"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30.
Keeper of the Seal
"Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those ‘that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done’ in the church. Their love for purity and the honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented as being in agony, even sighing and crying. Read the ninth chapter of Ezekiel."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 267.
Only when sanctification has changed the individual entirely can God place His final seal of approval on him. No one has any Scriptural justification for the popular belief that since "God is love," He will overlook certain character deficiencies when He makes up the number of His elect. The very fact that He is a God of love ensures the care with which He will choose the citizens for His beautiful new earth. Eternal life is to be bestowed upon them, and God will not admit any who would perpetuate sin in any of its forms. Rebellion against Him and against His way of governing His universe brought about disharmony in Paradise, in His very presence. No seeds of rebellion must be brought over into the new earth. Nothing will ever enter God’s Paradise which will spoil its beauty or mar the happiness and peace of its inhabitants.
The prospect of man’s restoration to fellowship with the rest of the universe makes this imperative. Had it been possible for heaven to admit us with our faults and weaknesses, then Christ need never have joined the human family and offered His precious life to provide a propitiation for these sins. The perfection of His life among us, with no more assistance than God is willing to provide for each of us, turns the searchlight of hope on Gods way out for fallen humanity. The Holy Spirit stands ready to aid any and ail to overcome sin and prepare for eternal life.
This does not imply that the mighty power of the Third Person of the Trinity was not unleashed for mankind until after the start of the Christian Era. Begin-ning with the account of creation, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Genesis 1:2. The Three have always worked in perfect harmony for the benefit of the dwellers on our planet.
Since the Fall, the gift of prophecy seems to have been the special province of the Holy Spirit. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." "As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began." 2 Peter 1:21; Luke 1:70.
Since this gift has been operative from the beginning, we can but conclude that the Third Person in the Trinity has had an active role in the reclamation of our race since rebellion first got a foothold on our planet. Following Christ’s ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit became more real in the minds of believers, making effective in their lives the salvation Christ had purchased for them.
Heretofore the world has had but scanty proof that God’s plan for our redemption is operative. It is true that millions have accepted salvation and have started out along the pathway to the kingdom. They have joyously received Christ as their Redeemer, renouncing the world, as pilgrims bound for another, better country. Yet many of these have halted along the way. They have wearied of the journey and lost sight of their destination, if indeed they have ever had it clearly in view. They persuade themselves that, after all, God wants all His children to be happy. Did not the apostle Paul write, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"? Romans 14:17. They reason that God is not interested in such trivial details as eating and drinking; one needs but to believe to be a candidate for heaven, they say.
Believing in God the Father and in Christ must necessarily indicate belief also in the Holy Spirit. Such belief must include an understanding of His role in effecting the character transformation that God has designed for human lives. All down through the ages men and women have struggled along with considerably less to aid them than they might have had. God has watched over them in loving sympathy, understanding their falling short of His standards because of their ignorance, but not able to provide them with all the marvelous resources available, because they did not comprehend. What means He will take to supply the lack of character preparation in those who qualify for life eternal because they lived up to all the light they had, only God knows. We only know that there need not have been such a lack, if man had only understood what God has always been willing to provide.
That this situation continued to exist even after Christ’s perfect demonstration is evidence both of Satan’s power to deceive, and of the degenerative effects of sin on the minds of mankind. Man’s heritage from ancestors who have habitually disregarded the physical laws of God has bequeathed to him a brain that seldom thinks as clearly as it might. Added to this inherited handicap, his own continued transgressions in this field have further weakened his ability to think God’s thoughts. We may be sure that the Father takes into consideration the odds against which man pits his feeble resources in these decadent times. We may also be sure that God has made provision to aid man in overcoming such odds. We have His assurance that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Romans 5:20. We know also that Satan is doing his utmost to keep man from comprehending this heartening truth.
Today Satan has stepped up his campaign against Christians because he is more aware than we are of the shortness of time. Tensions, anxieties, fears, and intemperance have taken their toll ever since Satan first launched his bid for control of the human race. Today we are reaping a fearful harvest, just as he has planned, of wrong thinking and fuzzy-mindedness. In the midst of this sad harvest of the seeds of rebellion, the Spirit of God continues to sanctify those who are willing to trust their lives in His hands. This is part of God’s purpose, and He never needs to change His plans. He it is "who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." 2 Corinthians 1:22.
Here is a commentary on this text: "Paul here uses the figure of earnest money to illustrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers, as a first installment, an assurance of their full inheritance in the hereafter. … It is the Christian’s privilege to receive the settled conviction of acceptance with God as His adopted child at conversion and to retain it throughout life, to accept the gift of eternal life, and to experience the transformation of character made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But the joy that comes when the will is attuned to God’s will, when the heart aspires to the stature of perfection in Christ Jesus, and when there is an uninterrupted daily walk with the Saviour—this joy is the ‘earnest’ of a greater and eternal joy in the earth made new."—The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, on 2 Corinthians 1:22.
How many Christians have gone through life with doubts as to their title to eternal life! How needless their tormenting doubts and fears, had they only understood that God would redeem them, not only from the eternal loss toward which Satan and all who follow him are heading, but also from their weaknesses and besetments! Countless Christians’ have lived mediocre lives when they might have glorified God through continual victories had they but left the direction of their lives to their divinely appointed Guide.
The steps by which the change from doubt to victory may be accomplished are outlined in these words of Paul to the church at Ephesus: "In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory." Ephesians 1:13, 14.
By believing that Jesus Christ furnishes the link which connects God in heaven with man on earth, man is led to put his trust and confidence in Christ. Man is sealed as Gods property by the Holy Spirit as He works with man to develop in him a character like Christ’s. This is indeed the very process of sanctification. In the eyes of God it demonstrates our fitness for His gift of eternal life. In the experience of man it provides comforting assurance of his heirship to the kingdom of heaven.
That the sealing process represents both these angles is apparent from this statement by the apostle Paul: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2: 19.
Those who call themselves by the name of Christ have no right to cling to any form of known sin, or iniquity. By continuing in deliberate sinning they advertise to the world that the "foundation of God" is not very secure after all. And thus they show to God that they do not really belong to Him.
"We who believe the truth should be very careful to give no occasion for our good to be evil spoken of. We should know that every step we take is in accordance with the Bible; for those who hate the commandments of God will triumph over our missteps and faults. …
"I … saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully. …
"I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. … Let all remember that God is holy and that none but holy beings can ever dwell in His presence."—Early Writings, pages 70, 71.
"Courage, fortitude, faith, and implicit trust in God’s power to save do not come in a moment. These heavenly graces are acquired by the experience of years. By a life of holy endeavor and firm adherence to the right, the children of God were sealing their destiny. …
"Not all who profess to keep the Sabbath will be sealed. There are many even among those who teach the truth to others who will not receive the seal of God in their foreheads. They had the light of truth, they knew their Master’s will, they understood every point of our faith, but they had not corresponding works. These who were so familiar with prophecy and the treasures of divine wisdom should have acted their faith. They should have commanded their households after them, that by a well-ordered family they might present to the world the influence of the truth upon the human heart. …
"Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost."
"The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men or women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven."—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 213, 214, 216.
This is a high standard, impossibly high when looked at from a purely human viewpoint. Christians have no right to view it so. Christ purchased for us the privilege of becoming "filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19. Then, like Paul, we should say confidently, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. If we fall short of God’s standard, we have only ourselves to blame.
The failures of those about us need not hinder our progress in sanctification. Should every other creature on earth fail God, it still is our obligation to vindicate His love and His power by standing firm to the very end, secure in the strength which He provides, reflecting the lovely characteristics of His own nature by our transformed lives.
Soon the great controversy will be finished. As the record of our lives stands on the pages of heaven’s books in that day, so we shall stand or fall, acquitted or condemned, before the tribunal of the universe. What a solemn obligation and what a high privilege is ours who live on earth in its closing days!
"When the third angel’s message closes, mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. The people of God have accomplished their work. They have received ‘the latter rain,’ ‘the refreshing from the presence of the Lord,’ and they are prepared for the trying hour before them. Angels are hastening to and fro in heaven. An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received ‘the seal of the living God.’"—The Great Controversy, page 613.
Now, while the Comforter, whose responsibility it is to place Gods seal upon His people, is still at work shaping and hewing lives to fit the divine pattern, we are privileged to let go the idols which divide our attention. We yet have time to surrender our whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, into His control, that our sharp comers and rough edges may be smoothed down by the circumstances He has appointed to accomplish this work in us.
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