*** double click video to view full screen***
Description: Sealed With The Holy Spirit 3
Sealed with the Holy Spirit 3
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’d really like to go over again what we talked about last Sunday. Two reasons, one very practical
one is I hadn’t the mic on last Sunday. The second is that it seemed to me in a way full of reading
a lot of quotations from Martyn Lloyd Jones so that I think that it is worth thinking of again and
being clear about it.
You may remember, the life that we’re living at this very moment is the fallen life. It’s
important to say that because we’re brought up to believe that this is normal life but in fact we’re
living a fallen life in a fallen world. So we aren’t really surprised when people say, “Oh how
could a good God make a world like this?” We know that he didn’t make it like this at the beginning
but it’s a fallen world that we’re looking at where disease and earthquakes occur and where all
kinds of murders and wars take place.
But it is good for us to remember that our own lives are actually fallen lives. What we’re looking
at in our present life is the life that we would have lived if there’d been no God, or it’s the life
that we would have lived if we believed that there was no God. And that’s the life that everybody
is living here on the earth outside Jesus. They’re living a fallen life.
They’re living the kind of life that results from living as if they are not in Christ. Of course,
what we’ve talked about is that real life is different from this. So as you and I meet our own
frustrations and come face-to-face with our own selfishness, and our own pride, of course, we have
learned now that what we’re looking at is a shadow or a ghost and that that is not actually real any
longer but that that whole life, part of which we watch from time-to-time when we slip for a moment
into the unreal life, that whole life has actually been destroyed in Jesus.
Of course, that is the heart of what we call the gospel, the good news, that the fallen life that we
live was foreseen by God and was dealt with by him in Jesus before the foundation of the world. He
simply lets the thing play out through time so that we can see it and so that we can agree to reject
that and accept the real life that he has created in Christ for us.
But it’s probably good to emphasize that again because I think we often fall into the trap of
thinking that, “Yes, this is the fallen life and somehow through the exercise of my faith and my
determination I’m going to climb out of this fallen life and I’m going to climb into the real life
that God has prepared for me in heaven.” As we think of it that way, a great burden falls upon us
of the need to produce works, or to produce the effort that will transform this life into the life
that it should be. Of course, the good news of the gospel is that God is not stupid — God did not
make you with a free will and then fail to foresee what you would do with that free will. God
foresaw that and God, in his Son Jesus, provided for that. From before he even created the earth he
provided for that and he remade you in his Son. Now what he’s done is he’s given you – in a way
he’s given you a playback video of the life that you would have lived apart from him.
Except that that playback video is what’s being played in apparent reality here in this earth.
He’s giving you that and he’s letting you watch it, and he’s giving you the opportunity to turn away
from that playback video which is just a video of what is to be. It’s a video of that life that was
crucified and he’s giving you the opportunity to turn from that unreality and live the real life
that he has now given you in Christ where everything has been fixed and repaired. It’s quite
important for us to grasp the reality of our deliverance from the life that we would have lived
apart from Christ. It’s important to see that that’s the life we have been living until we heard
this good news of salvation that’s exactly what the verse says in Ephesians 1:13. That is the
introduction to the study today.
Ephesians 1:13, Paul is of course speaking to the Ephesians as well as now to us, “In him [in Jesus]
you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation [the good news of your
deliverance] and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” It’s that last
clause that we’re dealing with today, “We’re sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” It’s good to
see that one of the distinctions that are made here is between being a believer and for instance
being baptized in the Spirit.
It’s important to see that whosoever is born of God will not commit sin [I John 3:9] and that new
birth is talked about you remember to Nicodemus in John 3:1-15 where Jesus said to him, “You must be
born anew. You must be born of the Spirit from above.” Also, when he talked to the disciples in
the upper room he breathed on them the Holy Spirit. Yet in spite of that, he implied that there
was a further experience of the Holy Spirit beyond that so that’s what we’re talking about — that
sealing with the Holy Spirit. You remember how the disciples had believed Jesus, they had
confessed him to the public, they had forsaken all their occupations and families and even cast out
demons and yet he spoke to them and very clearly told them that they had to wait for the promise of
the Father for some experience of the Holy Spirit that was beyond what they had.
So maybe the first thing we should see clearly is that being born of the Spirit is a matter of
hearing the truth and the gospel and believing it, and then you’re born of the Spirit. The Holy
Spirit is the one who convicts you of your sin. When the Holy Spirit comes he will convict the
world of sin. He is the one who regenerates you. You are born of the Spirit. He is the one who
even enables you to believe.
We experience the action of the Holy Spirit upon us otherwise we would never become Christians. But
it’s important to see that having experienced all those things, the disciples were still told by
Jesus, “Wait for the promise of the Father.” And it’s vital to see that the sealing with the Holy
Spirit is something that is beyond the new birth and yet you can be born of God and perhaps not have
yet experienced the sealing of the Holy Spirit.
That’s what we need to study today. So, you remember the way Martyn Lloyd Jones begins to deal with
it, he starts to look at the verses that over the years we have looked at so repeatedly. One of
them, the obvious one is in Acts 1. And in Acts 1 it is very clearly set forth the words of Jesus
to the disciples. In Acts 1:3, “To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many
proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying
with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father,
which, he said, ‘You heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be
baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” These are his own disciples he’s speaking to.
These are people that we would say they’re Christians. They have forsaken all and they have given
themselves to Christ, and they have confessed that he is the Son of the living God, and they have
put their faith in him and yet Jesus says to them, “You ought to wait for the promise of the Father
which he said you heard from me.” That’s especially impressive to all of us who know that actions
are very important and that this was a massive crisis that had taken place when Jesus not only was
crucified but raised from the dead. The natural tendency would be for the disciples to go out and
tell people immediately that this man that you crucified is now alive. It was in that situation
that Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit is something that Jesus thought as absolutely essential
before they could do anything.
You get it emphasized again, of course, in Acts 2, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were
all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind,
and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And we know from reading the
gospels that they had not experienced that before. You know, there is no story of that before.
There’s no mention of them being filled with the Holy Spirit in that way and so that’s a definite
event that appeared after they were children of God.
Then it’s stressed again in Acts 8 where you read about the converts that Philip had. Acts 8:12,
“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of
Jesus Christ.” So you can’t say these people were baptized by John the Baptist. They heard the
name of Jesus Christ. They were baptized both men and women, “Even Simon himself believed, and
after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he
was amazed.” Yet you get this following sentence, “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that
Samaria had received the word of God,” you would have thought they would have just rejoiced and been
glad that there was another source of Jesus’ life there in Samaria. But no, “They sent to them
Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it
had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” This was a definite instance
of not the disciples this time but people who were converted after Christ’s resurrection and yet
they had been baptized, and had believed, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit at that time.
Peter and John had to come down and pray for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit.
So that’s the truth that we’re talking about — the sealing with the Holy Spirit. And I thought it
was useful to mention it again using the words of somebody other than myself because I had – I
think, it’s good to hear someone else explain the thing and it’s good if only for me to hear it
explained by somebody else in words that maybe we haven’t used before. That’s why I thought that
it was good to look at Martyn Lloyd Jones who has a commentary on the book of Ephesians and he
begins his discussion of the sealing of the Holy Spirit with these words, “Now in order to get at
the meaning of this term sealing still more clearly, let us consider when it takes place. Where
exactly does the sealing come in the life and experience of the Christian? This is proved to be an
interesting question and indeed to some, a problem. The Authorized Version reads as follows, “In
whom also after you believed you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” [Ephesians 1:13]
The English Revised Version reads, “In whom also having believed.” The Revised Standard Version
is, “He also who have believed.” Now, the participle is “having believed” but it’s the King James
Version that says, “After you believed.” Not just having believed but after you believed. “The
question therefore arises to which translation is correct. When does this sealing with the Holy
Spirit take place? Does it take place at the same moment as one believes or is it subsequent to
belief? The Authorized Version which is not only a translation but also an exposition clearly
indicates that it is something that follows believing as the King James Version says, ‘After you
believed.’ The others say, ‘Just having believed.’ But the King James Version says, ‘After you
So that’s why Lloyd Jones says, “The authorized version which is not only a translation but also an
exposition clearly indicates it is something which follows believing, that it is different from,
separate from, distinct from believing and not a part of believing.” And of course, why he’s making
such a big thing of this is he’s speaking as one of almost the foremost spokesmen for Evangelical
Christianity and the heart of Evangelical Christianity even in these days were after so much
emphasis on the charismatic experience, the heart of it is that you’re filled with the Holy Spirit
when you believe. You’re filled with the Holy Spirit. You’re not just born of the Holy Spirit but
you’re baptized with the Holy Spirit when you believe. That’s really what he’s speaking to.
“The authorized version which is not only a translation but also an exposition clearly indicates
that it is something which follows believing, that it is different from, separated from, distinct
from believing and not a part of believing. Soon we are faced with the question, is this sealing of
the Holy Spirit a distinct and separate experience in the Christian life or is it something that
happens inevitably to all who are Christians so that you cannot be a Christian at all apart from
this sealing?” That is the normal Evangelical position, i.e. you can’t be a Christian apart from
the sealing and it’s something that occurs the moment you believe, the moment you’re converted.
“The prevailing common teaching at the present time and especially in evangelical circles is that
the second alternative is the correct one. That is that you believe and you are filled with the
Holy Spirit at the same moment. It is a teaching which says that the sealing with the Spirit is
something that happens immediately and inevitably to all who believe. But I cannot accept this.” I
am sure this surprised a lot of the people who looked to him, “But I cannot accept this and to
substantiate my opinion I mention the teaching of,” and then he doesn’t mention the teaching of the
people that you know, we have studied from the Wesley Arminian side like Arthur Skevington Wood
[1916-1993], or even the Dutch Reformer people like Andrew Murray. Lloyd Jones mentions the old
“I mention the teachings of the 17th Century puritan Thomas Goodwin and to a lesser extent that of
his contemporary John Owen. Also the teaching of Charles Simeon of Cambridge two centuries ago and
of Charles Hodge of Princeton USA in his commentary of Ephesians in the later 19th Century. These
teachers draw a sharp distinction between believing, the act of faith and the sealing of the Spirit.
They assert that the scripture teaches that while it is true to say that no man can believe without
the influence of the Holy Spirit nevertheless this is not the same thing as the sealing with the
Spirit and that sealing with the Spirit does not always happen immediately when a man believes.
They teach that there may be a great interval, that it is possible for a person to be a believer and
therefore to have the Holy Spirit and still not know the sealing of the Spirit. It is surely
obvious that the godly men who gave us the Authorized Version held that view because they
deliberately introduced the word “after.” Which is just interesting.
“It is generally agreed that the epistle does not say, ‘In whom also believing ye are sealed with
the Holy Spirit.’ The word is in the past tense. It is not as you believed or when you believed,
it is at the very least having believed.” And it is ‘pisteuósantes’ in Greek. It’s the participle
“having believed.” “The revised version suggests the past “having also believed you were sealed
with the Holy Spirit of promise” and I suggest that even the phrase ‘having believed’ suggests that
these two things are not identical. That when you say, ‘Having believed,’ you were then sealed.”
It implies that they weren’t the same experience.
“The sealing does not immediately follow the act of belief. What makes this so important is that it
is assumed that the sealing of the Spirit or the baptism of the Spirit is something which every
Christian must of necessity have experienced.” And I think this is the heart of the problem. “It
is assumed that the sealing with the Spirit or the baptism with the Spirit is something which every
Christian must of necessity have experienced. It is maintained therefore that this is not something
that happens in the realm of consciousness or in the realm of experience, it happens to all
believers unconsciously. Therefore, they are not to seek it and the result of not seeking it is
they do not experience it and the result of that is that they live in a state of believism saying to
themselves that they must have had it and therefore do have it.”
Of course, from our angle I can see the danger with us is that if we believe that you’re not a
Christian unless you’re baptized with the Holy Spirit, then there’s a real problem with any of us
who feel we may not be baptized with the Holy Spirit here in this family. It’s very easy for us to
say, “Well, wait a minute if I say I’m not baptized with the Holy Spirit then it means I’m not a
Christian.” Well no, it’s very important to see that the disciples were followers of Jesus and they
still had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. The converts of Philip had been baptized in the
name of Jesus and yet they had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
So it’s quite important from both angles to see the truth. The ordinary evangelical can get himself
into the position where he says, “Look, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something you get when
you’re converted. I don’t know whether I have it or not but you get it when you’re converted so I
must have it.” So, of course, that brings about a readiness and a disinterest in seeking it in his
mind. But then people like ourselves can get into the opposite situation, we can say, “Oh well,
you’re not a Christian unless you’re baptized with the Holy Spirit.” “Well I can’t say I’m not a
Christian because I do know Jesus and I do want his will in my life, so I must be baptized with the
Holy Spirit.” It’s very important to see, no, you can be a Christian, you can be born of the
Spirit, you can want Jesus, you can be in the position where you want to do what is right in your
life and yet you may not be sealed with the Holy Spirit. So it’s important to be in a position
where you can be honest about the thing.
This is my situation or this is not my situation so I can respond appropriately, but not be
paralyzed by non belief in the truth that the two things are separate. “Thus they continue,” Lloyd
Jones is speaking of the many evangelical Christians, “Thus they continue to live without ever
experiencing what was experienced by New Testament Christians and also by many other Christians in
the subsequent history of the Christian Church. So I assert that the sealing with the Spirit is
something subsequent to believing, something additional to believing.” Then, of course, what he
does is he goes through some of the verses that we’ve gone through.
Then he comes to deal with one we didn’t deal with because I thought I’d let him say it in his own
words. We come to that Acts 19 that we read in the lesson this morning. “Another example of this
sealing is found in the 19th Chapter of the Book of Acts. Paul arrived at Ephesus and finding
certain disciples he said to them, according to the Authorized Version, ‘Have you received the Holy
Ghost since you believed?’ But the Revised Version and the Revised Standard Version gives a
translation which reads, ‘Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?’ So you see the King
James says, ‘Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?’ Which implies pretty clearly,
you know, ‘Alright now you believed but since that time have you received the Holy Ghost?’ Whereas
the Revised Version translates, ‘Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?’ Which opens the
way – I think Lloyd Jones is right — it doesn’t really open the way but it appears to open the way
to the idea, “Oh, they expected to be baptized the moment they believed.” Whereas the King James
implies very definitely that it’s afterwards that you’d be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
“There can be no doubt that this latter translation is the correct one.” You see he says, “The
Revised Standard Version is actually the right linguistic translation. Many feel that that settles
the matter and proves that believing and receiving the Holy Spirit are the same. They regret that
the other translated versions have led so many into thinking that it is possible for one to believe
and not to receive the Holy Spirit until afterwards.” So he’s saying that many people take the RSV
translation and they grab onto that and they say according to this linguistic translation which is
really more true to the Greek than after. So there it is.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? That’s the way you’re supposed to do it, you’re
supposed to receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized with him when you believed. But this did not solve
our problem. Indeed I claim that far from supporting the idea that receiving the Holy Ghost always
follows immediately upon believing, this correct translation of Acts 19:2 does the exact opposite.
I confess that at one time I myself fell into error on the matter. A little booklet bearing my name
entitled “Christ our Sanctification” includes the argument that if we but follow the Revised Version
instead of the Authorized Version we shall see that there is no time interval between the believing
and the sealing. I confess my former error.” Which I think is something significant for a
gentleman like him to make it very plain like that.
“I confess my former error. Actually, I fell into it because I was concerned to show that
sanctification is not an experience you would choose to be received after justification. This I
still assert.” But he actually believes the same as Wesley when you go into his explanation of
that. “But I was mistaken at that time with regard to the sealing as I proceed to show.” And then
this is his explanation, “When the apostle put his question to these disciples, ‘Did you receive the
Holy Ghost when you believed?’ The implication surely is obvious, it is that men may believe
without receiving the Holy Ghost.” Do you see that? He wouldn’t even ask that question if it was
just a fact that you always received the Holy Ghost when you believed, then he wouldn’t ask that
question at all. But the very fact that he asks it implies that men may believe without receiving
the Holy Ghost.
If the two things happened together inevitably it is an unnecessary question and the apostle would
simply be asking them whether they were believers. But that is not what the apostle asked them.
His question is, “Did you receive the Holy Ghost when you believed?” In other words, when he spoke
to these men he saw at once that they had not had the seal of the Spirit. They had not received the
Holy Ghost so he says to them in effect, “Now look, you call yourself believers but did you receive
the Holy Ghost when you believed? Have you received him at all? You claim to be believers. I
suggest therefore, that the correct translation actually indicates quite clearly that there is a
distinction between these two things. We believe, and of course, we can only believe as the result
of the operation of the Spirit, but still we may not have received the seal of the Spirit.
The subsequent events in this story about Paul and the disciples in Ephesus [Acts 19] make it yet
clearer. The apostle begins to examine him and he asks, ‘Unto what then were you baptized?’ They
say, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Then said Paul, ‘John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance
saying unto the people that they should believe on him who should come after them, that is on Christ
Jesus. When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul would never
have baptized them unless they had believed. They believed and accepted what the apostle said and
so were baptized. Whatever they were before they were not clearly believers.
But then we read, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came upon them and they
spoke with tongues and prophesied.” They had believed but they still lacked the sealing of the
Spirit. The sealing only happened to them when Paul laid his hands upon them. Surely this incident
proves that the men who gave us the Authorized Version were interpreting Ephesians 1:13 correctly,
they were theologically correct in saying, ‘In whom also after you believed you were sealed with the
Holy Spirit promise.’ There was an interval between their believing and their sealing as there was
in the case of Paul himself and all the apostles, as there was in the case of the disciples in
And so he comes right down the line and says very clearly that the sealing with the Holy Spirit is
something that comes after you believe, after you have become a Christian, after you have repented
from your sins, after you have received the Lord Jesus, after the Holy Spirit has regenerated you.
Then the sealing of the Spirit is something that comes after that. Normally, we wouldn’t argue
about that at all because it seems so obvious to all of us that the Day of Pentecost followed after
the disciples had been with Jesus for three years. But I think probably Satan has created all kinds
of subtle arguments to get us to miss the one gift that we cannot do without.
I think it’s true that the moment you begin to believe that God has made you in Jesus, and that
Jesus has not let go of you but has held onto you inside himself through all your wanderings, and
all your rebellions, and has made you completely new inside himself, and borne the cost of that in
his own crucifixion, it’s very easy then to think that that is true and to feel a completely
different attitude about everything. And to sense, “Well, this is wonderful. Then God is not
against me he’s for me. He’s forgiven me and not only that but I now live in the victory of Christ
and I have no need to worry about things that I worried about before.”
So it’s very easy for us to sense that the Spirit of his Son that God sends into us has done
everything that needs to be done. But the fact is, of course, we have actually been translated from
the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. We’ve actually been transformed from
time into eternity. We’re living in time in this fallen world but the moment we believe, we’re
transformed into eternity and it’s possible to believe that to bring all the attributes of eternity
and the eternal life down into us there has to be a mighty operation of God’s Spirit. There has to
be a mighty sealing of his Spirit to make all of it a reality. Lloyd Jones at the beginning of his
sermon says, “That I think the apparent lethargy of the church today and the weakness and inability
of Christians to transfer their truths to others is due unto the lack of this baptism of the Holy
So there is necessary a sealing of God’s Holy Spirit that can bring to us all the mighty qualities
and attributes of eternity into this temporal life. And it’s good for us to see that. That God
did not leave the disciples with just their own unaided mental and emotional capacities to tell the
world about the mighty change that had taken place in mankind in Christ’s crucifixion. He ensured
that they were equipped with a supernatural power to do that and it’s important for us to see that
we have the same need for that supernatural power. Just because we’re in a store talking to a
person rather than preaching in a street corner, it does not mean that we have any less need for the
same power so that those realities will become real to them. And I think often we kind of – it’s
easy to excuse ourselves, it’s easy to say, “Yes, well my job is simply to be what God has made me
in Jesus.” That is true, if we take that in its wholeness to be completely what God has made us in
Jesus. But to be completely what God has made us in Jesus is to be sealed in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus himself was sealed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism when the dove came upon him.
Then Lloyd Jones says, “However, let us make it clear that though I am emphasizing there is a
distinction between these two things and that there is always an interval, that sealing does not
immediately and automatically happen at believing, I would not be understood as saying that there
must always be a long interval between the two. It may be a very short interval. So short as to
suggest that the believing and the sealing are simultaneous but there is always an interval.
Believing first then sealing. It is only believers who are sealed, and you can be a believer
without being sealed. The two things are not identical. It is believing that makes us children of
God, that joins us to Christ. It is the sealing with the Holy Ghost that authenticates that fact.
Sealing does not make us Christians but it authenticates the fact as a seal always does.”
So it’s just good to think quietly through the things and if necessary – well, if necessary read
Lloyd Jones’ book [God’s Ultimate Purpose, Exposition of Ephesians by Martyn Lloyd Jones] and study
most of all the passages of scripture and be clear yourself on what you believe God has for you in
regard to his seal by his Holy Spirit.