For many hundreds of years, a wax seal has been used to mark letters of importance. A seal indicates both the sender and the authority attached to the contents of the letter. You may be surprised to learn that the practice is still in use today. When Harry and Meghan got married in 2018 they required a royal ‘Instrument of Consent’. This is the official document giving the Queen’s permission for them to wed. Like all royal documents it was marked with The Great Seal – proof that the Queen had authorised it and given her blessing.
St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was probably the only letter he wrote which was sent to multiple locations – we have a surviving manuscript addressing the letter to Laodicea as well as to Ephesus. This makes it unique, and incredibly important to biblical theology, since we can reasonably assume that Paul here is condensing two or three decades of church leadership and deep thinking into one profound letter which summarises The Things You Really Need To Know as a Christian.
It’s really all about identity – who we are in Christ. When we truly grasp just how much Jesus has done for us, how precious we are to God and what our salvation means, then we are empowered and energised to live the kind of life we were always meant to live. Ephesians is one of those little books to come back to throughout our lives – it will never fail to yield fresh treasures and inspiration.
But here, near the start, Paul addresses a simple, but very important question: how can we know if we’re part of God’s people? If we’re forgiven and secure in His love? Chapter 1 sets out many compelling reasons: how God chose us and adopted us into His family, how Jesus set us free through the cross, how God’s grace demonstrates the wisdom of God. But here in this short passage he gives us a very concrete proof: God has made a down-payment in our lives. How? The presence of His Holy Spirit in us. The fact that we have the Spirit in our lives is the deposit which ‘guarantees our inheritance’. What we experience now in part is proof that the full reality will be ours eternally.
It is something God promised – as we saw in the early days of these reflections. It is also our ‘seal’. Since a seal denotes the authority of the giver, the Holy Spirit represents the authority of none other than God Himself declaring that we are His, that we are saved and chosen and set free to be part of His family forever.
Seals are also unique – they tell us something about the sender. The Holy Spirit in our lives manifests the unique love and power of God. There is nothing like the Spirit – and this seal slowly transforms our lives in a Christlike direction.
No wonder that the first of Paul’s prayers (v17) is to keep asking that we receive more and more of this Spirit. Why not pray that prayer today, and give thanks that you – yes, you – are sealed by the Holy Spirit in the love and grace of Christ.