Confident

 

Week of July 29, 2012

 

Bible Verses:Romans 8:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; Ephesians 1:13-14.

 

Lesson Focus:The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives gives us confidence that we are in a right relationship with God.

 

Confident in My Redemption:Ephesians 1:13-14.

 

[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, [14]who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.[ESV]

 

[13-14] Paul begins the fourth and final section of the benediction with the phase in him. Here Paul emphasizes that all the blessings Paul has recounted in verses 4-12 belong to his readers only as they are in Christ. The inclusion of his readers in Christ happened when his readers heard the gospel, believed it, and received Godís eschatological seal of the Holy Spirit. Paul describes the gospel that his readers heard as both the word of truth and the gospel of your salvation. When his readers heard and believed the gospel, they were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is a ďdown paymentĒ of believersí eschatological inheritance. Now Paul highlights the work of the Spirit much as he has emphasized the work of the Father in verses 4-6 and the work of the Son in verses 7-12. Paul refers to four aspects of the Spiritís work. First, Paul says that his readers, when they believed, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance. Seals were widely used in Near Eastern antiquity to guarantee the quality, authenticity, or ownership of a piece of property or a legal document. Authenticity seems to be uppermost in Paulís mind when he uses the image in 2 Cor. 1:22, and he follows it, as here, with a reference to Godís Spirit in the hearts of Paul and his coworkers as a down payment. God has chosen His people from among all humanity, who are by nature children of wrath, and set the seal of His Spirit on them to protect them from the wrath that is coming [5:6]. Second, Paul says that the Spiritís presence with believers is not only Godís seal on them but also His guarantee or down payment of the inheritance of their salvation that awaits them in the future. God has given believers the Holy Spirit as a sign that He will fulfill His commitment to His people in the future and give them their inheritance. The guarantee metaphor is the positive counterpart to the sealing metaphor. The Spiritís sealing function assures believers they will be redeemed rather than destroyed on the day of Godís wrath. The Spiritís function as a guarantee assures them of redemption in the future and of the greatness of that redemption in comparison to the present. Third, believers have been sealed by the Spirit in Christ. Their relationship with Christ is the sphere in which the blessing of the Spirit has come to them. Even here where Paul highlights the Spiritís work, the centrality of Christ is also prominent. Godís people experience the eschatological gift of the Spirit only insofar as they have heard and believed the gospel that redemption from sin comes through the sacrificial death of Jesus [7]. Fourth, the Spirit is the promised Holy Spirit. Here Paul speaks of the fulfillment of the prophetic promise that in the days of Israelís eschatological restoration, Godís Spirit would dwell among His people. This fulfillment has happened in Christ. In verses 13-14 Paul says that God has sealed His readers with the promised Holy Spirit for two reasons. First, He has done this to provide them with a down payment on their future inheritance Ė tangible assurance that they are part of His people whom He will save. Second, He has done this so that they might be redeemed from the outpouring of His wrath on the final day. Paul concludes the benediction by stating the ultimate purpose for which God has sealed Christians with the Holy Spirit and intends to redeem and save them in the future. He has done this to the praise of his glory. This statement recalls the benedictionís opening expression of praise in verse 3. It also recalls the expressions of praise that punctuate the benediction at the conclusions of the first and third subsections [6,12]. This concluding doxology therefore describes not only why God intended to redeem those whom He has sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit but also why He blessed them with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places [3]. He did all this to the praise of his glory.

 

Confident in My Relationship: Romans 8:14-17.

 

[14]For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15]For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" [16]The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17]and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.[ESV]

 

[14-17]For (because) introduces the basis for saying, you will live in verse 13. The people Paul is describing are led by the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who shows believers the way to Jesus. We are not left to our own wisdom or the lack of it. And it is only these people who are led by the Spirit who are sons of God. Paul is saying that the leading of the Spirit is a distinguishing sign of Godís sons, but it is not what makes us His sons. It is because you are sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts [Gal. 4:6]. As in Romans 8:9, the work of the Spirit is not an option or an extra for the advanced Christian. Being led by the Spirit is a mark of all Godís people. Verse 15 is the third verse in succession to be introduced by for. As Paul elaborates on sonship to God, he uses a closely knit argument. Paul is saying two things about the Spirit: first, negatively, that the Spirit believers received is not one of bondage; second, positively, He is a Spirit of sonship. The Spirit does not make people slaves but sons. Fall back refers to a reversion to the state from which they had been delivered. Christ had freed them from their bondage to sin; they must not think that the Spirit would lead them back to it. This state is further described as into fear, for slavery to sin inevitably leads to fear. Paul is saying that the leading of the Spirit delivers from fear and does not take us back to it again. On the contrary, believers received the Spirit of adoption. The word for adoption is used only by Paul in the New Testament and it does not occur in the Old Testament since the Jews did not practice adoption. Paul took this concept from Roman or Greek law in both of which adoption was important. It is a useful word for Paul, for it signifies being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature. This is a good illustration of one aspect of Paulís understanding of what it means to become a Christian. The believer is admitted to the heavenly family, to which he has no rights of his own. But he is now admitted and can call God ďFatherĒ. Paul goes on to write by whom we cry, ďAbba! Father!Ē The verb cry is used a number of times of crying to God in prayer and it appears that Paul is referring here to the fervent prayer of the believer. The word Abba is an Aramaic word meaning ďFatherĒ and points to love and to intimacy. This basic word tells us that God is not a distant Ruler in transcendence but One who is intimately close. We should not overlook the fact that in this passage Paul puts the Father at the center. The Spirit does not cause us to cry ďI am Godís sonĒ, but ďGod is my Father.Ē Believers looks at God rather than contemplating themselves. Paul proceeds to say that the Spirit Himself bears witness. Unaided, our spirit cannot testify to the reality of our standing before God. But we are not unaided; the Spirit of God testifies to our spirit and gives us the assurance of our membership in the heavenly family. There is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on our spirit. The content of that testimony is that we are the children of God. Paul proceeds in verse 17 to unfold some of the implications of being members of Godís family. If we are children, he says, we are also heirs. The word properly denotes those who receive property as a result of the death of someone else. The concept of inheritance is an important one in the Old Testament, and it carries over into the New Testament. Paul uses the term here to denote full possession of all that sonship means in the new age, but it is not so much ownership as relationship that he has in mind. Since God does not die, there is no question of inheritance in the strict sense of the term. But the heir is in a position of privilege as a result of his place in the family. Paul has been speaking of sons and of children; we are in a privileged position because of our membership in the family of none less than God. We are also fellow heirs with Christ. It is difficult to see what possessions we share as fellow heirs with Christ; the title is surely one of dignity, assuring us of our place in the heavenly family where He is the Son. But to this picture of privilege Paul immediately adds another consideration: provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer lets us forget that believers have no easy path. Their Master suffered, and they are called to suffering, too. This is not some perverse accident but an integral part of discipleship. But this suffering is in some way linked to the sufferings of Christ [2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10]. It is interesting that, when Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the church, the Christ who met him on the Damascus road asked him, why are you persecuting me? [Acts 9:4]. He is one with us in our sufferings. But also, we are one with Him in His death [Rom. 6:8]. Our sufferings are not meaningless. We suffer in order that we may also share in His glory. The path of suffering is the path to glory.

 

Confident in My Reward: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.

 

[1]For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2]For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, [3]if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. [4]For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. [5]He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.[ESV]

 

[1-5]Paul introduces 5:1 with the words for we know. In light of the preceding verses [4:16-18] that speak of the outward and the inward person and of looking at that which is unseen, Paul reminds his readers of his former teachings on the resurrection. He can say we know to remind the Corinthians of the doctrine he taught them in person and later through his correspondence. Knowledge of the life hereafter does not originate in our human minds. Through the Holy Spirit, God reveals the assurance of our own immortality to us, so that we meet death cheerfully. In the first eight verses of chapter 5, Paul uses a series of three metaphors: tent [5:1,4], clothing [5:2-4], and home [5:6,8]. The first illustration that Paul, the tent maker, uses is that of a tent. He compares our physical body with a temporary dwelling place. The metaphor of taking down a tent points to the approaching end of not only our physical body but also our entire earthly existence. The word earthly is used as a contrast to heavenly. Paul describes our earthly home in terms of a tent to stress its transience for death marks the end of a personís earthly body and life. The link between the preceding verses [4:16-18] and this verse is undeniable. Earlier Paul spoke of the outer and inner person, temporary troubles and lasting glory, the visible and the invisible things. In verse 1, he speaks of an earthly tent, that is, our physical bodies brought into the world through human effort. He contrasts this temporary tent with a permanent house that originates with God and belongs to an entirely different order. In 5:2 and 4, Paul stresses the fact that we are presently groaning in our physical bodies, while we express a longing to be clothed with clothing that God provides. In these two verses, he reiterates this thought as an explanation of verse 1. The verb groan usually communicates pain and discomfort; but here the dark clouds of our earthly life appear with the gilded edge of hope and eager expectation. Indeed, the text imparts an affirmative message with the verb longing in the last half of the verse. Paul writes that we groan while longing to be clothed, for this intense longing is the basis for our groaning. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul mentions the groans of creation, the redeemed, and the Spirit. Both creation and the redeemed endure distress and long for the day when Godís children will be liberated, that is, when they experience the redemption of their bodies. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit Himself groans while interceding on behalf of Godís people [Rom. 8:22-23,26]. Paulís second illustration in 5:1-8 is that of clothing [2-4]. He writes that we long to put on our heavenly dwelling. The verb put on conveys the idea of putting on an additional garment, rather like wearing an overcoat. Here Paul is considering not the resurrection of the dead but the transformation at the coming of Christ. He is saying that we eagerly await Christís return. Then our present bodies will be transformed instantaneously when they receive the additional clothing of our heavenly dwelling in the form of a glorified body [1 Cor. 15:51]. Paul is saying that the heavenly body is put on over the earthly body. Reality teaches us, however, that physical bodies at death decay and are not immediately donning resurrection bodies. Paul applies the imagery of clothing to the believers who are alive at Christís coming but not to those whose bodies descend into the grace. Only those who do not experience death and the grave have physical bodies that receive an additional garment. Verse 3 is an extension of verse 2. The emphasis in Paulís discourse continues from verse 2 to verse 4, so that verse 3 becomes a supportive parenthetical comment. Paul longs for Christís return when in the twinkling of an eye his physical body will put on a heavenly body. He shudders at the thought of death, for then his soul will be without covering and will be found to be naked. This thought is repugnant to him because soul and body belong together. He understands the separation of body and soul to be the result of sin and death, but he knows that this separation will end. In verse 4 Paul desires to be covered with a resurrected body and the future glory that God already has prepared for him. The verb further clothed indicates that the resurrection transforms the body and adds to it. That is, when the earthly body is destroyed, the soul enters a state of being unclothed. But our desire is to see the resurrection of our bodies covered with everlasting glory and immortality. So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. At death, our physical body descends into the grave. It will come forth renewed and glorified through Christ at His coming; He triumphs over the power of death and the grave. Conversely, those believers who are alive at Christís return are instantly transformed and do not experience death and the grave. Paul completes the first paragraph of this chapter with a sentence that stresses Godsí prominence. The subject of verse 5 is God, whom Paul described with two clauses: He has prepared us, and He has given us His Spirit. First, then, Godís work in preparing us. The verb prepared can mean diligently working with and in someone, much as an instructor trains a student in anticipation of graduation and service. Paulís life is a case in point: God prepared him for missionary service by giving him an education, a conversion experience, faith in Christ, and numerous hardships and trials. Paul writes that God has prepared us for this very thing (or purpose), but what is that purpose? It is to be covered with a resurrected body and the future glory that God already has prepared for us. To put it differently, God has in store for us an existence of which the pristine life of Adam and Eve in paradise is a reflection. This existence is what God had originally designed before sin entered the world and now has planned for us. At the close of the age, Christians will be reclothed with either transformed or resurrected bodies. God has given us the Holy Spirit as a pledge concerning matters that will be revealed in the future. He has made a contract with us with a down payment that obliges Him to continue to make additional payments. Now we are receiving a foretaste of the Spirit but in the hereafter we will receive the full allotment that God has in store for us. Paul describes Godís gift of the Spirit as a guarantee, which is a technical term used in commercial and legal circles. Godís Word cannot be broken, for it is entirely trustworthy and true. We have the assurance that the Spirit, who is with us, will lead us safely into Godís presence at the time of death.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† What four aspects of the Spiritís work does Paul refer to in Ephesians 1:13-14? Note how Paul connects believing (trusting) in Christ, the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and being sealed by the Spirit. What does Paul say is the purpose of your redemption? (Note how Paul repeats this purpose at the end of each subsection in 1:3-14; see verses 6 and 12).

 

2.†††††††† How do we know that we are led by the Spirit of God? Being led by the Spirit is evidence that we are children of God. What are the implications of being Godís children that Paul gives in Romans 8:14-17?

 

3.†††††††† According to 2 Corinthians 5:5, what two things has God done for His children?

 

4.†††††††† List all the things Paul says about the Holy Spirit in these three passages. Reflect on the work of the Spirit in your life and how He gives you assurance of your salvation.

 

References:

The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

Romans, John Stott, Inter Varsity.

The Message of Ephesians, John Stott, Inter Varsity.

Ephesians, Frank Thielman, ECNT, Baker.

2 Corinthians, David Garland, NAC, B & H Publishers.

II Corinthians, Simon Kistemaker, Baker.