What Is The Seal of the Holy Spirit?
The seal of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in several passages but remains a mystery for many students of the Scriptures.
The word “seal” (sphragis) is defined as: “an engraved object used to make a mark denoting ownership, approval, or closure of something (normally done by pressing into heated wax and usually attached to a document or letter).” (“sfragi÷ß,” Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 60.)
The seal is either internal (invisible) or external (visible).
There are many people who associate the seal of the Holy Spirit with the dwelling of the Holy Spirit [Please see further information concerning the possibility of the gift being or not being the dwelling in our article: “What Is The Gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38?”] If the seal is the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, then how would anyone know that they had it?
The definition of the seal itself points to the fact that it was external. It was something visible.
Notice that Jesus' tomb was sealed with a seal by the Roman authorities. It was something visible for everyone to see (Matthew 27:66).
God promised through Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The sign or seal of this covenant was the physical (visible) circumcision of all the males (Genesis 17:1-14; Romans 4:11).
In 1 Kings 21:1-8, King Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard. Jezebel was able to snatch it away from Naboth by writing letters in Ahab’s name and using the seal of Ahab to “authorize” the murder of Naboth. This seal was visible on the letter, giving the impression that it was authorized by Ahab.
In Esther 3:12, King Ahasuerus sealed a proclamation with his (visible) signet ring.
In 1 Cor. 9:2 when Paul calls the Corinthian brethren “the seal of his apostleship,” he is emphasizing that they are the visible proof of the legitimacy of his apostolic authority and his letters of recommendation (cf. 2 Cor. 3:1–3).” (“sfragi÷ß,”NIDNTT-A, 547.) How did Paul demonstrate he was the “evidence” (or seal) for the Corinthian church to the false teachers who claimed he was not an apostle of Christ? Answer: by imparting miraculous gifts to those who had become Christians in the first century A.D. (See also Galatians 3:1-5).
In 2 Corinthians 1:21,22 (ASV), Paul states: “Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” How were the Christians at Corinth able to determine that Paul was sealed by the Holy Spirit? How would his audience have recognized it? Answer: he was able to perform and impart miraculous gifts that were given from the Holy Spirit. The design and purpose of the seal were for the Holy Spirit to be able to visibly guarantee the authenticity of His messengers [such as Paul and Jesus (John 6:27)] with miraculous powers so that they could serve as witnesses of the authenticity of God's message.
Ephesians 1:13,14 (ASV) states: “in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, — in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory.” This passage states that the Ephesian Christians were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. The promise is pointing back to Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:17-21) where there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the members of the church in the first century A.D. This outpouring of miraculous gifts was designed to help the growth of the infant church. Notice that in the city of Ephesus Paul gives the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to some Ephesians in Acts 19:1-7. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian confirms these gifts by stating that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
There are three objections usually brought forth against the idea that the seal of the Holy Spirit was the confirmation of miraculous gifts as a witness to God's revealed word.
1. The first objection states, “According to Ephesians 1:3-14 all Christians receive the promises brought forth, such as the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7); therefore, all Christians receive the seal of the Holy Spirit.” We know that not all of the Christians in the first century A.D. received miraculous gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-31). Those Christians in Ephesus who received the miraculous gifts were able to represent the whole group who had obeyed the gospel and therefore the whole Christian community could be assured that they had received the promises. Jesus (and His disciples) did not heal everyone, but the ones He healed was evidence enough that Jesus was speaking from God. In the same way, though all Christians in Ephesus did not receive miraculous ability, their gifts were enough evidence that the entire body of Christ in Ephesus had confirmation of all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
2. The second objection is based on Ephesians 4:30 (ASV): “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.” Some have stated that if the seal is miraculous, then miracles are for today. But since miracles have ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8), then the seal of the Holy Spirit must be non-miraculous in nature. The word “unto” is the Greek word eis, which can mean “with a view to.” Paul is stating that the Ephesian Christians were sealed with miraculous gifts, which would be a view to the day of judgment. Miracles were performed in the first century that confirmed the word for all time. They do not have to be repeated over and over again (written miracles confirm the word as much as when one saw them visibly and are as equally effective, John 20:30-31). They served their purpose and function. These Christians who confirmed the word with miraculous gifts can continue to be viewed forward-looking to the day of judgment because the word that was revealed in the first century recorded that there would be a day of judgment for all of mankind to face (Acts 17:30; Revelation 20:11-15).
3. The third objection is based on 2 Timothy 2:19, but this passage does not speak of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The seal of the Holy Spirit is literal language. It was something that could be visible and historically seen by those in the first century A.D. Clearly, 2 Timothy 2:19 is a figurative passage because no Christian has this statement literally written on their physical body. 2 Timothy 2:19’s seal is figure referring to Jesus as the Owner of the Christian - we belong to Him.
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