Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Seal of the Spirit| Place of Grace Fellowship

Today is the third sermon in our series on Ephesians Chapters 1 & 2. We are examining our identity as followers of Christ. What does it mean? How do we act? In week one, we talked about how we have been blessed with the grace and peace of Christ. Wishing someone grace and peace is more than a greeting; it is an active anointing of the Holy Spirit that works in and through us as Christians. Last week, we talked about our adoption as children of God. With an adoption mindset, we embrace the peace and joy of Christ. Our identity as children of God helps us rise above the circumstances of this world that want to drag us down. When people encounter us and see that we possess peace and joy, we show them how to become a child of God. This week, we will talk about being sealed by the Holy Spirit. Our reading today.

 

Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

 

Ephesians 1:17-19 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 

 

Paul, in his first letter to the Ephesians, talks about how we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives. First, we hear the Gospel message that is shared with us in our community or through a relationship with a believer. Second, we believe the Gospel message and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We believe that in Christ, we receive adoption into the family of God and that the Holy Spirit brings us grace and peace. Next Paul tells us that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. In Paul’s day, being sealed carried great significance. Much greater than in our society. Before we look at Paul’s understanding, let’s consider ours.

 

One of my pastor friends was confessing his questionable behavior behind the wheel of a car. He was an aggressive driver, prone to cutting people off or getting frustrated behind cars. He honked when people took too long at a green light. His calm, friendly pastoral presence vanished behind the wheel of a car. He jokingly talked about putting a sticker of the neighboring church on the back of his car. What he was talking about was putting the seal of that church on his car. When a car has the sticker on its window, the occupants are sealed by the sticker. If that sticker is on their car, it says they attend that church, are part of that community, and share that community’s values. His desire to have that sticker on his car was to deflect ill feelings in other drivers away from him and his church. If his driving offended other drivers, then they would be angry with a driver of that church. His reputation would be saved, and the good reputation of his church would remain intact. That is, until they saw his car parked in the parking lot on Sunday morning. In his humor, he acknowledged his behavior behind the wheel wasn’t living up to the high expectations associated with the seal of being a pastor at his church. I tell this story to illustrate the significance of a brand or a seal. In Scripture, God pours out the Spirit upon those God wants to bless and claim as saved. 

 

In the Old Testament, God promised to pour out the Spirit upon all flesh. In Christ, God has kept that promise and made it possible for all flesh to receive the seal of the Spirit.

 

Joel 2:28-29 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 

 

The seal of Hezekiah, a good Israelite king, shows the winged sun which represents God’s protection and gave Hezekiah legitimacy and power. As followers of Christ, we do not have a symbol as a seal, we have God’s self in the form of the Holy Spirit. The seal of the Spirit means that we are claimed by God, in other words, we are children of God. The seal also means that we are authentic followers of Christ. As we go about our daily activities, we have the power and presence of the Spirit with us. The Spirit with us attests to Jesus Christ as our Lord. It confirms that we have heard the Gospel and have responded to it by believing in Christ as our Savior. If we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, then our life will be marked with faith, love, peace, and joy. The seal of the Holy Spirit also identifies the community we belong to. Followers of Christ lived in community with each other. The Holy Spirit sealed communities. In today’s reading, the Ephesians were sealed by the Holy Spirit.

 

When the believers in Ephesus followed Christ, they did so as a community. Early Christian communities believed there were only two ways for a person to live. The way of death and the way of life. To follow Christ and be sealed by the Holy Spirit was the way of life. To hear and not believe was to follow the way of death. The way of life required members of the community to encourage and care for each other. If a member acted inhumanely towards other members, it jeopardized the whole community of Christ followers. We could benefit from such an in or out  view of our faith. 

 

Imagine if we saw two paths laid out before us and we looked down either path and they looked the same, as far as we could see, the paths had all the same obstacles and challenges, the same disappointments, pains and hurts and the same joys and blessings. We don’t have a map and can only see part way down each path so we do not know what the future will hold. Now imagine that each path has a Guide at the front of it.

 

On the first path is this figure—He is clear about where the path will lead—to death. He doesn’t represent the path deceptively; we know how it will all end.

 

On the other path is Jesus. Jesus offers life, peace, and joy. Jesus offers adoption and the seal of the Holy Spirit. The believers in Ephesus believed these were the two paths before them and only those two paths. With a binary choice, the decision becomes much easier. 

 

Traveling down the right path, we will carry the seal of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation in Christ means that our destiny is sealed by Spirit. The Spirit gives us a vision of heaven where Christ sites on the throne and awaits our journey home. The Spirit opens the eyes of our heart that we may see the riches of the glory of Christ.  We can see the blessings of God in our inheritance among the saints of heaven and here among our church family at Place of Grace Fellowship. 

 

Now look around you; we are a community on the path of life. The Holy Spirit seals us. We are a community who follows Jesus Christ. We are sealed, together. We rise and fall together. We as a whole walk down the path of life together. I am going to get biblical on you now. I am going to go first century Christian. I am going to talk about the life of faith of those who wrote Scripture. The Scripture writers did not understand individualism like we do. First century believers were saved individually, but they never lived as separate individuals and never believed that they could live a life of faith without being in Christian community. They experienced the Holy Spirit together as a community. If they were alone, they would have felt like they were without the seal of the Spirit. Following Christ only happened among a tribe of other believers. 

 

Look around the church. The people here are essential to your spiritual journey! The Holy Spirit has sealed Place of Grace Fellowship as your faith community. Every action you take is an action of us. If you help your neighbor, we help your neighbor. If you act like my pastor friend and road rage out, we road rage out. When some of us volunteer for the Food Bank, we volunteer for the food bank. Place of Grace Fellowship holds unite as one of our values. We do not decide whether to unite or not. The Holy Spirit has united us. We are not a collection of individuals sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are a community united and sealed by the Holy Spirit. 

 

The reason Christ followers took the world for Christ was the strength of their communities. Together, Spirit empowered, those communities became amazing tribes of God’s children that brought joy to the Spirit.

 

When we look at ourselves as individuals, we tend to think of the attributes we personally lack. We worry about our age or our past. We think we aren’t gifted enough, smart enough, strong enough, or wealthy enough. We sometimes don’t believe we have enough faith. But know this: God made you and loved you and saved you. Jesus ministered to individuals with all kinds of personal challenges and worldly deficiencies. But also know this: When we see ourselves as a community, we see how each of us adds to the community. The communal power in the Spirit could take the worst sinner and turn them into a great evangelist. Consider the Apostle Matthew, he was the worst of sinners—no one was a worse sinner than a tax collector for Rome – and he wrote a book of the Bible – one of only four Gospels! To believe that you are not valuable and essential to your Christian community for any of the reasons above limits the power of the Holy Spirit. Look around! Place of Grace Fellowship is made up of all of you, and the Spirit is going to do wonderful things with us. 

 

The Holy Spirit’s seal guarantees your salvation. It identifies you as a follower of Christ our Lord. It authenticates you as a member at Place of Grace Fellowship. It connects you with God the Father who gave you the seal. It empowers you with a spirit of wisdom and revelation. As we come to know Christ better, we grow in wisdom, and we grow in the revelation of God in our lives and in our community. There is not one person in the church who cannot grow in wisdom, the knowledge of Christ and the revelation of God. Even if you cannot get around much, your wisdom and insight can benefit your community through prayer.

 

Back to my pastor friend. His story is a good illustration of how changing our mindset can change our behavior. When he shared his funny temptation to degrade the neighbor church’s seal, his mindset was to deflect from his personal shortcomings. If he saw his behavior behind the wheel as reflecting badly on everyone in his church community, maybe his driving would change. If he saw his actions as their actions, he may have been a more gracious driver. 

 

Today, I hope you take away three lessons about the seal of the Holy Spirit. First, the seal of the Holy Spirit marks us as a follower of Christ. As Christ followers, we are expected to live a life of holy love that represents our savior and our community. As you go about your activities this week, live continually aware that you represent Christ. Second, we live in a community with other believers, and that community is sealed by the Spirit of Christ. We are not simply an individual; we are always “us.” We are more powerful as “us.” We are united by God as “us.” When we follow Christ, we never act as I alone, but always as us together. We act as us, the Place of Grace Fellowship community, and we act as us, the body of Christ. Pray that the Spirit would reveal your purpose and contribution for this community. Third, we can only choose one of two paths in life, the way of life or the way of death. We can face some of the same circumstances and challenges down either path, but the end of the journey and how we get through it is much different. Choosing the path of life means we experience in this life a measure of the salvation, love and joy we will receive in the future with Christ. The Holy Spirit assures us of our hope of eternal life with God. Be conscious of your life choices this week and follow the way of Jesus. May the peace and joyous certainty of God’s seal be upon you and Place of Grace Fellowship.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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