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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:The Spirit Gives Access to Every Spiritual Blessing
Text:Ephesians 1:3-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 138:1,4                                                                                 

Ps 143:5,6                                                                                                      

Reading – Ephesians 1; Ephesians 4:25-32

Ps 71:1,8,9,12

Sermon – Ephesians 1:3-14, part 3

Hy 48:2,3,4

Hy 82:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation, in the Nicene Creed there’s an interesting phrase. We confess that “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Focus on the last bit, about how the Spirit “proceeds.” What does this mean? If something proceeds, it goes forward, it advances. As in, “The vehicle proceeded along the highway.”         

What does it mean in relation to the Holy Spirit, that He proceeds? The creed is trying to express how the Spirit comes from the Father and Son, for in the Scriptures, the Father is said to give the Spirit, or Jesus sends the Spirit, and Christ even breathes out the Spirit.

This shows us something vital about the inner workings of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit connects us to God the Father by causing us to trust in his faithfulness. He also connects us to God the Son by revealing the power of Jesus’ redemption. As Christ once said about the Spirit, “He will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who is busy applying the work of salvation in our hearts.

Because the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, He can’t be separated from either of them. If you have the Son, you have the Spirit. And if you want communion with God the Father, this simply isn’t possible except through the Holy Spirit. When it comes to the gospel of salvation, the Spirit has the indispensable work of giving us faith, inspiring our courage, and solidifying our hope.

It’s the work of the Holy Spirit that we’re going to focus on today, as we look at the doxology in Ephesians 1:3-14. Each person of the Trinity has a turn in the spotlight here, as they are glorified for saving sinners. God the Father chose us, and He adopted us, and He calls us. As for God the Son, He is the Mediator of God’s great works, the Renewer of heaven and earth, and He is the Saviour who is worthy of trust. Now for God the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who gives us access to every spiritual blessing. I preach the gospel to you on this theme,

The Holy Spirit gives us access to every spiritual blessing:

                        1) by Him we believe

                        2) by Him we are sealed

           3) by Him we are assured


1) by him we believe: The headline sentence in this long passage of praise is verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Paul then unpacks that, recounting all the many blessings that we’ve received.

Let’s pause for a moment at that word “spiritual” in verse 3, for it’s a word that connects us at once to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul says that God’s greatest gifts relate to our spirit, our heart and soul. Put it this way: if our biggest problem as human beings was something physical or external, God would’ve found a way to address that effectively. You’re weak? Here’s a personal trainer. You’re poor? Here’s a pile of cash and a financial adviser. Your biggest issue is sickness? God would’ve sent a physician.

But our deepest trouble is spiritual—we have a heart sickness, we’re plagued by a depraved mind, and our soul is corrupted. So the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit powerfully transforms the hearts and minds of his people.

The Spirit’s blessing that we begin with is the gift of faith. Nothing is more crucial than that we believe in God’s name! We know that, but it’s good to underline it so that we appreciate afresh this grace of the Holy Spirit.

God might accomplish many things according to his plan of salvation, as God chooses, the Father adopts, as Christ redeems sinners and restores the universe. God can undertake many amazing works according to his eternal purpose, but if He must wait for us to come to faith, salvation will never happen. If at the end of the day it was all just a possibility, an open door that we needed to decide to walk through, we’d never make it. We’d still be hopeless and lost.

For even as God makes the forgiveness of sins available, his #1 demand still needs to be met—the demand of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please the Lord,” the Scripture declares. That’s the only way. And nobody will ever believe through his own choice or effort. By nature, we’re not a believing people. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And that’s what we’d all say, even as we see the clear evidence of God in creation—we’d look the other way and we’d worship an idol instead.

So how essential is the work of the Holy Spirit! He makes alive what was dead, and He creates in us a true faith. The Spirit gives us arms by which we can embrace the Saviour in love. Now you not only know that there is a God, but you trust him. Now you’re confident in who God is, and you’re sure that He will not fail you.

And the principal way that this happens is through the preaching of the Word. Look at verse 13, where Paul speaks about how the Ephesians came to faith, “In him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” You trusted, after you heard the Word! This is how God the Father gathers his elect and builds his church. He makes sure that in one way or another, at one time or another, his chosen ones will hear the message of salvation.

Some of us have heard the gospel every day since our youth, in the home and at church and even at school. Some hear about Christ when they’re already half-way through life. And some really only hear it at the very end. But whether early or late, for the elect it’s always right on time! The Spirit makes sure we hear the message of Christ, because He’s going to use this Word for something great.

Now, it’s one thing to hear the preaching on a Sunday morning, or to flip open your Bible at night and read for a few minutes, but it’s something very different to accept its message in faith. In fact, being busy with Scripture is a vain exercise unless we receive its truth in faith. But to hear the preaching and be moved within our hearts; to read Scripture and be convicted that you need to change your ways; to be richly reassured by a Psalm or a promise—this is the mighty work of God the Spirit in us. Later in Ephesians Paul confirms that even the faith within our hearts comes from the Lord: “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (2:8).

This is something that we find so hard to understand. God requires faith, and He also gives faith. He gives faith, and then He rewards us for having it. This can only be the abundant grace of God!

Yet God also holds us to account for what we do with our Spirit-given faith. Do you grow and nurture your faith? Or do we let it decline and weaken and be crushed? The gift is God’s, the calling is ours. There are choices we make every day which can show that we really have the Holy Spirit, and that He’s changing us. If you’ve been made alive by him, you’ll pray for the Holy Spirit to continue transforming your heart and mind and will through his Word.

Think of how Peter exhorts us in his first letter, “Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (2:2). If we’re the Father’s adopted children, this is only way that our faith will grow, the only way we’ll develop. Desire the pure milk of the Word and take in the food that’s going to make you stronger. It has always been this way: faith comes by hearing the Word, and hearing by the Word of God. The Spirit channels all of God’s spiritual blessings toward us, and this is where the streams of blessing begin: with his Word.

The Holy Spirit is pleased to use especially the means of preaching to develop and fortify our faith. He does marvelous things when the Word is preached! This calls us to be in the place where the Word of God is preached, and to be here as often as we can. Every Sunday, the Holy Spirit gives us a good dose of spiritual food. It’s here for us to receive, and if we’re at all able to, we should open ourselves to this transforming work.

Many of us attend every worship service that we can. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s more than just being here—for as we listen, we must actively engage with the Word. Let’s be clear that there’s a struggle going on in our minds as we worship and listen to a sermon, a struggle against all the distraction and burden and joy and worry from the past week or the coming week. So while you worship, do everything that you can to be focused and attentive so that the Spirit can use this Word for strengthening your faith and shaping your life.

And then after Sunday too, the Spirit teaches that only a strict diet of his holy food will enrich our hearts. Listen again to how closely they’re connected, “In God you trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (v 13). Trust in God arises out of his Word of truth. Faith in Christ is anchored in the gospel of salvation. On the pages of Scripture, God tells us who He is; reveals what He’s done for us; and teaches us about what He delights in.

Yet in our reading of Scripture too, we all have to struggle against the pull of a thousand distractions: constantly checking our newsfeed, being far too busy, worn thin by life. But do not yield to the constant pressure to neglect Scripture, to say that you’ll read more “when you have more time,” or to read in a thoughtless way. May Scripture fill your heart, for then the Spirit will surely change your heart.


2) by him we are sealed: Paul praises the Holy Spirit for granting faith, then he celebrates other spiritual blessings that come through him: “In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (vv 13-14). In these last two verses, there are two different images for the Spirit: He is a seal, and He is a guarantee or a deposit.

In the first place, the Holy Spirit is like a seal: “you were sealed.” In Roman times, if you were sending an important package or document, you might drip some hot wax onto it and then press it with a seal, an engraved emblem of some kind. The seal could be very ordinary, and you’d put it on the opening of the letter or the package. If the seal was unbroken when it was delivered, this was a guarantee that the message had been carried intact.

If you held an important position in society, you might even have a personal seal for marking the things that you sent—an emblem unique to you. So if someone received an envelope and saw the seal of the king on it, they knew they better open it. This wasn’t a fake letter, but it could only be from him: the seal was the guarantee that it was authentic. We still use seals today, like on websites. If you’re doing online banking, for example, you know to look for a little padlock in the address line—it’s a marker which tells you that the website is secure.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit marks us. When He’s dwelling inside you, Paul says, it’s like “you are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” What does that seal mean? It’s the undeniable mark of his claim on us. Having the Spirit indicates that a person really and truly belongs to God—for remember, if we have the Spirit, we have Christ; if we have the Spirit, we have the Father. When we experience the work of the Spirit, we can take this as a powerful proof of who we are in Christ, of whom we have become. You’ve been chosen. Adopted. Redeemed.

This seal of authenticity is something for us to cherish, something to hold onto. For there can be times in our life when faith seems to flicker, even disappear. You wonder: “Do I really matter to the Lord? I have so many troubles these days, I wonder if God actually cares. I’m so unworthy, I’ve probably been forgotten by him, discarded.”

There can be doubts, but then we should remind ourselves: “No, I have the Holy Spirit. I know, because I still believe in God and I still trust his Word. I have the Spirit, because I hate the sin that’s still remaining in my life. I have the Spirit, because I delight in doing good.” And if you’ve been sealed with the Spirit, you can be confident that you do belong to God your Father. You bear the seal and emblem of the King: you’re not a fake, but you’re genuinely his!

The seal of the Spirit on your life is an encouragement to our faith. But we also need to see it as a motivation to holiness. For if you have the Spirit sealing your heart, that’s a constant reminder that God has claimed you. You’re not here for yourself, you’re here for him. If you’re authentically Christ’s, you need to live in a way that is authentically Christian. If you’re marked by the Holy Spirit, you will live in a holy way.

Paul has been insisting on this from the beginning of his doxology. There is verse 4 for example, how God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him.” As we’ve said before, holiness is being different in this world, and noticeably so: when you reject what is evil and cherish what is good, when you deny yourself and serve God and others.

And the way that we choose to live very much affects the Holy Spirit. Later in Ephesians, Paul exhorts us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (4:30). Let’s notice that the Spirit is a person who can be grieved, who can be hurt and saddened by the conduct of our lives.

In this way the Spirit is definitely not like that lifeless blob of wax that seals an envelope. For such a seal isn’t capable of caring about what’s in the package—whether truth or falsehood or something else. But the Spirit cares very much for the lives that He seals. So in chapter 4 Paul speaks about the attitudes and behaviours that grieve the Spirit: he mentions our anger and wrath, our lying, our stealing and greed, our corrupt words, our bitterness and unkindness. These are the kind of things that distress the Spirit, exactly because He is the Holy Spirit: a holy person needs a holy dwelling-place!

I wonder how much we think about that. If the Spirit has been pressed onto your life, if the Spirit marks you, do your words show it? There are surely a few difficult or irritating people in your life—does the attitude you take toward them make clear that you genuinely have the Spirit’s sealing? Or is the Spirit grieved by your critical spirit, or by your temper? Are you upsetting the Spirit by your weekly drunkenness and your daily surrendering to lust? The Spirit is always there, affixed to our hearts—and being sealed by the Spirit calls us to faithfully walk in his ways. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”


3) by him we are assured: We said that Paul shares two images for the Holy Spirit in this doxology, that He is a seal, and He is also a deposit. In verse 14 he says that the Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The Holy Spirit is a guarantee, says Paul, or literally “a deposit.”

Now, a deposit usually signifies that bigger payments are coming. For instance, if you’re putting in an offer on a car, and you want to show the seller that you’re serious about it, you’ll make a down payment, a substantial portion of the final price. What does a deposit say? It’s our pledge that we’ll make the rest of the payment. At this point, you’re not going to walk away.

That’s what God’s gift of the Spirit is like. God has given him to us as an initial payment. It’s a pledge that the rest is still coming, a small fraction of the future endowment—indeed, when we experience the joy of the Spirit today, this is just a bit of the eternal wealth that’s in store. This is why Paul says that the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing “our inheritance” (v 14). An inheritance is something that children expect from their parents, that one day they’re going to leave something to us: money, treasures, property.

As the Father’s adopted sons of daughters, we’ve obtained an inheritance in Christ. He says that we’ll be renewed completely, and glorified, and given a position of honour and rule. Such is our blessing from the Father, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).

It’s reserved in heaven, but God makes sure it’s something we experience today. Eternal life isn’t like a piece of jewelry that stays behind glass in the shop, that ring or necklace you can’t get your fingers on until you can make a full payment. In Christ the full payment has already been made! Through the Spirit, eternal life is a treasure that is already ours, and we get to try it on for size before we enjoy it fully later on.

And this deposit is a precious thing. At times life can feel aimless. Other times, we can question what is God’s purpose for us, or whether we’re going to persevere to the end. Then we should remember God’s deposit, and encourage ourselves, and preach to ourselves: “I have the Spirit, so I know that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus. He will perfect that which concerns me. I have a down payment of God’s riches—it’s a small deposit, but it means much more is coming my way.” God guarantees it, that eternal glory awaits. Be assured that the Lord is not going to walk away, but He’ll stick with you. You are a child of God, and that’s not going to change.

There are different ways that the Spirit lets us see his deposit on eternity. He lets us see it when we’re with God’s people for worship on the Lord’s day, and we’re lifting up our voices in song. This joy is a foretaste by the Holy Spirit, a preview of heavenly glory.

Or look at your communion with other Christians. See what the Spirit is doing in this church; see how He unites brothers and sisters in love. The fellowship we enjoy today looks forward to that great assembly of believers in eternity.

Or look at your little victories over sin. See those times that you do reject temptation and run from wickedness, those moments of choosing goodness over evil. These victories in the Spirit anticipate the day when sin’s power will finally be broken and you’ll be holy in every way.

For that’s what we’re moving toward. Verse 14 again: the Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” We’re looking ahead to the full redemption—the full “setting free” of God’s people when Christ returns. We have redemption now, partially experienced, but soon it will be achieved fully. We are expecting a full and final deliverance, a redemption in body and in soul, when we are taken away from all our sworn enemies, and restored to the glorious presence of God. It’s going to happen, because we’re his possession, purchased with the precious blood of Christ. By that costly price God made us his own, and He’ll never give us up!

Until the full redemption, we have our deposit. We have a guarantee, underwritten by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Be assured that if you have life in him now, then you’ll have life in him forever. Be confident in the Spirit—be of good courage.

Don’t let the many worries of life weigh down your joy in Christ. Don’t let troubles and distress sink your confidence. Don’t surrender to doubt, or surrender to despair, or to sin. In the Holy Spirit, you have a good deposit—now invest it, and work with it. And praise God the Father for the Holy Spirit, together with every other spiritual blessing in Christ!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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