You Are Marked with the Seal of the Holy Spirit
by Margaret Silvester
I recently watched a farming programme on which young lambs were fitted with ear tags before they were allowed to go out on to the hills. Each lamb had to be firmly held down against its will, so that its ear could be pierced to insert the tag. The tag is a mark of identity, indicating who the lamb belonged to. We might say the tag is a seal of ownership and a guarantee that the lamb would be in good care.
In New Testament times seals were usually used to mark ownership and authenticity. Slaves were marked with a seal by their masters to show who they belonged to. This was mandatory. They had no choice. By God’s grace, when we, who were slaves to sin, make a free will choice to accept God’s offer of salvation, through repentance and forgiveness, our status is changed from that of ‘slave’ to ‘child of God’. Scripture makes it clear that, at that moment, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and we become ‘God’s very own possession’ (1 Peter 2:9). The Holy Spirit is the seal, which marks us as authentic and genuine. It is a pledge that there is more to come. We are secure for all eternity.
The sealing of the Holy Spirit is meant to be radically life changing. He is like Jesus in every way and, above all, He is Holy. He is a love gift from Jesus, here with us in the world until Jesus comes again. The Holy Spirit is not for us to use, but He desires to use us for the glory of Jesus and the extension of God’s kingdom.
One of the images of the Holy Spirit is a dove, thus indicating that He is sensitive and can be easily grieved. Our text for today says, ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’. To grieve Him means to cause sorrow, pain or distress. All sin is against the nature of the Holy Spirit. So how then should we live as children of God who are sealed by the Holy Spirit as a sign that we belong to Him? Several texts about the sealing of the Spirit point us in the right direction.
Firstly, our text for today tells us that, if we do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit, there are certain things, we have to get rid of. These are certain heart attitudes, words we speak and behaviour patterns. The first thing we’re told to get rid of is ‘all bitterness’. This is a destructive force in a believer’s life and closes the door to intimacy with God (Hebrews 12:15). It is rooted in being unwilling to forgive those whom we perceive have wounded us and done us harm. A positive step forward is to consider the price Jesus paid on the cross that we could be forgiven. Our forgiveness was undeserved and unearned. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Secondly, as God’s possession, we are told to be to the praise of His glory until we gain our eternal inheritance - until we are with Jesus for evermore (Ephesians 1:13-14). What a challenge it is to live God’s way in a society that has changed His laws and left Him out of the reckoning! We are called to be different – to speak the truth and to live by the truth of Scripture, refusing to compromise. Our goal should be to please and obey Jesus irrespective of what people may think of us.
Thirdly, because we have this seal of ownership on us and the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we are to ‘Stand firm in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). This is amazing security! Whatever life may hold, we can remain at peace and experience joy, because we do not stand firm in our own strength, but in His imparted strength. We have nothing to fear, because we are His for ever. There is, however, a warning. The seal bears an inscription, ‘The Lord knows those who are His and everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’.
Prayer: Father, thank You that, through the death of Jesus for my forgiveness, I can truly know that I am Your child, secure for all eternity. Thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is changing me more and more into the likeness of Jesus. Please convict me of anything in my life that dishonours You and give me grace and humility to deal with this at the cross for Your glory. Amen.
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