Jan 20, 2012

Owen on Sealing

"In 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, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1: 13, 14)

In the debate over the ordo salutis, or whether regeneration precedes faith, or vice versa, this verse becomes a matter of debate.  Those who insist that men are born again before faith will affirm that this sealing of the Spirit cannot be connected with being born again because the sealing occurs when one believes and thus make the sealing some post regeneration experience.  Others, who do not insist that regeneration precedes faith will have no difficulty equating this sealing with the new birth.  Those who say that this sealing with the Spirit is not to be equated with regeneration will say that this sealing is the giving of assurance of salvation to the one already saved.

The great Calvinist theologian John Owen wrote these words about the nature of this sealing.

"Wherefore, God's sealing of believers with the Holy Spirit, is his gracious communication of the Holy Ghost unto them, so to act his divine power in them, as to enable them unto all the duties of their holy calling, evidencing them to be accepted with him both unto themselves and others, and asserting their preservation unto eternal salvation. The effects of this sealing are gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in and upon believers; but the sealing itself is the communication of the Spirit unto them. They are sealed with the Spirit."

"(2.) This is that whereby he giveth believers assurance of their relation unto him, of their interest in him, of his love and favour to them. It hath been generally conceived that this sealing with the Spirit, is that which gives assurance unto believers; and so indeed it doth, although the way whereby it doth it, hath not been rightly apprehended. And therefore, none have been able to declare the especial nature of that act of the Spirit whereby he seals us, whence such assurance should ensue. But it is indeed not any act of the Spirit in us that is the ground of our assurance, but the communication of the Spirit unto us. This the apostle plainly testifieth; 1 John iii. 24. 'Hereby we know that he ahideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.' That God abideth in us and we in him, is the subject-matter of our assurance: 'this we know/saith the apostle; which expresseth the highest assurance we are capable of in this world. And how do we know it? Even by the Spirit which he hath given unto us. But it may be, the sense of these words may be, that the Spirit which God gives us doth by some especial work of his, effect this assurance in us; and so it is not his being given unto us, but some especial work of his in us, that is the ground of our assurance, and consequently our sealing. I do not deny such an especial work of the Spirit, as shall be afterward declared; but I judge that it is the communication of the Spirit himself unto us that is here intended. For so the apostle declares his sense to be; chap. iv. 13. 'Hereby know we that we dwell in God, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.' This is the great evidence, the great ground of assurance which we have, that God hath taken us into a near and dear relation unto himself, because he hath given us of his Spirit; that great and heavenly gift which he will impart unto no others. And indeed on this one hinge depends the whole case of that assurance which believers are capable of. If the Spirit of God dwell in us, we are his; 'but if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his ;' Rom. viii. 9. Hereon alone depends the determination of our especial relation unto God. By this, therefore, doth God seal believers; and therein gives them assurance of his love. And this is to be the sole rule of your self-examination whether you are sealed of God or no."  (pgs. 218-22 "The works of John Owen," Volume 4 See here)

1 comment:

Les said...

Mr. Garrett,

I posted a comment about this post over at SBC Today. FYI..