Immediately in the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the apostle launches into robustly theological praise to God for the love that he has lavished upon his people in and through Jesus Christ. When Paul focuses his praise on the Father (Eph. 1:3-6), Paul’s praise centers on what the Father did for us (even in eternity past!) in and through Jesus Christ:
- We were blessed in Christ in the heavenly places with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3)
- We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4)
- We were predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5)
The Father does nothing for us except what he does for us in and through his Son Jesus Christ. Put bluntly (and paraphrasing Cyprian of Carthage), we cannot have God as our Father unless we have Jesus Christ as our Elder Brother.
So where does the Holy Spirit fit in to all this?
Paul shifts the content of his praise to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in 1:13-14:
13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Paul points to three major ministries of the Holy Spirit–in each of which, the Holy Spirit gives Christ to us.
1. The Holy Spirit seals us. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1:13 about the Holy Spirit’s sealing ministry must be read in context with what Paul says in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” To be sealed with the promised Holy Spirit is to be marked as “safe” on the day when Jesus Christ returns. Just as Rahab and her household were saved in Jericho by putting the red cord outside her window, and just as the Israelites were saved from the Destroyer by the blood on their doorposts, so we are saved from the wrath to come when the Holy Spirit marks us with the blood of Jesus.
Paul says here that we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, however, comes to us by “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (v. 13), and leads us to “hope in Christ” (v. 12). The Holy Spirit does not draw us aside from Christ, ministering to us independently of the Father and the Son. Instead the Holy Spirit leads us into what the Father planned before all time, and what the Son accomplished in the fullness of time. The Holy Spirit’s sealing, then, is accomplished by mediating Jesus Christ and his benefits to us.
This is the objective ministry of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the gospel message, leads us to hope in Christ, and objectively makes us partakers in the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit seals us with himself to confirm our interest in the gospel of our salvation. We are secure, and we are safe. Though Jericho may collapse around us, and though the Destroyer may strike every other household in the land, we are called to believe the promise that we have indeed been sealed for the day of redemption.
2. The Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance as God’s earnest to us. Earnest money is the down payment on a large purchase. Earnest money goes toward the purchase, so that it is the first of many payments, rather than being merely a placeholding deposit that the buyer receives back in the future. God has promised us an infinitely rich heritage. We have been adopted as sons, meaning that we have been qualified as heirs–even as joint heirs with Jesus Christ himself (Rom. 8:12-17).
The down payment that God gives us as earnest is his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a placeholder, simply letting us tread water in our enjoyment of God until we get the “real” thing–rather, the Holy Spirit is the fully God, and he mediates to us the fullness of God, although only in part. This is the subjective ministry of the Holy Spirit, where we come to enjoy an experience of God. We will never inherit a different God, because the Holy Spirit perfectly represents the Father and the Son. Instead, the Holy Spirit is the first portion of our enjoyment of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God gives us his Spirit as earnest, demonstrating beyond doubt that we will inherit the rest of God on the last day.
3. The Holy Spirit moves us to true worship. As we receive the Holy Spirit as God’s earnest to us, we learn to enjoy the Father and the Son as they are mediated to us by the Spirit. In this way, the Holy Spirit teaches us to worship “to the praise of his [God’s] glory.” As we grow in our enjoyment of God by the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but to praise him. Enjoyment naturally leads to praise, and as we enjoy the first portion of our inheritance, our worship strikes a tone of longing satisfaction. We have the fullness of God in the Holy Spirit now, but yet we long for unmediated worship of the Father and the Son.
The Father is seeking worshipers who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth. The Holy Spirit not only seals us with himself and provides the first portion of our enjoyment of the Father and the Son (thereby leading us to worship in the Spirit), but he confirms to us the “word of truth,” the gospel of God set out in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ who shed his blood for us on the cross.
All that the Father planned before the foundation of the world, and all that Jesus Christ accomplished for us in the fullness of time, we now receive richly from the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit.
And all to the praise of God’s glory.