We share our opinions and insights at SBC Voices, but we believe that the Voice that matters most is the one that comes from God’s Word. We present these daily expositional devotions, beginning with a tour of Ephesians called, “Walk Worthy,” in hopes of encouraging our readers to remember to Voice above every voice.
In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 CSB
Ephesians 1:13-14 starts with the same two words that the two previous sections opened with: “In Him.” (see v. 7, v. 11). This chain of pronouns looks back to Ephesians 1:3 and rounds out the praise of God for His grace shown in the adoption of those who believe.
Paul starts with a passive verb, “you also were sealed,” reflecting on something that happened to the Ephesian church. What happened, when, and why? To get there, let us take a look at how his language shifted from the sentences before these.
He shifts from using an inclusive term, “we,” in the prior section to addressing the church as a second group. While a few of the commentators see this as his effort to show inclusion to the Gentile Christians alongside the Jewish Christians, another aspect is seen in the time-related statements. V. 12 speaks of those who were “first to hope in Christ” while v. 13 speaks of “when you heard…and when you believed.” He is highlighting that there is no difference in the salvation of the Ephesians when compared to himself or others who came to faith earlier.
Why does this matter? The emphasis is that the seal of the promised Holy Spirit came when they heard and believed the truth, the Gospel. The Ephesians were sealed, just like earlier believers, by the power of God and were indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. There was no primacy given to others just for being longer in the faith—all were dependent on the promised Spirit of God.
Consider the implications for ourselves, much less our churches, as we consider this: whose voices do we listen to? Whose books do we read? While the testimony of years of faithful service is a blessing, we cannot neglect the truth that the Holy Spirit is the same in every believer. The presence of the Spirit is the seal, the evidence, of salvation as well as the guarantee of that salvation. Having the presence of the Spirit certifies that one is part of the community of God—which most of us know—and is the Biblical grounds for the historic Baptist principles of regenerate church membership, democratic church governance, and an empowered priesthood of believers.
(I would note that, as you work through Ephesians, you will see evidence that continued obedience and faithfulness to Christ should raise our respect for others. As such, those who have walked longer with Jesus develop a leadership not of position but of competence.)
Now, back to verse 13. We see that the Ephesians were not simply persuaded by a slick speech, but believed upon hearing the “word of truth.” Consider this as you go forward, proclaiming the Gospel: the presence of the Spirit comes not from good ideas or great strategy, but by the Word of Truth. There is little ground to make this “Word of Truth” into something mystical beyond what the text says: the Gospel of salvation, the adoption and redemption of the children of God (v. 5, 7). Repentance itself was not enough (Acts 19) but the full belief in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was needed.
So, when you go into the world, focus on getting the truth right in word and deed. This is what brings people into a right relationship with God: not your gimmicks or your tricks. Not your best life or your visions or your skill in answering the oddest theological questions, but your presentation of the Word of Truth. The Ephesians received the Holy Spirit because they heard and believed the Gospel.
A side note that is worth remembering: it is the Gospel that the Spirit is the seal of believing. Had Paul, or Timothy, or anyone else proven to be a scoundrel, sycophant, or other liar, the Gospel would still be true, the Ephesians would still have the Spirit. Your salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit not by your relationship with any human being. While people can (and do) shake our faith, they can never steal our inheritance as the adopted children of God.
How do we know this? Our salvation was not bought with a monetary price that could be refunded. Your redemption was not purchased with a return or exchange policy. We are redeemed and the pledge, the guarantee given is the presence of God Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit. God does not give Himself lightly, only irrevocably and fully. The concept here, if one finds Greek lexicons (like BDAG) trustworthy, is that the Holy Spirit is the first installment of our inheritance—the presence of God in our lives as the foretaste of eternity in His presence.
Think on this as the days get longer and the trials get stronger: you are sealed by the Spirit, and His presence in your life is something that will never change, even as you come into your inheritance in eternity. The God who redeemed you, the God who sent His Son to die for you, is working in you from now into eternity.