The Bible speaks of those who were sealed with the Spirit, and who had been given the earnest (or guarantee) of the Spirit. How should these words be understood?
John 6:27, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because the Father has set His seal on Him.”
A seal can refer to a visible stamp or marking on a document. It authenticates or confirms a document to be genuine.
God set His seal on Jesus. The signs Jesus did authenticated that His message was from God (cf. John 3:2). Sadly, some cared more about the loaves and the fish, than what the message was (John 6:26).
2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who has also sealed us…”
Watch the pronouns. “Us” refers to Paul and his co-workers (2 Corinthians 1:1, 6, 8, 19, 21). “You” refers to the saints at Corinth and Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1).
God established Paul and his co-workers to the Corinthians. This word “establishes” could be rendered “confirms.” The reference is to miraculous confirmation (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3).
God anointed Paul and his co-workers. The reference is to miraculous anointing (cf. Acts 10:38).
God sealed Paul and his co-workers. God authenticated their message, as being from God.
Ephesians 1:13, “In Him 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.”
Watch the sequence. First, they heard. Second, they believed. Third, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Acts mentions the conversion of some at Ephesus. The same sequence appears. First, they heard (Acts 19:4-5). Second, they believed enough to be baptized (Acts 19:5). Third, they received miraculous abilities (Acts 19:6).
Acts mentions the conversions of some at Samaria. Again, the same sequence appears. First, they heard (Acts 8:5, 12). Second, they believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). Third, they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
This same sequence is seen in the Great Commission. First the gospel was to be preached (Mark 16:15). Second, it is to be believed and baptism is to follow (Mark 16:16). Third, signs would follow (Mark 16:17).
Franklin Camp commented, “Christ was sealed by the Spirit to confirm Him as God’s Son and to certify Him as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. The apostles were sealed by the Spirit to confirm and to certify them as ambassadors of Christ. The seal on the Ephesians was the manifestations of the Spirit that confirmed them as God’s people” (Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 175).
Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
The Holy Spirit is grieved when man lives sinfully (see: Seven Signs Against the Spirit).
Franklin Camp commented on their sealing. He said, “Read Ephesians 4:7-16. Here are ten verses, and all of these verses are dealing with miraculous gifts… suppose that verse 30 is read immediately following verse 16. Would anyone have a problem in seeing that the sealing was in connection with miraculous gifts? Ephesians 4:30 is in the same chapter and context that discusses miraculous gifts” (Camp, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption, p. 177).
What about the words “for the day of redemption?” The word “for” (eis) tells us that the aim of the sealing is the day of redemption. It is akin to 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, which reads “so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has sealed us and given us the spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
Again, watch the pronoun. “Us” refers to Paul and his co-workers (2 Corinthians 1:1, 6, 8, 19, 21). “You” refers to the saints at Corinth and Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1).
Paul and his co-workers had been anointed and sealed by God in order to establish (or confirm) to others (such as those at Corinth) that their message was from God. The words “anointed” and “sealed” are references to miraculous gifts. The giving of the Spirit as a guarantee should be understood in this context.
2 Corinthians 5:5-7, “Now… God… has given us the spirit as a Guarantee. So we are always confident knowing that while at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
The “us” and “we,” in context, refers to Paul and his co-workers (2 Corinthians 3:1; 4:1, 5, 13-15; 5:1, 13, 18-20). Though, there is an application to all Christians (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8).
God is gracious. (1) He has prepared for the faithful a glorious, eternal habitation (2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:2 cf. 5:5a). (2) He also provided the confidence in Paul, and others, of the things not seen. One of the ways that He did so was by giving the Spirit. Franklin Camp commented, “The word ‘sealed’ and the word ‘earnest’ are simply two different words expressing the same thought by two different figures of speech… The ‘seal’ of the Holy Spirit was the miraculous manifestations of the spirit that certified and guaranteed the integrity of the revelation given and obeyed. The ‘earnest’ of the spirit is the figurative term to indicate the inward enjoyment of the blessings of Christianity, because of the assurance given by miraculous manifestation. How could one enjoy the blessings of Christianity unless he was assured of the truthfulness of the gospel he had received?” (Camp, The Work of The Holy Spirit in Redemption, p.p. 181-182).
Ephesians 1:13-14, “…You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee (earnest KJV) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Some have thought that the “earnest” (KJV) means down payment. However, such is not the meaning (Genesis 38:17, 18, 20 LXX). “Originally, earnest money deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed… In general, usage, it came to denote a pledge, or earnest of any sort” (Vine’s). The word refers to a pledge or a guarantee.
They had a miraculous guarantee. Foy Wallace, Jr. commented, “The Ephesian Gentiles were among them that were afar off in the heathen world and that Holy Spirit of promise was to them the seal and assurance of their inheritance in the gospel of their salvation revealed to them through the Word of Truth” (Wallace, The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit, p. 80).
They had the guarantee of God’s word. There is a textual variant in Ephesians 1:14. Some manuscripts have a masculine pronoun, others have a neuter pronoun. If the pronoun is masculine, then the antecedent is not “Spirit” but “word.” Marion Fox renders Ephesians 1:13-14 this way – “by (or in) whom you also (were made a heritage v. 13 cf. v. 11), after having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, [by (or in) whom after having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,] which (word) is the earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of the possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p, 223). He believes that the guarantee to be God’s word on the matter (cf. John 10:35b; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:13-20).
This is an interesting theory. However, the term “guarantee” or “earnest” two other times is connected with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). I see no necessary reason not to understand it the same way in this passage.
This guarantee was “until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The purchased possession refers to the church (Acts 20:28) or Christians (1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). The redemption refers to eternal redemption (Romans 8:18-25 cf. Titus 1:2). The word “until” is eis. The N.A.S.B. renders it “with a view to the redemption.”
Today, we do have the assurance of His word (John 10:35b; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:13-20). We have the internal evidence of the written word (Hebrews 11:1 cf. Romans 10:17; John 20:30-31).