Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
How is the assurance of the spiritual inheritance to be attained? is one of the most vital questions of Christian life; and men conscious of its importance have variously endeavoured to answer it. Is it by searching into our inward experiences that we become sure of the future kingdom, or by measuring our outward actions by the standards of spiritual morality? Are we to look for it in moments of peculiar ecstasy, or are there aspirations constantly present in the Christian soul which form Divine pledges of its reality? This question is one of great practical significance to us. Paul here gives us the answer — he speaks of the Holy Spirit sealing us with an earnest of the kingdom. Our subject, therefore, is, The assurance of the Christian inheritance: Its nature — "Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise"; Its necessity - "Until the redemption of the purchased possession."
I. ITS NATURE.
1. The ground on which the certainty is founded. We have seen that Paul teaches that the promises given us by the Spirit are earnests of the future, and at once the question arises, How do we know that they are? By what right do we feel so sure that these hopes and aspirations of today are the infallible assurances of the kingdom of God tomorrow? At first sight, the ground of assurance may seem very doubtful. Every man has his dreams, his aspirations, which seem to him to be promises of what he might be, and every man has found out how often they are vain. Visions of the future haunt the child, and he imagines they will be realized, but as life advances they flee like shadows away. Many, perhaps most, men are afraid of the awful light which Hope throws on the dark future, and fear to trust the whisper she breathes within. The question, therefore, is most important: if, in actual life, we find these promises of hope so delusive, do they form any ground of assurance to the Christian? How separate the false from the true, or rely on such longings as earnests of a kingdom to come? That is a question we have a right to ask; and let us try to answer it clearly, because in reality there is one of the strongest grounds of assurance here. It is a great law that those deep and unconquerable longings of a man are earnests of what he might be; they are proofs of hidden power — flashes of sleeping capacity. What you long to be — so deeply that your longings become a very spirit of promise — you may be. Apply this to spiritual things. The longings of the Christian life are the promises and actual earnests of what we shall be, for they are the whispers of the Holy Spirit, who is omnipotent to realize the promises He utters. He creates longings for what He can and will bestow; and the expectation is the dawning of their fulfilment. Thus we have the assurance — the hope, the outflashing of hidden capacity, the germ of the hidden spirit life; and the longings and aspirations of the soul promising the future kingdom are the actual commencement and first-fruits of its glory.
2. We pass on to illustrate the manner in which this assurance rises in the soul. This inheritance of spiritual life consists of three great elements: love, power, blessedness.
(1) Love. And by Divine love I mean the firm conviction of God's love to us, and the answering love of the soul to Him; and we can only correspond to the love of the Infinite One by consecrating our natures to Him — by being filled with the love of the Father. This is our inheritance — the spiritual kingdom we seek for. It is a kingdom now. It robes life in splendour. It brings the glory of heaven into the soul.
(2) Power. There can be no spiritual kingdom until the soul is king in its own house. But the Holy Spirit gives might to dash aside temptation, to endure with strength equal to our day; and all this is but an earnest of what we shall be. Kings to God we shall become, by being priests over the sacrifice of our own selves.
(3) Blessedness, as a result of love and power. The Holy Spirit tells the soul of depths of bliss inconceivable, of which no tongue can speak — earnests are they all, assurances of the spiritual kingdom.
II. ITS NECESSITY. Mark again the words, "Until the redemption of the purchased possession." The inheritance is given, but not reached. Between the gift and its attainment there lies a long path of conflict, in which the old struggle between the flesh and the spirit reveals itself in three forms.
1. Sense against the soul. The body must be mastered, or it will master; its animalizing tendencies repressed, and brought into subjection.
2. The present against the future. We are constantly tempted to sell our heavenly birthright; to forget the eternal in the struggle for the temporal; to live carelessly here, for mere pleasure, regardless of our immortality.
3. Steadfast work against the roving propensities of the heart. We are ever prone to be discontented with the sphere in which God has placed us; to grow weary of the work which God has entrusted to us; to become faithless of the immortal harvest of spiritual toil; to despair, and to renounce the old quiet way of patient, persevering service to God. Therefore, until clothed with a spiritual body — until the temporal is changed fox the eternal — we have need of the assurance of our eternal inheritance. "Grieve not," then, "the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.