The Earnest

William Henry Westcott

2 Corinthians 1:18-22

2 Corinthians 5:15

Ephesians 1:14

There are three references to the Holy Ghost as the Earnest. From these, with the contexts in which they are found, we gather some most helpful food. But let us study two things.

It cannot be too strongly urged that the Spirit is a Person, just as our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a Person. We may consider the Person of Christ on the Divine side as the Son of God, or on the Human side as Man. But while both Divine and Human, He is one Person. So also the Spirit is the Comforter, the Seal, the Earnest, etc., and may be considered in these different functions separately; yet He who exercises these functions is one Person. We cannot possess Him as Seal and be without Him as Earnest. He who is the Seal is also at the same time the Earnest. But these are two different services rendered by Him, and require to be distinctly apprehended and used.

Secondly, every passage of Scripture to be rightly apprehended needs to be taken in its own context. We lose greatly if we read one idea only into each verse where the Earnest is mentioned.

Let us now read 2 Corinthians 1: 18-22

We find there three different preachers, Paul, Silas, and Timothy. They all had peculiar abilities and varying modes of service. But their theme was one. They preached the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Their education, their travels, their environment, had never furnished them with another Person to preach. They knew of the first Adam, but he had broken down. They read of Noah, but he failed in self-control. They were connected with Abraham, in whom the Israelites boasted after the flesh; but he denied his wife, and was only reckoned righteous with God on the principle of faith. Moses would not do as the one on whom to rest for eternity, for he came short and could not, in his earthly lifetime, enter the Promised Land. David was likewise a true saint but a bad foundation, for he committed adultery when he got out of communion with God. Solomon made a fine start, but broke down in the race. The whole nation of Israel as such could no more be trusted or preached than any individual amongstthem, for they were either carried into captivity because of their sin, or else were guilty of the murder of their Messiah under the direction of their religious leaders, and with the sanction of the ruling Gentile power. Nor did the Gentile world offer any one who could be all that God required or that man needed, still less be a Redeemer for sinners and bring men back to God, sin expiated, God glorified, enmity removed, and a nature given that could boast in God and abide in communion with Him. But all this the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was and had done, so they preached Him.

This involves His Deity (Son of God), His Humanity (Jesus), His resurrection, office, and position (Christ).

As to His Deity, He was Son of God from eternity, and as such was the Agent by whom God created all things (Col. 1:13,16), and by whom He made all the succeeding ages of the universe (Heb. 1:2). He was none the less Son of God when assuming human being and condition (Luke 1:26-35). He is Son of God in resurrection (as Rom. 1:3,4 declares), and has passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14). Neither the incarnation nor the death of the Lord have tarnished His Sonship in the Deity (1 John 2: 22, 23).

As to His humanity He is the Word become flesh, God manifest in flesh. This involves both being and condition. The reality of His being as Man is evidenced by the fact that He did not come as Adam did, full grown, but was conceived in the Virgin's womb by the power of the Holy Ghost  no taint of human generation, though born as human beings are born, in due time  and growing up as we all grow up, from infancy to youth, and from youth to maturity. It was no mere assumption of a condition, but the growth of a Being; He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man. His Name was called Jesus. Jesus is not the name of a condition but of a Person, a real living Being. By that name henceforward known He passed through the conditions and circumstances familiar to us, but in all the moral excellence brought by His Deity into humanity. The three cardinal features of dependence, obedience, and love, were seen in all their perfection and completeness in Jesus. He awakened the delight of heaven, and the faith and love of His people; but the hostility of Satan and of the world under Satan's power. He was rejected here and hanged upon a tree; but in so doing suffered for men the curse of the law, the judgment of God, the sting of death. He took in grace our sins with their burden, their shame and their righteous due, and atoned for them by the blood shed at Golgotha. He maintained at full height the truth of God which says the sinner must die, the holiness of God which puts sin at unutterable distance from Him, the righteousness of God which brings condemnation and infinite punishment upon the guilty. In so doing, He also became the full expression of all that God is in love and wisdom, meeting our deep need in such a fashion as to overcome every difficulty, and to reveal God's every attribute in brightest rays, so that He hasset out all the glory of God has glorified Him. He submitted to death so that, rising again, He annulled its every power, and removed its sting for believers. He allowed Satan to do his worst, and then rising quietly and victoriously from the grave has triumphantly emerged with the keys of hades and of death in His hand; the foe defeated, his power broken, the way open now to the full and absolute fulfilment of every purpose and promise of God.

As to His Position, He ascended on high to the throne of God, by God's right hand exalted, and is there made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2). In Him is the YEA to whatever promises of God there be. The promises of God involved the overthrow of Satan (Gen. 3: 14, 15), the bringing in of secure blessing for men (Gen. 22: 15, 18), the establishment of the purposes of God (1 Chr. 17: 11). None other ever stood forward to do all this. All others failed before Satan, failed before men, failed before God. But even in coming into the world, the Lord Jesus had all this before Him, knowing it all beforehand and coming to do it. He shouldered the responsibility of all these promises, said "Yes" to them all, and set Himself to their accomplishment. His death in all its infinite value, eternal efficacy, and far-reaching effects will result in these three things: the complete defeat and confusion of Satan and all who side with him, the securing of infallible and boundless blessing for men, and the accomplishment of the will, the establishment of the kingdom and the glory of God through the whole universe and throughout eternity. No single promise of God will fail of its uttermost fulfilment. Even as Christ has undertaken it and has said "Yes" to it, so in the end will it be found that all is completed and fulfilled, and He will be able to say "Amen" to it. It is as good as done already, so absolutely certain is it of accomplishment, and so absolutely secure for it is every one who is in Christ.

Such is the One whom the Apostles preached, such is the Person, such the work, on whom and on which all depends, such the foundation on which all the superstructure of blessing rests. Is it any wonder that on this ground of what Christ is to God, He gives believers the Spirit as the Earnest of it all. The " earnest " is a pledge given to show that a contract will be carried out, an engagement fulfilled. It also enables us to discover now what the future fulness of blessing will be like, for it samples the whole. Herein, by the gift of His Spirit, God has pledged Himself that He is going to see this thing through. As surely as He has saved us through Christ and by faith in Him, giving us the Spirit as His seal upon the efficacy of Christ's work done for us, so surely will He secure the end for which Christ died and for which God has saved us. It will not be mere charity to do so; it is an engagement to which God binds Himself by all the stability of His own purpose and according to all the infinite value He sees in Christ and His work. It will all terminate to the glory of God by us. Not only to the glory of God, but by us. We are a necessary part through grace of the display of that glory.

Is it not significant in this connection that it is said:

"He hath given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts"?

Does not the Holy Spirit love to stir our affections in response to all this grace? The mind is necessarily enlightened and enlarged beyond anything that man could do for it; but especially is the heart touched and warmed and drawn out Godward as the Holy Spirit shows us the stability of everything which depends upon Christ.

*****

Our second passage speaking of the Earnest is 2 Cor. 5: 15

From the point in the third chapter where the face of Moses was said to be affected by the glory of the first covenant, the effect upon Christians of the glory now revealed through Christ is considered. In 2 Cor. 7 it is said that the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is like a treasure in earthen vessels, the weak old creation body being not compatible with the marvellous nature of the blessed light communicated to us. The result of this knowledge in our souls is that though the outward circumstances are unchanged as yet, and the Christian's body is still as frail as ever, the inward man is sustained and empowered in spite of the environment. If the eminent naturalist's theory is that in nature a created being adapts itself to, and is formed by, its environment, here at least is a living and constant contradiction to it in grace. Troubled on every side there is the earthen vessel; yet not distressed there is the effect of the light. Perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed; here we have in alternation the outward circumstances of the earthen vessel, and the effect of the treasure in it. We bear about in the body the dying of Jesus that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. Though the outward man perish yet the inward is renewed day by day. Thus we learn that though the human being feels and is affected by the external pressure in the temporal scene around us, the renewed soul is fed and strengthened and encouraged by what is eternal in Christ.

But it will not always be that we shall have bodiesso easily worn out. Chapter 5 introduces us to a new figure, in which the outward man is compared to a tent, and the glorified body to a settled house: "If our earthly tabernacle house"-here we have indicated the present body of flesh and blood in all its frailty, and its temporary character "be destroyed"-the dissolution of the body "we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The new and glorified body for which we are destined will be like a house of God's workmanship, in which none of the frailties introduced by human origin will exist, capable of sustaining all the joys and services of the heavens for eternity. It would in a way be a poor thing if we were introduced into the heavens in the company of Christ, into all the brightness of the Father's house, with bodies that would grow tired and weary. Look at Peter and his companions in the Mount of Transfiguration. Overcome by sleep they might have missed much of the brightness of the scene. Look at John in Revelation 1, seeing the glory of the Son of Man, and falling at His feet as dead. Dear fellow - Christian, when you and I are for ever with our Lord we shall have these frail bodies changed (or if dead we shall be raised) into a condition suited to the glorious scenes of eternity; never to be weary again, never to need intervals so to say for refreshment or sleep, nevermore to feel the pressure of outward circumstances, or to be overcome by the weight of glory.

At present, and as long as we are down here in existing conditions, we groan, and Scripture recognizesit. It does not suppose that we are dead to nature, but very much alive to the realities of the scenes through which we pass. But while so feeling them, we are said to be earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. When the mighty power of Christ is put forth to undo the work of death, it will (so far as Christians are concerned) result in our appearing in perfect suitability for the heavenly glory for which we are destined. (Alas! for the unsaved, the same power will be put forth to take them out of death, but when they assume the bodies in which they are to suffer the wrath of God, they will appear in a condition exposed to those judgments, naked, uncovered, unsuitable to God). But though Christians, who are regarded as living in temporary structures, at present groan under the burden of existing trials, yet our desire is not exactly to lay aside the frail body and to die, so much as it is to undergo the change referred to at the end of verse 4; not to be unclothed (i.e. to die; the body to be laid aside in the grave, and the spirit to go to the Lord), but clothed upon (the spirit to be invested with its new habit, clothed with its new abode, the glorified and heavenly body, at the coming of the Lord). In this latter case, instead of the frail body being swallowed up for a time by mortality, mortality itself will be swallowed up of life. Life, in all its might and fulness, will invade and overflow every fibre of our beings, and we shall (without dying) partake in the mighty victory of life, our glorious and eternal conformity to the image of God's Son. This is referred to in Rom. 8:11: "He that raised up Christ from the shall also quicken your mortal bodies because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you." It is also spoken of in Philippians 3:21: "The Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." It is the consummation so far of God's purpose that we should be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). The operation itself is described in detail in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57.

But to return to our text: "Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit (2 Cor. 5: 5). For nothing less than this has God secured us, and in view of its absolute fulfilment is the Spirit given  to us as the Earnest. He is the Pledge on God's part that we shall be in the heavenly glory with and like Christ, in perfect suitability to all the light and power of the glory of God, never to be exhausted by it nor wearied in it; always to be and to feel at home in it without any sense of pressure or unfittedness to bear more. It is the certainty of this which is conveyed to, and which gladdens, our hearts now. No occurrences on earth; not our weakness, not even death itself, can alter the purpose of God by a hair's-breadth or delay it by an instant; and we are always confident by reason of it (verse 6). Every care is awakened to be well-pleasing to the Lord, for we are so certain and so soon to be in His company; and so absolute is our likeness to Christ to be that we are to be allowed to look out over our own life - story, and to see our own course as He has seen it; we are to be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, to weigh our every action here in the balances of His judgment, we ourselves being first transferred there in bodies like His own.

"There with unwearied gaze,

Our eyes on Him we'll rest;

And satisfy with endless praise

Our hearts, supremely blest.

"'Knowing as we are known'

How shall we love that word;

How oft repeat before the throne,

'For ever with the Lord.' "

* * * * *

The last reference to the Earnest is in Eph. 1: 14

It is almost with trembling that we approach the grandeur of the grace of God unfolded there. Perhaps we might be tempted after thinking of 2 Corinthians 5 to imagine that nothing could be finer or higher than that. But will the reader remember that our subject has largely been the magnificence of what God will do for us as how He will conform us to the image of His Son, how we groan now and how we shall appear by and by.

But in Ephesians 1 we are let into the deeper secret of what God will do for His own glory in connection with Christ. True, we are told that God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, but everything is in accordance with something that lies behind; something that is greater than our blessing, though that was needed to carry out the greater plan. His will has determined it (vv. 5, 9), His graceis giving effect to it (vv. 6, 7), it will all result in His glory (vv. 12, 14).Having saved us through Christ, and made our every blessing secure beyond loss or recall, He now takes us into His confidence (see ver. 9, etc) as to this plan. Christ is not only our beloved Lord and Saviour, but He is the One who is God's Centre for the heavens and the earth. All that has witnessed sin's sad history and that has been tainted by the entranceof sin into the universe is to be recovered by God through Christ. Evil will be subjugated and eventually removed, all its disorder and chaos reversed, order will be brought into it for God, and God's will will be effectuated in every part of it. If we think of our individual blessing only it is but a very small part of the vast universal scheme that God is working out, of which Christ is the Centre, not we. The whole vast creation is to be put under the administration of Christ; not the earth only but the heavens also. Christ as Man will regulate the universe for God, and will secure His good pleasure in every part of it to its uttermost bound. The heavens will be populated according to God's eternal counsel with the subjects of redemption and reconciliation, and all under Christ; every throne, every principality, every power under Him, the church, the other heavenly saints in their families, the angels, owning His blessed sway; the earth also, Israel, the Gentiles, the very beasts in the field, and indeed all creation, blessed under Christ. The One whom we know in our personal relations with Him as Saviour and Lord is found to be the One who is competent to hold everything for God, and adequate to secure the accomplishment of God's will in the whole blissful universe; evil cast out, Satan overthrown, death removed, blessing brought in, God's will done.

But verse 11 brings in what is developed later in the Epistle, that the saints who form the church, i.e., the saints of this present dispensation from Jew and Gentile, redeemed and indwelt by the Spirit, are destined to inherit this portion in association with Christ. Eve had no separate dowry which she brought to Adam, but in Adam she inherited all that was his. Rebekah brought no dowry to Isaac, but in Isaac she inherited all that Isaac had. Oh, the riches of God's grace, that you and I, dear fellow-believer, are to be together with Christ; we and all God's redeemed of this church period are to be together with Christ in such sort that we are to be His companions, His bride, in His exalted position as Head over all, and centre of God's counsels, and of all this vast plan of blessing. This is not fancy, but solid truth, plain unvarnished fact, soon to be realized. We are to be associated with, and united to Christ in all the splendour of this glorious place, brought there according to God's determined purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will; suitable to Christ even in His most exalted position and character as Man, capable of entering sympathetically and intelligently into all the interests of His vast domain in heaven and earth, the subjects of His love, the companions of His heart for evermore, even to the ages of the ages. The mind almost reels, imagination fails, the reality of it can be understood only by the power of the Spirit of God who searcheth all things, yea, the depths of God.

It is in this connection then that the Holy Spirit of promise (not the promised Spirit) is said to be given, connected, that is, with the whole purpose of God which He has promised shall be fulfilled in Christ. By Him we are sealed for it, marked off as belonging to God individually in view of it; but He is also the Earnest of our inheritance. He is bestowed upon us, and indwells us as God's pledge that He will carry out to the last detail all that He has planned for Christ, and for us as belonging to and sharing with Him. All this again will not be mere charity to us, but it is part of God's counsel for His own glory; we shall be there in the plan as God's workmanship, not to disgrace it, or to be in any sense incompatible with it. By the work of God, and through redemption, we shall be with Christ without any disparity.

You might have a prince marrying a commoner, and whatever of love there was in it, the prince's honour would be somewhat tarnished, while there would be almost surely a disparity between the two. But not so the church, for every individual in it is formed in the nature of Christ as Man, holy, and without blame in love (ver. 4), and is of His lineage, accorded the position and affection of sonship to the Father (ver. 5), and will be capable of enjoying to the full, and sharing, all the confidences of God, all Christ's glory, and all His interests in this scene of blessing beyond compare.

Putting our three passages together, we see then that the Holy Spirit is spoken of as Earnest in these three connections.

  • In 2 Corinthians 1 it is in connection with the stability of the foundation on which we are set;
  • in 2 Corinthians 5 the Earnest is connected with the certainty of the prospect which lies before us;
  • in Ephesians 1 the Earnest is connected with the vastness of the blessing God has planned for Christ.

The sinner saved by grace and sealed by the Spirit finds that God guarantees the fulfilment of every promise, and in token thereof has given him the Holy Spirit as the Earnest.

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