December 2008 • Volume XII, Issue8
In this issue:
The sealing of the Spirit (1)
Was Solomon Saved?
The Sealing of the Spirit (1)
Ephesians 1:13 proclaims that believers are "sealed" with the Holy Spirit. But what is a seal? Typically, a seal comes in the form of a piece of wax or lead or paper, etc., with a stamped design. It has three main uses. First, a seal is a mark of authenticity and/or authority. For example, Pharaoh gave his signet ring (a seal) to Joseph as his number two in the kingdom (Gen. 41:42). Thus Joseph exercised the royal authority of Pharaoh as his official representative. Second, a seal is used to witness a document. Jeremiah bought a field in Anathoth (to show that Judah would come back from the Babylonian captivity), and the title deeds were sealed by witnesses (Jer. 32:11-14). Third, a seal is used for security. Think of a sealed document that can only be opened by an authorized person (like the scroll with seven seals in Revelation 5 that only the Lamb who was slain could open). Even today, seals are still used in our society for similar purposes: as a mark of authority or authenticity, as a witness and for security.
What about the sealing of the Spirit in Ephesians 1:13? All of the above ideas apply. Those sealed are the authentic or genuine children of God who bear God’s name as prophets, priests and kings. The Spirit witnesses to us that we are Christ’s. We are sealed as those eternally secure by God’s almighty grace.
Underlying all this and even more basic to our sealing by the Spirit is ownership and belonging. The Spirit has sealed us for God owns us and we belong to Him through Christ’s redemption of us. With that seal stamped upon us, we have the hallmark of authentic Christians; we are God’s representatives; we have the witness off the Holy Spirit in our hearts; and we are secure, for we are possessed by the Triune God.
You, believer, have been stamped with God’s seal! The script of this seal reads, in effect, "You belong to Me!" Though the language of "sealing" might be new to you, the idea should not be. It is the teaching of the very first Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism: I do not belong to myself but to my faithful saviour, Jesus Christ, who redeemed me by His precious blood. This, we confess, is our "only comfort in life and death."
How is this seal related to the Holy Spirit? God seals us with the Spirit and the Spirit Himself seals us because the Holy Spirit is Himself God’s seal in us. The Holy Spirit, who is in each believer personally, witnesses to us, "You belong to the Triune God! He owns you body and soul. You will always belong to Him in Jesus Christ." This, in theological terminology, is assurance, assurance of our salvation.
But why does the Holy Spirit—and not the Father or the Son—seal and assure us of our salvation? Because within the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit is the bond, uniting the Father and the Son in a bond of love and fellowship, a personal, divine bond. Thus in the work of salvation, the Spirit is the bond uniting us to the Triune God in Jesus Christ, consecrating and dedicating us to Him and joining us to Him. The Spirit who unites us to the living God is the same One who witnesses to us of this union. What a witness He is! A living, personal, divine seal testifying in our consciousness that we are Christ’s forever! This is assurance, assurance of our salvation!
This sealing of the Holy Spirit needs to be understood in its context, the one long sentence that is Ephesians 1:3-14, a glorious doxology or blessing of God for all the spiritual blessings (i.e., the blessings of the Holy Spirit) that we have in Christ Jesus, according to God’s eternal, unconditional election (3-4).
The Spirit witnesses to us that we have been elected and predestinated by God and so we belonged to God before the foundation of the world (4-5). The Spirit of adoption testifies to each believer, "You are God’s son [or daughter]." As those redeemed by Christ’s blood, the Spirit assures us that we are owned by God and all our sins are blotted out (7). The Spirit testifies to us that we are included in God’s great plan of uniting all things in heaven and earth in Jesus Christ (10-11) and that we are dedicated to the praise of the glory of His grace (6, 12, 14). This is what the Holy Spirit, as God’s seal in us, witnesses to, and assures, each and every believing man, woman and child by the Word!
Remember that the theme of Ephesians is "The Church as the Body of Christ." The whole congregation and each believer must know this sealing of the Spirit in order to function aright as Christ’s body in all its service in worship, witnessing, mutual edification, prayer, fellowship, etc. For without the assurance that we belong to Jesus Christ, how can we pray to "Our Father" in heaven? How can you praise God or do good works in gratitude for your salvation, if you are not sure that Christ bore all your sins on the cross? How can you fellowship with other believers, if you are not sure that you are included in the communion of the saints with Jesus Christ? See how necessary and important is this blessed ministry of the Spirit, as He seals the truth of the biblical and Reformed gospel in our hearts and assures us that we belong to our faithful saviour! Rev. Stewart
Was Solomon Saved?
Question: "Is the Solomon of Scripture among the redeemed?"
The question is a rather anxious one, and has been asked by thousands of people. The problem arises out of the fact that the Bible tells us that Solomon married many wives—700 to be exact, plus 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). These women, many of them from foreign lands, turned Solomon’s heart from serving God to the worship of idols. "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice" (4-9).
II Chronicles, which describes Solomon’s deeds and glorious kingdom, does not refer to his sins. But the striking point of both narratives, and especially the one in I Kings 11, is that no mention is made of Solomon’s repentance, not even when God told Solomon that because of his sin, a large part of the kingdom would be taken from the line of David (11-13).
The Scriptures are clear that no impenitent person will go to heaven. The way to glory for us sinners is the way of repentance. This is true in the new dispensation; it was equally true in the old. One would think that, if Solomon were saved after such atrocious sins, Scripture would make reference to his repentance. That it does not would seem to indicate that Solomon was not among the redeemed.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that Solomon was saved and that we will see Solomon in glory. The grounds for this assertion lie in the Bible’s description of his life, first of all. Scripture tells us that "Solomon loved the Lord" (I Kings 3:3). No unbeliever loves the Lord. That Solomon’s love was genuine is evident from the appearance of the Lord to Solomon at Gibeon (5-14). At the time of that appearance, Solomon made the right choice when asked what he wanted to receive from God; he asked for wisdom because of his awareness that he had to rule the people of God. God approved of that choice, and Solomon, in gratitude to God, "came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings" (15).
God gave Solomon wisdom beyond that which anyone else possessed (I Kings 4:29-34). Wisdom is a gift that God bestows only on His people, for wisdom is the spiritual ability to apply the abiding principles of God’s Word to one’s walk in life. Solomon’s wisdom went even beyond that and included an understanding of God’s creation and the ability to make proverbs and compose songs (32-33). His proverbs are inspired Scripture and tell us of Christ, the true wisdom of God (cf. esp. Prov. 8). One of his songs, the Song of Solomon, is also God’s Word and speaks of the relationship between Christ and His elect church.
Solomon built the temple because he wanted a house for the Lord his God (I Kings 5:5), and he did so knowing that he was the son of David, the one whom the Lord had promised David and who would build the temple. It is true that these promises refer to Christ, but they refer, first, to Solomon, a type of Christ in his wisdom and in the splendour of his reign (I Kings 5:5; II Sam. 7:12-15; Ps. 89:19-37). It is, I think, impossible that Solomon could be a type of Christ as a son of David, as one who built the temple, as the personification of God’s wisdom, and as the son promised to David as part of God’s covenant with David, without his being among the redeemed.
But, finally, I am convinced that Scripture does give us Solomon’s repentance. It is found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is quite apparent that Solomon wrote this book at the end of his life, after having tasted to the full all the riches and pleasures that life could afford. He had power, prestige, wealth beyond counting, a mighty kingdom, 1,000 wives and concubines, palaces and gardens—everything in the world anyone could want or desire. But over the top of it is written: Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. He came to learn the truth of it and he characterized it in the light of God’s evaluation of things. In all the things of this earth one can find no joy, no peace, no genuine usefulness, nothing worthwhile for time or eternity. And, if you might conclude from all this that such an evaluation of this earth’s possessions is not yet repentance, I remind you of what Solomon says at the conclusion of the book (and in the light of his idolatry): "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth [Solomon must have written some of his proverbs after his repentance] ... Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecc. 12:8-10, 13-14).
Solomon was among the redeemed; there can be no question about it. But as a type of Christ, he proved to be only a type, an imperfect picture. He was, after all, not wise at all, but very foolish. If salvation was to come through Solomon, it was hopeless, for he too needed salvation. His sins were great, but not beyond the redeeming power of the One who was "greater than Solomon" (Matt. 12:42). Solomon too looked for Christ’s coming and longed for it.
And the comfort for us is that we too may know that our sins are forgiven in the way of repentance—no matter how many and how great. Prof. Hanko