Sealed with the Holy Spirit

In several passages of the New Testament, references are made to the seal of the Holy Spirit.  Consider these passages here:

  • 2Corinthians 1:21-22 -- 21Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

  • 2Corinthians 5:5 -- Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

  • Ephesians 1:13-14 -- 13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

  • Ephesians 4:30 -- Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

2Corinthians 5:5 does not use the term "seal," but it is clearly connected to the other passages in its message.  Presently, let us consider these passages together so that we may understand the seal of the Holy Spirit.

A seal is a mark that identifies, proves, authenticates, and confirms.  At the time the New Testament was written, seals were often made by signet rings pressed into wax.   A wax seal was used to enclose official correspondence so that the recipient would know that the message was authentic by the distinctive mark of the seal.  Wax seals are not often used today, but other kinds of seals are still common in government and professional documents.

The concept of a seal is used in the Scriptures to explain the mark of the Holy Spirit upon Christians.  This mark is simply the means by which God has distinguished His people in Christ from others and has authenticated them as His own.  A careful reading of the passages above reveals that the Spirit Himself is not the seal, but rather He is the one through whom the seal was given. He is described as a pledge, which means that God gave His Holy Spirit as a promise or a down payment of the inheritance He will give to us through Christ in eternity.  His Holy Spirit then sealed us with the mark that identifies us with God through Christ.

So then, what exactly is the seal given by the Holy Spirit?  One might suppose that this is a reference to the miraculous, spiritual gifts that were given by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the church (Acts 2:14-21; 1Cor. 12:1-11).  Certainly, those gifts were a manifestation of the Spirit's presence and power, but they were not the only indication of the Spirit among Christians. Besides, these gifts are no longer active among Christians, for the fullness of knowledge and prophecy by God's word has now come in the completed Scriptures, and those miraculous gifts have been done away (1Cor. 13:8-12).  Therefore, if we bear the seal of the Holy Spirit today, it must be by some means other than miraculous gifts.

In truth, those who are sealed by the Spirit are simply led by the Spirit so that they are distinct from the world and obviously allied with God.  This is explained well in Romans 8:5-14:

5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  12So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- 13for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

This seal of the Holy Spirit and His indwelling are not a mysterious effect, an overwhelming feeling, or an irresistible influence, but rather they are simply a matter of doing what the Spirit has led us to do through God's word.  In other words, when we bear the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- we show the seal of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25).  In this way, we are set apart from the world and authenticated as children of God.

The question that remains for us to answer is whether we are bearing the seal of the Holy Spirit.  When people see us, do they see a distinction from the world that authenticates us as children of God?  Do we let our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16)?  If so, then we are showing the seal of the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who has led us to walk in and to reflect the light of God.  .  Has God stamped the seal of His Spirit on you?

Stacey E. Durham


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