And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
On my driver’s license there is a seal for the state of Iowa. That seal marks my license as official, and it also designates to which state the license belongs. There is a similar but different seal from the state of Ohio on my birth certificate. There are seals on my high school and college diplomas, and there’s a very nice US Army seal on the certificate that accompanied the medal I was awarded many years ago. A seal is what makes all those documents official. It is the mark of the agency or the individual who is allowed to award such things. In ancient days, a seal was often a raised or engraved surface on a ring or on a signet stamp, and the seal would be pressed into hot wax to designate it as official. The seal of a king held considerable power.
7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew, “Indeed, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows because he tried to lay his hand on the Jews.
8 “You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring no one can revoke.”
In our verse for today, the Greek word for “sealed” is the verb σφραγίζω (sphragizo), which itself comes from another word that means to fence in or enclose, in the sense of stopping something or blocking it. The idea that comes from this is that something that is sealed is marked with authority and ownership.
3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side;
4 and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”
The Lord marks those who are His, those who love and fear Him, those who are aggrieved by the same things that grieve Him. We who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have been sealed by the unmistakable mark of God Himself.
10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.
11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Like Jesus, we have received the Holy Spirit, and by that Spirit we are sealed for God. There are three characteristics of that seal:
1) We now belong to God. We are His people and He is our God. (Jeremiah 24:7)
2) We carry the authority to speak His Word and His name. (John 14:12-13)
3) The seal of God cannot be revoked by anyone except God.
Why would God ever revoke the seal of His Holy Spirit? He would revoke it for denying the seal itself, for denying the holiness, work, and presence of the Holy Spirit.
31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
32 “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Having been sealed by the Holy Spirit, we can therefore have hope, we have the calm assurance of our salvation.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
The Holy Spirit is “the guarantee of our inheritance” until the day of redemption, until the day when Christ Jesus comes in glory to claim His own. (Colossians 3:4)
But how do we grieve the Holy Spirit, as Paul warns us not to do? We grieve the Holy Spirit by returning to our old ways. Looking at the surrounding verses, we can see what grieves the Holy Spirit:
28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
Stealing, corrupt words, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, malice, speaking evil: these are the things that grieve the Holy Spirit. And what shows that we have been sealed? What displays the mark of God?
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Whose mark do we carry? Whose mark do we show? When people look at our lives, do they see the seal of God’s Holy Spirit? Or do they see a different mark–the mark of our own pride, of our society, of our worldly values, or even of Satan himself?
Sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day that Christ comes to finally redeem us from the world, we must live under the authority of God’s own Holy Spirit. We belong to God now, and we need to display His seal–His Holy Spirit and the gifts thereof–to this thirsty and hurting world. When we engage in malice and gossip, when we return to our old ways of theft and pride, when we refuse to put off the sins for which Christ has paid the price, not only are we NOT showing the world that we belong to God, but we are also grieving that Holy Spirit. We are, in essence, offending God. Why would we want to offend the very King of kings who sealed us with His own Spirit?
I am no model of holy behavior. As the apostle Paul liked to say, I am being perfected, being made mature in my Lord Jesus until the day of His return. (Philippians 3:12-14) As I mature in Christ, I am finding more ways to display the seal of the Holy Spirit, the marking of having been saved by Jesus Christ, the ownership of my God. I am learning to love as He loves, learning to forgive as He forgives. I am facing trials with perseverance and hope, and thus my faith itself is being refined and perfected. And that faith is what allows me to carry the seal of the Holy Spirit ever more boldly and lovingly.
Brothers and sisters, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit through evil words and unworthy thoughts. Let us not deny the Holy Spirit and all His works in and through us. We have been marked BY God and FOR God. Let us show it through our actions, thoughts, feelings, and words.
1 Peter 3:8-9
8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
Lord God in heaven, You have sealed us for Yourself. You have called many out to be Yours, and You have place Your seal–Your Holy Spirit–upon the hearts of many. We thank You for that seal, Lord God, and we thank You for the authority You have given us through that seal to be messengers of Your kingdom here on earth. Let me therefore be bold for You, knowing that the seal I carry is the signet of the very King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.