you hold on, sir? I want to get back to you.” Upon returning to the call, the guy in the dealership asked him, “You know what? Would you do something for me? Would you go and look under the seat and tell me if you see two words inscribed: ‘The King’?” The guy went, lifted the seat, and found, sure enough, two words: “The King.” The dealership offered him $300,000 for the bike. Gobsmacked, he didn’t know what to do. He’s thinking about it.
A day later, Jay Leno from The Tonight Show called him and offered him $500,000, half a million bucks for a $35 bike. But, you see, the value was attached to the fact that it belonged to “The King,” “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Elvis. It wasn’t in great condition, but there was a value on it. And the value was determined by who it belonged to.
And, my friend, what a marvelous thought. Some of us aren’t looking that well this morning. We’re spiritually in disrepair. But God’s at work in us to restore us in Jesus Christ, and we have value to Him because we belong to Him. Knowing God puts a value on our life, and that’s life changing. Your value is determined by the fact you’re made in the image of God. Your value is determined by the fact you’re redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, not silver or gold. And your value is determined by the fact that God has sealed you with the Holy Spirit until He comes to take the purchased possession.
Let’s get to the last thought for the time that remains. We’ve got one more thought: the prospect involved. So, we’ve looked at the people involved. We’ve looked at the picture involved. Finally, the prospect involved. Go on to verse 14. In fact, let’s back up and read 13. We’ll get Paul’s train of thought. “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were [at the point of belief] sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Did you notice the Holy Spirit is now called “the guarantee”? He’s called the seal, but He’s also called the guarantee, the pledge. And what is pledged is forthcoming glory, your final salvation, the end to which God saved you. Now, the Greek word is arrabon. It’s a term that speaks of a deposit, a pledge, earnest money, on like a house. In fact, this could be well translated “down payment,” because that’s what the Greek word is; it was a down payment. Just like in our day, if someone was going to purchase a home or a property, most people didn’t have the means to purchase the whole thing. So, they went with that down payment, maybe 10% or 20% of the total price. They gave their earnest money, their arrabon, their down payment. And that was the promise that more was coming. This was the first installment, the first payment, and they were pledging themselves to pay the full price and ultimately possess and purchase that thing that they had put their money down on. That’s our picture again. That’s our image. It’s a wonderful thing.
In fact, in modern Greek today, it speaks of an engagement ring. Arrabon in Greek today speaks of an engagement ring. Again, similar idea. You’re pledging, promising to give yourself to someone completely in the future.
But let’s stick with this idea of down payment. That’s the prospect. So, God is saying, “I’m going to redeem you in the future. Now I have redeemed your soul.” Because, back in verse 7, we’re told we have redemption. Yet, in verse 14, we’re told we will be redeemed. So, if our soul has been redeemed and our sins have been forgiven, someday our body will be redeemed, and we will be completely saved. We won’t be fighting with our flesh. We won’t be falling to temptation. Someday, inside and outside, we will conform to the image of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thought. And Jesus is coming back to do that, right? Does not yet appear what we shall be, but when He shall appear, we will be like Him, right? (1 John 3: 1–3).
So, the focus of our future inheritance is the redemption of our bodies, our complete salvation. And you need to know this morning that that’s a sure thing. Your soul’s not going to get lost somewhere in between hearing and believing and Jesus’ return because (1) you’re sealed and (2) the Holy Spirit within you is like a down payment. And God, for His glory, is committing Himself to saving you by putting this Spirit within. We are already saved from the penalty and power of sin, and someday we will be set free from the presence of sin. Beautiful. There’s coming a day when we will be sanctified completely (1 Thess. 5:23). That’s the prospect, and that does several things, as time allows me.
Number one, it creates anticipation. It creates anticipation, because what’s a down payment? It’s the anticipation of the full purchase and possession of the person or the property. The guarantee is the promise of something more. The guarantee, the down payment, is not something separate from but the promise of something more. It’s a first installment. It’s a first fruit. It’s a foretaste of more to come. So, in a sense, the Spirit who came from heaven, who indwells us, is a little bit of heaven before we get to heaven. That’s what Paul is saying. That’s why it was said of one of the Puritans, heaven was in him before he was in heaven. And the work of the Holy Spirit is that. It’s a foretaste.
Old Bishop Lightfoot said the actual spiritual life of the Christian is the same in kind as his future glorified life. There are moments, aren’t there, when we get a foretaste of the peace that marks heaven. There are moments in worship where we are bitten by awe and wonder. There’s something going on in your life and my life. We can see it. We wish it was more, but we can see it, that we’re not responding the same way we once did to stuff. We used to respond wickedly. Now we respond righteously. See, that’s the Spirit of God from heaven, giving us a little bit of heaven, until we get to heaven.
I don’t know if this is a good analogy. I don’t like shopping, all right? I’ve said this before. When women go shopping, it’s a safari. When men go shopping, it’s a surgical strike. Boom, we’re in; we’re out. We ignore everything else. Where’s that aisle? Where’s that pair of jeans? Boom, we’re out. But, you know what? Women are on a safari. Oh, look at that and look at that. All right, so if I have to go shopping, the one place I don’t mind going is Costco, because number one, it’s all good stuff. You can’t go wrong at Costco. And number two, while June is shopping, I’m going to all the samplers and trying the little bits of pizza or clam chowder. And, if I really like it, I’ll go and drag June from where she’s shopping and go, “You got to go by there and get me another one of those.” Might even stop a complete stranger: “If you don’t want that, I’ll take it.” But you get the point, right? What’s the sampler? It’s a little foretaste. You get a taste, and you go, “I want a box of that.” And to some degree, that’s what the Holy Spirit . . . I hate the thought of reducing Him down to the idea of a sample of a piece of pizza, but it’s more glorious than that. It’s the idea of a foretaste, right? That’s what they’re doing. They’re giving you a little taste. It’s great marketing, by the way. Other places should do that. But, anyway, you get the point. It breeds anticipation.
Number two, it breeds advancement. So, we’ve got a little bit of heaven in us being produced by the Holy Spirit until we get to heaven. And then it breeds advancement. Piggybacking off the last thought, we are redeemed. Hold on. Verse 7, right? We have redemption. We’ve been bought. Our sins have been forgiven, paid for in the blood of Jesus. And yet we’re being told in verse 14 we are not fully redeemed. We’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit. He’s “the guarantee [the down payment] . . . until . . .” It hasn’t been accomplished yet; it’s coming: “. . . until the redemption of the purchased possession.” So, it not only breeds or creates anticipation. It breeds and creates advancement, because there are movements to salvation.
So, if someone asks you, “Are you saved?” and you are saved, it’s okay to say, “Yes, I am saved.” But that’s only a partial answer. If you want to get really theological, you need to say, “I am saved, but I’m being saved, and someday I will be saved.” You’re saying, “I am justified, declared righteous, brought into a relationship with God, which initially happened when I put my faith in Jesus. But I am being saved. God’s at work in my life right now—helping me to love my wife like Christ loves the church, helping me to submit to my husband like the church submits to Christ’s Lordship, helping me to obey my parents. But someday I will be saved when Jesus comes and takes me to heaven.” All right?
And that’s what this is anticipating. The Holy Spirit is within, evidencing the fact that we have been saved. But He’s within changing us from the inside out; we are being saved. And, someday, Jesus is going to return and completely save us. Marvelous.
There’s an old line in an old hymn: “Saved, to sin no more.” See, you and I, as Martin Luther says, we’re justified but we’re still sinners. That’s one of the challenges of being a Christian. We’re not what we ought to be, but we are moving toward final salvation. And the Holy Spirit within is telling you that is going to happen, for sure. Can I borrow the words of Paul? I’d go somewhere else, but time doesn’t allow me. Philippians 1:6: I’m “confident of this very thing.” Listen to Philippians: “He who has begun a good work in you” will perform it. He’ll keep on saving you “until the day of Jesus Christ.”
God’s not finished with you yet, and your wife’s glad to hear that. You and I need to remember that when we don’t look like who we want to be; when we make rookie mistakes, even as Christians of many years; when we struggle to forgive someone as God has forgiven us; when we’re trapped in a besetting sin. We need to remind ourselves, the Holy Spirit within is reminding us, God’s not finished with us yet. The sealing of the Spirit of God underscores the partial nature of salvation and triggers a constant yearning for that day when our redemption will be complete.
So, I thought about that. I was reminded of a story that actually one of the men in our church here, Chuck Nelson, told me some years ago. I texted him, and I said, “Chuck, you need to remind me of that story.” I told him kind of the bones of it, and he sent me the story. It’s to do with a man called Bernie May, who was the president of JAARS. It was an aviation ministry that took missionaries all around the world in airplanes to remote places to share the gospel. And Bernie May tells about a remote mission station he flew to. He was walking through the jungle when he was encountered by a native warrior. This guy was scantily dressed, full body armor, in a sense, painted face, bone through the nose, pretty much naked from the waist down. But what caught his attention was he had the scraps of a T-shirt on that said, “Be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.” That’s a true story, and here’s the background of the story. This aviation company would often have to fly parts to maintain their aircraft. They would wrap these parts in used cloth to cushion them on the journey, and one of these aircraft parts had been wrapped up in one of those T-shirts: “Be patient with me. God’s not finished.” And this native got his hands on it. What a picture, man. Guy with a painted face and a bone through his nose. He’s scantily dressed. “Be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.” He’s not finished with any one of us yet. So let’s put off the old man and put on the new man after the image of Christ. Let’s remember our destiny is complete holiness. So let’s try to be holy and pursue the disciplines of grace.
Final point. It breeds anticipation, it breeds advancement, and, finally, it breeds assurance. I’m often asked, “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” It’s a great question, and we want to know that. Can I actually lose my salvation now that I’m saved? Can I become unsaved? I think this is the greatest promise regarding the eternal security of the believer. I don’t believe you can be unsaved. Once saved, always saved—by the way, so long as you were saved, but we’ll leave that for another day. But let’s assume you’re saved and you’re showing evidence of that. We’re being told here that we are sealed, and the Holy Spirit within us is the down payment guaranteeing the purchase of the possession.
God Himself, through the indwelling Spirit, is earnest money against our full redemption. And here’s the beautiful thought about this. This is why I think this is the most precious promise regarding your eternal salvation. God is the guarantee, and He’s not about to default on His promises. God is not a man that He should lie. You and I can default—lose our job, ill health, and we can’t pay our bills. We default on our mortgage. But, remember, if you take that idea of the down payment, what is the down payment? Who is the down payment? It’s the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It’s God Himself, and God Himself has indwelt you and me as the promise of our future salvation. God is not about to default on His promise. He can’t. He can’t. God is faithful. He will do it. Here’s the promise that God is keeping His people safe until the end.
Listen to these words as we close from a Southern Baptist writer, Herschel Hobbs: “Now God has agreed to save until the full redemption of all who trust in His son. When you trust in Him, the Father puts up the indwelling Holy Spirit as the earnest money, the down payment. If He fails to keep His word, He loses His earnest money. His earnest money is His Spirit, God Himself. So, if God should lose His earnest money, He would cease to be Himself. God has put up His very being as the collateral that He will carry through to purchase, to possession, fully.”
You can ask for no better guarantee. There’s no better guarantee than God Himself. And God has given you Himself in the Holy Spirit as the guarantee that once saved, always saved—have been saved, am being saved, and someday will be saved.
I heard a pastor back in Northern Ireland tell the story about an old woman who was dying in Scotland. She was on her deathbed. She was showing great confidence in the promises of God regarding her future. Someone raised the question, “But what if God doesn’t keep His promise?” To which she replied, “Well, if God doesn’t keep His promise, God will lose more than me. Because if He doesn’t keep His promise, I will lose my soul. But if He doesn’t keep His promise, He will lose His reputation and His character. And that’s not about to happen, for He saves us for His name’s sake.” That’s why we finish with that little phrase: “to the praise of His glory.”
Father, we thank You for our time in the Word. So rich. We feel like miners who have struck gold in Ephesians 1. We’re mining these precious verses that would remind us of the will of the Father, the work of the Son, the witness of the Spirit—that you’ve got this joint endeavor on the part of the triune God to save mankind. And that gives us great confidence that You that have begun a work in us will perform it. It challenges us to live out the glory of the gospel gloriously, to make sure we’re not fiddling and piddling in life, to remind ourselves we’re not our own, to remind ourselves that eternity is coming and Jesus’ return is near. And we’ve got to get up every day as the children of God and live out the glory of our calling in the gospel. We pray for those among us who are listening today on the radio who haven’t put their trust in Jesus. They have heard, they’ve comprehended, but they haven’t entrusted. Remind them that the distance between heaven and hell is the 12 inches between our head and our heart.
The devils believe, but they don’t believe savingly. Help them to see the glory of Your Son and the promise of eternal life. For these things we ask and pray in Him. Amen.