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In 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13,14; Rom. 8:16 Paul uses expressions that refer to various ways that a product or act may be guaranteed to be genuine or authentic. A seal was used as proof that a document or law was officially ratified and therefore genuine (this was especially common in Paul's day, but is still done sometimes today). Likewise, an earnest was a sort of down payment or partial payment. given as assurance of intent to pay other money. Today, when a buyer purchases a house, he may initially pay a small part of the total price as a pledge of his sincere or "earnest" intent to purchase. The amount initially given becomes assurance that the rest will come later.
Likewise, under the gospel Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. This is not a literal or personal embodiment of the Spirit in our bodies like our own spirits inhabit our bodies. Rather, the Spirit is said to dwell in us even as the Father and Son are said to dwell in us (John 17:20,21; 1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18). This is an expression for the unity or fellowship we have with God and all the blessings we have as a result of that fellowship, in contrast to the alienation we have from God when we are in sin. Paul's point is that the fellowship men have with Deity (the Holy Spirit, in particular) is just a down payment or partial installment assuring us that much greater blessings will come later when we enter into the final reward in eternity.
Some people mistakenly use such passages to claim that, since we have the Holy Spirit as a "guarantee," we cannot lose salvation - "once saved always saved." However, the "earnest" shows good intention on God's part; but that in no way guarantees the faithfulness of the humans in keeping our part of the agreement. It is not uncommon, in human transactions, for a party to back out of a purchase or violate a contract after earnest money has been paid. The point here is that God will not back out, if we keep our part of the agreement. But if we humans do not keep our part of the covenant, God is surely not required to provide us eternal life. He can and will then withdraw His earnest, and we lose our reward.
For passages proving a child of God can so sin as to be lost, see John 15:1-6; Acts 8:12-24; Romans 6:12-18; 8:12-17; Galatians 5:1-4; 6:7-9; 1 Corinthians 9:25-10:12; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; Hebrews 3:6,11-14; 4:9,11; 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2 Peter 1:8-11; 2:20-22
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 4/2007
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.