who is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession, to the praise of His glory.
I. IT HAS RELATION TO AN ETERNAL INHERITANCE - to "the redemption of the purchased possession," that is, the final deliverance from all evil which is to take place in the end of all things. It is an earnest of that completed redemption.
II. IT IS ALSO AN EARNEST, NOT OF THE RESURRECTION MERELY, NOR OF THE CHANGE OF LIVING BELIEVERS AT THE RESURRECTION, BUT OF A CONDITION OF GLORY BETWEEN DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION; for the apostle refers specially to this fact in 2 Corinthians 5:5, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
III. THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT IS REPRESENTED IN Romans 8:11 AS THE PLEDGE OF THE FUTURE LIFE OF THE BODY; for there is a redemption of the body (Romans 8:23), because the Spirit is equally the Source of the life we derive from Christ, both for body and soul. This earnest redounds to the praise of God's glory, as God is glorified in the security of believers. - T.C.
Which is the earnest of our inheritance.I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IMPARTS HEAVENLY KNOWLEDGE TO THE MIND, AND IS THUS THE EARNEST OF OUR INHERITANCE.
1. Heaven's glory will consist partly in the direct and full vision of God, whom the redeemed shall see, no longer darkly as through a glass, but "face to face." They will possess an immediate and intuitive knowledge of God in their minds, and as far as finite can comprehend the infinite, they will enjoy a clear perception of His nature and perfections, sufficient for their perfect satisfaction and blessedness. This knowledge is the most excellent possession which the intellect of man can conceive. It is the loftiest, the purest, and the most comprehensive of all kinds of knowledge. What a piece of goodness and condescension is it on God's part to give unto us His blessed Word, inspired of the Holy Ghost, as a means to dispel the darkness of our minds and bring us to the knowledge of "the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, which is eternal life"! He the glory of heaven alights upon earth, dimmed, it may be indeed, by the earthly atmosphere, but still essentially the same. If God the Spirit is to speak to man, if He is to communicate the knowledge of God to us in our imperfect state, He must use the language of man — the language of earth; and He must also have respect to our weak capacities. In the Bible we have a clear and sufficient revelation of God. This light is furnished by the Holy Spirit.
2. Let us also notice another department of knowledge in which the Spirit so instructs believers as to become "an earnest" of heaven. We refer to the method of Divine Providence, a subject full of high and profitable instruction, but often difficult and inscrutable.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS AN EARNEST OF THE INHERITANCE BY THE PEACE AND JOY AND COMFORT WHICH HE IMPARTS TO THE SOUL. The essential elements of the saints' inheritance, apart from any outward sources of heavenly riches, will consist in a full and perfectly satisfying knowledge of God and His works, in a pure and perfect love dwelling in their hearts, and in a constant and ineffable joy filling their souls like a river. The vision of God, perfect love, and boundless delight, will go together to make up heaven's happiness — light, love, joy — a triune blessedness.
(W. Alves, M. A.)
I. First, then, THERE ARE SOME WORKS OF THE SPIRIT WHICH ARE PECULIARLY AN EARNEST TO THE CHILD OF GOD OF THE BLESSINGS OF HEAVEN.
1. And, first, heaven is a state of rest. It may be because I am constitutionally idle that I look upon heaven in the aspect of rest with greater delight than under any other view of it, with but one exception. To let the head, which is so continually exercised, for once lie still — to have no care, no trouble, no need to labour, to strain the intellect, or vex the limbs! It is a rest which puts from them all carking care, all harrowing remorse, all thoughts of tomorrow, all straining after a something which they have not as yet. They are runners no more — they have reached the goal; they are warriors no more — they have achieved the victory; they are labourers no more — they have reaped the harvest. "They rest, saith the Spirit; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." My beloved, did you ever enjoy on certain high days of your experience a state of perfect rest? You could say you had not a wish in all the world ungratified: you knew yourself to be pardoned; you felt yourself to be an heir of heaven; Christ was precious to you; you knew that you walked in the light of your Father's countenance; you had cast all your worldly care on Him, for He cared for you. You felt at that hour that if death could smite away your dearest friends, or if calamity should remove the most valuable part of your possessions on earth, yet you could say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." Your spirit floated along the stream of grace, without a struggle; you were not as the swimmer, who breasts the billows, and tugs and toils for life. Your soul was made to lie down in green pastures, beside the still waters. You were passive in God's hands; you knew no will but His. Oh! that sweet day! It was a morsel taken from the loaf of delights; it was a sip out of the wine vats of immortal joy; it was silver spray from the waves of glory.
2. But, secondly, there is a passage in the Book of Revelation which may sometimes puzzle the uninstructed reader, where it is said concerning the angels, that "They rest not day and night"; and as we are to be as the angels of God, it must undoubtedly be true in heaven that, in a certain sense, they rest not day nor night. They always rest, so far as ease and freedom from care is concerned; they never rest, in the sense of indolence or inactivity. In heaven spirits are always on the wing; their lips are always singing the eternal hallelujahs unto the great Jehovah that sitteth upon the throne; they rest, but they rest on the wing; as the poet pictured the angel as he flew — not needing to move his wings, but resting, and yet darting swiftly through the ether, as though he were a flash shot from the eye of God. So shall it be with the people of God eternally; ever serving — never wearied with their service. "They rest not day and night." Have there never been times with you when you have had both the pledge and the earnest of this kind of heaven?
3. Heaven is a place of communion with all the people of God. A heaven of people who did not know each other; and had no fellowship, could not be heaven, because God has so constituted the human heart that it loves society, and especially the renewed heart is so made that it cannot help communing with all the people of God. Have we anything on earth like this? Ay, that we have, in miniature. We have the pledge of this; for if we love the people of God, we may know that we shall surely be with them in heaven. We have the earnest of it; for how often has it been our privilege to hold the highest and sweetest fellowship with our fellow Christians!
4. Part of the bliss of heaven will consist in joy over sinners saved. The angels look down from the battlements of the city which hath foundations, and when they see prodigals return they sing. Jesus calleth together His friends and His neighbours, and He saith unto them, "Rejoice with Me, for I have found the sheep which was lost."
5. But further than this — to put two or three thoughts into one, for brevity's sake: whenever, Christian, thou hast achieved a victory over thy lusts — whenever, after hard struggling, thou hast laid a temptation dead at thy feet — thou hast had in that day and hour a foretaste of the joy that awaits thee, when the Lord shall shortly tread Satan under thy feet. That victory in the first skirmish is the pledge and the earnest of the triumph in the last decisive battle. If thou hast overthrown one foe, thou shalt overthrow them all. Oh, Christian, there are many windows to heaven, through which God looks dawn on thee; and there are some windows through which thou mayest look up to Him. Let these past enjoyments be guarantees of thy future bliss; let them be to thee as the grapes of Eshcol were to the Jews in the wilderness; they wore the fruit of the land, and when they tasted them they said, "It is a land that floweth with milk and honey." These enjoyments are the products of Canaan; they are handfuls of heavenly flowers thrown over the wall; they are bunches of heaven's spices, brought to thee by angel hands across the stream. Heaven is full of joys like these. Thou hast but a few of them; heaven is strewn with them. There thy golden joys are but as stones, and thy most precious joys are as common as the pebbles of the brook. Now thou seest the glimmerings of heaven as a star twinkling from leagues of distance; follow that glimmering, and thou shalt see heaven no more as a star, but as the sun which shineth in its strength.
6. Permit me to remark yet once more, there is one foretaste of heaven which the Spirit gives which it were very wrong for us to omit. And now I shall seem, I dare say, to those who understand not spiritual mysteries, to be as one that dreams. There are moments when the child of God has real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You know what fellowship between man and man means. There is as real a fellowship between the Christian and Christ. Our eyes can look on Him. I say not that these human optics can behold the very flesh of Christ; but I say that the eyes of the soul can here on earth more truly see Christ, after a spiritual sort, than ever eyes of man saw Him when He was in the flesh on earth. There are moments with the believer when, whether in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell — God knoweth — but this he knows, that Christ's left hand is under his head, and His right hand doth embrace him. Christ hath shown to him His hands and His side. He could say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God"; but he could not say much more. The world recedes; it disappears. The things of time are covered with a pall of darkness; Christ only stands out before the believer's view.
7. I do not doubt, also, that on dying beds men get foretastes of heaven which they never had in health. When Death begins to pull down the old clay house, he knocks away much of the plaster, and then the light shines through the chinks. The nearer to death, the nearer to heaven, with the believer; the more sick, the nearer he is to health.
II. THE BLACK REVERSE OF THIS PICTURE. There is another world, for the wicked as well as for the righteous. They who believe not in Christ are no more annihilated than those who do believe in Him. If thou be this day without God and without Christ in the world, thou hast in thyself a few sparks of that eternal fire. Ungodly, unconverted men, have an uneasiness of spirit; they are never contented; they want something; if they have that, they will want something more. They do not feel happy; they see through the amusements which the world presents to them; they are wise enough to see that they are hollow; they understand that the fair cheek is painted; they know that its beauty is but mere pretence; they are not befooled; God has awakened them. Now, when a man gets into that uneasy state, he may make a guess of what hell will be. It will be that uneasiness intensified, magnified to the extreme. But unconverted men without Christ have another curse, which is a sure foretaste to them of hell. They are uneasy about death. I have my mind now upon a person who trembles like an aspen leaf during a thunderstorm. But those dreads of death are but the foreshadows of that darker gloom which must gather round your spirit, except you believe in Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The general result of life, in teaching men how to employ themselves, gives us glimpses of that higher life to which we are coming — and only glimpses. Men are started in this world with some two score of separate faculties, which they do not know how to use — which they certainly do not know how to use together. A voyage we are put upon, with an undisciplined crew. They are rebellious, in part; none of them know how to work; some of them are too young; some of them are green; and all of them are to be trained before the voyage is ended. New machinery needs to wear smooth. But what if the machinery had to grow before it could perform its functions? What if part of the wheels were mere seed forms, and had to grow up into their different proportions and relations before they could work together? Nay, what if each wheel and spring was a voluntary agent, and had to consent to work instead of being coerced by physical laws? This would come nearer to what is taking place in every human soul. See, now, what this state of mind in this world comes to. How thoroughly the mind is waked up! How it learns to cooperate in all its parts! How much it gains in breadth, force, facility! And, above all, how strange the material history is, of passions, affections, moral sentiments, intellectual forces, and the will, in various conflicts, and in a common school of discipline, uniting into one final character, and working towards a perfect subordination and harmony! "It doth not yet appear what we shall be" — it does not yet appear what a perfect character will be; but we do see, on every side, that there are startings forth of every part of our nature, and that, while travelling differing paths, they are converging — coming nearer and nearer together.
2. There are moments of fortunate conjunction in this life, in which the body, the feelings, the intellect, all parts of our being, are in such exquisite harmony with each other, and are liked up with such rare stimulus, that we think more and easier in one single moment than in days of ordinary life. I recollect to have stood upon a hill in Amherst, where the college is, and where is spread out one of the most glorious panoramas on earth, and witnessed a scene of rare interest. The landscape below was hid from my view. I could see here and there the top of some mountain, but the whole vast basin was as white as milk, enveloped as it was in exquisite morning mists. By and by one could see great undulations in the fleecy mass. The sun was working at it, and hurling his arrows of heat into it. Soon it began to break away; and I do not know how it could have been removed so suddenly, but in a minute, almost, not only did there appear great openings through it, but the whole immense ocean of mist and fog was lifted up, and I saw all at once the entire sweep of the valley beneath it. Thus out of the dust and din and mist and obscurations of life there come moments when God permits us to see in a second further, wider, and easier than by the ordinary methods of logic we can see in a whole life.
3. But there are, in connection with the occurrence of these states, some facts of great significance over and above the sense of that large life which we are coming to in the future. When any single feeling is strong in us, and kindled to white heat, the intellect perceives the truths which that feeling interprets, with a clearness and amazing accuracy which nothing else ever gives. The heart teaches the head. A large part of the power of knowledge is located in the feelings. In the world to come our knowledge will be measured, not by the amount of thought power we have, but by the amount of heart power. The resources of heavenly understanding are not to be measured by the resources of scientific knowledge, nor by any capacity of knowing physical things. Our heavenly understanding is to be in the ratio of our moral sentiments, our loving affections. When we come to that supernatural state to which we are tending, we may suppose that the eye will perceive in the proportion that the heart gives its power to perceive; and the man that has the deepest, sweetest, and most noble feeling here will be the furthest seeing there.
4. There are, in this life, we might say, hours of judgment given to us. Christ promised the apostles that they should sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. We are to judge time, and earth, and life. And we sometimes, even here, have such a view as does not, for days and years, pass from us, of what this world is, and what its issues are. Do you not, in advance, sit in judgment upon earthly things, and rank them by a golden reed reached forth and put into your hand, as it were, from heaven? I very well remember going back, after having arrived at years of manhood, to the school house where I did not receive my early education. I measured the stones which, in my childhood, it seemed that a giant could not lift, and I could almost turn them over with my foot. I measured the trees which seemed to loom up to the sky, wondrously large, but they had shrunk, grown shorter, and outspread narrower. I looked into the old school house, and how small the whittled benches and the dilapidated tables were, compared with my boyhood impression of them. I looked over the meadows across which my little toddling feet had passed: they had once seemed to me to be broad fields, but now but narrow ribbons, lying between the house and the water. I marvelled at the apparent change which had taken place in these things, and thought what a child I must have been when they seemed to me to be things of great importance. The school ma'am — oh, what a being I thought she was! and the schoolmaster — how awe-stricken I was in his presence! So, looking and wistfully remembering, I said to myself, "Well, one bubble has broken." But when you shall stand above, and look back with celestial and clarified vision upon this world — this rickety old school house, earth — it will seem smaller to you than did to me that old village school!
5. Christians have earnests of things spiritual and invisible. Ordinarily, we are under the influence of the things which are seen. In our lower life we must be under the influence of sense. But now and then, we know not how, we rise into an atmosphere in which spirit life, God, Christ, the ransomed throng in heaven, virtue, truth, faith, and love, become more significant to us, and seem to rest down upon us with more force than the very things which our physical senses recognize. There is an atmosphere of the soul as well as an atmosphere of nature. I dwelt last summer on a spot which overlooks a great variety of scenery. Hills, mountains, valleys, and forests, may be seen from almost every part of it. There were times when a thick haze so prevailed that all the glory of hill, river, and mountain was hidden. At length would come up storm; a plunging rain, sweeping winds, and cleansing commotion. The storm brought light, and turmoil peace. For, that past, every tree stood forth in every lineament clear against the horizon, every line and furrow and scallop of hill was distinctly visible, and the mountains not only appeared in their proper shapes, but were out so plain that forty miles seemed scarcely four; and things before quite beyond the vision were advanced almost to the very gate of the senses. And so, in the atmosphere of the soul, God sometimes brings down the Divine landscape — heavenly truths — so clearly that the soul rests upon them as upon a picture let down.
7. In this world we have an earnest of the future world, as a realm of everlasting praise. As a traveller over rugged mountains and hills now and then passes through exquisite little dells, where beautiful and fragrant flowers greet him at every step, where rills gush from every rock, and every tree is full of singing birds, so that he cannot but say, "Oh, that I had a tabernacle here!" so, now and then, we pass into days that are grown all over with flowers fragrant with praise. All things seem beautiful; and we have a near and touching conviction that events flow from the gift-covered right hand of God, and that they are tokens of His particular thought of us! We say, "The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places"; and there is an irrepressible desire to render thanks, and earnest longing to give back love for love received. I do not know that there is any literature for this sense of gratitude except tears; and we can only stand before God and shake, as flowers shake when the wind blows upon them, and the dew drops off! The intimations which God is giving you are designed to be to you a means of grace, of instruction, of consolation, and of advancement in the Divine life. Look well at what God is revealing to you every day. There is much in it which you cannot afford to cast away. You will find that the interpretation of God's Word to your soul stands largely in the experience He is working out in you. It is not necessary that we should be able to reason upon these intimations, and understand them in every particular. Some persons attempt to ascertain exactly to What they point. This is foolish. If I am lost in a forest, and have waited all night long to learn the points of the compass, I do not stop when morning comes to get a full view of the sun. As soon as I see a growing brightness in the east, I say to myself, "Now I know my direction; for that is east, and that is west, and that is north, and that is south." I think there are thousands of intimations that we get which, although we cannot fully understand them, plainly indicate that they are designed of God to point out our way in this world; and that is enough. These partial views of the future — and not plenary ones — are just what we need to stimulate our hope and faith. They are transient, but they are long enough to work out God's designs in us They come quickly, and go quickly; but if we are wise, their impressions upon us will be abiding. You men of prevision, you prophets, you seers, you that are lifted out of darkness into light that you may discern the marvellous things that belong to the children of God, have you anything in your experience which answers to what I have spoken? Are you able to see the future through the present?
(H. W. Beecher.)
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.)I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE SPIRIT IS AN EARNEST TO US.
1. A pledge of something yet future.
2. A part of something hereafter to be received in its entirety. As such the Spirit itself will never pass away from the possession of the Church. It is in itself a final end and supreme blessedness. But in another aspect of its presence and work it is only a part of what shall be. Powers (as of faith and holiness) are awakened and developed by its influence within us which do not belong to our bodily nature, but are the beginnings of a higher life, hereafter to be perfected in the presence of God. And it is one of a number of manifestations belonging to a new supernatural order or kingdom, whose completeness and glory are yet to be revealed (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:5). Above all, it is "the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4) — a consciousness which seems to open up infinite vistas of possibility (Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:1, 2). We are thus brought into universal relations, and are indissolubly linked with the eternal and Divine.
II. WHAT EFFECT IT IS INTENDED TO PRODUCE. The Gentile Christians were "sealed" with it, and were thus —
1. Separated from unbelievers. As circumcision was a seal to Abraham of the personal acceptance with God of which he had been already assured (Genesis 15:6, 18; Genesis 17:11), so it became a seal to his children in the sense of separating them to God in covenant. In like manner the saints are said to be sealed with the name of the Lord (Revelation 22:4; Revelation 9:4), Something of the same general sense is conveyed by 2 Timothy 2:19. Christians are, by the indwelling of the Spirit, set apart, consecrated to God.
2. Confirmed in their own souls. By intensifying and rendering more vivid religious impressions and resolves, it seals believers "unto the day of redemption."
(A. F. Muir, M. A.)Galatians 4:6). We probably repeat the Lord's Prayer daily. We call Him Father, alas! often without apprehending that He is our Father. Let us not mock God. Believers have a rich, mighty, loving Father; and if we, being evil, know how to give good things to our children, how much more will He "give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" God first sends the life of His Son into the soul, and then the spirit of His Son into that soul. First God the Holy Ghost gives us to believe, and then He seals us as believers. He first gives us the seal of the Spirit, and then He makes the sealing Spirit to be the earnest of our inheritance. When we seal a document we remove the instrument that makes the impression; but when God seals it is altogether different, for He leaves the instrument with which He seals the soul to be the earnest of the inheritance "until the redemption of the purchased possession." This earnest of the Spirit is not only our security, but also our ability for the enjoyment of our inheritance in faith here and in fruition hereafter. When the Holy Ghost is the earnest of our inheritance, everything of the believer's is sealed unto the day of redemption. Our Head has been sealed. He is the head of all principality and power. "Him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:27). He is our life, our title, our representative, our wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. The foundation on which we rest is sealed. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His, and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19).
(M. Rainsford, B. A.)
I. A WORD ABOUT THIS IMPERFECT PRESENT, which is put here as being on one side the earnest of the inheritance, and on the other side as being God's partial acquisition of us as His possession. There can be nothing deeper, nothing greater, nothing more real in the manner of possession, than the possession which every one of us may have of an indwelling God for our life and our peace. It passes all human analogy; love gives us the ownership, most really and most sweetly, of the hearts that we love; but after all the yearning desires for union, and experience of oneness in sympathy, the awful wall of partition between spirits remains; and life may, and death must, separate; but he that hath God's Divine Spirit with him, has God for the life of his life and the soul of his soul. And we possess Him when, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts. But most real and most blessed as that union and possession is, my text tells us that it is incomplete. I need not dwell upon that in order to prove it; I only want to apply and urge the truth for a moment. We have an Infinite Spirit to dwell with us; how finite and little is our possession of it! The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of "a rushing, mighty wind," and you and I say that we are Christ's, and that we have Him. How does it come, then, that our sails flap idly on the mast, and we lie becalmed, and making next to no progress? The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of "flaming tongues of fire," and you and 1 say that we have it; how is it, then, that this thick-ribbed ice is round our hearts, and our love is all so tepid? The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of "rivers of water"; and you and I say that we possess it. How is it, then, that so much of our hearts and of our natures is given up to barrenness, and dryness, and deadness? Oh, brethren, with an Infinite Spirit for our Guest and Indweller, any of us that look at our own hearts must feel that my text is too surely true, and that the present possession of the best of us is but a partial and incomplete possession. Many Christian people forget that if our present condition be, as it certainly is, necessarily imperfect, it ought also to be, and it will be, if there be any vital force of Christian principle within us, constantly and indefinitely approximating to the ideal standard of perfection that gleams there ahead of us. Or, to put it into plainer English, if you have life you will grow. If there be any real possession of the inheritance, it will be like the rolling fences that they used to have in certain parts of the country, where a squatter settled himself down upon a bit of a royal forest, and had a hedge that could be moved outwards and shifted on by degrees; and from having begun with a little bit big enough for a cabbage garden, ended with a piece big enough for a farm. And that is what we are always to do, to be always acquiring, "adding field to field" in the great inheritance that is ours.
II. Now turn to the second thought here — THAT THIS IMPERFECT PRESENT, IMPERFECT THOUGH IT BE, IS A PROPHECY AND A PLEDGE OF A PERFECT FUTURE. The "earnest of our inheritance" till the full "redemption of the purchased possession." The facts of Christian experience are such as that they inevitably point to the conclusion that there is a life beyond. All that is good and blessed about religion, our faith, the joy that comes from our faith, the sweetness of communion, the aspiration after the increase of fellowship with Him; all these, to the man that enjoys them, are the best proof that they are going to last forever, and that death can have no power over them. "Like thoughts, their very sweetness yieldeth proof that they are born for immortality." To love, to know, to reach the hands out through the shows of time and sense, and to grasp an unseen reality that lies away beyond, is, to any man that has ever experienced the emotion and done the thing, one of the strongest of all demonstrations that nothing belonging to this dusty low region of the physical can touch that immortal aspiration that knits him to God; but that whatsoever may befall the husk and shell of him, his faith, his love, his obedience, his consecration, these at least are eternal, and may laugh at death and the grave. And I believe that even to the men that have not the experience, the fact of religious emotion, the fact of worship, ought to be one of the best demonstrations of a future life. But I pass that with these simple remarks, and touch another thing; the very incompleteness of our possession of God, and of God's possession of us, points onwards to, and, as it seems to me, demands a future. The imperfection, as well as the present attainments of our Christian experience, proclaim a coming time. That we are no better than we are, being as good as we are, seems to make it inconceivable that this evidently half-done job is going to be broken off short at the side of the grave. Here is a certain force at work in a man's nature, the power of God's good Spirit, evidently capable of producing effects of entire transformation. Such being the case, who, looking at the effects, can doubt that sometime and somewhere there will be less disproportion between the two? The engine is evidently not working full power. The characters of Christians at the best are so inconsistent and contradictory that they are evidently only in the making. It is clear that we are looking at unfinished work, and surely the great Master Builder, who has laid such a foundation stone tried and precious, will not begin to build and not be able to finish. Every Christian life, at its best and noblest, shows, as it were, the ground plan of a great structure partly carried out — a bit of walling up here, vacancy there, girders spanning wide spaces, but gaping for a roof, a chaos and a confusion. It may look a thing of shreds and patches, and they that pass by the way begin to mock. But the very fact that it is incomplete, prophesies to wise men of the day when the headstone shall be brought with shouting, and the flag hoisted on the roof tree. Fools and children, says the proverb, should not see half done work — certainly they should not judge it. Wait a bit. There comes a time when tendencies shall be facts, and when influences shall have produced their appropriate effects; and when all that is partial and broken shall be consummate and entire in the Kingdom that is beyond the stars. Wait! and be sure that the good and the bad, so strangely blended in Christian experience, are alike charged with the prophecy of a glorious and perfect future.
III. Then, lastly, my text in the one clause asserts, and in the other implies, THAT THE FUTURE IS THE PERFECTING OF THE PRESENT. The "earnest" points onwards to an inheritance the same in kind, but immensely greater in degree. The "redemption of the possession" is a somewhat singular expression; for we are accustomed to regard the great act of redemption as already past in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. But the expression is employed here, as in several other places, to express not so much the act of purchase, the paying of the price of our salvation, which is done once for all and long ago, as the historical working out of the results of that price paid in the entire deliverance of the whole nature of man from every form of captivity to anything that would prevent his full possession by God.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
1. Not only will God give us back the inheritance we have lost by sin, but He Himself shall become our inheritance.
2. Not only shall we be His inheritance, but also His purchased possession.
3. Meanwhile, and since we are still in the flesh, God has given us His Holy Spirit, our Comforter, to subdue, rescue, stablish, anoint, seal us, and be the earnest of our inheritance.
4. Our inheritance is not only kept for us, but we are kept by the power of God for our inheritance.
5. Finally, we have been adopted "according to the good pleasure of His will," redeemed and forgiven "according to the riches of His grace," and our purchased selves and our inheritance are and ever shall be "to the praise of His glory." Amen.
(M. Rainsford, B. A.)
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