This week we come to the final three spiritual blessings that Paul describes to us in Ephesians 1. Unification, sealing and inheritance.
As we’ve looked at in a previous study, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one flowing sentence that is abundant in overwhelming praise and worship of God the Father (3-6) The Son (7-10) and The Holy Spirit (11-14). Verses 11-14 are a statement for the main doctrines of the Holy Spirt and His works.
The first work of the Holy Spirit is what theologians refer to as the “The Effectual Call”. Read vs 11. Now read vs 4. At first glance they may seem to say the same thing, however, with vs 11, Paul is carrying the argument further. Showing how, having first been “predestined” to salvation (vs 4), God now chooses (or calls) those that have been chosen (predestined) therefore bringing into action His will, or His purpose, onto our lives. This Effectual Call is necessary. Without the “call” to follow Christ placed on peoples hearts, would anyone turn to Christ?
The second work of the Holy Spirit is in vs 12, which is the glorification of Jesus. In this verse, Paul continues with the thoughts of the previous one, that the Holy Spirit calls Gods chosen. The sentence is written about himself and the first disciples, but the same thing is said later (vs 14) of all Christians. That we are all “to the praise of His glory”. It can be said about the Holy Spirit, that His most important function is that of glorifying Christ (as it should be for us all) - consider John 15:26 and John 16:13-14.
Since the work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, we can conclude that any emphasis upon the person and the work of the Holy Spirit that detracts from glorifying Christ, is not the work of the Holy Spirit at all, but the work of another spirit. Read 1 John 4:23. Whenever Christ is exalted, in whatever way, the Holy Spirit is at work and we should recognise the work He is doing and give thanks!
We should also take note of one more thing from vs 12, that being the work of the Holy Spirit glorifying God is not something separate from us that we watch from afar. Paul writes, “we… [are] for the praise of His glory.” We must not forget that God works through us by the power of His Spirit. Without working through us (Christians both in the past and present) the Bible would never have been written. The Holy Spirit worked through those that were writing the books of the Bible, the Spirit worked in us when we became Christians, and the Spirit will continue to work in us as he calls us to proclaim the gospel and glorify Jesus.
The third function of the Holy Spirit, is the making, or bringing together of one new people, the Church, out of the diverse individuals that were there beforehand. Consider verses 11 & 12 then separately 13 & 14. The first two are about the first Christians, the first disciples, the original Jews who were called by Christ. The 2nd two verses are talking directly to the gentiles who live in Ephesus who are reading the letter, and brings us to the spiritual blessing of unification, which we brushed on slightly in the last session, and look at further later in the series.
Eph 1:9-10, talks of the spiritual blessing of unification of all creation with Christ, however we can see a glimpse of that unity as we read vs 11-14. Already there is unity between Jews (vs 11&12) and Gentile (vs 13&14). This was very important in Paul’s day (as it should be for us today) because of the hostility that existed between Jews and Gentiles, between Greeks and Romans, rich and poor, slaves and free. Vs13 “and you (being the gentiles) were also included in Christ” In chapter 2 Paul speaks of a barrier, a dividing wall of hostility, but that it has been broken down by Jesus Christ. Now those that were rivals before have become “one new man” and “one body” (Eph 2:15-16). We often talk and hear about the unity and love Christians have with each other. From the outside, this love should be clear, authentic and of upmost integrity.
The fourth aspect of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in these verses is the connection between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (The Bible). Paul is clear in vs 13 “And you were also included in Christ when you heard the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation”. The Holy Spirt works and speaks through the Bible, when we proclaim the gospels, the power of the Spirit is at work through the words, changing peoples lives. How else would someone come to Jesus without hearing about him through the words of the gospel, without the power of the Spirit working through the words, they are just words on a piece of paper.
This was one of the great discoveries of the reformers. Luther, Calvin and others believed it was only the works of the Holy Spirit that brought people to Christ, it is only the power of the Holy Spirit that leads them and keeps them in that faith once people believe. They believed, rightly so, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for no other reason than Jesus and the Bible teaches it. It is through the Bible and its teachings, and through the illumination of it to us by the Holy Spirit, that we get to hear what God says.
The final work of the Spirit mentioned here is his works of the next spiritual blessing, that of being sealed in him. There are three aspects of a seal in this context and all three are applied by the Holy Spirit. Firstly, a seal is used to confirm if something is true or genuine. Secondly, a seal is used to mark a thing as one’s property and thirdly, a seal is is used to make something secure.
Each aspect of the seal mentioned above illustrates something important about how the Holy Spirit works.
Firstly, The Holy Spirit confirms that the one receiving him is really God’s child, as Paul writes in Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” And as we’ve looked at before, as we become God’s children, we desire to follow the instruction of our Father. As the Holy Spirit works with our spirit, we are compelled to change our mindset of what is right and wrong, we want to learn to follow Jesus more and more, we desire to hear more of the Word of God. Not with reluctance or distain, but with joy and enthusiasm.
Secondly, The Holy Spirit marks us with a seal, the Spirit is God’s claim on on us that we are truly His possession. When we are baptised, the Priest or Bishop will say after the baptism “You are now SEALED by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and MARKED as Christ’s own for ever” The Phrase “God’s possessions” is explicitly used in vs 14.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit makes the Christian secure in their new faith and relationship with Jesus, and is tied with the final spiritual blessing inheritance. That comes from the Spirit being “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until our full redemption” (vs 14). In the very same way we would pay a deposit when buying something, we would leave a deposit which guarantees the purchase, which we will pay in full and collect at a later date. The Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance of redemption through Christ. The Spirit is proof of God’s good faith and the guarantee to pay what he has promised us.
Sealing with the Holy Spirit is an answer to all our eternal concerns. It assures us of God’s favour. It shows that we belong to him, It renders our salvation certain.
We can not finish this long opening sentence (vs 3-14) without considering the final few words “to the praise of his glory”. It is a deliberate ending, just as it was a beginning. Vs 3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the spiritual realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” Then, as Paul writes through to the end of vs 14 he tells us what these spiritual blessings are, and returns to the place that he started, stating that all we have heard, is “to the praise of his glory”
When Paul began talking of God’s blessings to us, he went back to before the creation of the world. Salvation began for us, when God chose us in Jesus Christ (vs 4). Paul showed how the will of God has unfolded, is unfolding today and how it will unfold in the future with our guaranteed inheritance. Everything we have in Christ is from God, and will return to God, beginning in his will and ending in his glory.
1) Considering the effectual call, when you were called to Jesus, how did the Holy Spirit call you?
2) Is it only the Holy Spirit that calls people to Christ? If so, what is the need for evangelism? Why does Jesus tell us to proclaim the gospels? Mark 16:15 for example…
3) Do we glorify Christ in what we say and by the way that we live? If we say no to this, can we still claim to have the Spirit in us if the spirit has been sent to glorify Christ yet we do not?
4) What does it mean to be part of the Church at MIE? Are we always unified with everyone at the Church? Do you make the effort to interact with those within the Church with very different personalities to you?
5) Is it ok to disagree with other Christians? If yes, then why? If no, then why not?
6) Thinking bigger, are we unified with Christians outside of MIE? If we disagree with how other Churches and Christians “do things” are we still united?
7) How would you defend the Bible if someone said to you “How can it be the word of God? It’s been written by man!”
8) Can you think about and discuss examples in your life when the Holy Spirit has lead you into, or away from a certain situation?
9) Read out loud Ephesians 1:1-14, do you think differently about what Paul has said now we have spent 3 weeks looking at it? If so, how?