Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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January 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 9


The Sealing of the Spirit (2)

The Spirit who seals us is described in Ephesians 1:13 as the "holy Spirit of promise." "Promise" is singular, referring to the one, central, OT promise of Messianic salvation for all the elect people of God. The "holy Spirit of promise" is the promised Holy Spirit. Thus the OT prophesies not only salvation, including all the blessings of Ephesians 1:3-14, by the power of the Holy Spirit; it also promises that the same Spirit who applies Christ’s salvation to us will seal it to us and assure us personally of our own gracious salvation.

Some might query this last point: "I know that the OT predicts the coming of Christ and His salvation, and that the Holy Spirit is prophesied as applying Christ’s blessings to us in the NT age (e.g., Joel 2:28-29; Isa. 32:15; 44:3; 59:21), but where does the OT promise that the Spirit will assure us of Messianic salvation?" Think, for instance, of Ezekiel 36:26-28. God promises to regenerate us (26) and put His Spirit in us (27) so that we recognise and keep His commandments (27). In this (new) covenant, we enjoy fellowship with Jehovah: "ye shall be my people, and I will be your God" (28). Knowing God as our God and ourselves as His people, by the Spirit (27), is assurance of our covenant salvation.

There is a wrong view of the timing of the NT believer’s assurance, that the sealing of the Spirit (i.e., assurance) usually comes some time after first believing the gospel. Some saints may be sealed at their conversion or soon after, but many, if not most, are only sealed years—often many years—later. According to this view, not all Christians are (currently) sealed by the Spirit and assured of their salvation, so ministers are to call these poor saints to a quest for assurance. If you do not have assurance, you must seek it—earnestly, fervently, passionately—often for many years. Then, finally, you will be sealed with the Spirit.

Many Puritans had this wrong view of assurance, though they were faithful in many things (e.g., double predestination, original sin, regulative principle of worship, paedobaptism, fencing the Lord’s table, Psalm-singing, opposition to lay-preaching, catechising, etc.). Sadly, Martyn Lloyd-Jones—fine preacher and expositor, and amillennialist that he was—followed these Puritans in this regard.

This idea of assurance as (ordinarily) coming some time after believing and usually after much seeking (often for years) is a form of second-blessing teaching. Later the content of the second blessing became "power for service," as with revivalists like R. A. Torrey and D. L. Moody; or entire sanctification, as with John Wesley and the Perfectionists; or the baptism with the Holy Spirit (often with tongue-speaking, i.e., gibberish, as the external sign), as with Pentecostals. Lloyd-Jones, viewing assurance as a post-conversion experience, also held to the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a second blessing. Tragically, he gave qualified approval to Charismatic outbreaks in South Wales and favoured R. T. Kendall as his successor in Westminster Chapel in London. That church’s demise—Charismaticism and Arminianism—is well-known.

Thankfully, assurance is not a second-blessing experience (usually) received years after first believing and only after much seeking. We are sealed with the Spirit when we believe the gospel of Christ. At this point, we should note that the AV translation of Ephesians 1:13 ("after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise") could be understood as suggesting the wrong view. "When ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" is better. It is difficult to prove this to a general audience, for it involves Greek grammar (aorists and participles) but the point can be made theologically and from the context.

First, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence mentioning "all spiritual blessings" (3) given to the "saints" (1). The sealing of the Spirit (13) is one of these spiritual blessings given to all Christians (and not just some and that typically years after their conversion). Second, "all spiritual blessings," including the sealing of the Spirit, are "in Christ" (3) who is possessed by all believers. Third, we are "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (13) and God’s unconditional promise of salvation (which includes assurance) is to all believers. Fourth, as we saw in the last News, "seal" (13) centrally refers to ownership. Since all Christians are owned by the Triune God, they are sealed with the Spirit. Fifth, all believers have the Spirit as an "earnest" (14) and they also have Him as a "seal" (13).

All God’s children are sealed with the Spirit when they believe because assurance is part of faith. Thus the Heidelberg Catechism rightly defines faith as consisting of "a certain knowledge" and "an assured confidence" (A. 21).

Ephesians 1:13 teaches that the Spirit seals us through faith in the gospel, "the word of truth," not through mystical experiences or the Holy Ghost whispering in our ear. Believing the Word read and preached is the way of assurance. Thus it is very important that you listen to the true, not the false, gospel, for it is "the word of truth" that is "the gospel of your salvation" (13).

We see this logical (not chronological) order from our text: preaching, faith and the sealing of the Spirit. Child of God, the Spirit has sealed you from the time you first believed (13) all the way to the "day of redemption," so do not grieve Him (4:30) by your sins (25-29, 31-32)! Rev. Stewart

The Wisdom of Solomon

Question: "Solomon was gifted by Jehovah such that he was the wisest man who ever lived (albeit in an OT context, though this does not negate the basic facts). If we define wisdom as being knowledge practically applied through faith, how is it to be explained that Solomon fell? He clearly knew better than to do what he did."

The question arises out of last month’s News in which I argued that though Solomon fell into idolatry, under the influence of his heathen wives, and although Scripture’s historical narratives do not record that he repented of his sin, nevertheless, we can be sure that Solomon was saved, so we must consider Ecclesiastes, which he authored by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as his confession of sin. After all, the Lord "loved" Solomon (II Sam. 12:24) and He always restores His erring saints, for nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39).

We must remember that Solomon was a type of Christ and that his kingdom was a type of the kingdom of heaven. Without taking this truth into account, it is indeed difficult, if not impossible, to understand how Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, could be so foolish. Also the nation of Israel was itself a type of the church of God, while at the same time a part of the church. Moreover, contrary to the dispensationalists, Mount Zion and Jerusalem, the capital of the nation and the seat of the throne of David and Solomon, were also types of the church (Ps. 48; 87; 122; Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:1-2).

Within that city of Jerusalem was the temple that Solomon built and which, while symbolizing the truth of God’s covenant, that He dwells in the midst of His people, also points ahead, typically, to the crucified, buried and risen body of Christ in whom dwells "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). At the heart of the typical kingdom of heaven, over which Christ rules, is the temple, the reality of which is Christ Himself in our flesh.

All these types were given by God in the old dispensation because Israel was the church in its childhood (Gal. 4:1-6). Children are taught by pictures. The OT church was taught by the pictures God gave in the types and shadows of the law. Solomon was one of those pictures; so was his kingdom. Never in all OT history did the nation attain such a pinnacle of glory, blessedness and wealth as in Solomon’s days (cf. II Chron. 9). But that glory and wealth were also typical of the glory and wealth of the kingdom of heaven, when the purely material becomes spiritual—even as Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey, was a picture of heaven (Heb. 11:9-10, 13-16). Solomon, as king of the typical church, was a type of Christ in more than one way. He was a type of Christ, the true king, in his royal office, and a type of Christ in his wisdom that God had given him. Solomon may very well also have been a type of Christ in his building of the temple.

It is always a danger that the types be considered the reality. I think that the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were especially guilty of this. They confused the types with the reality and thought the types were all they needed. They challenged John the Baptist and Christ when both of them brushed aside the types because the reality had now come in the work and ministry of the Messiah. They preferred the types to the real thing. They chose a picture of heaven to heaven itself, and a picture of Christ to our Saviour Himself.

Because the types were not the reality, but only pictures, the types had not only to pass away, but had to show that they were imperfect. If I want to show my pictures of Yellowstone National Park, then I have to tell those assembled that, in fact, Yellowstone National Park is far, far more beautiful. If these people say, "Now I have seen the Park, so I need not go there," I can only feel sorry for them. But those who understand that a picture cannot compare with the reality, may be stirred up to travel to the Park to see it for themselves.

A picture book gets old and coloured slides discolour. So it was with the types of the OT (Heb. 8:13). They served their purpose and had to be set aside. The types were also inadequate. They could not do what the reality did. Moses was a type of Christ as our mediator (Num. 14:13-19), but he failed, for he was only a type. He hit the rock in the wilderness in his anger against Israel (20:10-11) and resigned from office when he could not bear the burden of the people any longer—although the Lord rejected his resignation (11:11-15). Another type of Christ, Joshua (whose name is equivalent to "Jesus"), could not lead the people into the true rest. It takes Christ to bring us into the perfect rest of heaven.

So it was with all the types. They were types and, therefore, imperfect. They could not accomplish the salvation God intended for His people. The basic reason is, of course, that man cannot do what had to be done: only God can bring salvation, and He brings it through Christ. Types, therefore, served the purpose of teaching the church about the salvation they were to receive in "the fulness of time," but the people had to learn too that the types were imperfect.

With Solomon’s sin of idolatry, the true people of God in the nation of Israel learned that Solomon’s kingdom in all its glory was not the Messianic kingdom. For Solomon was not the king who could establish the true kingdom of God. They had to look beyond the pictures to the reality, and by faith cling to the unfailing promises of God, who graciously and lovingly told His people, already before Christ came, about the glory and blessedness of the coming salvation.

Thus, although Solomon possessed great wisdom, being only a type, he could not be the truly wise one. Christ is not only far superior to Solomon in wisdom, but He Himself is the Wisdom of God (Prov. 8, esp. vv. 22-36; I Cor. 1:30). Solomon in all his wisdom was yet foolish. Christ, the Wisdom of God, is able to make all His people truly wise. Prof. Hanko

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