Continuing for where we finished yesterday, today we will conclude our study on the Holy Spirit by looking at how the Holy Spirit is our seal.
The idea of the Holy Spirit as a seal (sphragis) is closely related to pledge (arrabon) which we considered yesterday. In all three passages where arrabon is used (2 Corithians 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:13-14), sphragis is used too and even where it is used without arrabon in Ephesians 4:30, it appears to have a similar meaning.
Seals have been used for thousands of years, and though their use has changed relatively little, it will be helpful for use to mention some ways in which sphragis is used in biblical literature. I am quite sure that not all these uses apply to work of the Holy Spirit, but any of them might have bearing on our understanding of the word seal.
Firstly it worth noting that a seal was used to mark ownership. Just as we might write our name in a front of a book to show it belongs to us. It might have been this that Paul was referring to in Romans 4:11. Abraham had been given the sign of circumcision as a seal of the rightousness that he had by faith before he was circumcised. It was by faith, that he was made right with God, but circumcision was the outward sign. Similary, when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, that is a sure sign that we belong to God. Like Abraham we blong to God because we have believed, and having believed (Ephesians 1:14) we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
Secondly is the well-known use of a seal to give validity to a document. Degrees for example usually carry the seal of the university awarding them as evidence that they are genuine. Seals are frequently used in legal documents for the same reason. A biblical example can be found in Jeremiah 32:10 where the prophet signs and seals the deed of purchase. Perhaps we can learn from this that being ‘sealed with the Holy Spirit’ we are not only marked out as belonging to God, but also, as having validity. We are the genuine article, we really do belong to him.
Another important thing to consider from this aspect of the use of seals, if a seal acts us giving validity, whoever has the seal in effect has the authority. So if a legal professional gave their seal to a junior member of staff, in effect they are delegating their authority to them. This has, in fact been a recognised use of seals for thousands of years. To hold the king’s seal was to possess his authority. When Pharaoh put Joseph in chare of Egypt he gave him a seal in the form of a signet ring (Genesis 41:41-42). The seal meant that he had Pharaoh’s authority. When Jesus sent out the disciples in the great commission he sent them out with authority, but told them not to go until they had first received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t only the source of our power, he is also the source of our authority.
Finally, a seal can keep a letter secret. Sometime a envelope is sealed with wax so that the person who receives it, knows no-one else has read it. We know that from Isaiah 29:11 that even in the Bible times seals were used in a similar way. So one purpose of a seal is too keep something secret, for a moment of time, but not forever, just until the time for it to be revealed. Romans 8:19 tells that that all of creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed as we are eagerly waiting our adoption as sons v23. (see also Romans 8:21)