“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. ’” (Acts 1:6-8; NKJV)
How long has it been since our Lord and Savior spoke those words? Almost 2,000 years ago. Yet even today we witness the gospel being proclaimed in all regions of the world. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who is building His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Nevertheless, He has called us as Christians to bear witness to the truth unto all nations, tribes, languages, and peoples. Through the book of Acts, we are privileged to behold the beginnings of the Apostolic witness of the gospel in Jerusalem and Judea, even to the city of Rome. The Holy Spirit is still empowering and directing the church to obey our Lord. With this in mind, it is my honor and privilege to share with you some of the amazing work that Christ is doing in the country of Nepal.
Until eight years ago, Nepal was a kingdom ruled by a dynasty that lasted over two hundred years. In 2006 the king was deposed and civil war broke among all the regions of Nepal. Two years later, the government finally stabilized into the form of a parliamentary/democratic republic that remains in power unto the present day.
The beginnings of the proclamation of the gospel in Nepal can be traced back to British and American missionaries from India who came to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Despite opposition from the Hindu culture and the king, some of the first organized churches were planted in the 1950’s around Kathmandu, the capital city. Since then, the gospel has spread to many of the mountain villages and country towns (among which some of the inhabitants speak their own native dialect). According to the official census of Nepal, Christians constitute 1-2% of a total population numbering 26. 4 million. While the government proclaims a tolerance of religion, many Christians still suffer persecution from their unbelieving neighbors.
I was invited to visit Nepal in the fall of 2014 by a Nepalese pastor named Krishna (Caleb) Acharya who came to the United States to raise funds to support ministries in Nepal and later he began to attend a seminary. We first met him two years ago when he and his family came and visited Rehoboth RCUS in Los Angeles one Sunday. Before his conversion, he was a Hindu priest in his village of Jumla. In God’s sovereign mercy and grace, he went to India on business and heard the gospel through an American missionary. He came to faith in Christ and has a great passion for the proclamation of the gospel among his people. He was instrumental in planting a number of churches in Nepal before coming to the USA. While attending seminary here, he was introduced to Reformed theology and is becoming more and more convinced that it is the truth. It is his desire and goal that the Reformed faith be established in the churches of Nepal. Since we first met, my father (Rev. Mike Voytek) and I have had many theological discussions with him and learned more about the situation in Nepal. In September of 2014, he asked me if I would be interested in joining him on a mission trip to Nepal in December. Since I had completed my college studies, I accepted the invitation.
We arrived in Kathmandu on December 5th but Caleb and his family had to immediately set out for Chitwan in Central Nepal because of a death in the family. I stayed in the city for a couple days with a friend of Caleb’s named Janak and was able to observe the culture of the big city as well as Christianity’s presence there. I visited Janak’s church that Saturday and witnessed a Nepali Christian worship service. The service primarily consisted of prayer and praise with the sermon spoken at the end after the collection of tithes and offerings. Afterwards, I was able to do some sightseeing of Kathmandu with Caleb’s brother Prashant, who is also a pastor of a church in Western Nepal. The next day, I departed via tourist bus to rendezvous with Caleb in Chitwan.
Upon arriving in Tandi, just south of Chitwan’s main city of Bharatpur, I met with Sonish Pandey, the son of Pastor Krishna Pandey (our host in Chitwan). He took me to our base of operations at the Mercy Home Orphanage. Caleb, his family, and I remained at Mercy Home for about six days before renting a car to drive to Western Nepal on December 12. During our stay in Chitwan, we were able to participate in a number of outreach and teaching opportunities, such as teaching the children at the orphanage, conversing and ministering to the members of the church that meets in the orphanage, teaching youth the biblical concept of covenant as well as American church history (per their request) at a one day conference, and witnessing to all by our words and actions.
On December 12, we drove to Kohalpur in Western Nepal to stay with Prashant and his family. We visited the church that Prashant is pastoring and were able to minister to the saints there, even with a violin on occasion. I observed an evangelistic outreach at a local soccer game and taught at a Leadership Builders Conference. My assigned topic was the biblical basis and necessity for a church to be ruled by elected and ordained church officers such as pastors, elders, and deacons. Caleb, in the meantime, visited family members and neighbors from his home town of Jumla who migrated to Kohalpur years earlier. He was able both to share the gospel and to minister to the believers. We were also able to travel to the district of Bardiya to visit Caleb’s family and to meet with Christians in the village of Gola on the western side of the Girwa River.
After our visit in Western Nepal, we drove back to Chitwan to do some final teaching and outreach before returning to Kathmandu for the return home. I had two opportunities on Saturday, December 20th, to bring God’s Word (exhort) to two congregations in the Tandi area including the church meeting at Mercy Home. Once we had rested for a couple days, we traveled to Kathmandu on December 23rd where I spent the night before departing for America the next day. Caleb and his family remained in Kathmandu for five more days visiting Christians and pastors as well as arranging the publication of teaching aids on the Bible for lay Christians.
I am pleased to report that the work of God is evident among the lives of the Christians in Nepal, especially among the believers I was privileged to meet. They are conscious of the cultural expectations and pressures of Hinduism, yet they embrace the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in their lives and in their witness to their family, neighbors, and friends. They remind me of children in the faith who desire to serve God in whatever way they can, even though they lack solid biblical teaching.
While they may have a heart of service, these Christians, for the most part, lack a basic understanding of the Bible and of sound doctrine. Even the pastors and leaders know very little about the Bible and theology, let alone Reformed theology and practice. Their worship services reflect a Pentecostal and Charismatic approach to worship which emphasizes subjective feelings rather than the objective truth which includes the rules for proper conduct according to the Scriptures (decently and in order). Because of this emphasis on subjective experience, there is a lack of Biblical discipleship among the families in their homes. What follows is a child-like understanding of both doctrine and life which is primarily due to ignorance rather than disobedience.
Nevertheless, the believers are very desirous to learn the truth that is found in the Bible. When Caleb and I taught on the various themes of covenant, presbyterian church government, Bible study methods, and a Reformed understanding of salvation (God saves sinners), nearly all of the saints received the Word of God with joy, including the pastors and leaders. One pastor came up to me after a teaching session one day and he asked me, “Where did you learn all of this Bible knowledge?” I simply responded by saying, “My father, my mother, and the elders in my church.” As Caleb told me later, that man left the conversation both pleased with my response and convicted with the charge to teach his youth all of Scripture. Even the pastors at the Leadership Builders conference in Kohalpur, after hearing my teaching session on presbyterian church government, discussed among themselves afterwards saying, “We need to implement these principles in our churches.” In sum, the vast majority of pastors and leaders are hungry to learn biblical teaching, and in many ways reveal a humility that is often lacking in many Christians around the world.
I write this report to both present the state of the church in Nepal as well as to share some specific prayer requests that Caleb, the brethren there, and I lay before you. First and foremost, we ask for prayer for the reformation of the church as a whole in Nepal. Pray that the pastors and leaders would desire to learn more from the Word of God and to bring sound, biblical doctrine and practice to their flocks. Second, we ask for prayer for the Lord to raise up pastors and teachers who are willing to travel to Nepal to teach Reformed theology to the leaders there. Third, we ask for prayer for openness and willingness on the part of the Nepalese leaders and the believers to both learn and apply biblical teaching in their homes and families. Fourth, we ask for prayer for the financial support of pastors who are prevented from serving the churches they are called to because of the need to provide for their families. Fifth, we ask for prayer for the current ministries among orphanages, schools, and career development organizations (i.e. training girls to sew instead of being forced to become victims of human trafficking), that they would continue their service to reach out to their communities with the gospel both in word and in deed.
I give thanks to God our Father who has prospered us in our journeys and has brought us safely home. I would like to thank all those who prayed for us during our travels as we had many more opportunities to minister than we had expected. Please lift up the brethren of Nepal in your prayers and if you have any further questions about the trip and about the work in Nepal, feel free to contact me at (209) 224-4356 or email me at divoytek94@gmail. com.
I would like to close with a passage from Psalm 98:1-3, which says, “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The LORD has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
David Voytek, Los Angeles, CA
Soli Deo Gloria
Pastor Krishna Pandey and Family
Pastor Prashant Acharya and Family
David Voytek at the Mercy Home Orphanage.
Leadership Builder’s conference
Pastor Krishna (Caleb) Acharya and Family
There are many churches and professing Christians who do not believe in creeds or confessions. They have slogans like “No creed but the Bible,” or “No creed but Christ.” But the fact is: creeds are inescapable. The word creed comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe.” Statements such as “I believe Jesus is Lord” or “I believe in the resurrection of Christ” are creeds, whether or not they are written down. Even to say “I don’t have a creed” is a creed. And the statement “No creed but Christ” is a poor creed because it does not tell us anything about Christ. Furthermore, how can a person know whether or not he can honestly join with a particular church if he cannot find a statement of the church’s belief?
Some people are against creeds simply because they are man-made. But just because something is man-made does not mean it cannot be accurate. A road map is not a perfect interpretation of the surface of the earth but it’s still accurate. Just because our interpretations of the Bible are not perfect does not mean they are not accurate. The purpose of a creed is to provide accurate summaries of the Bible’s basic teachings.
The Bible Requires Creeds
It is not enough to say we believe the Bible. All cults and heretics appeal to the Bible. The real question is how one understands the teaching of the Bible. Just quoting Scripture is not good enough. Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:6); indeed, Satan very deceptively misinterpreted Scripture.
Therefore, the Bible has to be correctly interpreted. In 2 Timothy 2:15 the apostle Paul told Timothy: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [rightly interpreting] the word of truth. The Bible must be carefully studied and interpreted. We must put various verses together and see how they affect each other. No single passage tells us all about God or Jesus. It is necessary to assemble all the verses, or as many as we can, and make a statement that summarizes the total meaning. That is what a creed is for: to provide careful and accurate summaries of the basic teachings of the Bible.
There are many people who assume no one can really know what the Bible teaches, because there are so many different interpretations. But it is a lie to say the truth cannot be known. In John 17:17, Jesus said, [God’s] Word is Truth. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul said to speak the truth in love. The Bible would never tell us to speak the truth if the truth could not be known. On Judgment Day, God will not allow the excuse: “I didn’t know what to believe because there were so many interpretations.” God will ask us: “Did you study My Word? Did you ask Me for understanding?”
We must learn how to rightly interpret the Bible. It is the Church’s duty to teach God’s people how to rightly interpret the Bible. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). In 2 Peter 3:16: Peter warned that untaught and unstable people twist the Scriptures. We must be taught by godly teachers how to rightly interpret the Bible. This cannot be done without creeds: accurate summaries of truth.
Creeds preserve a correct interpretation of the Bible
Jesus gave to His Church leaders (who were elected by the congregation) to declare the truth and to refute false teaching (see Acts 20:28-30). Jesus said, Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). We should not be surprised that there are so many false interpretations of the Bible. Jesus and His apostles told us in advance that there would be many false interpretations of the Bible! The fact that Jesus said to beware of false teaching means it is possible to identify what is false and what is true. It is precisely because there are so many false interpretations of the Bible (so many false creeds) that we need correct creeds to preserve correct interpretations of the Bible.
Experience has shown that creeds serve as a protection against false teaching. More often than not, the very people who oppose creeds and confessions normally hold corrupt opinions themselves.
Creeds are a foundation for true unity
In Amos 3:2, the prophet asks rhetorically, Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? The obvious answer is “No.” Two people cannot walk together unless they are agreed. There is no true unity unless we agree on what the Bible teaches. There is no unity if every person has different ideas about who Jesus is or how He saves sinners.
Scripture commands believers to be like-minded, to have the same correct interpretation of the Bible. There is only one correct interpretation. God does not speak out of both sides of His mouth; therefore the goal is to arrive together at the correct interpretation (Romans 15:5-6). It does not say each person gets to interpret the Bible any way they want without any accountability. If I see something in the Bible that no one else can see then my interpretation is suspect. The Holy Spirit does not reveal the truth to just one believer and then make all the others depend on him. The Holy Spirit guides all of God’s people into the truth (John 16:13). True unity is when we have the same correct interpretation of the Bible. And we need creeds to show our agreement and unity.
Furthermore, before the church can detect false teachers and put them out, the officers and members must be agreed on the truth. The truth must be publicly know and written down as the official position of the church.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is no need to reinvent Christianity every Sunday. We should certainly follow creeds only so far as they make sense of Scripture, but it is surely foolish, arrogant, and anti-historical to reject one of the primary ways in which the church has painstakingly transmitted her faith from age to age. We don’t operate that way in any other area of life. In no branch of science would there be any real advance if every generation started fresh with no dependence upon what past generations have achieved.
It is inevitable. We are going to follow someone’s interpretation of the Bible, whether it is own our or someone else’s. How much better to submit to the creeds that have been tried and tested by true and faithful churches down through the centuries!
Rev. David Fagrey
Rapid City, SD
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. ” (Ephesians 1:13-14; NKJV)
Ask any Christian to explain the work of the Holy Spirit and you are bound to get a variety of answers. Throughout the history of the church, people have had opinions on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the year A.D. 170, a group of people called the Montanists taught that God was still speaking in the church through prophets. They claimed that this gift of prophecy had not existed since the days of the apostles. The Montanists had a prophetess, Maximilla, who said that Christ would return before she died. Well, she missed on that one.
Church history demonstrates the Biblical truth that there is nothing new under the sun. False teachings are re-packaged for a new culture, but the same core problems remain. This is the case with the confusion today in Pentecostal circles on the role of the Holy Spirit. Some Pentecostals, like Benny Hinn, are going around just like old Maximilla and saying they have gifts of prophecy. They claim that they have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and have special gifts such as being able to predict the end of the world.
How do we respond to Pentecostals who claim to have a second blessing of being baptized with the Holy Spirit? The answer is not to run away from talking about the Holy Spirit. In fact, as Reformed Christians we should have a biblically and confessionally robust theology of the Holy Spirit. In light of the variety of teachings on the Holy Spirit today in different Christian circles, the question we are answering in Ephesians 1:13-14 is this: what does this text teach us about the Holy Spirit? My main point is that the Spirit assures us we are God’s children and that we have the blessings of salvation. I pray that you might see that as God’s people, we have great assurance because of what Paul says about the Spirit in Ephesians 1:13-14. We will look at three points reflecting on the past, present, and future. First, the Holy Spirit as a promise (that’s the past). Second, the Holy Spirit as a seal (that’s the present). Third, the Holy Spirit as a deposit (that’s the future).
The Holy Spirit as a Promise
Look again at Ephesians 1:13: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. ” Here we want to look at the Holy Spirit promised in the Old Testament. That is what Paul is referring to here in verse 13 when he talks about the “promised Holy Spirit. ” In the Old Testament, God promised to send the Holy Spirit. Joel 2:28 says this, And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Likewise, Ezekiel 36:27 says, And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. The Old Testament was looking forward to the coming Messianic age, which was the age of the Spirit. We know this from Isaiah 61:1-3, which was quoted and fulfilled by Jesus in Luke 4 as he said the Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to preach good news. Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit, which is one way we know that he was the Messiah.
God fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). The promised Holy Spirit was poured out on believers! It is clear that the Holy Spirit was promised in the Old Testament, but can we say the Holy Spirit was present in the Old Testament? The short answer is “yes.”
When considering the question of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, we go way back to Genesis. In fact, already in Genesis 1:2 the Holy Spirit is present as the presence of God, hovering over the darkness and the waters. In Exodus 13, the Holy Spirit was there in the pillar of cloud and fire, leading Israel into the promised land. Then in Exodus 31:3, the Spirit empowered the craftsmen who were building the tabernacle. In Exodus 40:35-40, the Holy Spirit was present in the tabernacle. The Holy Spirit was also present in the Old Testament inspiring the writers of Scripture, such as Moses. That is what Paul means in 2 Timothy 3:16 when he says all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
The Holy Spirit was clearly present in the Old Testament as God was saving a people for Himself. Not only was the Holy Spirit leading Israel in the wilderness and inspiring the writers of the Old Testament, but the Holy Spirit was also present in the Old Testament in saving the people of God. Salvation in the Old Testament is the same as it is for us today. This means that God’s people are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Messiah alone. The Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament, regenerating God’s people. So, the Holy Spirit was both promised in the Old Testament and present in the Old Testament. Not only that, but God has also promised that the Holy Spirit is at work today in His people.
The Holy Spirit as a Seal
This point is referring to the present reality of the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers. Thus, as Ephesians 1:13 says, the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of our salvation, the promise that we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Those whom God has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world have been sealed with the Spirit (Ephesians 1:4, 13). 1
Paul uses several different pronouns here in Ephesians 1:11-14. He moves from “we” in v. 11-12, which refers to himself and Jewish believers, to “you also” in v. 13, referring to Gentiles believers, to “our inheritance” in v. 14, talking of the inheritance shared by Paul, other Jewish believers, and Gentile Christians like you and me.2 Paul does this in v. 11-14 of chapter 1 in anticipation of what he will talk about in Ephesians 2:11-14. What Paul is saying here in Ephesians 1:11-14 is that Christ is the one who brings us to God and Christ is the one to be glorified. Not only that, but it is in Christ that we Gentiles are one with Jewish Christians. This very thing happened in Ephesus. The gospel went forth in Ephesus, and God built his church in that place. God did for the Ephesians what he promised to do in this letter to the Ephesians. Acts 20:17 talks about the elders in the church at Ephesus. The gospel promise here in Ephesians 1 that Christ will build his church from among both Jew and Gentile is a reality in Ephesus!
The question is “how does this happen?” Christ isn’t present here on earth anymore and we don’t physically see him today. So, how does God build his church? Well, after his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and he is seated at the Father’s right hand. He is physically absent from us. But He has not left us alone. In the Upper Room Discourse in John 14-16, Jesus comforted His disciples with the promise that the Holy Spirit would come. Loved ones, this is our comfort today as well. Jesus is not physically here with us because he is at the right hand of the Father. But Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit and builds his church through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul talks about the Holy Spirit as a seal in Ephesians 1:13. The language of a seal is important to understand. A seal is a mark of ownership and authenticity. A seal provided security, as well. In the first century, cattle and slaves were branded with a seal by their owners to indicate to whom they belonged.3 If an emperor wrote an official letter, he would seal the letter with his ring. This was his official insignia to say this thing is real and is not counterfeit. These were external seals.
God’s seal, however, is internal. Paul uses the language of “seal” to talk of God’s authenticating work. Ephesians 1:13 says that God gives us His Spirit to mark us as his own. God has sealed us with the Spirit and we are now His adopted children. Without the Spirit, our hearts are hard and we are hopeless and dead in sin. When we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, however, we are authenticated as true children of God.4 The Spirit testifies to us through the word of God to our hearts that we belong to God. Paul says the same thing later in Ephesians 4:30, where we read that we were sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. This is an incredible spiritual blessing for us! We have the security of forgiveness through Christ’s blood and the gift of the Spirit.5 Not only that, but we have great assurance as well, for God has set his seal on us from all eternity.6 Satan can not harm us. We can rejoice that our only comfort in life and in death is that we belong to Christ and have received the seal of the Spirit.
Life in this fallen world is often hard and uncertain. Paul knew this very thing, since he was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). Our relationships with people have ups and downs. Our life may feel unstable in terms of our health, family, or job. However, if you believe then the promise for you today in Ephesians 1:13-14 is that nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ – not tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Romans 8:35-36). As Christians, we have the assurance that God loves us because we read in His Word that we have been sealed with the Spirit.
It is important for us to know the work of the Holy Spirit. As you know, there are a variety of opinions out there in the church today on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Pentecostals, for one, have plenty to say about the Holy Spirit. They say a person believes the gospel and then is sealed with the Spirit at a later point. When he is sealed with the Spirit, then he is baptized in the Spirit and receives things like the gift of tongues.
Now, let us pause for a moment. Is this the proper way to understand our salvation and the work of the Spirit? Well, an important verse in this discussion is Ephesians 1:13. The ESV is right with the translation “when you heard the word of truth…and believed…you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. ” The little word “when” is key here. These events are all simultaneous. It is not that we hear the truth, believe in Christ, and then later in life we are sealed with the Spirit. Not at all. Rather, Ephesians 1:13 means we believe in Him, who is Christ, and are sealed with the Spirit at the same time. Contrary to Pentecostalism, Ephesians 1:13 does not teach a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. Thus, sealing does not follow believing.7 Believing in Christ and the sealing of the Spirit are simultaneous in our experience as Christians.
In verse 13: Paul talks about “hearing the word of truth. ” This is talking of the preaching of the Word. Specifically, this is talking of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus, which is what Paul is saying when he writes “the gospel of your salvation. ” The gospel is the good news of what Christ has done to save us from our sins and misery. This is a Trinitiarian redemption, as God the Father has chosen us in Christ and sealed us with the Spirit (Ephesians 1:3, 14). We are to put our trust in Jesus and believe in Him, as Paul also says in v. 13. We can only do this if the Holy Spirit applies the gospel to our hearts.
Remember the question we asked: “How does God build his church when Christ is physically absent?” Well, God is present in his church by the Holy Spirit. The preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments are the means of grace God has given to His church. Loved ones, it is here that the Holy Spirit is at work in making unbelievers regenerate and strengthening Christians in the faith which is once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We cannot speak of the Holy Spirit apart from Christ and the church. To know the Holy Spirit is to know the Spirit through the church of Christ, where the Word is preached and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered. These means of grace are the primary way the Spirit works to apply salvation to us and nourish and strengthen believers.
The connection between hearing the Word proclaimed and believing this Word and being sealed with the Spirit is made clear in Ephesians 1:13. There is no such thing as a Christian who believes but is not sealed with the Spirit. The primary way God saves his people is through the preaching of the word. Romans 10:14-15 says: how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? The preaching of the gospel is the means God has appointed to save those whom He chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 13).8 Preaching is not effective because of the winsome personality of the preacher, but because the Holy Spirit makes God’s people regenerate and seals them as they hear the preaching of the Word. So, those who hear the Word preached and believe also have the seal of the Spirit. The Spirit makes preaching effective.
Thus far we have looked at something “past” in our first point, talking of the Old Testament promises of the Spirit. We have also looked at something “present,” which is the blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. Now let’s go to our third point, which is something “future,” although not entirely future, as we will see.
The Holy Spirit as a Deposit
In Ephesians 1:14 we learn that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Throughout Ephesians 1:11-18, Paul writes about our final inheritance as Christians. Verse 11 says we have been predestined to this inheritance. Verse 14 says the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of this inheritance. And then verse 18 says that the saints have a glorious inheritance. What is this inheritance? This is our full, heavenly salvation. This is the inheritance God promised to Abram back in Genesis 15 which was purchased for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. 1 Peter 1:4-5 says that the believer has an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. Ephesians 1:14 is saying that the Holy Spirit is a deposit and is God’s guarantee to us that he will give us this great heavenly country.
We are not claiming this inheritance on our own. Rather, God has claimed us as an inheritance. That is the point back in Ephesians 1:11. God has chosen a people as His inheritance, as Deuteronomy 32:9 says. Gentile and Jewish Christians are God’s chosen possession, and one day God will give us the full possession of the inheritance of heaven, as Ephesians 1:14 says. So, God chooses us to be His inheritance, as v. 11 says, and the Spirit guarantees our inheritance of heaven, as we see in v. 14. God chooses us to be His own and gives us himself. The goal of what God is doing here is this: God says He will be our God, and He says we will be His people. This is the same promise made to Abram back in Genesis 17:7 and again in John’s vision of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21:3.
Looking more closely at Ephesians 1:14, we see the word “guarantee” (ESV) or “pledge” (NASB) or “deposit” (NIV). In ancient business transactions this Greek word talks of a pledge or a guarantee connected with the thing it promises to give. Our society works in much the same way. For instance, when a deposit is put down on a house, this is the first installment of the payment and the pledge of something more to come later.
Genesis 38 helps us a bit when understanding this language of “pledge. ” The context in Genesis 38 is the sexual sin of Judah and Tamar. Judah wanted Tamar to do something for him. Tamar asked for something from Judah in exchange, and Judah told her he would send her a goat. Judah did not have the goat, so Judah ended up giving her his seal, cord, and staff as a pledge until he would send the goat. The seal, cord, and staff were a pledge, or earnest, which was a guarantee that the inheritance of the goat would later come to Tamar.
In Ephesians 1:14, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance (ESV). Now, it is true that the Holy Spirit is a guarantee, but in reality the Holy Spirit is more than just a guarantee. With the Holy Spirit, God is not just promising our final inheritance but is giving us a foretaste, or a downpayment, of that inheritance.9 Judah was going to receive back his cord and staff once he paid Tamar, but that is not the case with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the first installment of what is promised to us in the future. The Spirit is not some sort of collateral to tide us over for now, but which will be taken back once we get to heaven.
The Holy Spirit is God’s unquestioning promise that His children will receive the full inheritance of heaven. 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5 also explain that the Holy Spirit is a pledge of God’s faithfulness. 2 Corinthians 1:22 says God has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. And then in 2 Corinthians 5:5 we read: He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. God has fulfilled His promise made to Abraham of a great inheritance back in Genesis 15. Through Christ, the promises to Abraham are fulfilled and today we are the children of Abraham who receive the promise of heaven because we are in Christ. Not only that, but we have the Holy Spirit as a pledge and deposit of this heavenly land. 10
We already have the Holy Spirit, but we do not yet live in heaven. We are groaning for that day when we will have resurrected bodies. If we read a few verses beyond 2 Corinthians 5:5 we come to v. 7 and see that we walk by faith, not by sight. On the one hand we are sure of our inheritance, yet, we do not yet have it in full. We are united to Christ and have all of Christ’s benefits, but we live in a fallen world with sin, disease, and death. All of us know the pain of living in this world. We have bodies that grow old and get sick and die. But we have the Holy Spirit, who testifies that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). This Holy Spirit is a deposit of heaven as we wait to be taken out of this life and set free from all misery.11 The Spirit causes us to thirst for the promise of heaven as we live as pilgrims in this present evil age. What great assurance!
Our assurance is also seen in the truth that the Holy Spirit is the agent of our future resurrection. We sit here today on Sunday morning and as God’s children we look forward to being raised one day by the Spirit with real bodies empowered and indwelt by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15). The good news for you today, if you believe, is that you have the Holy Spirit now as a down payment of this future heavenly glory. The Holy Spirit takes these heavenly promises and makes them present for us now as we sit here and worship God.
We don’t pay God for this heavenly inheritance. Rather, God has pledged to pay us. His pledge is the Holy Spirit. This is something God has done in giving us the Spirit. This should deepen our confidence in the gospel today. Our prayer is for the Lord to come quickly. We pray “thy kingdom come,” which is a prayer for Christ’s return. When He does return we will have glorified bodies in the new heaven and new earth with no more tears, pain, sorrow, or death, as Revelation 21:4 says.
There is a clear connection between the Spirit as a seal, which was our second point, and the Spirit as a pledge, which is our third point. God seals us with the Spirit and we receive all the benefits of salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Now in Ephesians 1:14 he says this Holy Spirit is a down payment of heaven. 12 This inheritance is guaranteed for you today if you are trusting in the merits of Christ for salvation. If you are sealed with the Holy Spirit, then you also have the Holy Spirit as a pledge of your heavenly inheritance, which is something God has done for us in Christ. You have a certain hope laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:5).
The last words of Ephesians 1:14 ground what Paul is saying here. Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long prayer of praise to God for his great plan of redemption. I pray that as a result of this great salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit as a seal and deposit we might resound in praise, giving glory to God for such a great redemption. We belong to God, and God is ours. What wonderful assurance we have as we look to the promise of the new heavens and new earth and know that God is our God and we are His people (Revelation 21:3).
In light of the popularity of Pentecostalism today, it is important to know what we believe about the Holy Spirit. Our Reformed confessions help us greatly in this regard. Heidelberg Catechism #53 says that the Holy Spirit “is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son. Second, that He is also given unto me: by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits, comforts me, and shall abide with me forever. ” Knowing this question and answer helps us understand the meaning of texts like Ephesians 1:13-14.
Ephesians 1:13-14 is a past, present, and future promise of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was promised in the Old Testament, in addition to being present among God’s people. The Holy Spirit is present now with us as a seal of salvation, and the Holy Spirit is a pledge to us of a future inheritance greater than anything we can imagine. The result is that we have security and assurance as God’s people. Because the Spirit is a seal and a down payment, we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Our salvation is certain and secure. As a result of this great work of the Holy Spirit, may we praise and glorify our great Triune God.
I pray that you are one who believes in Christ, as Paul talks about in Ephesians 1:13. If you are trusting in Christ then be assured that you have been sealed with the Spirit. If you believe today, then Ephesians 1:13-14 is true for you. Rejoice today and give God the glory for this salvation. Amen.
1 John Calvin, John Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 69.
2 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1979), 45.
3 Ibid., 48.
4 Charles Hodge, Ephesians (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 48.
5 Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Ephesians (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 19.
6 Calvin, 69.
7 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 625.
8 Stott, 48.
9 Ibid., 49.
10 Ferguson, 18.
11 Calvin, 78.
12 Ibid., 75.
Rev. Ryan Kron
Eden Prairie, MN
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
When Jesus was born, the angels told Mary that God would give Him the kingdom of His father David. Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven and He knew that this will would lead Him to the cross. Only by suffering the death of the cross would He inherit the kingdom through the resurrection from the dead.
The kingdoms of the world had been given into the hand of Satan as a just punishment for sin. When Adam fell, mankind became slaves of sin and misery and under the bondage of the devil. If Jesus was to plunder the kingdom of Satan, Satan must first be bound (Matthew 12:29-30). In order for Satan’s kingdom to be plundered, Jesus must deal with sin. The only way to deal with sin was to go to the cross and suffer the pangs and torments of hell in the place of His people.
But when Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan offered Him another way. “I will concede every kingdom to you. You can usher in peace, prosperity, long life and endless joy – just fall down and worship me, and all this will be yours. No cross. No wrathful God to deal with. Just me.”
And so it always is. Satan offered the same thing to Adam. He offers the same thing to every believer. “Just fall down, serve me, and I will give you your heart’s desire.”
“Are you lonely? Just one night with that girl in the bar.”
“That man that you have your eyes on can make all of your dreams come true. God is not good. He won’t bless you. Reach out. Serve me. Everything will be better.”
“Perhaps if you just work a bit harder; submit a bit more; make sure dinner is on time – then you can have the home of your dreams. Your husband is angry and stressed. Make things easier on him and you can have all you want. Serve a little harder. Try a little more. Work a little longer.”
And how often do we forget that God alone is the fountain of all good? Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). We reach out to people or to things or to ideas in order to ease the pain of a cursed world, and forget that Jesus already paid it all. He alone can salve this broken and contrite heart. He alone can take away the curse.
But the devil and his children will always offer another way. “Just serve me a bit better, a bit more; just work harder, and you can have whatever you dream of.”
But whatever you do, and whatever you say, and however hard you work, you will never attain it. It’s a lie. It’s a lie because the devil is a murderer and a liar and his children follow in his footsteps. They can’t give you eternal life. They can’t give you peace. They can’t even give you food and drink. They can never ease the loneliness and the heartache of living in a sinful world. But they can enslave you to a life of “work harder; do better; submit more; don’t make me mad – you know how my temper is!”
If this sounds like your life, please remember what Jesus said to the tempter. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.
Wow. Astounding words! Jesus will do good to all men. He will willingly wash feet. He will take the lowest form and die the death of a criminal. He will do good deeds of love and mercy and truth. He will become servant to all and call us to do the same thing. But He will never, ever, worship anything or anyone other than the One True God who has revealed Himself in His word.
As redeemed men and women, we have the glorious calling of reflecting Christ’s glory – of being transformed into His glorious image. We have the Holy Spirit. God calls us the apple of His eye!
When the devil and his children give this promise, “I will give you what you want if you will only serve me,” remember where it comes from. That which comes from God is pure and peaceable, brings joy and reconciliation, and gladdens the heart. The promise of the devil brings shame and guilt and bondage. There are always strings attached to every promise of an evil man. You shall worship the Lord Your God, and Him alone shall you serve.
But there’s more. Jesus commanded Satan to depart. Satan and his children will never settle for anything less than worship. They will continue to hound, berate, revile and reproach you until you are finally groveling at their feet – but even then, they will not be satisfied.
There is only one thing to do with this: Cast him out. “Get out! I will worship God alone.” Here is what that looks like in a marriage. I will serve God in my marriage by seeking my spouse’s good; by taking the lower place and joyfully doing what God has called me to. I will joyfully give up my rights and even my life if that is what God calls me to. But I will never, ever, worship and serve the creature. I will worship and serve God alone and expect good only from His hand. If my marriage has been irretrievably broken by the wicked actions of my spouse, I may even need to pursue divorce; but I will no longer submit to the demands of the wicked one to bow and serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator.
I will not grovel at the feet of a scoffer and reviler hoping for some crumbs of peace to fall. I will not serve a son of Belial in the desperate hope for a smile from the sneering face.
I will not seek from the creature what only the Creator can give. I will seek reconciliation; I will seek forgiveness; I will seek peace, but if they are for war, I will withdraw and plead my case to the Almighty. But I will never worship the creature. Only the Creator can give me peace. It will never come from the lies of the devil. Jesus has freed me from the bondage of sin and misery. He has made me an heir to eternal life!
I can’t earn it. I can’t work harder and get it. It’s the devil that tells me to work more, be better, grovel more, abuse my body more. Jesus’ love is sanctifying, cleansing, unearned, complete and infinite.
Husbands, if you are withholding love and tenderness and honor from your wife until she works harder, submits more and learns her place, ask yourself who you most resemble. Is this the picture of Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for her? Or is it the picture of Satan who said, “All this I will give you, if you only fall down and worship me.”
Perhaps this is why Paul said that a reviler (one who uses abusive and vicious speech to belittle and intimidate others) will never inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9). Nothing can be further from the beauty and love of Jesus than a reviler. A reviler says, “Worship me, and I will give you rest.” But the reviler is the one causing the unrest! So not only is he a reviler, he is also an extortioner. How can he inherit the kingdom of heaven unless he repents and becomes something else?
But Jesus actually gives rest. He takes away sin and shame; He doesn’t use it to control and manipulate. He covers our ugliness and bitterness with His perfect righteousness. He gives us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can become more and more like him.
So we can say with confidence, “I will do good to all whom God has placed in my path. But I will worship and serve God alone.”
Rev. Sam Powell
Yuba City, CA