Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Blessing Of The Holy Spirit

So far in our study of the spiritual blessings listed in Ephesians 1 we have focused on the blessings from the Father (Part 1, 2, 3), and the Son (Part 45, 6), and we have seen that these blessings are applied to us through the preached gospel message (Part 7). Now let's look at the One who applies these blessings to us through the gospel: the Holy Spirit.
Paul praises God for the great spiritual blessings associated with the Holy Spirit’s work in the ones God chose (Eph 1:4) and Christ redeemed (1:7):
Sealed.were sealed…” (Eph 1:13c).
In Paul’s time and context this word (sealed) conveyed several meanings, including protection and preservation (ESV notes, O’Brien), certifying our authenticity (ESV – ‘royal seal’), or a mark of ownership (Stott, O’Brien). The Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 3:16) and is the proof that we are genuine believers; that we belong to God. He also is the seal of protection (Rev 7:3; 9:4). God has set his seal on his chosen people, who believe on Christ at the preaching of the gospel!
The Promised Spirit.with the promised Holy Spirit…” (Eph 1:13d).
Now Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the one who was ‘promised.’ Though saints in the Old Testament were brought to life by God’s Spirit, and God’s Spirit was active in their lives as the people of God, only prophets, priests, and kings experienced the Spirit in great measure. But the promise was given by God that in the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit would be given in a greater way to all God’s people!
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.            Joel 2:28-29, ESV (see also Ezekiel 36:27)
Jesus also gave this promise:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39, ESV (see also John 14-16; Acts 1:4-5)
True to his promise, the Lord poured out his Spirit on his people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
The New Testament makes a HUGE deal about the Holy Spirit as the blessing of the New Covenant. This can be illustrated in the account of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter entered the home of Cornelius (a Gentile!), and as he preached Christ, God poured out the Spirit on the Gentiles who were present! Peter had them baptized, for they had received the promised Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). When Peter returned to Jerusalem the Jewish believers were upset with him for going into the house of a Gentile. So Peter told them the whole story. What convinced these Jewish Christians that the Gentiles had been included in the New Covenant? It was when they heard that God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit. It was then that they stopped protesting and “glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’ (Acts 11:18).
We also see the Holy Spirit's importance as the blessing of the New Covenant in Paul's conversation with the disciples he found in Ephesus. The first things Paul asked them was if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 19:1-7).
The promised Spirit has been given by God to Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— [14] so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14, ESV
The Guarantee.who is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (Eph 1:14a). It keeps getting better! Not only do we have the Holy Spirit of promise as our seal, declaring that we are chosen and loved and owned by God, but now Paul reveals that the Spirit is the ‘guarantee of our inheritance!’
This word gives us great encouragement. It means down payment, or pledge, and became the ordinary commercial term for a down payment or first installment (O’Brien). It is God’s ‘pledge to bring us safely home to our final inheritance’ (Stott). Stott goes on to say that ‘God is not simply promising us our final inheritance but actually providing us with a foretaste of it!’ When we receive the Holy Spirit, God is giving us his ‘earnest money,’ ensuring us that he will finish what he started; he is guaranteeing that we will get the rest of the ‘salvation package’ Christ earned for us at the cross.
...and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.         2 Corinthians 1:22
The indwelling Spirit of God is our guarantee...for how long? “...until we acquire possession of it…” (Eph 1:14b). This phrase, like the one in verse 11, is either speaking of our obtaining an inheritance from God, OR God choosing us as his own inheritance (both are biblically true). It is either saying that the Spirit is our guarantee until we acquire the rest of our inheritance, OR that he is our guarantee until “God redeems his possession” (ESV notes). This is consistent with how God refers to his people in other places:
They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession… Malachi 3:17, ESV (see Exodus 19:5; Deut 14:2; Peter uses this language of the church in 1 Peter 2:9 – O’Brien)
Again, either way, the meaning is clear. God has given us the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing to finish the salvation work he has begun until the day we are together with him in glory! We will be his treasured people, and he will forever be our treasure!
Paul says later on in Ephesians, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, (4:30). Redemption here is not referring to our being purchased at the cross, but looks ahead to the future consummation, as in Romans 8:23. So we have the Spirit until the time of the consummation of all things in Christ. So in hope, we look ahead to our future experience of God's grace:
…set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13, ESV
John Piper speaks of the encouragement this gives us: "We are secure in God’s love and power. Warnings in Scripture are written to threaten our security in everything but God. Sin is an effort to feel secure in anything other than God. …God seals the believer with the Holy Spirit and guarantees that we will come to our inheritance praising his glory."
And that is just how Paul ends. “... to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:14c).  All of the application of these blessings to us through the Holy Spirit is to the great goal of God’s praise! Paul’s hymn of praise ends where it started – the praise of God!
Praise God for these spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to the praise of God's glory!

  • The Letter To The Ephesians; Peter T. O’Brien; ©1999; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI.
  • The Message Of Ephesians – God’s New Society; John R. W. Stott; ©1979; InterVarsity Press, USA. Downers Grove, IL.
  • Sermon by John Piper: Sealed By The Spirit To The Day Of Redemption
  • ESV Study Bible Notes; ©2008 Crossway Bibles; Wheaton, IL.

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