Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 1:11-14. This was the final section in the lengthy sentence that extends from verses 3-14. It’s one brilliant thought that flows through the work of our Trinitarian God in saving rebel sinners. What a way to begin the letter to the church at Ephesus and surrounding regions. The final verses of this section are focused upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. Like the final stages of a masterpiece of art, the final layer of paint, the details are brought to life and it causes the overall painting to explode with brilliance — so does the work of salvation when we see the overlapping work of our Trinitarian God.
The Inheritance Delivered
Paul drives home this transcendent reality that we have already received this inheritance of salvation in Christ. The basis of our inheritance is Jesus Christ, and as has already been pointed out, we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Although we have not crossed the precipice of eternity, Paul phrases this in the past tense. There is absolutely certainty that those chosen by the Father and redeemed by the Son will receive the fullness of the inheritance in the future. Although some blessings are enjoyed now – the full inheritance is reserved for those who are in Christ.
As this thought unfolds, we see that Paul points to the reality that this was all included in the plan of God. We were predestined according to the counsel of His will. Often the explanation of salvation involves people claiming that God looks through a vast tunnel of time to see the actions of free humans and based on their actions, He then predestines them to eternal life or eternal damnation. Is that what Paul is communicating here in the first chapter of Ephesians? It seems to be the exact opposite. The work of predestination and election are said to be operating in accordance with the will of God — not the actions of humans as foreseen in the future.
The Inheritance Guaranteed
The totality of salvation is guaranteed to happen and to remain secure because it is brought to pass by the work of the Holy Spirit. In the counsel of the Trinity before the universe was established, God planned to save sinners. He likewise planned how the salvation would take place. Would He send angelic beings to preach the gospel? Would He send birds to deliver a message? How would it work? God planned to save sinners by His Son’s work on the cross, but how would guilty rebels receive this message? It would be through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is at work in saving sinners first of all, by bringing into existence the holy Scriptures. From Old Testament to the New Testament, we see the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit then does a work of calling sinners to respond to the effectual call of God in the preaching of the gospel. As sinners repent and believe the good news of the gospel, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit and their inheritance is guaranteed. Consider how the Spirit of God calls sinners:
- called to fellowship with the Son (1 Cor. 1:9)
- called to inherit a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9)
- called to freedom (Gal. 5:13)
- called to peace (1 Cor. 7:15)
- called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7)
- called to a worthy walk (Eph. 4:1)
- called to one hope (Eph. 4:4)
- called to eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12)
What exactly does it mean that the Holy Spirit seals believers? Seal, in this text, is the Greek word, σφραγίζω – to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal. In Roman times, the seal represented the following:
When we are born again, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit who indwells us and this is a seal of ownership and security that validates our salvation. Paul goes further to explain by calling the Holy Spirit our guarantee (ἀρραβών = money which is paid as a down payment to secure it) of the future inheritance that we already possess. In short, if we could lose our salvation, we would. God has guaranteed that we will not by providing the earnest (downpayment), and securing our salvation in Himself. As Jonah said, “Salvation is of the LORD.” From beginning to end, our salvation is the will of God and secure in Him.