Friday, 8 July 2016
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, Ephesians 1:13
The word “trusted” in this verse is inserted by the translators, assuming that it is referring to “trusted” in verse 12. It only says, “In Him you also, after…” What Paul is referring to is debated, but what seems likely is that he is speaking of the inheritance and predestination of verse 11 –
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
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…”
The reason this is likely is because later in this verse he notes their belief, something synonymous with trusting. And so here, it is more likely that he is speaking about the inheritance and predestination than simply repeating the idea of trusting. Paul is specific that the Gentiles (represented by the Ephesians at this time) have also received what the Jews had received. This reception came about “after you heard the word of truth.”
A person cannot receive the inheritance without being told about it, unless one believes that the inheritance is something given apart from faith. But this is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, including the rest of the verse to come. It is only after hearing this word of truth, which as Paul says to them is “the gospel of your salvation,” that the inheritance can come. This gospel is the message of God’s workings through Christ in order to redeem man. It is the grace of God in Christ which alone can bring salvation.
After giving this carefully worded thought, he next says, “…in whom also.” This is referring to “In Him” at the beginning of the verse, and thus to Christ who has been the main subject of verses 3-12. Paul continuously reminds us that all of these spiritual blessings come about through being “in” Christ.
In order for this to happen, he then describes to them how it happened with the words, “…having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The Bible never teaches the Calvinistic idea of “regeneration in order to believe.” In other words, it is neither explicit or implicit – here or anywhere else – that this occurs. Belief is a volitional act of the will. It is not, either before or after salvation, something forced in man externally. Such a warped doctrine is never hinted at in the Bible. Instead, it is always shown that God is pleased with faith which comes from the man when he exercises his own free-will.
When the individual believes, he is “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The word for “sealed” is sphragizó. It “signifies ownership and the full security carried by the backing (full authority) of the owner. ‘Sealing’ in the ancient world served as a ‘legal signature’ which guaranteed the promise (contents) of what was sealed” (HELPS Word Studies).
This seal then is as sure as a signature of ownership by God. It is something that is given and will never be taken back. If it were to be taken back, then it means that God has made a mistake in His sealing; something impossible. Paul will explain this further in the next verse. For now, the logical progression of what Paul is saying is –
- A person hears the word of truth (the gospel of their salvation).
- They believe the message.
- They are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
- They are now entitled to all of the benefits that the Jews, as an inheritance, also received by that same process of faith.
The key point to remember is that none of this would have occurred without first hearing the gospel message. As Paul said to the Romans –
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
Only after hearing can one believe, and only after one believes are they sealed with the Holy Spirit. When sealed with the Holy Spirit, the individual will also share in the inheritance. Without that sealing, they will have no such inheritance which is found in God’s provision in Christ.
As a point of debate, Vincent’s Word Studies agrees that the word “trusted” is incorrect, but he says that the thought “In Him you also” is nominative to the words “were sealed.” This doesn’t make sense as the “were sealed” comes after the thought, not before. As Paul didn’t use the term in the preceding verses, it is what the later-mentioned sealing results in – that of an inheritance – which is mentioned both before and after the words, “In Him you also.” The highlight of Paul’s words are on the wondrous benefits which result from the process, not the process itself.
Finally, the Pulpit Commentary notes that, “The Spirit is called the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 3:1, etc.).” What had long been anticipated by the Jews has come about because of the work of Christ. This promise was granted to them, but it is also granted to all who believe, even among the Gentiles.
Life application: You can no more lose your salvation than God could make a mistake.
Lord God, Your word says that we are sealed with the Spirit of promise when we believe the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. By simply trusting in the work of Christ in fulfillment of the law, we are accepted by You as if Your signature has been inscribed on us. We could no more lose this than You could make a mistake in giving it; something impossible. Our heavenly inheritance is secure because of the work of Christ! What a marvelous surety we have! Thank You for this promise, O God. Amen.