Sermon Notes

Ephesians 1:11-14 September 19, 1999
Mark of the Father’s Affection: Security

Your safety is only as good as those who protect you. For example, take these following statements from those responsible for protecting the America’s Pacific Fleet before the Japanese attack.

Maj. George F. Eliot, military affairs correspondent in 1938 went on record, saying: "A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is a strategic impossibility!"

Three years later, on December 4, 1941, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox confidently announced "No matter what happens, the US Navy is not going to be caught napping."

But three days later when most were asleep, on December 7, 1941, Duty Officer Lt. Kermit Tyler, upon being told that radar had picked up an unidentified formation of planes closing fast on Hawaii, assuredly stated "Well, don't worry about it . . . . It's nothing."

While these three professionals were committed to protecting our Navy, each one failed in his duty to assess the situation and respond accordingly. Security is only as good as the one promising to protect.

While professing faith in Christ, at times we wonder how secure we really are. We may consider the greatness of our Heavenly Father, but also see the fickleness of our own hearts. We may profess confidence in God’s ability to save, but we grow concerned about that love for me specifically. It is no wonder that many Christians struggle not with the objective truths of the Gospel, but whether they apply personally. Many believers wonder on what basis they can have confidence that what God began in eternity past with His plan of salvation will see us through to the very end.

Over the past several weeks we’ve looked at the marks of the Father’s affection which He places on us. We saw how He chose us to be holy and blameless, how He predestined us to be adopted. We examined how His Son redeemed us by shedding His blood, procuring for us the forgiveness of our sins. All that is well and good, but how can that give me any hope if God’s grace is here one day and gone the next? We’ve come to the end of this lengthy sentence, an end which answers the question of our security, which gives us hope that for all the Father accomplished in eternity past as well as two thousand years ago on the Cross, we can have the certainty today that an inheritance awaits us in heaven.

11. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

12. in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

13. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

14. who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

We are secure because of our inclusion - verses 11-13a

We are included in all the blessings

When you read through this passage you’ll notice Paul switches from "we" to "you" in verse 13.

The change in pronouns is because Paul begins talking about what God did with the Jews, of whom Paul is one, and then applies these truths to his Gentile audience. In chapter two Paul continues this theme of how the Gentiles at one time were cut off, separate from God’s promises, but now are included. It was God’s plan to work with the physical descendants of Abraham and then open up the doors to welcome the spiritual descendants of Abraham.

Paul makes this movement from the Jews to the Gentiles not to exclude the Gentiles from the promises in verses 3-10; rather in verse 13 he brings all of us into the same arena.

In the Greek there is no verb used. The NIV adds "included" to make it flow in English. All of us who were not privileged to receive these promises by birthright, now receive them as we have been included in Christ. What was true for us Jews, Paul says, is also true for you Gentiles.

How are we included?

What is the means used to include us? Verse 13 outlines the way God works in our lives. These are the means by which the Father’s election and the Son’s redemption are applied to us. They are applied supernaturally, yet through very ordinary means.

First the word of truth must be heard

The world in which Paul lived and wrote was a world like ours today - filled with all kinds of twisted, distorted ideas, with attitudes which are wrong, with approaches and philosophies which are absolutely flawed, leading people astray. But people believed them, as they believe them today. We are brought up with our minds cluttered with all sorts of erroneous ideas. How are we ever supposed to keep them straight?

What is needed is a means by which we can determine the validity of all these competing ideas. That measuring stick is described here: the word of truth.

Paul is not saying we heard something that we thought was meaningful, or that we listened to some good advice that made a difference in our lives; he is saying that we heard God's good news, God's word, God's way of salvation. This is the truth that we have heard.

The word of truth describes our condition before God.

You and I know how easy it is to deceive ourselves, to think nothing is seriously wrong in our lives. We minimize our problems, perhaps because we know we are powerless to effect any real change. We externalize the seriousness of our foibles, blaming others for our troubles. We just have to get rid of a couple of bad habits or add a bit more morality and things will be just peachy. But God’s Word tells us the seriousness of the problem.

The Word of truth does not just cut us off at the knees, however, condemning us as sinners. Fortunately, it not only describes our dreaded disease, it also gives us the cure. It is the Gospel of our salvation.

Paul makes the same point in Romans 10, when, after he describes how God graciously worked among the Jews, offers the same promise of eternal life to all who hear and believe. This word, Paul says in 10:8 is near you. How? It is the word of faith we are proclaiming. What is to be our response? Verse 9 tells us that if we confess with our mouths "Jesus is Lord" and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved. In verse 14 Paul equates the call to faith with the act of hearing. There is a content to what must be believed.

There is truth, an objective reality to which you and I must adhere. It is not enough to say "believe" as though we are saved by the strength of our faith. But rather we must communicate the content of what it is we are to believe.

But just hearing God’s Word, knowing the truth of our sinful condition and the solution offered to us in Christ is not enough. We must combine that hearing with faith.

If I tell you I have a million dollars waiting for you after the service, that would not mean you are a millionaire. Just the knowledge of this is not enough. Rather, faith must be exercised by coming up to me after the service and stretching out your hand to receive. Now some of you may well come up to me later wanting your million, but obviously I have not spoken the truth to you. I don’t have the money. Both conditions must be met. What is said must be true and you must respond to that offer with faith.

Our inclusion into all the benefits described to this point come about as God graciously uses His word communicated to His people so that they hear and believe.

If there’s no hearing and/or if there is no faith in what is said, then the benefits are not possessed. Just as these Gentiles were now part of God’s purpose in salvation, just as they now count themselves as elect and redeemed, so can we, if and only if we hear and believe.

But when the Word of truth is presented and when a person responds by faith, believing what is said, that person can be secure that he is included in Christ. There’s no magic formula, no odd rites of passage which one must endure to gain any confidence. Our security comes not from us, but from what Christ did for us.

We are secure because of our invulnerability - verse 13b

We are invulnerable because we are sealed

Being included is great, but one may easily think that our inclusion is only good for so long. Like a Junior High clique, one day you’re in…the next day you’re out. What if God’s offer of eternal life is true and our faith is real, but how secure am I if God changes His mind or I offend Him by my sin? Paul answers that by telling us that coinciding with hearing and believing there is sealing. This image here is one of the most wonderful, encouraging reminders of God’s continual security. It tells us we are, by God’s grace, invulnerable, invincible.

The mark of a seal in the ancient world was an important means by which a person would know the authenticity of an object. The seal told you to whom it belonged and that it was genuine. Not only that, the seal was a means of protection. If the wrong person broke the seal, they would pay for their crime.

Just like the notary’s stamp today on a legal document is a seal guaranteeing that the thing sealed is not spurious, so in the ancient world a seal would be affixed to a letter, so that when it was received, the reader would know from whom it came and that it was not tampered with while in route. During Paul’s life certain religious cults would have their devotees tattooed with the emblem of the cult, and the initiates were then said to have been sealed.

What does it mean that you and I are sealed?

Our sealing means we may be certain, secure in our status as God’s sons and daughters. We can know that the Father’s election and the Son’s redemption is applied to us and that can never be taken away. Later in Ephesians Paul tells his readers not to grieve the Holy Spirit. Not because He may depart from you, but it is with this Spirit you are sealed unto the day of redemption. This sealing assures us of God’s favor, indicating those who belong to Him; and it renders their salvation certain.

When you hear the Word and believe what is said, you are sealed. That sealing is permanent. You have no need to try to make yourself more secure, to try to get more Jesus in your life, to make yourself more appealing to God. Rather you can rest in the knowledge that you are accepted by the Father because you are in Christ and your status is sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Does every believer receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit as this sign or seal?

Paul is perfectly clear here: "having believed, you were sealed," not "having believed, some of you were sealed," or "having believed and having had some additional experience, you were sealed." He simply says, "having believed, you were sealed." Paul is saying that every person who believes in the word of truth is sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

So what did Paul mean in verse 13 when he said that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit?

If the Spirit seals, he seals in faith and seals out unbelief and apostasy. (Tupperware?)

We are secure against unbelief which finally rejects the Gospel. Just as it was God who gave you the faith to believe, you can be assured that He will continue to support and encourage you…even in the face of your struggles to believe.

If the Spirit seals us as a sign of authenticity, then His presence is God’s trademark in our life. That we are sons and daughters is real and authentic if we have the Spirit.

Romans 8:13-14 tells us that those changes which take place in your life are evidences of God’s gracious working in you by the Holy Spirit.

If the Spirit marks us with God's seal He protects us from evil forces which won't dare to enter a person bearing the mark of God's own possession.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life stands as a sentry protecting you from anyone who would claim you as their own.

We are invulnerable because we have received a promise

Paul then describes how it is we are sealed, or rather by whom: the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the Old Testament and during Jesus’s ministry there is the promise that God would send His Spirit. It was the Spirit who would turn hearts of stone to flesh; He would indwell believers, moving them to obey the Father’s law. Jesus likewise promised a comforter and guide. Galatians 3:14 says it is to this end that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we should receive the promise of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit certainly was promised.

But it is more than that we have received what is promised. The sealing by the Holy Spirit is a promise of more to come. That is what Paul outlines in the next verse. There awaits for us an inheritance and for that reason, too, we are secure.

We are secure because of our inheritance - verse 14

Our inheritance is secure because of the Holy Spirit

We have seen so far that we are secure in our inclusion among God’s people; we are secure in our invulnerability for we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Finally we see in verse 14 that we are secure because of our inheritance. The work of the Holy Spirit not only protects us, He also serves as a promise that more and better is waiting for us in the future.

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

Paul uses a technical term to refer to this down payment which the Holy Spirit makes as He indwells each of us. The word here, arrabon, was a legal and commercial term meaning the first installment, down payment or pledge. This was a promise that the full purchase would occur later, but this partial payment was given in advance. This payment secures a legal claim to the article in question and makes the contract valid, like earnest money in buying a house.

Today in modern Greece this same word, arrabon, is used of the engagement ring. The present indwelling Holy Spirit is wonderful now, but the present gift is just a beginning. It is a guarantee that God will give His people greater gifts in the future.

The other week I brought with me that box of love letters Janet wrote to me. I described how in the early stages of our courtship I singled her out. But as the relationship progressed the time came for the ring. While sitting in Steinman Park in Lancaster, I lowered myself to one knee, pulled from my pocket a diamond ring and asked her to marry me.

That ring was only a promise of much more. That ring gave Janet the security, the certainty that I meant business. With that ring on her finger she went out and got Bride’s magazines, set a date, talked to our pastor, scheduled a caterer and rented a hall.

The Holy Spirit is given to us as a pledge of our inheritance. This deposit indicates that God is serious regarding His promises to us. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit means that all God's says He did, He has done. When He said He blessed us with all spiritual blessings, it means He has blessed us. When He says He choose us, and predestined us, and bestowed His grace upon us freely and lavishly, and redeemed us, and revealed His mystery to us, and provided an inheritance for us, it means that He has done it. We know it is real because we have the Holy Spirit.

Our inheritance is being possessed by God

What does that inheritance involve? The first thing we see here is that there is a future redemption.

Last week we looked at the redemption which Christ accomplished for us on the Cross 2000 years ago. We are owned today because Christ purchased us in the past. The transaction is completed at that time, but the full realization comes later. As the time between signing the mortgage and owning your home free and clear may take time, so also with our redemption.

The present indwelling work of the Holy Spirit is just the down payment for the future and final completion of the Father’s work to give us everything He has promised. Though we are now redeemed by the blood of Christ, the fruit of that redemption does not yet appear. What we possess now is only the partial payment. Paul tells us in Romans 8:23 that we have just the first fruits of the Spirit. We are waiting for the completion of our adoption as sons. What is that completion? That our bodies will be redeemed: the resurrection from the dead.

That future promise is that our inheritance is being possessed by the Father.

This language of inheritance begins us back to verse 11 where Paul speaks of our being chosen. The word here is not the same word "chosen" as in verse 4. The word could mean to be chosen by lot, or it meant to be an heir or an inheritance. The one who would receive a substantial gift was chosen to be the recipient of that money. The one who inherits is chosen by the one who gives the good things. The idea of receiving an inheritance implies not random selection, but love.

The same word is used in verse 14 where we are told that the Holy Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. Then another word is used next where we are described as God’s possession.

A possession is something acquired or appropriated. The word literally means "to walk around" referring to the ancient practice of acquiring a piece of property. Walking around a portion of land indicated ownership. The redemption which God speaks of in the future comes because God has walked around us, as we saw earlier; He has pre-encircled us.

That is what Paul says that God has done with us. It is not we who are acquiring possession; it is God. It is He who has walked around us, has marked us out, and given us the down payment, the earnest, the arrhabon, that He is going to come again and claim His purchased possession. That possession is our body. So Paul is referring here to the resurrection of the body, and in that day, he says, God completes the transaction. He comes to claim the whole thing, all for Himself. What He began, He will accomplish. And the guarantee is the presence of the Spirit in your life and mine.

The purpose for this should come as no surprise. Three times in this passage Paul repeats the refrain that all this is to the praise of the Father’s glory. All that God has done is done so that His name will be honored.

The Father is honored in our election, in the Son’s redemption and here, in the Spirit’s sealing us until the very end. You and I have no need to worry whether the Father’s love will run dry, whether we possess sufficient faith to hang on till the end. It is the responsibility of God the Holy Spirit to secure us until that final day. We are His possession, His inheritance, and we will never be lost.

At the time it was completed in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. During the first phase of the $77 million project, 23 men fell to their deaths in the waters of the bay. Very few safety devices were used. Before they began the second section, it was decided that something had to be done. Stout manila cords were fashioned into the largest net ever made (the cost was $100,000), and it was stretched out below where the crews were working. Was it worth it? Ask the 10 men who fell into it without being injured! Not only did it save those 10 lives, the work was completed in three-fourths the time because the workmen were relieved of the fear of falling.

You and I can live out our Christian lives freely, safely, securely, for we are sealed to the very end. We have received God’s earnest pledge, the down payment when we received the Holy Spirit. We can serve God boldly, not wavering whether His love is certain. We can live confidently because He will preserve us to the very end.

Sermon Notes