(Eph. 1:13-14 ESV) 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(Eph. 4:30 ESV) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
In the First Century, ownership of a document or jug of wine was shown by impressing a wax seal on that item. It was a visible, prominent, real marker showing that this object belongs to this person.
Therefore, Paul is saying that the Spirit shows that we belong to God — and that God put the Spirit on us, like a wax marker. It’s not something we did (such as reading the Bible) because seals were impressed by the owner, not by the jar or the document.
The voice in both passages is passive, meaning God seals us. We receive the seal.
Of course, this means the presence of the Spirit should be visible. It’s a mark of who we belong to. A seal isn’t worth much if people can’t see it!
How does someone “see” the Spirit impressed on us? Well, by seeing the mark God has made on our hearts and lives.
Context rules! How many “marks” can you find in —
(Eph. 4:25-32 ESV) 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ultimately, the mark is found in v. 32 — “as God in Christ forgave you.” As we begin to look like our Owner, the seal becomes plainly visible, leading to the next verse —
(Eph. 5:1-2 ESV) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Our imitation of God, our ability to love as Jesus loved, marks us as His.
Go back to Eph 2:14. Paul also calls the Spirit our “guaranty.” Some translations say “down payment,” “deposit,” or “pledge.” The Greek is arrabon, which today means “engagement ring”!
It’s God’s collateral, his engagement ring, his tangible, real, present downpayment that he will keep his promises. It’s not just a promise!! It’s the down payment assuring us that the rest of the obligation will be kept.
In the “word only” theory, it’s just a promise assuring us that a promise is true — which is nothing. In reality, we have the promise and we have the deposit, down payment, and engagement ring that we have right now assuring us of God’s promise.
And this makes no sense unless the Spirit transforms us, by helping us change. And my experience is that those who believe in the work of the Spirit are much more shaped by the work of the Spirit. It’s easier to submit to someone you believe to be real and present.