Author: Ron Graham
Three Distinct Blessings
—Promise, oath, and seal
On this page we look at another very important point among our 17 principles. This concerns the Christian’s threefold assurance, namely God's promise, oath, and seal. In this lesson we show that the oath and the seal are not one and the same thing, but quite distinct blessings.
8th principle: The oath is distinct from the seal.
1 God’s Word Includes God’s Promise and Oath
The Hebrew writer speaks of "the word of the oath" (Hebrews 7:28). God has given his word through the Spirit. If that word is preached, and believed and obeyed by the hearer, God then seals that hearer with his Spirit.
This makes a clear distinction between two acts of God. First God added an oath to his word of promise. Second, God seals those who believe and obey that word. If the word is the seal, then all who hear the word are sealed. However that is not so. Only those who believe and obey the word are sealed. So the seal is distinct from the word of the oath.
2 The Seal Follows the Oath
To confirm our first point, we need to look carefully at what Paul says in Ephesians 1. It was "after listening to the message" and "having believed" that the sealing took place (Ephesians 1:13). If the word of the oath and the seal of the Spirit are the same, then the people would have been sealed while listening to the message, not after.
If one is sealed "having heard" and "having believed" the word, then the seal is not the word.
This also matches what was said by Peter on the day of Pentecost. The people heard Peter's message. They were pricked in their hearts and asked what to do. Peter told them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38-39). Clearly the giving of the Holy Spirit as a seal followed the preaching and acceptance of the word.
So the word of the oath and the seal of the Spirit are not the same blessing, because one follows the other with faith coming between them.
3 We are Given the Spirit Himself
In making this distinction, we should also note that the "gift of the Holy Spirit" mentioned by Peter (Acts 2:38), is not a gift given by the Holy Spirit, but rather it is the Spirit himself who is given.
Peter made this clear when he spoke of "the Holy Spirit whom God has given to all who obey him" (Acts 5:32).
Again we look carefully at Paul's words in Ephesians 1. "You were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance..." (Ephesians 1:13-14). This clearly shows that the Spirit himself, not merely his word, is regarded as the pledge.
Someone will turn to another place where the Greek says, "...gave us the pledge of the Spirit" (2Corinthians 1:21-25, 2Corinthians 5:5). This is ambiguous. It could mean, as it is usually translated, "gave us the Spirit as a pledge" Or it could mean that the Spirit gave us a pledge. However the passage in Ephesians is unambiguous. We saw clearly there that the Spirit himself is the pledge.
John also clears up any ambiguity. When Jesus said that from a believer's "innermost being will flow rivers of living water" John explains, "This he spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in him were to receive" (John 7:37-39). Believers have already heard, accepted, and obeyed the gospel message. That's what makes them believers. Next, having done that, they receive the Spirit as a seal.