|Vol. 15 No. 7 July 2013||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Two primary but opposing views of the nature of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are defended by good brethren. Some brethren believe that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian by the means of a vehicle, the Word of God. Others as tenaciously voice their conviction that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian without the means of a vehicle (the Word of God), yet not antagonistic to, but in conjunction with the Word. Proponents of both positions, however, concur that the work of the Holy Spirit today does not involve performing miracles.
Therefore, due to disagreement about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, brethren do not agree upon the correct interpretation of what it means to be sealed in the Holy Spirit. Is anyone sealed in the Holy Spirit today? If so, is every Christian sealed? Was the first-century seal (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) miraculous or non-miraculous? What was the effect of being sealed in the Holy Spirit?
Camp observed that of the sixteen times the word “seal” appears in the New Testament, thirteen occur in the Book of Revelation. Further, the verb “sealed” is found seventeen times, ten of which are in Revelation. “The word always denotes a public mark or external sign, such as the seal on a letter” (173-174). The following Scriptures comprise the primary “sealed” passages. “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, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
These additional passages lend insight to the application of the term “sealed” in the Book of Ephesians. “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33). “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27). “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also” (Romans 4:11). “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain” (Romans 15:28). “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 9:2). “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22). “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
The context of John 3:33 equates the word “seal” with the acknowledgment that the testimony of Jesus is true and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The “seal” may be either oral profession, conforming one’s conduct to Christ’s teachings or ideally a combination of both. In any case, the “seal” amounts to a visible, physical demonstration.
The term “sealed” in John 6:27 represents God’s expressed approval of Jesus Christ. This “seal” was not a secret to men whose souls’ were correctly aligned spiritually. The “seal” of Romans 4:11 was obviously physical (circumcision). Vine penned this about “sealed” (Romans 15:28):
…the formal ratification of the ministry of the churches of the Gentiles in Greece and Galatia to needy saints in Judaea, by Paul’s faithful delivery of the gifts to them; this material help was the fruit of his spiritual ministry to the Gentiles, who on their part were bringing forth the fruit of their having shared with them in spiritual things; the metaphor stresses the sacred formalities of the transaction (Deissmann illustrates this from papyri of Fayyum, in which the sealing of sacks guarantees the full complement of the contents)… (331 emphasis added)
As with other references (Romans 4:11; 2 Timothy 2:19), Vine further noted that “seal” is equivalent to “authentication.” “…in 1 Cor. 9:2, of converts as a seal or authentication of Paul’s apostleship…” (331). The Lord’s people are confirmed to be God’s chosen (class of people) with a visible, physical manifestation or seal. The application of 2 Timothy 2:19 is no different from that of 1 Corinthians 9:2. The questions, though, still remain regarding the identity and manner of reception of this “seal.”
Brother Camp astutely observed regarding 2 Corinthians 1:22: “This is a reference to the apostles. The apostles were sealed as the ambassadors of Christ by the manifestations of the Spirit. Manifestations of the Spirit were always visible. A non-miraculous indwelling of the Spirit would not seal or confirm the apostles as apostles” (174 emphasis added).
Just what was this seal? How or when was it received? Basically two conflicting answers are typically suggested to these and related questions. First, some allege that the “seal” is the non-miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit received by every Christian at baptism, without a vehicle (the Word of God). Those of this persuasion may refer to the “seal” as the personal, literal, bodily indwelling of the Spirit. Secondly, still others assert that the “seal” was the miraculously manifested gift of the Holy Spirit received directly from heaven by the apostles and those at the home of Cornelius as well as others to whom the apostles transferred miraculous power through the imposition of their hands upon them.
A non-miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit would lack sufficient manifestation to be a “seal.” A secret “seal” does not correspond to the word’s definition and customary application in the New Testament. Further, a non-manifested seal (e.g., regarding salvation, 2 Timothy 2:19, or the apostleship of Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:2) would not be verifiable and degenerates to subjectivism or personal feelings. To relegate the “seal” or “gift of the Holy Spirit” to a non-manifested, non-verbal, non-leading experience assigns it to a state devoid of purpose and usefulness.
“…sealed with that holy Spirit of promise…” in Ephesians 1:13 refers to the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, applied to the beginning of the Christian Age by Peter in Acts 2:16-21. This apostle also repeated the promise in the same discourse (Acts 2:38-39). “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Remember that though the promise was to those who were being baptized, but the time at which and manner in which the promise was to be received is not included in Acts 2:38-39. Acts 8:12-17 and 19:1-6 indicate time and manner and reflect a miraculous effect. (Camp 174-176; See Franklin Camp’s excellent points respecting Ephesians 1:13).
The “seal” or “earnest” (Ephesians 1:14) was miraculous manifestation (inspired revelation and miracles to confirm that new revelation). The church in general and Christians in particular possessed miraculous power. This distinguished God’s kingdom and its citizens from Satan and his kingdom. There are, though, no miracles being performed today. However, the church and Christians do not need new miracles today since the miracles that are recorded in Scripture are still effective (John 20:30-31). Neither the church nor Christians are hindered by the absence of new seals today.
The class of the saved (“…sealed unto the day of redemption,” Ephesians 4:30) were the recipients of the promised (miraculous) gift of the Holy Spirit or seal (Acts 2:38-39; Ephesians 1:13). In the first century, individuals were recipients of the gift of the Holy Spirit or the seal respecting their membership in the class of redeemed – the church. Yet, not every Christian received a miraculous gift (seal) of the Holy Spirit, but every Christian belonged to the class of people endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and sealed. Today, every Christian belongs to the class of people (the saved, the church) who were formerly the recipients of the (miraculous) gift of the Holy Spirit or seal. First-century miracles (the seal) are no less effective today to as many as who are added to the church by the Lord.
The “seal” must pertain to the class of people (the saved) of whom the individual child of God is part. If being sealed in the Spirit were the non-miraculous indwelling (without the vehicle of the Word of God) of the Holy Spirit, occurring at baptism, received by each individual Christian, then the “guarantee deposit” and “assuring the child of God of his eternal inheritance and final redemption” (Howard 173) supersedes and is additional to the Word of God because that information must somehow be communicated to the child of God today. This is exactly where the pernicious road to Pentecostalism and the charismatic circus begins!
As long as one denies that the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit equals the “seal” or contends that the “seal” is the personal, literal or no-vehicle indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he unwittingly argues for a supernatural communication between the Spirit and the child of God. In essence, an argument for a non-miraculous seal is self-contradictory because it demands a miraculous communication between the Spirit and each Christian, while at the same time acknowledging that divine communication apart from the Word of God is not now happening. Without some type of discernible manifestation, the “seal” is not a certification or guarantee of anything!
The following are all equal, interchangeable terms and essentially the same: (1) Joel’s prophecy pertaining to miracles (2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21), (2) Peter’s reaffirmation of Joel’s promise, the (miraculous) gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38b-39), (3) gifts of the Holy Spirit, and (4) sealed in the Spirit. First-century Christians were sealed in the Spirit primarily by their membership (fellowship) in the body of the saved, the church, which was fundamentally the recipient of miraculous power. Individual Christians in the first century were sealed in the Spirit upon being added to the class of the redeemed – the church (Acts 2:47). It was immaterial whether an individual Christian could work miracles; some could perform miracles while others could not. With the cessation of miracles, an individual Christian is sealed in the Spirit solely by his membership in the class of the redeemed – the church. The miracles that confirm the Word today are first-century miracles recorded in Scripture – not new miracles. These same miracles seal or certify the Lord’s church and Christians.
Camp, Franklin. The Word of the Holy Spirit in Redemption. Birmingham: Roberts & Son Publications, 1974.
Howard, V.E. The Holy Spirit. West Monroe: Central Printers, 1975.
Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1966.