Last week, my bride and I did not watch probably one of the most-viewed television programs ever. We avoided watching the Super Bowl.
Instead, we turned our television set to that perennial feel-good station, the Hallmark Channel. During the whole time we were watching that channel, there seemed to be one constant preview ad running for the season premiere of the show called, “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered.”
This is a show that somehow finds love relationships (that’s what every Hallmark show does, doesn’t it?) in the Dead Letter Office of the U.S Postal Service!
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered! Last week, we began to look at our whole relationship with God as that. We saw that the Apostle Paul made this very clear when he wrote the church at Ephesus, saying, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
In the first part of these verses, we see that we (that’s the “you” in the Scripture passage) were included in Christ when we heard the gospel of our salvation. He is telling us that when we heard the truth of the gospel, that is that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for our sins, and put our trust in Him alone for our salvation, then, and only then, was the deal between us and God truly “signed.”
But just as in any major sales agreement, there needs to be a deposit, or earnest, placed to insure the seller that the buyer means business.
Interestingly enough, in this eternal transaction, the deposit is made by God Himself. He is telling you and me that He will send the Holy Spirit to mark us as a demonstration that He means business. We, at the point of our belief in Christ, were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
Now the question is, what does it mean to be marked with a seal?
There were actually two purposes behind every seal. In ancient times, a deposit of melted candle wax was often used to seal a letter before sending it to its intended destination. That seal was a sign of ownership.
Often, the author of the letter would imprint the melted wax with a ring or stamp which was particular to that individual to indicate that the letter came from him or her. It symbolized ownership and authorship of the letter.
The recipient of that letter would know before opening it from whom the letter came.
As well, the seal demonstrated the preservation of the message inside. It had not been tampered with.
If the letter were a signed contract, the sealed document may also include a deposit, or a guarantee that the author would indeed pay what he/she had promised to pay.
To be sealed spiritually by the promised Holy Spirit means both of those things: First of all, by the giving of the Holy Spirit to each of us who believe in Christ, God was promising that everything He had said would indeed come to pass.
At the moment when we genuinely believe in Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit indwells us and we are marked with a seal. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul clarifies this when he says, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
And to the point that the seal demonstrates ownership, we read in 1 Corinthians these words, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
But that mark, that seal, of the Spirit of God on our lives also signifies preservation. He (the Holy Spirit) is a deposit guaranteeing something.
In legal or commercial terms, it is a down payment, a pledge, a promise which obligates the party making the pledge to make further payments.
One of the best illustrations of this concept is the whole process of getting married.
My bride and I have been married almost 45 years now. But I remember the day I formally asked her to marry me as if it were yesterday.
One of the most significant aspects of my request was the moment when I pulled out of my pocket a small velvet-covered box and opened it in front of her. In that box was a diamond ring. As she said “Yes” in answer to my question, “Will you marry me?”, I placed that ring on her finger as a promise of things to come.
In the same way, God has given to us the Holy Spirit as a seal, a deposit, a promise of things to come.
My friends, if you are trusting in Christ alone for our eternal salvation, the Holy Spirit living in you is a guarantee of your blessed future to be lived in the presence of our gracious God.
Your relationship with Him has been “Signed”, and now “Sealed”!
Next week, we will examine the “Delivered” aspect of this relationship!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC, Port William.