THE ANOINTING, THE SEAL, AND THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT
Thomas Houghton, 1937
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1.21,22.
Three important words are used here, setting forth the relationship of the Holy Spirit to God’s people. They are the words, “anointed,” sealed,” and “earnest.” The blessings to which these words pointed were enjoyed by the Apostle Paul and Timothy (chapter 1.2), and by all the people of God at Corinth. They were all Divinely anointed and sealed with the Holy Ghost, and they all possessed the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts. What was true of them is true of all other believers. The declaration made of God’s people in apostolic days refers equally to the people of God today. All the saints of God, whoever they are, and wherever they dwell, are annointed and sealed with the Holy Ghost, and possess Him as the earnest in their hearts. Here are three marks of the people of God. Destitute of these marks we cannot say that as yet we are numbered amongst the family of God. The anointing, the sealing, and the
earnest are blessings which appertain to all the elect people of God. “They that have My Spirit, these,” saith He, “are Mine.”*
1. First, notice that God hath anointed His people with His Spirit.
It is important to emphasize the Divine source of this anointing. “He which hath anointed us, is God.” We do not anoint ourselves, nor are we anointed by episcopal hands, nor by any human hands. God Himself, in the exercise of His sovereignty, anoints all the objects of His mercy with His Spirit. He pours His Spirit abundantly upon them through Jesus Christ, their Saviour (see Titus 3.6).
The word “anointed” suggests at first sight the use of oil, or ointment. We read of Christ, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” But the words “oil” and “anointed” are figurative, and are based upon a literal use of ointment in Old Testament times. In those times prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil, and thus set apart for the work to which they were called. Moses was Divinely instructed to make “an oil of holy ointment.” With it he was to anoint the tabernacle and all its vessels, and thus “sanctify them that they might be most holy.” He was also with this “holy anointing oil” to “anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office” Exod. 30.25-30. Later on, the Lord told Elijah to ‘anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-melolah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room”! Kings 19.15, 16.
By this anointing, prophets, priests, and kings were set apart for their offices. The oil was symbolic of the Holy Spirit, though we have no reason to think that the anointing with the symbol was always accompanied with the thing symbolized. When, however, Samuel anointed David to be king, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” 1 Sam. 16.13.
All this was typical. The Aaronic priesthood and the Divinely appointed prophets and kings of Israel were typical of Christ. He is the Prophet like unto Moses. He is “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” Ps. 110.4. He is the King, the Lord and Master of His people. He is the Son of God, He is “the King of Israel” John 1.49. Holding these offices He could say, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” Isa. 61.1. Not with literal oil was He anointed, but “God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power.” He is described as “Thy holy child Jesus whom thou hast anointed” Acts 4.27; 10.38.
Christ did not appoint Himself to the offices which He holds. He is the Divinely appointed and anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of His people. He was called of God to these offices (see Heb 5. 4-6). His true sheep listen to His prophetic voice, they trust only in His priestly sacrifice, and rejoice in His priestly intercession;
moreover, they own Him as their supreme Lord, Master, and King.
But all His people are the members of His mystical body, and God hath not only anointed the Head, but all the members with His Spirit. The precious ointment upon the head of Aaron and upon his beard, “went down to the skirts of his garments” Ps. 133.2. In like manner, the same Spirit by whom Christ was anointed is poured down upon all the members of His mystical body. Of His fulness they all receive. They are made full in Him (see John 1.16; Col. 2.10,19; Acts 2.33; Titus 3.5, 6). Hence the Apostle John says, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2.20, 27).
Christ is the Holy One (Acts 3.14), and He baptizes all His people with the Holy Ghost (John 1.33; Matt. 3.11). The result is they are taught by the Spirit, and they know all needful things.
The Apostle John had been saying that antichrists shall come, and that even then there were many antichrists. Then he assures God’s people that the antidote against all antichrists is the teaching of the Holy Ghost. He teaches all God’s people all essential truth. “Not that the believer is infallible; for none here receive the Spirit in its fulness, but only the measure needful for keeping him from soul-destroying error. So the Church, though having the Spirit in her, is not infallible (for fallible members can never make one infallible whole), but is kept from ever wholly losing everywhere the saving truth” (Canon A. R. Fausset).
God’s people are not wholly dependent on human teachers. They are all taught of God by His Spirit, and through the Spirit-inspired Word. Christ raises up teachers in the Church, and we may really profit by them, but we are taught apart from them by the Spirit,
who opens our understandings that we may understand the Scriptures.
It is important to remember that the Spirit teaches His own inspired Word. That Word is able to make wise unto salvation. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. All this shows that though we are anointed with the Spirit, our knowledge and spiritual growth are dependent on the prayerful study of that Word which the Spirit has caused inspired men to write for our learning. We need to beware of the doctrine that we can be independent of Scripture for spiritual knowledge.
Dr Gill says, “Saints under the Gospel dispensation are taught of God by His Spirit, according to the Word of truth, and by the ministry of it, and have no need of learning every man from his neighbour, or from his brother, any separate revelation; so that this message does not militate against the external ministry of the Gospel, or human teachings according to that perfect rule and declaration of the whole mind and will of God by Christ under the Gospel dispensation.”**
2. In the second place God hath sealed His people with His Spirit.
The sealing of God’s people by the Spirit is referred to twice in the Epistle to the Ephesians. “Ye were sealed,” says the apostle, “with
that Holy Spirit of promise”; and he also says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 1.13; 4.30).
Here we have other teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. A seal has used for the purpose of security. The chief priests and Pharisees /ere afraid that the disciples might come and steal Christ’s body, and say He was risen from the dead. They asked Pilate, therefore, to command that the sepulchre should be made sure. Pilate said, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” Matt. 27.62-66. Under ordinary circumstances the sealing of the stone, and the placing of a guard of Roman soldiers at the sepulchre would have secured that no outsider could interfere with the sacred body of our Lord. But supernatural power was put forth and the stone, the watch, and the seal were helpless to prevent the resurrection of our Lord from the dead at the appointed time.
There is, however, another illustration of security by means of a
seal given in the Revelation. An angel came down from heaven “having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled” Rev. 20.1-3. In other words, the bottomless pit was shut up and sealed so that the devil could not deceive the nations any more till the time Divinely appointed.
We refer to this, not to expound the passage, but to show that the pit was sealed to secure Satan’s captivity till the Divinely-appointed time.
Now just as Satan in this prophecy is kept secure from doing mischief, so God’s people, being sealed by the Holy Ghost, are kept secure from all the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil. They shall never perish. No hellish power can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord. The temptations to which they are exposed will not cause them to fall away finally. They do not belong to those who fall back into perdition, but to the company of those who believe to the saving of their souls. No weapon formed against them shall proper. They are sealed unto the day of redemption, kept secure until the Lord comes and changes the body of their humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory (see Phil. 3.20, 21). Here is one comforting truth suggested by our being sealed by the Holy Ghost.
Another thought suggested by our being sealed by the Spirit is that we are marked or stamped as God’s own people, His property. We read, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” Rev. 7.3. The Lord’s people are sealed with the Holy Spirit to mark them or stamp them as His own. He thus indicates who are His true people. They are those who have His Spirit. They are those who have experienced the Spirit’s regenerating and quickening and saving power. They are those upon whom God has set His love. They are those upon whom He bestows His saving mercy. They are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. They are the sheep given to Christ by the Father. They are they who have been called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. In time past they were not a people, but they are now the people of God.
The being sealed with the Spirit marks us as God’s people, and “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” Rom. 8.9.
Dr. Charles Hodge says, “The Holy Spirit, which in one view is an unction, in another view is a seal. He marks those in whom He dwells as belonging to God (Rev. 7.2; 2 Tim. 2.19).He also bears
witness in the hearts of believers that they are the children of God and He effectually secures them from apostasy and rebellion (Eph. 1.13,14; 4.30).”
3. Thirdly, God has given to His people the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts.
The word “earnest” denotes money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will subsequently be paid. God gives to His people the Spirit as the earnest or pledge of the future blessings which are in store for them. He is “the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1.14). We are begotten unto an inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. It is an inheritance which is reserved in heaven for us. It is an inheritance among them that are sanctified. It is the inheritance of a kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him, a kingdom which cannot be moved (see Acts 20.32; 1 Peter 1.4; Heb. 12.28; James 2.5).
Of this inheritance the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the earnest, the pledge, the foretaste. As surely as the Spirit dwells within us, so surely shall the inheritance be ours. As He abides with us for ever, to the inheritance of which He is the pledge is sure and certain.
Dr. Hodge says, “The Holy Spirit is Himself the earnest, i.e., at once the foretaste and pledge of redemption . . . the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people, is that part of the blessings of redemption, which God gives them as a pledge of their full and final salvation. So certain, therefore, as the Spirit dwells in us, so certain is our final salvation. ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his … But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quciken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you’ Rom. 8.9-11).”
In harmony with this thought is the word “first-fruits,” used by the apostle of the Spirit. Believers “have the first-fruits of the Spirit” [Rom. 8.23). The Spirit Himself is the first-fruits of the coming harvest of full redemption blessings which will be the eternal portion of all the elect people of God. “There is but one thing stated in these verses (2 Cor. 1.21,22), and that is that God establishes or renders His people firm and secure in their union with Christ, and in their participation of the benefits of redemption. How He does this, and the evidence that He does it, is expressed or presented by saying He hath anointed, sealed, and given us the earnest of the Spirit.”
“The indwelling of the Spirit, therefore, renders the believer secure and steadfast; it is his anointing; it is the seal of God impressed upon the soul, and therefore the pledge of redemption. The fruits of the Spirit are the evidence of His presence; so that while those who experience and manifest those fruits may rejoice in
the certainty of salvation, those who are destitute of them have no right to appropriate to themselves the consolation of this and similar declarations of the Word of God. The perseverance of the saints is a perseverance in holiness” (Dr. C. Hodge’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians, p. 25).
What a mercy if we are amongst the number of those who have experienced the anointing, sealing, and earnest of the Spirit. Such an experience is Divine in its origin and to God must be given the glory, if we possess the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace:
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.”
* This is a very significant paragraph. Today there are those who teach that the “seal” and the “earrnest” belong only to a fraction of God’s children who, through a special experience distinct from and subsequent to regeneration, enter into a privileged .status, enjoying a much stronger than usual measure of assurance and spiritual power.
To divide the true church into two groups like this is a very serious matter and is similar to the divisiveness rebuked so severely by Paul in 1 Corinthians.
Clearly, for believers, there is growth in grace and in knowledge, there is a deepening experience of the Holy Spirit’s work in the soul and there are times of very .special blessing and comfort, but there is only one family of Spirit-taught children and every one in that family does have the Spirit given to them. He is their seal and their earnest from the day He is given to them but it is also true that some believers do not realise and enjoy the comfort of this truth until it is shown to them later in their Christian experience. However, to suggest that in God’s family there are the Â“sealed” and the “unsealed”, those with the “earnest” and those without, is unscriptural and dangerous.
** But it does militate against all who make modern claims to apostolic and prophetic gifts of revelation.