When are we Sealed with the Holy Spirit?

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 25, 2020

When are we Sealed with the Holy Spirit?

The Question

I thought that once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, do all my works to help the church: such as studying the Bible, sharing during Sunday school, lead Bible study every Wednesday, do my tithing—Yeah, that is what I have done for a long time. So when am I sealed with the Holy Spirit? What is meant by being sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day we will be saved? Hope to hear from you soon.

The Discussion

Our question centers on when is the believer in Christ sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is this after we have served God for a while or when one believes? Or is there some other unique experience? What Scripture do we have to help us get a firm understanding on this doctrine?

This question is crucial because it has to do with how we rely on the Lord, our motivations for serving, and the degree of our confidence in serving. If improperly understood, the believer can be consumed with spiritual battles regarding the security of salvation or anointing of Spirit for one’s ministry.

The Three Relevant Passages - Sealed with the Spirit

The question points to the answer when referring to the New Testament verse, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

There are two other confirming passages in the Bible with the same message but with some amplification.

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13-14).

21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Cor 1:22).

Sealed in the New Testament has several meanings but the most applicable are: 1) to mark with a seal for security, and 2) to authenticate as genuine. But the meaning is not as crucial since this sealing is looked at as very desirable.

When we look at the verb tense of the word sealed in its context, we will see that, in each passage, that the sealing of the Holy Spirit comes at the point of salvation. The verb tense then has significant implications for our answer to your question. We will return to these reflections after looking at these three verses referring to being sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit.


  • Ephesians 4:30 “You were sealed.”

Verb: Aorist Passive Indicative 2nd Person Plural

The English translations all rightly indicate past tense. The sealing happened at a past time for believers. This is because the Greek word being translated comes from an aorist verb, indicating past tense, which occurred at a past time. This is true of all three relevant verses that use the same Greek word for sealed. If the sealing occurred in the past, it would no longer need to be fulfilled in the future. The sealing is a past action and no longer an experience to be sought or earned, but one to be delighted in.

    Ephesians 1:13 “You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Verb: Aorist Passive Indicative 2nd Person Plural

The verb and its verb tense in Eph 1:13 are the same used later on (as discussed above). If there were any questions about whether the sealing was related to our salvation, they should be cleared up with this verse. “Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13).

Notice how the sealing, occurring at only one time, is linked to one’s belief in Christ. Just as our saving belief happens only once, so the sealing, the guarantee of our faith, only happens once and remains with us for eternity.

Promised

Ephesians 1:13 adds, “of promise,” referring to passages in the Old Testament that predict the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was partly fulfilled by the picture of the Feast of the Pentecost (i.e., Feast of Weeks), partly through Old Testament verses (some used in Acts 2:17-21), and partly through Jesus’ own prediction in John 7:38-39.

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:38-39)

But we need to clarify, that the coming of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of would become a new way God would relate to His people through the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit, through this sealing, made them all one family instead of through blood relationship as with the nation of Israel.

“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit” (Eph 4:3-4).

These three verses more specifically speak of when individual believers step into that new relationship with God through one’s faith. When we believe (Eph 1:13), we are then forever sealed, once and for all, with the Spirit, both authenticating our faith and securing us to Him. The word ‘promise’ reminds us of the blessings of the Holy Spirit that all believers can take part in now.

Ephesians 1:13 Sealed with the Spirit - Bucknell

    2 Corinthians 1:22

“Who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”

Aorist Middle Participle Nominative Singular Masculine

The “sealed” here is not a verb (it is a Greek verb participle). It acts similar to a verb, thus gaining the translation, “Who also sealed us.” This transformation—bringing those not in a relationship with God into a relationship with the Holy Eternal God, which happened in the past. So all believing Christians are sealed by the Spirit and get to share in the rich blessings of the Holy Spirit.

Note here that 2 Corinthians 1:22 adds the definitive phrase “gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” with the same past tense as “sealed.” He affirms through the verb “gave us” that we had already received the Holy Spirit in the past. This spiritual sealing happens at the time when one personally believes in Christ. The given Holy Spirit serves as a pledge, a downpayment of the full anointing that we will receive when transformed with our new bodies upon Jesus’ return. We no longer need to seek the Holy Spirit’s presence because He lives within us (1 Cor 6:19-20).

Summary

These three verses uniformly teach us that we receive the sealing, the guarantee of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, at our personal point of salvation. Some falsely believe that believers do not receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, or perhaps, not later either, dependent on various factors. Paul the Apostle, however, uses the word “seal” not to mystify the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life but to build up believers’ confidence and security. No matter what we face, the Spirit of God is there to face those problems with us (Mat 28:20), even when we fall and stumble.

Implications of Being Sealed with the Spirit

Back to the question, “I thought that once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, do all my works to help the church….” The sealing of the Holy Spirit is not based on how many works one does or the length of one’s salvation but happens at salvation, “having believed.” This is part of God’s salvation package that He gives us upon our faith in Christ Jesus. We can thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives and our challenge is to learn how to work along with Him throughout the day. Besides, as a guarantee, we can delight in the fact that we forever belong to God. We are sealed with His Spirit, guaranteeing our close relationship with God forever and ever.

  • As genuine believers, we need not doubt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Even when we sin as believers, the Spirit of God is still there (but we are not cooperating with Him and so profit less from His presence).
  • We cannot, as believers, get more of the Holy Spirit; He lives within us. There are such things as gaining a greater anointing, but they have more to better relating to the Lord for particular purposes that the Lord has for our lives.
  • We need to establish our confidence in the Lord’s work in our lives.
  • Like Paul, we are obligated to encourage other believers to trust and relate to the presence of the Spirit of God within them.

An Application of Living with the Holy Spirit

I’ll close with one application. Consider the believer who falls into some sexual sin (with pornographic pictures or in the body). We know that Satan will make him (or her) feel that God has rejected him. We are to intercept this temptation and reaction to not trust God with His forgiveness by reflecting back on the truth of being sealed with the Spirit. We are God’s forever.

We instead can say to ourselves, that God is committed to helping us grow in holiness by fully dealing with our sin on the cross and giving us His Spirit. We will repent and confess our sins, take steps to clear up our lives and be forever grateful for the Holy Spirit to lead our lives. Furthermore, to add the teaching of the Spirit’s indwelling, we can add the thought that we are a holy temple of God and treat ourselves as a holy temple for God to dwell in.

Discussion Questions on Sealed with the Spirit

  1. What three New Testament verses speak directly to being sealed with the Holy Spirit? (Memorize one of them.)
  2. The Greek word for “sealed” is in the Greek past tense (aorist). Why does the verbal past tense, indicating completeness, so important?
  3. Why do the words “having also believed” help us understand when we receive the Holy Spirit?
  4. What does the words Holy Spirit “of promise” refer to (Eph 1:13)
  5. How do the words “and gave us the Spirit” confirm that God gave us the Spirit is a one-time point of time in the past?
  6. Can you freely admit that the Holy Spirit’s presence and function in a genuine believer’s life is not dependent on how long one has served or what kind of service he or she has done? Explain your answer.
  7. Go through the section, ‘Implications of Being Sealed with the Spirit’ above and pick out two points that mean the most to you. Why?
  8. Summarize or restate how this teaching of “sealed with the Spirit” should give strong confidence to the believer in Christ.

For further study:

More resources are provided in the New Testament Digital Library as well as the Digital Discipleship Library 3s, including our book and teaching series: Life in the Spirit!

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