Some view this sealing work of the Holy Spirit as an experience that takes place after regeneration. The Holy Spirit first causes the sinner to be regenerated, taking up His abode in that person, filling him with delight and the desire to walk in the ways of the Lord. Here the words of Ezekiel 36: 26,27 are fulfilled: ÒA new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.ÓThis view holds that after regeneration there is the separate work of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, which is experienced by some but not all Christians. The implication of this view is that some Christians have this special sealing with the Holy Spirit and others do not. They see this sealing work of the Holy Spirit related especially to assurance of faith. Because some Christians have a deeper level of assurance than others this difference is ascribed to the sealing work of the Holy Spirit.
Another, slightly different view, held by various Christians in Reformed circles, was introduced by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was dissatisfied with the conventional Reformed position of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. While rejecting many of the notions of Pentecostalism, he believed that the New Testament teaches that believers today may have the expectation of a baptism with the Spirit, similar to that recorded in the book of Acts. This baptism of the Holy Spirit is the Òsealing of the SpiritÓ mentioned in Scripture. The key text for this view is Ephesians 1:13. This view rejects the Pentecostal notion of speaking in tongues and receiving other charismatic gifts. Rather, this sealing work of the Spirit is described as a special visitation or effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the individual believer, in which his apprehension of God is enlarged, his heart melted and his whole being filled with a deep sense of the glory and goodness of God (E.H. Andrews).
What does ÒSealingÓ Mean?
Sealing can mean to impress a mark of ownership upon something, such as a trademark or the branding of cattle. This meaning is found in Revelation 7:3,4 and in Ephesians 1:14. The believers are sealed to identify them as God's children, ChristÕs sheep, who are purchased with a price. Sealing can also mean to close something, such as a document, against unauthorized opening. For instance, the grave of the Lord Jesus was sealed and the book-roll in Revelation 5 was sealed. Sealing is also used to authenticate a document or a person. The meaning here is to confirm the actions or the testimony of someone (cf. John 3:33).
The sealing with the Holy Spirit is a metaphor that illustrates how God the Father seals the believer. He puts His mark of ownership on that person. The seal is the Holy Spirit, the One who does the sealing is God the Father, and the person who is sealed is the believer. But nowhere in Scripture do we read that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. The believer is sealed by God in or with the Holy Spirit.
The notion of being sealed in the sense of being closed up is found in Ephesians 4:30. Here Paul says that the believers are sealed for the day of redemption; salvation is ready to be revealed in the last day. Now it is not yet clear who or what the children of God shall be. Their true status is still hidden and believers themselves are also hidden to the world. This seal is also a guarantee that the promised glory will be received. It is a pledge of our inheritance. God sets His seal upon His people to assure them that they will share in the promised redemption.
Sealing a document can mean to authenticate it. Likewise, the sealing of the Spirit authenticates the believerÕs standing in Christ, as indicated in Romans 8:16: ÒThe Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.Ó
The sealing of the Spirit is inseparably bound up with being a child of God, being born again, and being purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer belongs to Christ. Every child of God has this seal of ownership (Rev..7:3). Every believer, by definition, is sealed for the day of redemption. It is a given. The believer will receive the inheritance and therefore he must inevitably be sealed for that inheritance. The Spirit is poured out in the hearts, whereby he is taught to pray Abba, Father. By virtue of being born again and being made a child of God, the believer is sealed and adopted and will share in the full redemption, which is to come.
Debate About Ephesians 1: 13
Much of the debate focuses on Ephesians 1:13: ÒIn whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.Ó
The question we are facing is this: does Paul speak here of a post-conversion event? The verb believed is a Greek grammatical form called an aorist participle, indicating an action without any reference to time, whether ongoing or past. It is merely the action itself that is emphasized. Therefore, it cannot be interpreted as a simple past tense. The correct translation would be: ÒBelieving, you were sealed...Ó The same grammatical form is found in expressions such as, ÒJesus answered and said.Ó The correct translation would be: ÒJesus answering said.Ó This clearly does not mean that the Lord Jesus answered before He spoke.
Applying this principle to Ephesians 1:13, we see that the grammatical form requires that there is an inseparable relation between the two words, believing and sealing. They simply belong together. The English translation twice has the word Òafter,Ó but in the original Greek these words are not there. The whole text flows together as one consistent whole. Therefore, we may not deduce from this text that these events are separate from each other so that some believers may receive the sealing and others do not.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is an inseparable and necessary part of conversion. Conviction and drawing to Christ all take place by the Holy Spirit. It should be noted that the Holy Spirit is promised to those who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 9:1-18). Peter did not say to his hearers, ÒRepent, be baptized, receive forgiveness and then you may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Ó Receiving the Holy Spirit was wholly a part of converts being led to new life in Christ. It is necessarily connected to conversion and is a part of it.
In Ephesians 1, Paul describes all the believers as having received an inheritance (v.11) and also that all are sealed with the Holy Spirit (v.13), Who is the earnest (the guarantee) of that inheritance. Are we going to conclude that some Christians have the inheritance, but not the earnest (guarantee) of this inheritance? To suggest this is exactly the opposite of what Paul is saying here. All believers have received the seal of the Holy Spirit as the earnest of their inheritance. There is no distinct experience of the sealing of the Spirit apart from believing. These matters are inseparably connected.
Be Filled With The Spirit
It is clear, however, that through the operation of the Holy Spirit there is growth in the knowledge of Christ. There have been many Christians who had unforgettable spiritual experiences after their conversion. Some have felt their hearts flooded with the love of Christ and received a clear view of their share in Christ Jesus. Some have received an overwhelming sense of the beauty of God. For instance Jonathan Edwards said: ÒI had a view that for me, was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God.Ó Edwards had this several times during his life, as he says, ÒI have several other times had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.Ó
Ministers have had experiences that transformed their ministries. Initial conversion leaves room for more insight and growth in Christ. That is what Christians must strive for. ÒBe filled with the SpiritÓ (Eph.5:18). But that is not to be confused with a separate sealing work of the Holy Spirit. All true believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.