The Gift of God’s Spirit
Confidence, Redemption, Humility
We have spent the last few weeks looking at the great sentence of praise that we find in the first fourteen verses in the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. You may feel we are moving very slow through this text. If so, you should know that the late Welch preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was already on sermon 26 in his study of Ephesians by the time he reached these verses! These are verses filled with precious and deep truth.
So far we have seen that the Father designed and planned our salvation. God (for some reason unknown to us) snatched us from the fire of Judgment that we deserved. He changed our hearts so we would come to believe in Him. He called us to be holy and blameless in His sight.
The Son (Jesus) carried out the Father’s plan. Jesus died in our place, for our sin, so that our account might be “paid in full”. He redeemed us. Not only did He pay our debt, He also restored us to a healthy and vibrant relationship with God (He reconciled us). Everyone who embraces Christ as Savior and follows Him as Lord is one who demonstrates that they have been chosen, redeemed, forgiven, and restored.
This morning we look at the role of the third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit applies the plan of God in our life. Paul writes,
Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. [Eph. 1:13-14]
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is very active in our lives. We cannot be aware of our need of redemption without the Spirit; we cannot even believe apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible we are told the Holy Spirit fills us with a sense of God’s love, He guides us into all truth, He builds within us Christlike character, He helps us when we pray, and He gives us gifts to be used in serving the church. The Holy Spirit works out the practical effects of our salvation. Paul lists several three particular benefits that come from the Spirit in our text.
Marks us as His Own
We are told that we are “sealed” with the Spirit. We are familiar with the idea of a seal.
In Bible days, a seal could mean three different things. The first is as a sign of authenticity. It was a wax seal that confirmed a document as authentic. If you are applying for a passport or even if you are to be enrolled in school you need a certified copy of your birth certificate. What does that mean? It means you need a birth certificate that contains the seal of the court house which shows the birth certificate to be genuine. When currency is printed it contains a seal that is designed to distinguish it from currency that is counterfeit. You will often see cashiers hold a large bill up to the light.
Second, a seal would be used to mark something as one’s property. Think about this like a brand or tag that you might put on livestock. Those who survived the Holocaust have numbered tattoos to mark them as prisoners. When we write our name on the inside cover of a book we are putting our “seal” on it to show it belongs to us.
Third a seal was used to protect something. Think about a crime scene that is sealed off with that yellow tape or with a police seal that prohibits you from opening a door. The seal keeps the scene secure until all the evidence has been gathered.
Each of these three uses of the word “sealed” can be what Paul was referring to. The Holy Spirit
- Marks us as an authentic believer . . . if you don’t possess the Holy Spirit you are not a genuine believer. The two go together.
- He marks us as one who belongs to the family God. Regardless of the church you attend, if you possess the Holy Spirit, you are part of His family. The Holy Spirit assures us of our salvation.
- The Holy Spirit secures our salvation. When we are given the Holy Spirit our salvation becomes certain. (We’ll talk more about this in a few minutes).
The Holy Spirit is a Deposit of what is to Come
Paul says the Holy Spirit is a deposit. The word “deposit” denotes a pledge or a guarantee. If you wanted to buy a house you would give the owner “earnest” money to show that you were serious about the intent to buy. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is the first payment on what God is going to do in and through us.
When Rick talked about the Son he showed us that through Christ we will eventually be restored to life as God created it to be. We will once again live like Adam and Eve before sin entered the world. They walked with God and talked with God. They knew intimacy, peace, joy, and fulfillment.
God gives us the Holy Spirit to live in us so that we might have a taste of that future day. He is the down payment on that future day. Through the Holy Spirit we get a taste of what it is like to with God.
Pastor Kent Hughes writes
Imagine the sublimest, most treasured experiences of the Holy Spirit we have ever had and then realize they are only a foretaste, the tip of the tongue on the spoon, of what is to come. Remember the release in coming to Christ and knowing you were forgiven? Remember that time when in worship you were smitten with awe? Remember the time you followed the Spirit’s leading and were wonderfully used? Remember the satisfaction of finding the fruits of the Spirit surprising you with goodness where you once responded wickedly? Think of all this and then multiply it a millionfold. Here on earth we have experienced the first dollar of a million celestial dollars — the earnest. We have the dawning of knowledge, but then we will have the midday sun. “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
The Holy Spirit Guarantees Our Inheritance
Paul says the Holy Spirit is a deposit which guarantees our inheritance. New car makers offer guarantees that if you have any problem with your car during the first so many miles they will repair it without charge. They want you to feel confident about your purchase. When we sign any contract we enter into a transaction that we guarantee according to the terms of the agreement.
Notice what is guaranteed here: our inheritance. When we truly place our trust in Christ, God gives us the Holy Spirit who serves as a guarantee of our salvation!
This is important because many people mistakenly believe that we are saved by God’s grace and then “staying saved” is up to us. God doesn’t make us new in Christ and then say, “OK, now it is up to you.” If that was the case I would be in big trouble and I think you would say the same. The clear teaching of the Bible is that we are saved by God’s grace from start to finish. He brings us to faith, He builds our faith, and He holds us in faith.
Some object to this notion because they say it makes people lazy. This is to misunderstand the nature of faith in Christ. The person who is a true Christ follower has come to realize that they are headed in the wrong direction; they are on a dead end street and need to be rescued by God’s grace. Becoming a follower of Christ is not a onetime experience; it is the commitment of a lifetime. When we have genuine faith in Christ the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. The Spirit begins to bring real change in our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to break our sin addictions, and see beyond ourselves. He gives us a hunger for holiness. The person who is secure in their faith is not lazy; they are humble, grateful and confident.
One of my favorite accounts is of a Pastor who went to visit a person in the Nursing home. The person was agitated because they could not remember any of the promises of God. They wondered if they had lost their salvation. The Pastor, who knew the person well, said, “You may not remember any of the promises but God has not forgotten a single promise”. Our confidence is not in our ability but in His ability!
Please understand, genuine believers continue to stumble and fall; there will are days when we seem to regress rather than progress. However, for the genuine believer these things are temporary. The true believer will continue moving forward because the Holy Spirit is working within them.
As we reflect on this text we can draw three applications or lessons for our lives.
We should seek to glorify the Lord in all that we do. We are told that all these things we have been studying lead to one end: they bring glory to the Lord. And why not? The Lord has done amazing things in our life. He has shown us His flawless character and His majestic greatness. The world should see that greatness.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”The point is clear: we should be living in a way that reveals God’s greatness to the world. We should glorify Him
- In the way we work
- In the way we use our free time
- In the way we spend our money
- In the way we treat the difficult people in our lives
- In the way we handle hardships
- In the way we approach controversial issues
- In the things we say
- In the promises we make
- And In the way we worship
God alone deserves to be on center stage. Think about a movie set. Everyone who is involved in the production is trying to do the same thing: produce a good film. Some are actors, others make the actors look their best. Some write, others work on lighting and sound. All of them work together for one purpose: to make a profitable film.
We are like those people on the movie set. Our job is to do everything we can to point people to the Lord of Life! Our job is to tell His story, point to His greatness, and invite others to know His grace.
Second, we should live gratefully and humbly. The Father has chosen us, the Son has died for us, and the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us. The message of the Bible is clear: God has done none of this because we deserve it; He has acted graciously toward us in spite of what we deserve!
We must remember this. When we are tempted to swell with pride or a sense of self-righteousness we must remind ourselves that we belong to Him not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us. We have “earned” nothing!
As we look at the most vile sinner we need to remember that the only difference between us and them is the grace of God. Someone has said that we have much more in common with Adolf Hitler than we do with Jesus Christ. They are right! The difference between us and Hitler is just that of a few degrees. The difference between us and Christ is incalculable.
Remember that the most stern words of Jesus were reserved for the Pharisees. He went after these guys because of their self-righteousness. They believed they had earned God’s blessing. They would claim that God “liked them more than others” and . . . . “why wouldn’t He?” The true believer, the one who has any grasp at all on what God has done for us should never feel this way.
Every single day of our lives is a remarkable, precious, and undeserved gift from God. We should live humbly and gratefully.
Since God has given us His guarantee, we should live confidently. Let me draw a contrast for you. Think about two people who have to give a speech to a group of people. The first one is timid and terrified. They are tired since they haven’t slept because they are so worried about their presentation. They are sure they are going to stumble over their words and will embarrass themselves. They make no eye contact as they speak. They may mumble or talk so fast that they are unintelligible. If someone asks them a question they interpret it as criticism and may fall apart. This speech is uncomfortable for everyone.
The second person speaks with confidence. They are excited to share what they know or have learned. They make frequent eye contact. They are deliberate, clear, and winsome. They connect with their audience and enjoy the experience. So does everyone else.
Too many people live their Christian life like the scared public speaker. We tend to keep our head down and our mouths shut in the hope that no one will notice us. We are petrified that we are going to do something wrong and will get kicked out of God’s family. We focus more on rules that relationship.
God wants us to be confident and live joyfully. He wants us to know that we are never on our own. He is with us and will always be with us. He wants us to remember that since “God is for us, no one can stand against us.” He wants us to rest in the promise that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6)
Confident followers refuse to remain discouraged by failures and struggles. They recognize that God calls us to scatter the seed of His truth . . . only He can make that seed grow.
He wants us to live with enthusiasm, no matter what the circumstance, because we rest in Him. He wants us to live boldly because we know that whatever meager contribution we can make to God’s Kingdom; that contribution, in His strong hands, can accomplish more than we can imagine.
God wants us to cease being preoccupied with ourselves and “how we are doing”. He wants us to be able to see others, to feel their heartache and to extend a more genuine compassion. We can’t love others if we are preoccupied with ourselves.
The Lord wants us to walk with Him and to realize that when we walk with Him we don’t need anything else. This is why He gave us His Spirit: so we could walk with Him on a daily basis. He wants us to experience true contentment.
Christian people should smile often. We should sing with energy and gusto because we have much to sing about. We should be the most positive people in the world (which is the opposite of the way we are usually viewed by the world.) If we will live this way we will be different from the rest of the world. People will notice. And most important of all, God will be glorified.
I hope you have seen that the truths in these first verses of Ephesians are not simply truths that must be learned. These truths have a very practical impact on the way we live our lives. What we truly and really believe will determine how we live our lives. Another way to state this principle is this: the way we live our lives reveals what we really believe.
An academic faith is easy to compartmentalize. However, when faith becomes personal . . . it changes everything.