Essay / Theology

The Seal of the Holy Spirit


That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. ~Ephesians 1:12

The end in view in the loving and wondrous purpose of God regarding us, which is set forth in verse 11 is, “that we should be unto the praise of His glory.” Paul defines who he means by “we” –we who had before (i.e. before that coming time when we shall be unto the praise of His glory) set our hope (put our trust for the future) in Christ.” This description means all believers, but particularly the early and primarily Jewish believers. Our hope in Christ is all connected with His future glorious appearing and the blessed results coming therefrom (cf. Titus 2:13; I John 3:2, 3, R. V.).

In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, ~Ephesians 1:13

Paul now turns more specifically to the Ephesian believers, who were in a measure included in the “we” of verse 12, but who are now pointed out in the “ye” so there can be no doubt. Paul makes this clear by saying, “in whom (i.e., in Christ) are ye also.” This translation, “in whom are ye also” is a simpler translation than that given in either the Authorized or Revised Version, though the thought is essentially the same.

Paul goes on to say that these believers in Ephesus were in Him, “having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation.” These words bring out the truth that faith comes from hearing the word of truth (cf. Rom. 10:17). “The truth” to which Paul refers is the gospel; it is the gospel which heard and believed brings salvation (Rom. 1:16), and therefore it is here called “the gospel (or good news) of your salvation.”

But not only had they “heard the word of the truth” and thus been saved, but also having heard and been saved they “were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”(cf. ch. 4:30). A seal is an attestation or guarantee (cf. John 3:33; Rom. 4:11; I Cor 9:2) and a mark of ownership (Eph. 4:30), and just so the gift by God to us of the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of the reality of our acceptance before God (cf. Acts 11:15-17; I John 3:24) and also a mark that we are now God’s own property.

The Ephesian believers had consciously and definitely received the Holy Spirit, as all believers were expected to do in the early church (cf. Acts 19:2; 8:15, 16; Gal. 3:2) and as all believers may and ought to do today (Acts 2:38, 39).

The Holy Spirit manifested His presence in their hearts in many different ways (I Cor. 12:9; 4:13-30). It is unscriptural to think that the Holy Spirit, when God sealed any one with the Holy Spirit, always manifested His presence in the same way, either by speaking with tongues or in any other one specific way.

Their sealing with the Holy Spirit was the result of their believing. The Authorized Version, “After that ye believed,” makes too emphatic the fact of the Holy Spirit coming later than the believing. “Having also believed” (R. V.) is more exact, and the principal thought is not that their receiving the Holy Spirit followed some appreciable time after their believing, but that their believing was the condition of the coming of the Holy Spirit into their hearts. Of course, in that case the believing must then come logically before the receiving of the Spirit, but in point of time the Holy Spirit might have come immediately upon their believing, so that believing and receiving the Holy Spirit, as far as t heir own consciousness was concerned, would be practically simultaneous (cf. Acts 10:44). But in some cases in those days (and in many cases nowadays) the definite receiving of the Holy Spirit came some time after the believing (Acts 8:12, 15, 16; 19:2).

The name of the Holy Spirit which is here used, “the Spirit of Promise, the Holy,” is deeply significant. This name emphasizes the thought that He (the Holy Spirit) is God’s greatest promise (Acts 1:4; 2:33) and Christ’s great promise (John 7:37-39; 4:14; 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-14) to the church.

RA Torrey Spirit of Promise

[This was written by R.A. Torrey for his regular column, “Daily Devotional Studies in the New Testament: For Individual Meditation and Family Worship,” published regularly in Biola’s magazine The King’s Business from 1915-1918. These comments on Ephesians have never been republished since their original appearance there in the June, 1918 issue.]

Share this essay [social_share/]