This is the 12th in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation, available at www.mobaptist.org/apologetics.
When believing sinners entrust their lives to Christ, the Father seals them with the Holy Spirit, placing His divine mark of ownership on them, thus ensuring His everlasting presence and their eternal security.
As the Father’s imprint on the surrendered heart, the Spirit reminds followers of Jesus they are secure as coheirs with Christ; authentic citizens of the kingdom of God; in the permanent grasp of the Father; and recipients of God’s divine pledge to finish the work He began in them.
In three New Testament passages, the apostle Paul describes the role of the Holy Spirit in sealing Christians:
2 Cor. 1:22: “He [God] has also put his seal on us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.”
Eph. 1:13-14: “In him [Christ] you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.”
Eph. 4:30: “And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption.”
The Greek verb sphragizo means “to seal, to set a seal upon, or to mark with a seal.” It appears 15 times in the New Testament. Ancient documents often are sealed with a waxy substance to protect the contents and to authenticate them by imprinting the seal of its author in the soft wax. This verb also is used in the sense of sealing something in order to make it temporarily inaccessible (Rev. 10:4; 20:3).
Figuratively, sphragizo certifies the truth of something (John 3:33); the approval of God (John 6:27); or a pledge or guarantee (2 Cor. 1:22). Similarly, New Testament writers use the noun sphragis 16 times to express ownership or to convey authority.
While Evangelicals may debate the timing of this special work of the Spirit, it’s important to keep in mind: (1) all believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit; (2) timing is less important than the significance of the Spirit’s seal; and (3) sealing with the Holy Spirit is permanent and irrevocable, a comforting reality for all followers of Jesus.
Sealing and security
Sealing with the Holy Spirit is the linchpin of eternal security. Essentially, this doctrine conveys two truths, according to Daniel Wallace in the CSB Study Bible: (1) those who are genuinely saved will be saved forever; and (2) those who continue in the faith are genuinely saved. “All who will be saved forever are saved because of Christ’s work on the cross and God’s power to keep them saved,” he writes.
Genuine believers continue in the faith and good works throughout their lives, but not in their own strength. Each member of the Trinity works to preserve us. Christ secures our salvation through His finished work on the cross (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:4-8; 8:1, 29-30; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). The Spirit acts as our seal, a down payment on all the blessings God has promised us (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30). And the Father holds us securely in His grasp (John 10:28-29).
Followers of Jesus are secure in their relationship with Christ. God has known this throughout eternity, as revealed in the doctrines of foreknowledge, election, and predestination. We should know it with firm conviction as well. Jesus tells us that believers in Him already possess everlasting life, which by its very definition cannot be lost.
Being sealed with the Spirit for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30) refers to a future day when God’s work of salvation in our lives is completed as we receive resurrected and glorified bodies. Paul describes this in Rom. 8:23 as “the redemption of our bodies.”
Salvation in all of its marvelous facets nevertheless is a singular work of God. The seal of the Holy Spirit is God’s mark of ownership, authority, security, and pledge. What He closes, no man opens (Rev. 3:7; cf Isa. 22:22).
Our assurance – that is, our confidence in the security we have in Christ – is based, not on feelings, words, or works; it is based on the eternal and wholly reliable God. He has known us throughout eternity, chosen us in Christ, redeemed us out of the slave market of sin, made us His adopted sons and daughters, written our names in heaven, prepared a place for us, and assured us through His Son that wherever He is, we’ll be there, too.