The Earnest of the Spirit

Bill Cavender
Longview, Texas

"In whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God 's own possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:13-14). "Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:21-22). "Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit" (2 Cor 5:5).

The word "earnest" in the above scriptures is from the Greek word "arrabon." Concerning this word, Thayer says: "(to pledge; a word which seems to have passed from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, and thence into Latin), and earnest, i.e. money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will subsequently be paid; for the gift of the Holy Spirit, comprising as it does the 'powers of the age to come,' (Heb. 6:5), is both a foretaste and a pledge of future blessedness" (Lexicon, page 75).

Vine says: "Originally, earnest-money deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed, was probably a Phoenician word, introduced into Greece. In general usage it came to denote a pledge or earnest of any sort; in the N. T. it is used only of that which is assured by God to believers; it is said of the Holy Spirit as the Divine pledge of all their future blessedness, 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; in Eph. 1:14, particularly of their eternal inheritance. In Modern Greek 'arrabona' is an engagement ring" (Dictionary, Vol II, page 11).

H. Leo Boles says: " 'Earnest' is a first payment to secure a transaction, to bind a bargain; it thus becomes a pledge of further payments until the whole purchased value is in hand. It is a pledge that God will continue of the Spirit to give that which is needed for complete sanctification" (Boles, The Holy Spirit, page 216).

Thus the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer is God's "earnest" pledge, or down payment in proof that final and full payment will be made, that the faithful Christian will receive the eternal inheritance which is promised him by God.

The Holy Spirit Given

No one can successfully deny that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him, thus becoming his children through the Lord Jesus. That God gives the Holy Spirit to his children, to dwell in them, these scriptures clearly affirm: "And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32). "And hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Rom 5:5). "But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11). "Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own . . ." (T Cor. 6:19). "This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:2). "And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). "Therefore he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you" (I Thess. 4:8). "And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave us" (I John 3:24).

The affirmation of these scriptures is that God sends and gives the Holy Spirit to his children, to be with them and to dwell in them. Why does God do this? He does it that his children might have this "earnest," pledge or assurance that God is faithful, that he will fulfill his promises; that he will finally give an inheritance to those of his own children who are faithful to him.

The Christian's Inheritance

But what is this inheritance of the children of God and for which the Holy Spirit is given as "earnest"? The inheritance is eternal life in heaven. "And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the dedemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). "And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). "... for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (I Pet. 3:9.) "... unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:4-5). The rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he might do "that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). Jesus told his disciples that "every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29). John tells us that "this is the promise which he promised us, even the life eternal" (I John 2:25).

Thus we conclude that the scriptures definitely establish these truths: (1) that God has promised an inheritance to those who are the faithful children of God and this inheritance is eternal life in heaven; (2) that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who are his children and the Spirit dwells in each child of God; ( 3 ) that God gives the Spirit to his children as a pledge, an "earnest", a down payment on our eternal inheritance, the giving of the Spirit being his assurance to us that he intends to complete his arrangements and fulfill his promises regarding our salvation.

A belief in and understanding of these truths should impress us with the fact that we have obeyed the gospel and become the children of God with a view to eternal life. There is no reason for anyone to obey the gospel if he does not intend to be faithful to God all his life, to love God, to worship him, to serve him every step of the way. There is no value whatsoever in obeying the primary commands of the gospel if there is not present also the disposition to obey every command of God henceforward. Those of us who are Christians should serve God, looking for the glorious appearance of our Saviour and the fulfillment of the promise of eternal life to us. We should urge those who are obeying the gospel to do so understanding that eternal consequences are involved in their obedience. We should be thankful to God that he has sent the Holy Spirit to abide in us, to instruct and guide us through the word, to help us when we pray (Rom. 8:26-27), and to produce his fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23). Yes; we who are believers are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1: 13-14).

Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 18-19
March 1963