In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
It’s astonishing how much richness and depth can be found in a mere two verses of scripture. Here the writer of Ephesians, (most probably not Paul), packs in an array of scriptural and material allusions to offer us tremendous reassurance and an immense challenge.
Scripturally, reference to ‘the promised Holy Spirit’ takes us back to the final night of Jesus’ earthly life when he comforted the disciples by promising the Holy Spirit would come to them following his departure (John 14:16-17; 16:12). We are reassured by the knowledge that having responded positively to the good news, the presence of the Spirit in our lives is the sign of God’s possession of us, the ‘seal.’
Materially, the language of ‘seal’, ‘pledge’, ‘inheritance’ and ‘redemption’ provides us with a vivid image from the financial world of the process of salvation. Faith in Christ leads to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, the ‘pledge’ or down payment of our eternal inheritance. The sense of ‘now but not yet’ is clear: redemption, when God takes full possession, lies in the future.
The challenge concerns our response. The initial choice, in verse 13, is whether we respond to the ‘word of truth’ in faith. The ongoing choice is whether we will keep on responding positively and continue to walk in step with the Holy Spirit.
God our Creator, thank you for calling us to be your people. Christ our Redeemer, forgive us when we falter. Spirit our Sustainer, inspire us to persevere. So may our lives be lived to the glory of God today, tomorrow and evermore. Amen.
The Rev’d D. Gillian Poucher is the minister of Gainsborough URC, Lincolnshire