The Sealing of the Spirit
From Notes of an Address on Matthew 25:1-18
My subject is the Spirit in connection with the believer, sealing him for glory. The Holy Ghost’s name is not mentioned in the verses we have read, yet it sets before us in parabolic language the very truth I want to accentuate with God’s help.
In this passage the Lord Jesus is depicting for us the condition of things that will be found on earth amongst those who profess His name when He returns. I tell you it is alarming, if there is anything in the numbers, and, mark you, they are not my figures, they are His own. There were ten virgins, and they all went out to meet the Bridegroom, and all expected to be inside, and when the crucial test came fifty percent of them were outside. That is a very serious consideration for Christendom. Out of the ten, five of them, who expected to be on the right side of the door, found themselves on the wrong side. Who were the people who were found inside? The people that were ready.
I don’t suppose that you or I could have picked out the five foolish ones. They were all virgins alike, they all started out with one objective, they all carried lamps in their hands to show that they were going to meet the Bridegroom, they intended to be at his wedding, they all fell asleep, they all woke up, and they all began to trim their lamps, and it was then that they were found out. If you are a sham professor of Christianity you are going to be found out, and if you are not found out before, you will be found out then. May God help you to take your bearings in the light of His presence, and at once. It was those who had the oil in their vessels with their lamps that were ready. Are you ready? Have you got the oil in your vessel?
Oil is a figure that has been constantly used in the Old Testament. It was used for anointing Prophets, Priests and Kings. When Elijah had to appoint his successor Elisha he was to anoint him with oil. When Samuel was to appoint a successor to Saul he was to anoint David the King, and when Aaron and his sons were set apart for the priest’s office, they were anointed with oil. When I come to the New Testament I find the Lord Jesus using a parable that shows the vital necessity of being possessed of oil, for it is a figure of the Spirit of God. In the New Testament you find one Person who takes the place of the Prophet, Priest and King, and who is that? Christ. He is the great Antitype, and when He was here He was anointed. You remember how He stood up in Nazareth to read in the book of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor,” and when He closed the book He said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” When He is anointed, He is anointed with the Antitype of the oil, the Holy Spirit of God. And again in Acts 10 we read of Him being anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power. Clearly then the oil is a figure of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now we come back to Matthew 25 prepared to understand its doctrine. Have you received the Holy Ghost? That is the question. The same question is raised if we turn to Romans 8:9. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His,” or, “not of Him.” In other words, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He is not what the Scripture calls a Christian. He is not in proper Christian condition, since the great distinguishing mark of a Christian is that he has received the Spirit of Christ. Now if I ask you that question, perhaps you would be still in the dark as to giving an intelligent answer.
Turn then to Acts 19 and you will find that is the very question the Apostle Paul asked certain men at Ephesus. Finding certain disciples He said unto them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” It is a perfectly Scriptural question. If I put that to you, what would you say? Perhaps your mind immediately goes back to some point in your history when a certain remarkable experience came into your soul. You thought you had come in for “the second blessing” and said to yourself, “Yes, I think I have got the Spirit.” But receiving the Spirit is not an experience, though the man that receives the Spirit gets an experience. Experiences change and fade, the Holy Ghost does not.
I do not ask if you have received a careful Christian training, or if you have broken bread, but have you received the Holy Ghost? You say, “I don’t know.” Then God help you to be sufficiently earnest not to rest until you do. Well, you say, “Then what does it mean? Who does receive the Holy Spirit?” If we are to get this settled we must find a Scripture which tells us who receives the Holy Ghost. I will ask several questions, and also supply the answers. I am going to put the questions, because if I don’t the devil will one day, and he will put you into a corner and won’t show you the road out. If I happen to corner you by these questions, I will show you the road out, my dear friends.
Who does receive the Holy Ghost? Open your Bibles at John 7:38-39. “He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Then who does receive Him? According to John 7 it is the believer that receives Him. That makes me feel a little more comfortable, because I am a believer.
Well now I am going to ask another question, a very serious and important one, God help you to take it in. If it is the believer that receives the Holy Spirit, have all believers received the Holy Spirit? Oh, you say, surely, certainly. If it is the believer that receives the Spirit, surely every believer has received the Spirit. Well turn back again to Acts 19. Paul asked, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye have believed? and they said to him ‘We have not so much as heard whether the Holy Ghost is come.’” They knew that there was such a Person existing, but they had not heard whether He had come. Consequently Paul asked, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” They said, “To John’s baptism.” Paul replied, “John verily baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them. Here are some believers that had not received the Holy Spirit, so the answer is, No.
Someone may say, “You are making me feel very bad now, because how am I to know whether I am a believer that has received the Holy Spirit.” Now don’t get building on any Christian profession you may have made all these years, go down to your foundations, have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? Well then, What is a person to believe to get the Holy Spirit? Here are some who believed, and who did not get the Spirit. Then what did they believe? Ah that is the point, and I want you to take it in. In John 7 it did not merely say, “the Spirit which they that believe should receive,” but, “they that believe ON HIM.”
Now turn to Ephesians 1:13. Here is a point of interest to you, this epistle is written to the very people he was talking to in Acts 19. In writing to them he turns their minds back to that very important juncture in their history. This is what he says, “In whom ye [Gentiles] also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, [or, on believing] ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” What did they believe? They believed the gospel of their salvation. Well, you say, don’t all believers believe the gospel? No, that is the solemn thing.
Let me illustrate it. What is the gospel? Glad tidings, God’s gospel concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Suppose I am preaching on this platform one Sunday night and I read you a few words in Hebrews 9. “It is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment,” and all that night I am pressing upon my hearers these two solemn facts that are staring them in the face—death, and after death judgment. There is a man goes out at the end of the meeting and for a month he is in distress, hardly eating or sleeping. Oh, he says, I am on my way to death and judgment. He has been wakened up to the fact that he is a poor sinner on his way to death and judgment. Is he a believer? Well I should think so. Do you think he would tremble, do you think he would lose his sleep and appetite if he had not believed God’s word. He was a profound believer in it. But had he believed the gospel? There is not a word of gospel in it. There was no glad tidings in telling a man he is on his way to death and judgment, though it was solemnly true. He comes back again at the end of the month, and I am preaching here again, and happen to read a few verses from Hebrews 9. I begin, “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Oh, he says, he is at it again; will I never get away from this. “As it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” And this time I begin to preach the death of Christ for sinners. I tell him of the precious blood that cleanses from all sin, and this time he drinks that in like a thirsty man, and he goes away rejoicing in the knowledge of the fact that though it was appointed for him once to die, Christ has been offered in his place. That man goes away believing the gospel, and at peace this time, and he has got the Spirit.
I remember years ago preaching in a little country town in Wiltshire. A woman came into my meeting rather late one week night. She sat on the back seat, and we were singing the last verse of one of Frances Ridley Havergal’s hymns. All she heard were the words in the verse,
“Though thy sins are red like crimson,
Deep in scarlet glow!”
God sent those two lines like an arrow into that woman’s soul, and for a fortnight she was in dire distress. She could do nothing properly. One morning a friend saw her hanging her clothes out. Tears were flowing over her cheeks. “Oh” says her neighbour, “Mrs. — you are in trouble, what is the matter? Are you not well?” “No it isn’t that.” “Has the postman brought you bad news this morning?” “No.” “Well what is the matter?” “Oh it is my sins, my sins are red like crimson.” “Oh, that’s what is the matter with you. Why don’t you go down to the gospel tent yonder on the green; people are getting blessing there, perhaps you might get a little comfort.” “Oh, that is where I was made miserable. I never used to get like this before I heard those words.” What did she believe? That her sins were red like crimson. However, she was persuaded to go back at the end of a fortnight, and the first hymn that was given out was the same.
She said to me at the end of the meeting, “When I came down to that last verse,
‘Though thy sins are red like crimson,
Deep in scarlet glow!’
why, it was just like opening an old wound. But how I missed those two last lines I don’t know.
‘Jesus’ precious blood can make them
White as snow!’”
She drank those two lines of gospel truth in, as the thirsty ground welcomes the rain What then? Why, she was able to sing thus,
“Jesus’ precious blood has made them
White as snow!”
She said, “I could sing in the gladness of my heart my thanksgiving for the precious blood that could cleanse me white as snow.” That woman went out of the tent that night a believer in the gospel. She received the gospel of her salvation that day; and what happened? She was sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. The Spirit of God seals the person that trusts the gospel. The gospel speaks of a finished work, the atoning blood, a risen and glorified Saviour, and faith resting in Him and on His finished work and on the written Word of God, the blessing of the gospel is received. So you see there are two kinds of believers. There is the man who has believed the truth of God against himself and then there comes the man who has believed the truth of God about Christ. That is believing the gospel.
And listen, it does not depend upon the value you put on the precious blood; it depends on the value God puts upon it. It is what He sees in it. He says it is of such virtue that it cleanses from every sin, and God puts to my credit all the value He sees in it, and the moment you trust Him you stand before God in all the value of that blood, and as such He seals you as His own.
Let me illustrate the point. An old lady had a son out in India, a soldier lad. He had been away for many months and the old lady was in very great straits, and one day a lady visitor called upon her, and finding her in very great poverty she said “Doesn’t your son ever send you anything?” “Never sent me a penny,” she said. “Does he write to you at all?” “Oh yes, he writes regularly, but never sends me any money.” “Would you mind letting me have a look at one of his letters?” The old lady went to a cupboard and brought out a handful of letters and handed one to this lady. She opened it and said, “What is this?” “I don’t know what it is,” said the old lady, “I think it is a sort of paper they use in India!” Do you know what it was? It was a post office order. “Have you got any more?” “Oh, yes, he always sends me a piece of paper like that,” and she found out there was a post office order in all her letters. “Come along with me to the Post Office,” and she explained the circumstances to the Postmaster, and the old lady came away with more money in her hand than she had ever had in her life. What had she got? Had she got the value she put on the orders? No, she would have got nothing. But what did she get? She got all the value the Postmaster put on the orders.
It isn’t the value you see in the precious blood. God will put to your account all the value He sees in it. And what does it do? it will make you Christ’s. It is the blood that makes us His. Oh, you say, this is a new theory. No, it is as old as the hills and older than that hymn you sang when you were in the Sunday School,
“Jesus is our Shepherd,
For the sheep He bled,
Every lamb is sprinkled
With the blood He shed.
Then on each He setteth
His own secret sign
‘They that have My Spirit,
These,’ saith He, ‘are Mine.’”
“If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ He is none of His.” Have you got Him?
A person said to me one day, “Is this your pocket handkerchief?” “Well I need not look at it. If you look at one corner it has got my name on. If it has not got my name on it isn’t mine.” “Oh, it has your name on it.” “Well it is mine.” Did writing my name on my handkerchief make it mine? Not at all. You go into a shop and see if writing your name on a handkerchief will make it your own! I think you will be pretty soon stopped. No it isn’t marking the handkerchiefs that makes them mine. It is the money transaction that makes them mine. I make them my own at a cost, and when I have made them mine I mark them mine. That is all. It is the blood that makes me His, and it is the Spirit that marks me His.
In the days of old the officers of the Roman army went through a captured city and when they saw anything that they thought would be a source of pleasure or delight to the Emperor, they put the Emperor’s seal upon it. Woe betide any man that touched anything with the Emperor’s seal on it! That bit of furniture was destined for the palace.
The first work of the Spirit in us is to awaken a need, and the next work is to bring the gospel to us. When that gospel and that Saviour is trusted then what follows? After that, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. For how long? Until the day of redemption,—that is the redemption of our bodies when we shall be introduced into the palace of glory: that is, for ever.
Now have you received the blessing? You say, “I have believed the gospel but I have no peace.” Well you haven’t believed the gospel. There are two reasons why a person is not enjoying peace. One is they do not know the gospel and the other is they do not believe it. One or the other.
I will just give you a little illustration as I close. I am owing a debt of say £50. It is a source of trouble to me and you know it. You go to my creditor and offer him that which gives him satisfaction. You settle the debt and get a receipt. Am I as satisfied as the creditor? No, I am not. How is that? Because you have done that on the quiet and I know nothing at all about it. I am in the dark. But suppose you write a letter to me and tell me all. What do you intend that letter to do? You intend that letter to put me at rest. I get the letter and you meet me a month later and find me looking as miserable as ever. You say, “What is the matter?” “That money I owe Mr. —.” “Didn’t you get a letter from me telling you that the whole thing had been settled and I had the receipt?” “Yes, I wish I could feel satisfied about it!” “Look here,” he says, “you didn’t believe what I wrote to you.” And no argument I could use would persuade him that I did believe. Don’t tell me you believe the gospel of peace if you have not got the peace the gospel brings. God intends the message of salvation to bring its own peace to your soul. God is satisfied with Jesus. Faith says I am satisfied too.
The work has been done, I know it has been done and I believe the gospel tidings of peace. Having believed, I am sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption at the coming of the Lord.