[Note: This message is the prepared text for a message given to the Portland congregation of the United Church of God on Sabbath, March 5, 2022.]
For those of you who saw the speaking schedule online, I am not Brandon Slocum, but he asked me last night to give a message because he is at home taking care of a sick boy. I am sure he would appreciate your prayers for his little one. Not too long ago, I spoke to you all about the sealing or not sealing of the prophetic word that we find in passages like the end of Revelation and Daniel, and about some of the implications of this. While we were discussing the message in the Speaker’s club after services that Sabbath, a more general discussion about the question of sealing in the Bible took place, and our pastor mentioned that he had heard a speaker interpret another scripture on sealing precisely wrong and that it would be a good subject for someone to give a sermonette about. So, with that invitation given, today I will continue my discussion of sealing in the Bible, and give a different context for this sealing and how and why it is done.
Let us begin in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, which gives us part of Paul’s discussion as to the reasons why he has yet to return to Corinth to speak face to face with that troubled congregation. These two short verses are part of a larger context that discusses Paul’s seriousness in making plans and God’s commitment to His promises, and Paul’s unwillingness to seek to dominate or control the congregation of Corinth but rather work to confirm them in faith and obedience to God. In that context, Paul makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” This particular verse is an important one when we think about our baptism and the way that God seals us with the Holy Spirit and establishes us as younger brothers to Jesus Christ in His family.
Why is it important that we are sealed, and what does the Holy Spirit have to do with it? Paul speaks elsewhere of this sealing at the beginning of Ephesians, in Ephesians 1:3-13. This passage is a bit longer of an explanation, but it gives a full detail of what Paul was referring to when speaking of similar matters to the brethren in Corinth. Ephesians 1:3-13 reads: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
This passage is saying a lot, but let us briefly summarize the train of Paul’s thought here. Paul praises and blesses God for having chosen us and called us to be His children. Through Christ we are forgiven of our sins by His blood, him serving as our Passover sacrifice. Through Christ we are given grace, not only the grace of being accepted by God the Father as His sons and daughters, but also being given gifts, including wisdom and the knowledge of His will, his plan for mankind, and His purpose to bring all things together in unity with Him and Christ in His own time. Not only that, but we are also given an inheritance through becoming part of His family, and having trusted in God and in His promises, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit which serves as a down payment or earnest payment in the eternal life that we will receive when we are redeemed and resurrected into glory and immortality. All of these things are connected together, God’s longstanding plan for a family, the work of Jesus Christ in opening the way to salvation and redemption that we commemorate each Passover, and our own expectation of future glory in His family and in His kingdom.
Paul also speaks about the question of brethren being sealed in 2 Timothy 2:14-19. Here again, let us note the connections that Paul makes to this sealing. 2 Timothy 2:14-19 reads: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”” Here again, let us note that Paul connects the sealing of God with the future resurrection of believers, and reminds us that while God knows who belongs to Him and will not abandon us, that we have obligations as believers to depart from iniquity and to live in obedience to Him.
It ought to be a comfort to us and encouragement for us that God will not abandon us but has sealed us by His Holy Spirit as members of His family. Paul is by no means the only one who has written about this subject, as there are discussions in the Gospels, in John 6, as well as several times in the book of Revelation about the importance of believers being sealed by God and thus escaping the mark of the beast and living in rebellion and disobedience against God as does the vast majority of the world in the evil days of the end. This sealing, though, by which we are marked as belonging to God and members of His family, is part of a larger plan for the redemption and salvation of mankind and for the restoration of God’s children to His good graces according to His purpose. Those of us who have repented of our sins, received God’s gracious pardon through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and are preparing for the coming Passover can look forward to the fulfillment of the guarantee that those who believe in God and endure until the end will be resurrected into glory in His kingdom at the return of Jesus Christ, for which purpose we are sealed by His Spirit.