“In 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, who 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 1:13–14, NASB95)
In Jesus we are immediately set apart and sealed—protected by God through the Holy Spirit. We do not have to wait to receive life or to see its benefits. As I read this I thought of the contrast between a will and something else known as an irrevocable trust. With the will the control rests in the hands of the grantor who is able to change the terms according to his or her desire. With the other, the irrevocable trust, the control rests in the hands of the beneficiary (the recipient of the benefit—the receiver). As we look at the issue of salvation we can see how these two ideas have worked their way into man’s understanding of what God intends. In comparing salvation to a “will” some might say that our salvation is based upon faith plus works indicating that if we don’t live lives pleasing to God that He will revoke our salvation and remove us from His inheritance. It is as to say that God can change His mind. In the case of the other it simply reverses the table to say that once God has offered to us salvation He is helpless to keep us, but that it rests solely on our own desire to remain with Him.
Both of these are severely flawed and do not match the teaching of Scripture. In these verses today we clearly read that there is an irreversible progression in how God works. We starting with the truth of Scripture that He chose us as His elect from before the foundation of the world as we read in verse 4. He predestined us according to His purpose (verse 11). Here we read that after we heard the message of truth concerning the “gospel of [our] salvation” that we then believed. At that time we were then sealed in Christ “with the Holy Spirit….” At the moment we are saved something radically changes. God cannot change His mind, and we know from our previous study that He does not desire to change His mind. He chose us from before we were born knowing absolutely everything about us. He chose us with full knowledge of all of our junk. While we were yet sinners He chose us (Romans 5:8). God determined in advance that He would not change His mind and He would not revoke our salvation. Thus salvation is not like a will and testament but it is the clear testimony of God’s will.
We also see from Scripture that those who God chooses will come to Him and they will not be let go. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30, NASB95) God never relinquishes the choice to us. The choice is His and it always has been His, and those that are His as a result will never be snatched from His hand. Here in Ephesians 1 Paul writes that God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. We are sealed by God, and what God seals no one can break. We aren’t just sealed by a spot of wax melted on paper, but by the very Spirit of God in our lives. His Spirit comes into us and secures us and protects us for eternity. Our salvation is secured and un-severable.
John MacArthur, in his study Bible, wrote, “The sealing of which Paul speaks refers to an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal. Four primary truths are signified by the seal: 1) security (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62–66); 2) authenticity (cf. 1 Kin. 21:6–16); 3) ownership (cf. Jer. 32:10); and 4) authority (cf. Esth. 8:8–12). The Holy Spirit is given by God as His pledge of the believer’s future inheritance in glory (cf. 2 Cor. 1:21).”
Think of it…. We are secured by God. Our salvation is not a fake or substitute in any way. It is authentic from Him. We belong to Him, and as such no one else has claim on us—even Satan and his cohorts. And we are fully protected under His authority. All that God promised belongs to us, and His Spirit is given to us to make this promise real to us even today. We have His pledge to testify of this in us and with that we live with the great assurance of our one day entering into His presence as His possessions to realize in full just what He has done. Again, God did it and only He is entitled to the recognition and praise such that He is glorified.