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#45911 - Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:14 PM The Spirit's Sealing - another look  
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hdbdan Offline
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Maybe ‘the sealing with the Spirit” has been discussed here before at length, but perhaps not from this angle. I don’t propose that we try to prove what, according to the Greek, we believe Eph. 1.13 means for us today – I don’t think one interpretation can be show to be the accurate one beyond all doubt. Rather I propose, if any are interested in the theme, we open our hearts, as well as our minds, to the possibility that we Reformed folks are missing something very important. I once discussed this subject with a Reformed pastor who heatedly asserted that Lloyd-Jones doctrine of the Spirit was “dead wrong” and that the whole reformed movement today rejected it. I brought forward a quote by John Owen that seemed, at least to me, clearly to support Lloyd-Jones, at which he replied that Owen was “speaking about something else entirely different”, though the text appended to his statement was Romans 8.16 (a parallel passage to Eph. 1.13). It seemed he could not bear the thought that a great puritan held some view of important truth other than the reformed church of our day. I didn’t bother to share any more quotes with the good brother, but I post a few of them here for whomever might still care about it. I think we ought to look at it again. If nothing else it should lead us to pray and seek the God of our fathers anew. Blessings!

“in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise”
Now we are returning again to this great and vital and all-important subject because regarding it as I do as being of such supreme importance it is vital that we should be in no misunderstanding or under no misapprehension with respect to it. We have, first of all, considered the actual statement which is made, the words. We noticed that we are told that ‘after that ye believed’ or ‘having believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.’ It’s not something that happens automatically the moment we believe; it doesn’t happen of necessity immediately. It may happen almost exactly at the same time as conversion, but it may not. The two things are separate and are distinct. I am not postulating that there must be a long interval. I am saying that they do not happen at the same time, and that the two things are separate and distinct. We have also seen that this sealing with the Spirit is the fulfillment of a great promise. We’ve traced the promises as they are described in the old testament, and also by the preaching of John the Baptist and our Lord Himself. This sealing with the Spirit is the fulfillment of a promise that had been made by God the Father throughout the centuries – it is the promise of the Father; the thing to which these children of Israel had been looking forward, the thing which John the Baptist so emphasized – he said ‘I indeed baptize you with water, but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire’- this tremendous thing. And yet as we’ve seen, there is an interpretation of it which would reduce it to something non-experimental, something of which we are not aware at all, nothing that comes into the realm of experience we’re told, doesn’t affect the feelings at all, it’s an act of God whereby he secures us, but we are not aware of it. Now we are trying to show that, surely, that cannot be the true interpretation.
D.M. Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians 1.13

Permit me to remark yet once more, there is one foretaste of heaven which the Spirit gives, which it were very wrong for us to omit. And now, I shall seem, I dare say, to those who understand not spiritual mysteries, to be as one that dreams. There are moments when the child of God has real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You know what fellowship between man and man means. There is as real a fellowship between the Christian and Christ. Our eyes can look on him. I say not that these human optics can behold the very flesh of Christ, but I say that the eyes of the soul can here on earth more truly see Christ, after a spiritual sort, than ever eyes of man saw him when he was in the flesh on earth. To-day, your head may lean upon the Savior’s bosom, to-day, he may be your sweet companion, and with the spouse you may say, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine.” I pray you, think not that I rave now I speak what I do know, and testify what I have seen, and what many of you have seen and known too. There are moments with the believer, when, whether in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell — God knoweth — but this he knows, that Christ’s left hand is under his head, and his right hand doth embrace him. Christ hath shown to him his hands and his side. He could say, with Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” but he could not say much more. The world recedes, it disappears. The things of time are covered with a pall of darkness Christ only stands out before the believer’s view. I have known that some believers, when they have been in this state, could say with the spouse, “Stay me with apples, comfort me with flagons, for I am sick of love.” Their love of Christ and Christ’s love to them, had overcome them. Their soul was something in the state of John, whom we described last Lord’s-day morning: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” A sacred faintness overcomes my soul, I die — I die to prove the fullness of redeeming love, the love of Christ to me. Oh, these seasons! Talk ye not of feasts of mirth; tell us not of music, ye who delight in melodious sound; tell us not of wealth, and rank, and honor, and the joys of victory. One hour with Christ is worth an eternity of all earth’s joys. May I but see him, may I but see his face, but behold his beauties — come winds, blow ye away all earthly joys I have — this joy shall well content my soul. Let the hot sun of tribulation dry up all the water-brooks; but this fresh spring shall fill my cup full to the brim — yea, it shall make a river of delight, wherein my soul shall bathe. To be with Christ on earth is the best, the surest, the most ecstatic foretaste and earnest of the joys of heaven. Forget not this, Christian! If thou hast ever known Christ, heaven is thine; and when thou hast enjoyed Christ, thou hast learned a little of what the bliss of futurity shall be. – Spurgeon on Eph. 1.13,14

The blessings which we receive through Christ are innumerable. Many are mentioned in the preceding part of this chapter. One of the last and greatest blessings which we receive in this life is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. This was vouchsafed to many of the saints at Ephesus. We shall show,
1. What the sealing of the Spirit is. The metaphor of sealing conveys no inadequate idea of the Spirit’s operations (A seal stamps its own image on the was that is impressed by it, and marks the thinbg sealed to be the property of him that sealed it and the Holy Spirit forms all the lineaments of the Divine image on the soul that is sealed by him and shows that it belongs to God.) But the text affords us the best explanation of this term: the future inheritance of the saints consists in a perfect conformity to God’s image, and a perfect enjoyment of his love. The sealing of the Spirit is an earnest of that inheritance, or, in other words, a part of that inheritance already vouchsafed to the soul, and a pledge that the remainder shall in due time be given to it. This gift of the Spirit is to be continued to the church till the final consummation of all things. The experience of individuals may vary with respect to it, but there shall always be some in the church who possess and enjoy it.
We are also informed respecting,
2. The manner in which it is effected. The agent is none other than the Holy Ghost. It is not in man’s power to sanctify his own soul nor can any one assure himself that his is the Lord’s. To impart these blessings is the prerogative of God alone. The subjects of this work are true believers (an unbeliever cannot possibly be sealed because the Holy Spirit would never mark those as God’s property, who do not really belong to him, nor are persons usually sealed on their first believing in Christ. This higher state of sanctification and assurance is reserved for those, who, after having believed, have maintained a close walk with God. They must first be in Christ, and then for Christ’s sake this benefit shall be vouchsafed unto them.
The means by which it is effected, are the promises (we do not presume to limit the Spirit’s operations, but his usual method of sealing is by applying the “promises” to the soul. Of themselves, the promises can accomplish nothing, but, through his divine power, they have a comforting and transforming efficacy.
The Apostle further specifies,
3. Its proper tendency and operation. The sealing of the Spirit will never elate a man with pride. It may seem indeed that such distinguishing mercies would puff us up; but their invariable effect is to humble those who receive them. All the saints of old abased themselves in proportion as they were favoured of God. Nor can there be any stronger evidence that a work is not of God, than its producing a contrary effect upon us. It is intended solely to honour and glorify God – every work of grace should lead the mind to God as the author of it, and the more exalted the mercy, the more powerful should this effect be. Now this, above all, administers to us the greatest cause of thankfulness, and will certainly incline us to love and serve him from whom it has be derived.
To those who are ignorant of this sublime subject – to many, alas! the sealing of the Spirit is mere foolishness, but those who account it so, speak evil of things that they understand not. Let us seek to experience it ourselves, instead of censuring those who do.
To those who desire to be sealed – God is willing to bestow this blessing on all who seek it. If we possess it not, we should inquire what there is in us which has occasioned God to withhold it from us. We should beg of God to take away from us that hardness of heart which incapacitates us for it, and should live more on the promises, that by them it may be imparted to our souls.
To those who are sealed – what a mercy is it, that you, who might long since have been sealed for condemnation, have, according to the good pleasure of God, been sealed for heaven. Be thankful to God for his unspeakable gift. Be careful too that you grieve not him by whom you have been sealed, but improve the promises yet further for you progressive advancement in true holiness. – Charles Simeon on Eph. 1.13


You that believe are to wait for this promise. As the Jews waited for the coming of Christ, so are you to wait for the coming of the Holy Ghost into your hearts. It is said that the fathers served God day and night waiting for the promise, namely, Christ to come. Serve your God day and night faithfully, walk humbly, there is a promise of the Holy Ghost to come and fill your hearts with joy unspeakable and glorious, to seal you up to the day of redemption. Sue this promise out, wait for it, rest not in believing only, rest not in assurance by graces only, there is a further assurance to be had. It was the last legacy Christ left upon earth. Look John 14.16, he saith there that he would send the promise of the Father, this very promise of sending the Comforter. Read Luke 24.49, therefore, sue out the will of Christ, it was the fruit of His ascension, when he was ascended up and received this promise, then He poured it out. The Ephesians had it, you see, they were sealed, for afterward, Ephesians 4.30, he exhorts them not to grieve the Holy Spirit, by which they were sealed. The Thessalonians had it, 1 Thes. 1.10, they received the word with such joy, he saith, they waited for the coming of Jesus Christ from heaven; that is the next step, heaven is next unto it, and to wait for Christ when you are thus sealed. Those that Peter wrote to had it, 1 Peter 1.8, in whom, believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Thus ordinary it was in the primitive times. Where the defect lies, God knows, but certainly it might be more common if men would sue it out. Such a promise there is, He is therefore called the Spirit of promise, because He is promised as a sealer. Only my brethren, let me give you a direction or two: First, believe this promise, wait for it by faith, make it the aim of your faith. We are said to receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, Gal. 3.14. Believe there is such a thing, aim at it, wait for it, and serve God day and night in all humility to obtain it. Rest in no other lower and under assurance, and in the end the Lord will give it. The reason why men attain it not is because they rest in other assurances and they do not aim at this. They content themselves with bare believing and that their consciences are quieted. But, my brethren, there is such a work as sealing by the Spirit if you have faith. There is a Spirit, and a Spirit of promise made to believers which ye may receive by faith. This is the first reason why He is called a Spirit of promise, because He is promised to believers as He is a sealer. Thomas Goodwin on Eph. 1.13

Now follows the testimony of God’s Spirit, which we shall see described besides the places I named unto you in Ephesians 1, wherein after you believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. When a man hath believed and took Jesus Christ, secondly when he hath washed and purified himself, that is, he hath gone about his work, and so his own spirit gathers a testimony hence that he is in a good estate, after he hath thus believed, then, saith he, comes the Holy Ghost, and seals the same things unto you. That is, the Lord leaves a man alone for awhile, as it were, to champ upon the bridle, as I may say, he lets a man alone to some doubts and fears that so he may purge himself the more carefully. But after a time, when a man hath put to his seal that God is true, then the Lord seals him again with the Spirit of promise, that is, the Lord sends the Spirit into his heart and that Spirit gives witness to him, and when he hath put to his seal that God is true, then the Lord puts to His seal, and assures him that He hath received him to mercy- John Preston (court chaplain to James the 1st and Charles the 1st), a Puritan – The New Covenant or the Saint’s Portion

Last edited by hdbdan; Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:05 PM.
#45912 - Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:35 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: hdbdan]  
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Pilgrim  Offline

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hdbdan,

Interesting comments from some noted individuals but unfortunately, all failed to show any solid exegetical rendering of the verse (13) and in its immediate context (14). The Greek is very telling here and immediately disputes many of the views espoused by several of the quotes.

1. The Greek word for "sealed" is "esphragisthate" which is a 2 person plural aorist indicate passive verb form. What all that means is that the action was done by someone/thing other than the recipient and the action was singular, i.e., it was not an ongoing action. Thus, God (the Giver) bestowed the Holy Spirit to the one who believed and when he believed... NOT after some undetermined time thereafter, nor over a period of time, nor at various times thereafter, but again and rather instantaneously and immediately at the time faith was exercised.

2. The 'near context', i.e., verse 14 helps to clarify and define what this word "sealed" means. Eisogesis is an unwarranted practice where hermeneutics is involved. We should always let the passage speak for itself and not impose our preconceived ideas upon it. So, what does v. 14 tell us?

"which [Who] is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory."

Thus, the Holy Spirit himself is who believers were sealed, with the intent that they will infallibly receive the full measure of all that Christ has merited for them and God has promised to them. The Spirit here is to be understood as the "Surety" of both the inheritance of salvation and as an "Evidentiary" that God is the owner of them. The passage is not speaking about any idea of 'empowerment', 'experimentalism', etc. This is forensic language, the legalize of the courtroom.

3. As to the definitional aspect of this word "sealed", A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, defines "sphragizo", as found in Eph 1:13, on p. 804 A [2b] as:

Quote
mark (with a seal) as a means of identification. (In papyrus, of all kinds of animals), so that the mark which denotes ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner cf. Rev 7:3 (marking with a seal on the forehead in the cult of Mithra: Tertullian)... This forms a basis for understanding the symbolic expression which speaks of those who enter the Christian fellowship as being sealed with or by the Holy Spirit Eph 1:13 cf. 4:30.

There are other passages which speak of the enduing with power, etc., e.g., 2Cor 1:22, etc., but that is another matter which is NOT being addressed in Eph 1:13.

4. Lastly, there are two commentators who I believe are faithful to the text. Both are notable in their knowledge of the NT, the Greek language and for their sound exegetical skills, among other virtues.
- William Hendriksen NT Commentary - Ephesians, pp. 91-93.
- R.C.H. Lenski The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians, pp. 381-387.

As you can see, both references are too lengthy to quote here. However, I will provide a brief but succinct remark from Lenski (p. 382):

Quote
Hearing and believing belong together as correlatives; together they lead to the sealing. That is why "having come to believe" is the ingressive aorist. The moment we come to faith the sealing occurs. The thought is not that we must believe a while, and that some time later in the course of our believing the Spirit is bestowed.


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#45915 - Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:53 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Pilgrim]  
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I suppose those who interpreted the Eph. 1.13 passage as they did in those quotes above tended, as we all do, to interpret Scriptures in the light of their own experiences. Owen and Spurgeon may have been guilty of a similar thing with regard to Romans 5.5 and 8.16, as in the following references. But I can forgive them and hope to follow in their footsteps to an experimental knowledge of God that gives a higher and additional testimony to faith and sanctification that I am a child of God.

“To give joy to the hearts of believers is eminently the work of the comforter; and this he does by the particulars before instanced in. That “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,” mentioned, Romans 5:2, which carries the soul through any tribulation, even with glorying, has its rise in the Spirit’s “shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts,” verse 5. Now, there are two ways whereby the Spirit worketh this joy in the hearts of believers: —
He does it immediately by himself; without the consideration of any other acts or works of his, or the interposition of any reasonings, or deductions and conclusions. As in sanctification he is a well of water springing up in the soul, immediately exerting his efficacy and refreshment; so in consolation, he immediately works the soul and minds of men to a joyful, rejoicing, and spiritual frame, filling them with exultation and gladness; — not that this arises from our reflex consideration of the love of God, but rather gives occasion whereunto. When he so sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts, and so fills them with gladness by an immediate act and operation (as he caused John Baptist to leap for joy in the womb upon the approach of the mother of Jesus), — then does the soul, even from hence, raise itself to a consideration of the love of God, whence joy and rejoicing does also flow. Of this joy there is no account to be given, but that the Spirit worketh it when and how he will. He secretly infuseth and distills it into the soul, prevailing against all fears and sorrows, filling it with gladness, exultations; and sometimes with unspeakable raptures of mind.” – Owen, Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost

“Do you enquire in what way is the love of God shed abroad? I reply, that to the best of my knowledge and experience, the gracious operation is somewhat upon this wise. The Holy Spirit enables the man to be assured that he is an object of the divine love in the first place. The man comes to the cross as a guilty sinner, looks up to the five wounds, those dear founts of pardoning grace, trusts himself in the living Savior’s hands, and then he cries, “I am saved, for I have God’s promise to that effect. Now, since I am saved, I must have been the object of the Lord’s love; there must have been a marvelous love which gave that blessed Son of God to bleed for me.” The man does not doubt it, he is assured of it in his own spirit, and then the Spirit of God, whose operations are far beyond all our knowledge, confirms the testimony of his conscience. We need not attempt to comprehend the working of the Holy Spirit, for as we know not even how the wind bloweth, much less shall we know how the Comforter works; but this we know, that he adds a confirmatory testimony to the witness of our own hearts, he beareth witness with our spirits that we are born of God, and so we become infallibly and beyond all possibility of mistake assured that the love of God is ours, and that we have a part and an interest in it.” – Spurgeon

"To my mind, it always seems to be the very sweetest part of the gospel, that when the love of God has once been shed abroad in a man’s soul, and he has really enjoyed it, and known by the witness of the Holy Ghost that he is the object of the divine affection, there is no fear that he shall ever be driven from the divine presence, or become an outcast and an apostate; for whom Jesus loves he loveth even to the end. He keepeth the feet of his saints; none of those that trust in him shall be desolate. He gives unto his sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand. “Because I live ye shall live also,” saith he. Oh, precious truth, the very marrow and fatness of the word of God! May you have the grace to feel it, as well as believe it, to rejoice in it as well as understand it, and so may the love of God be shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost which he hath given unto you." - Spurgeon

“I do believe that there is a supernatural way in which apart from means, the Spirit of God communicates with the spirit of man. My own little experience leads me to believe that apart from the Word of God, there are immediate dealings with the conscience and soul of man by the Holy Spirit, without any instrumentality, without even the agency of the truth. I believe that the Spirit of God sometimes comes into a mysterious and marvelous contact with the spirit of man, and that at times the Spirit speaketh in the heart of man by a voice not audible to the ear, but perfectly audible to the spirit which is the subject of it. He assures and consoles directly, by coming into immediate contact with the heart. It becomes our business then to take the Spirit’s witness through his Word, and through his works, but I would seek to have immediate, actual, undivided fellowship with the Holy Ghost, who by his divine Spirit, should work in my spirit and convince me that I am a child of God.” – Spurgeon on Romans 8.16,17

“Now sometimes the soul, because it hath somewhat remaining in it of the principle that it had in its old condition, is put to question whether it be a child of God or no, and thereupon as in a thing of the greatest importance puts in its claim with all the evidences that it hath to make good its title, the Spirit comes and bears witness in this case. An allusion it is to judicial proceedings in points of titles and evidences. The Judge being set, the person concerned lays his claim, produceth his evidences, and pleads them. His adversaries endeavoring all that in them lies to invalidate them and disannul his plea and to cast him in his claim. In the midst of the trial a Person of known and approved integrity comes into the court, and gives testimony fully and directly on the behalf of the claimer, which stops the mouths of all his adversaries and fills the man that pleaded with joy and satisfaction. So is it in this case. The soul, by the power of its own conscience is brought before the law of God. There a man puts in his plea, that he is a child of God, that he belongs to God’s family, and for this end produceth all his evidences, everything whereby faith gives him an interest in God. Satan in the meantime opposeth with all his might. Sin and law assist him. Many flaws are found in his evidences. The truth of them all is questioned and the soul hangs in suspense as to the issue. In the midst of the plea and contest the Comforter comes, and by a word of promise or otherwise overpowers the heart with a comfortable persuasion and bears down all objections that his plea is good, and that he is a child of God. When our spirits are pleading their right and title, He comes in and bears witness on our side, at the same time enabling us to put forth acts of filial obedience, kind and childlike, which is crying Abba, Father. Remember still the manner of the Spirit’s working before mentioned, that he doth it effectually, voluntarily, and freely – hence, sometimes the dispute hangs long, the case in pleading many years. The law seems sometimes to prevail, sin and Satan to rejoice, and the poor soul is filled with dread about its inheritance. Perhaps its own witness from its faith, sanctification, former experience keeps up the plea with some life and comfort, but the work is not done, the conquest is not fully obtained until the Spirit, who worketh freely and effectually, when and how He will, comes in with His testimony also, clothing His power with a word of promise, He makes all parties concerned to attend unto Him and puts an end to the controversy. Herein He gives us holy communion with Himself, the soul knows His voice when He speaks, there is something too great in it to be the effect of a created power. When the Lord Jesus Christ at one word stilled the raging of the sea and wind, all that were with Him knew that there was Divine power at hand. And when the Holy Ghost, by one word, stills the tumults and storms that are raised in the soul, giving it an immediate calm and security, it knows His divine power and rejoices in His presence.” – John Owen (Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) on Roman 8:16

Last edited by hdbdan; Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:04 PM.
#45916 - Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:38 AM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: hdbdan]  
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Originally Posted by hdbdan
I suppose those who interpreted the Eph. 1.13 passage as they did in those quotes above tended, as we all do, to interpret Scriptures in the light of their own experiences. Owen and Spurgeon may have been guilty of a similar thing with regard to Romans 5.5 and 8.16, as in the following references. But I can forgive them and hope to follow in their footsteps to an experimental knowledge of God that gives a higher and additional testimony to faith and sanctification that I am a child of God.

1. Hopefully not all interpret Scripture in light of their own experiences but rather in light of the fact that it is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. That we all make mistakes in our understanding of it for various reasons is certainly true. But hopefully those errors are not due to our imposing our measly insignificant life's experiences upon the texts. Although everything occurs according to God's perfect will and providence, our perception and comprehension of them can also be misunderstood. The disciples of Jesus made such an error and the Holy Spirit recorded it for our edification in John 9:2. Attempts to discern God's will from experience is dangerous at best. And making our own experience a standard is more dangerous yet.

2. I can understand one's natural inclination to want more of an experience with God. And the Lord God by His Spirit does from time to time and to some of His children bring about the sense of nearness, comfort, strength, courage, boldness, etc. However, I do not find in Scripture where we are enjoined to seek these unusual manifestations. Rather, I do read in many places and in different ways that we are to walk by faith and not sight nor emotional experience. The Mystics never seem to grasp the significance of having the written promises of God to which true faith clings more and more waiting for the day when God shall bring us home and clothe us with our new incorruptible bodies and forever be with God in perfect holiness, peace and joy. I know that the heart is deceitful and cannot be trusted (Jer 17:9; Prov 28:26; Eccl 9:3) but the Word of God is sure (Ps 19:7; 119:96-100; Prov 1:4,22,23; Job 28:28; 2Tim 3:15-17). Thus, I shall call upon the Lord to give me more understanding of the Scriptures which are forever available to me and not seek after an elusive experience that may come on rare occasions and which I cannot be sure it is actually God, my own selfish heart, or the wiles of the Devil.

Peace


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#45917 - Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:29 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Pilgrim]  
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Pilgrim, I don't disagree with most of what you say and give it a hearty amen! There is danger on the right and on the left with regard to every teaching in the scripture, and nothing is perhaps more difficult to discern accurately than our own religious experiences, hence the emphasis the wise have always given to judging our state and condition primarily by our trust in God and His Christ and ongoing progress in holiness. But still I find the puritans and others like MLJ and Spurgeon spoke quite a bit about intimate experience with the Triune God. And they encouraged their people to seek God, expecting Him to manifest Himself experimentally from time to time to them. As an example, they pretty much all used the Song of Solomon to describe the normal Christian life experience. Funny we don't hear much about that these days, though 150 years ago it was standard teaching. Spurgeons sermon library alone has around 100 sermons on the SOS. So while of course there is alway a real danger of false experiences, if we seek God aright and only hope for experiential knowledge of Him as an additional confirmation of our interest in Him, I think He will lead us into a true experience of Himself. And there are many good tests the older writers gave to help us know if we are on the right track in this regard.
Blessings! Dan

#45918 - Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:52 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: hdbdan]  
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hdbdan,

I also agree that there is always the inherent danger of falling off to one side or the other when it comes to biblical truth... or any truth for that matter.

As I stated before, I see no biblical warrant to seek after experience. I think Paul's prayer to the Colossians is paradigmatic:

Colossians 1:9-11 (ASV) "For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy;"

Notice that Paul begins by expressing his prayerful desire that the believers at Colossae be filled with the knowledge (Grk epignosis) of his [God] will. This is incontrovertibly a reference to the inspired written Word of God; the Scriptures, and that they will come to comprehend its fullness and use it wisely. Next, Paul states the purpose, to what end, that this knowledge of God is to accomplish. The being filled [faithful and regular study] with the knowledge of God's revealed will is to be put into practice, i.e., bearing the fruit of the Spirit and doing good works before both God and man. Through praxis, believers come to know God in a more personal way, which Paul says is an increasing in the knowledge of God. The short of all this is that by giving oneself to the study of the Scriptures, coming to a right understanding of them, and then putting what is learned into practice, the believer then experiences God working in, through and for them by His loving providence. This is what it is to walk by faith vs. walking by sight or inner experience.

Lastly, the Puritans I have read, at least for the most part, do not see the Song of Songs/Solomon as paradigmatic of a believer's experience. nope The majority see this book as a description of Christ's love for His bride; the Church. That some of the Puritans were given to Mysticism, to one degree or another is unfortunately true. We need to be discerning when we read ANY human author, whether it be Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, and yes, even Charles Haddon Spurgeon. wink

Personally, I covet that Paul's prayer would be fulfilled in me much more than having some ethereal experience which may or may not be from God. Experiencing God will be mine in it's ultimate sense when I am called home and then glorified with all the saints. Methinks I can wait for the real deal rather than seeking after some elusive experience here and now. grin


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#45919 - Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:57 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Pilgrim]  
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Pilgrim, I quite agree with you that we should not seek experiences as such, and you will notice I said we should seek God Himself in my last message. Experience seekers are bound to be disappointed or misled. But I find Paul praying for another kind of filling in addition to being filled with a knowledge of God’s will. Eph. 3.17-19 - “That Christ may dwell in your hears by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” I’m not sure which puritans you are referring to when you say “Lastly, the Puritans I have read, at least for the most part, do not see the Song of Songs/Solomon as paradigmatic of a believer's experience.”? I have read many of them myself and have not found any who did not say something akin to the following quotes when referring to the SOS. I do think we should be discerning when reading even the works of the giants from the past, but when they agree almost to a man on some portion of scripture I think we should not dismiss them lightly.

All scripture, we are sure, is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for the support and advancement of the interests of his kingdom among men, and it is never the less so for there being found in it some things dark and hard to be understood, which those that are unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction. In our belief both of the divine extraction and of the spiritual exposition of this book we are confirmed by the ancient, constant, and concurring testimony both of the church of the Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God, and who never made any doubt of the authority of this book, and of the Christian church, which happily succeeds them in that trust and honour.
I. It must be confessed, on the one hand, that if he who barely reads this book be asked, as the eunuch was, Understandest thou what thou readest? he will have more reason than he had to say, How can I, except some man shall guide me? The books of scripture - history and prophecy - are very much like one another, but this Song of Solomon's is very much unlike the songs of his father David; here is not the name of God in it; it is never quoted in the New Testament; we find not in it any expressions of natural religion or pious devotion, no, nor is it introduced by vision, or any of the marks of immediate revelation. It seems as hard as any part of scripture to be made a savour of life unto life, nay, and to those who come to the reading of it with carnal minds and corrupt affections, it is in danger of being made a savour of death unto death; it is a flower out of which they extract poison; and therefore the Jewish doctors advised their young people not to read it till they were thirty years old, lest by the abuse of that which is most pure and sacred (horrendum dictu — horrible to say!) the flames of lust should be kindled with fire from heaven, which is intended for the altar only. But,
II. It must be confessed, on the other hand, that with the help of the many faithful guides we have for the understanding of this book it appears to be a very bright and powerful ray of heavenly light, admirable fitted to excite pious and devout affections in holy souls, to draw out their desires towards God, to increase their delight in him, and improve their acquaintance and communion with him. It is an allegory, the letter of which kills those who rest in that and look no further, but the spirit of which gives life, 2 Corinthians 3:6; John 6:63. It is a parable, which makes divine things more difficult to those who do not love them, but more plain and pleasant to those who do, Matthew 13:14, 16. Experienced Christians here find a counterpart of their experiences, and to them it is intelligible, while those neither understand it nor relish it who have no part nor lot in the matter. It is a song, an Epithalamium, or nuptial song, wherein, by the expressions of love between a bridegroom and his bride, are set forth and illustrated; the mutual affections that pass between God and a distinguished remnant of mankind. It is a pastoral; the bride and bridegroom, for the more lively representation of humility and innocence, are brought in as a shepherd and his shepherdess. Now,
1. This song might easily be taken in a spiritual sense by the Jewish church, for whose use it was first composed, and was so taken, as appears by the Chaldee-Paraphrase and the most ancient Jewish expositors. God betrothed the people of Israel to himself; he entered into covenant with them, and it was a marriage-covenant. He had given abundant proofs of his love to them, and required of them that they should love him with all their heart and soul. Idolatry was often spoken of as spiritual adultery, and doting upon idols, to prevent which this song was penned, representing the complacency which God took in Israel and which Israel ought to take in God, and encouraging them to continue faithful to him, though he might seem sometimes to withdraw and hide himself from them, and to wait for the further manifestation of himself in the promised Messiah.
2. It may more easily be taken in a spiritual sense by the Christian church, because the condescensions and communications of divine love appear more rich and free under the gospel than they did under the law, and the communion between heaven and earth more familiar. God sometimes spoke of himself as the husband of the Jewish church, Isaiah 64:5, Hosea 2:16,19, and rejoiced in it as his bride, Isaiah 62:4, 5. But more frequently is Christ represented as the bridegroom of his church, Matthew 25:1; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:32, and the church as the bride, the Lamb's wife, Revelation 19:7; 21:2,9. Pursuant to this metaphor Christ and the church in general, Christ and particular believers, are here discoursing with abundance of mutual esteem and endearment. The best key to this book is the 45th Psalm, which we find applied to Christ in the New Testament, and therefore this ought to be so too. It requires some pains to find out what may, probably, be the meaning of the Holy Spirit in the several parts of this book; as David's songs are many of them level to the capacity of the meanest, and there are shallows in them learned, and there are depths in it in which an elephant may swim. But, when the meaning is found out, it will be of admirable use to excite pious and devout affections in us; and the same truths which are plainly laid down in other scriptures when they are extracted out of this come to the soul with a more pleasing power. When we apply ourselves to the study of this book we must not only, with Moses and Joshua, put off our shoe from off our foot, and even forget that we have bodies, because the place where we stand is holy ground, but we must, with John, come up hither, must spread our wings, take a noble flight, and soar upwards, till by faith and holy love we enter into the holiest, for this is no other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven. – Matthew Henry


We will this evening read in the one Book of the Bible which is wholly given up to fellowship; I allude to the Book of Canticles. This Book stands like the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and no man shall ever be able to pluck its fruit, and eat thereof, until first he has been brought by Christ past the sword of the cherubim, and led to rejoice in the love which hath delivered him from death. The Song of Solomon is only to be comprehended by the men whose standing is within the veil. The outer-court worshippers, and even those who only enter the court of the priests, think the Book a very strange one; but they who come very near to Christ can often see in this Song of Solomon the only expression which their love to their Lord desires. – C.H. Spurgeon


There is probably no book in the Bible which is so neglected as The Song of Solomon. There are many reasons for this. The “higher” critics regard it as but the love song or poem of a king, written to one of his loves when he was probably under the influence of wine. They feel that it should not be in the Bible at all, that it has no spiritual value whatsoever, and that it is scarcely a fit book for good and moral people to read. It is not surprising therefore that they should neglect it. But there are many who, while totally rejecting such a view, nevertheless neglect this book because they find it difficult to understand. They cannot see the meaning of the imagery and often find themselves in difficulties as to the exact speaker. They feel that it has a message but they cannot find it.
Contrasted with these there are those who regard this book as a mine of spiritual treasure and as one of the most exquisite expositions of the relationship between the believer and his Lord to be found anywhere in the Bible. Such, for instance, was the view taken of it by J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, and his little book expounding it called “Union and Communion” is of great value.
Clearly, therefore, the average Christian needs help in order to be able to enter into this rich enjoyment. It is because I know of nothing which in any way approaches this commentary in that respect that I am glad that it is being re-printed and made available. It has everything that should characterize a good commentary – learning and scholarship, accuracy and carefulness, but, above all, and more important than all else, true spiritual insight and understanding. It provides a key to the understanding of the whole and every verse which the humblest Christian can easily follow. I predict that all who read it and study it will agree with me in saying that they have never read anything more uplifting and heart-warming. It will lead them to their Lord and enable them to know and to realize His love as they have never done before. - D.M. Lloyd-Jones, introducing George Burrowes “Commentary on the Song Of Solomon”


“From about that time I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Song of Sol. 2:1 used to be abundantly with me, I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. The words seemed to me sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found from time to time an inward sweetness, that would carry me away in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning my heart, an ardour of soul, that I know not how to express.” – Jonathan Edwards

#45920 - Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:15 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Pilgrim]  
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Tom Offline
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Pilgrim

Like you I want to be true to what I believe the Scriptures teach over a particular experience no matter how convincing that experience is.
There have been times that I have had experiences that have caused me great gladness and all I can say is that my emotions were almost uncontrollable.
Although, I am extremely thankful for these great experiences; there are times I wonder if they were of God or not.
The bottom line for me however, is I want to be a person who glorifies the Lord through the objective truth of the Scriptures rather than my subjective emotions.
I would be lying if I said I don't want to experience these emotions anymore; however if I do experience them again, I want to be certain that they come as a result of my trying to glorify God through faith in what God reveals to me in the Scriptures. I do not want to be guilty of seeking after subjective feelings; for I am all too aware that these feelings could become my treasure rather than faith alone in Christ alone.
I am not certain; I have communicated what is on my mind coherently. So please ask for clarification if you have any questions to what I said above.

Tom

#45921 - Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:41 AM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: hdbdan]  
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Hdbdan
I must admit that I don’t really know how to interpret Song of Solomon. I am well aware that there are many notable Christians who equate the book to Christ and the Church. Yet, I am a little apprehensive at jumping to such conclusions; especially given that Solomon is often used as a type of Christ by these same noted Christians. Others, seeing that Christ had not yet been revealed, see it as God and true Israel, but other than this these views are very similar.
I have a hard time with those conclusions mainly because in the end Solomon actually looses out to the “shepherd lover” and the Shulamite and the shepherd lover exchange vows and live happily ever after.
As I read commentaries on this book, I see that most of them agree this is probably the hardest book in the OT to understand; which actually corresponds to my thoughts as I read it.
As I read the quotes from the notables you mentioned, I find myself wanting to agree with them, mainly because I have a hard time understanding why God would include in the Canon of Scripture a book that isn’t about Him.
As I read the book and I think about the meaning, although I want to read things into the text that I don’t see; I am leery about doing so. It would seem rather it is a story mainly about Solomon, the Shulamite and the Shepherd lover. The Shulamite women is the object of the affection of both Solomon and the Shepherd lover, yet despite the wooing of Solomon, the Shulamite women is attracted to the Shepherd lover and Solomon looses out. It is obvious that there is a meaning in this book that God wants people to understand, but at this point other than some possible principles, that meaning escapes me.

Tom

#45923 - Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:09 AM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Tom]  
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Pilgrim Offline
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Originally Posted by Tom
I am not certain; I have communicated what is on my mind coherently. So please ask for clarification if you have any questions to what I said above.

No Tom, for me you communicated your thoughts quite clearly. In fact, they express my own thoughts as well. That experiences will come and go is something many of us can say for ourselves. When they have come, at least those which were "good ones", our experiences are said to have been pleasant, joyful, comforting, etc. And, to be honest and faithful, there are those times when those experiences have brought great pain, sorrow, conviction, shame, guilt, etc. Can these be quickly dismissed as not coming from God due to their "negative" nature? nope

But the question always remains, "Which experience is truly from or of God?" We know "all things work for good to those who love God and who are [the] called according to His purpose." In that sense, everything we experience is due to God's providence. The less than "positive" experiences the old writers used to refer to as "dark providences", which I am a little more than reluctant to accept as a term to describe the providence of God for His elect (cf. Heb 12).

Lastly, I am NOT... and I'm certain neither are you... espousing an emotionless, non-experimental Christianity. This is hardly the case. All I am defending against is the tendency of so many in our day to seek after some ethereal, mystical, 'spiritual', experience of God vs. believing and walking by faith those things which are to be found objectively in God's inspired written Word. Did not our first conviction of sin come from the reading/hearing of the Gospel? Did not that Gospel, the message of the Bible, reveal Christ as altogether lovely? Was it not the Word of God that told us that Christ is willing to save all who would come to Him? Was it not Christ in the Scriptures who beckoned us to come and Who embraced us in all our filthiness? And in all this, was there not an emotional experience, even a great emotional experience in having found Christ and being embraced by Him and knowing that God was no longer our enemy nor He ours and that we were adopted as His sons due to His everlasting love for us? But we didn't SEEK after the result of our salvation, but rather salvation itself. The Spirit works in all of us in different ways experimentally, but always by the same Word, the same truth.


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#45925 - Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:09 PM Re: The Spirit's Sealing - another look [Re: Pilgrim]  
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hdbdan Offline
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Pilgrim and Tom, I feel much as both of you do about spiritual experiences, having had some myself that I believe were from God and some that were likely from other sources. The puritans and Lloyd-Jones have been very helpful to me to distinguish between the two by various tests. With regard to the SOS I would highly recommend Burrowes’ commentary which MLJ felt was that best available on the book. Banner of Truth began reprinting it in 1958 and it should be available at least used through such as bookfinder.com. Unfortunately they printed at least one addition that leaves out most of Burrowes 86 page introduction which goes into the history of the interpretation of the Song, from which the following quote is taken. The longer version has 527 pages in it, to help distinguish between the printings, if any are interested in the history, which is quite thorough and fascinating. It is so sad to me that true hallowed spiritual experience seems to be so little know or talked about among the more sober minded these days. It is not surprising as it seems almost as if the devil has been loosed on the earth in our generations and has scared serious people away from the genuine by his multiplicity of counterfeits. May we all seek God with the balance that comes only from the blessed Spirit and leads to a deep communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Blessings!

“This Song is not so much a favourite in the early stage of the religious life, as at subsequent periods when we have grown in grace. It is the manual of the advanced Christian. When love has been more perfected by the Spirit, hither do we come for expressions of that love. When we are anxious to hear from the lips of Jesus the fullness of his love to us, here do we rejoice to sit and listen. The Jews were not wrong when they represented this book as the holy of holies in the fabric of revelation; for assuredly, the voice here speaking, the living oracles here uttered, can be heard only by those who have been initiated into the mysteries of godliness and dwell under the shadow of the Almighty…there is, and always has been, in the Church, a class of persons of no questionable character for ability, learning, or holiness, who esteem this book among the choicest portions of the word of God. Were we to speak of the partiality of Lady Guyon for this book, some might reply she was a mystic. Whether mystic or not, far better would it be for the world, were the tone of her deep, fervent, energetic piety, more common. But who will bring the charge of mysticism against Leighton, Owen, Romaine, President Edwards, and Chalmers. The most profound metaphysicians, the immortal author of the treatise on the Freedom of the Will, was peculiarly fond of the book of Canticles, and read and meditated much upon it. “The whole book of Canticles,” says he, “used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it about that time, and found from time to time an inward sweetness that would carry me away in my contemplations.” The great leader of the Free Church of Scotland in her exodus, speaking of Dr. Pye Smith’s asserting the non-inspiration of the Song, says: “It would bespeak not only a more pious but a more philosophic docility, to leave that book in undisturbed possession of the place which it now enjoys, where it might minister, as in ages heretofore, to the saintly and seraphic contemplations of the advanced Christian, who discovers that in this poem a greater than Solomon is here, whose name to him is as ointment poured forth, and who, while he luxuriates with spiritual satisfaction over pages that the world has unhallowed, breathes of the ethereal purity of the third heavens, as well as their ethereal fervor.” Owen says: “Then may a man judge himself to have somewhat profited in the experience of a mystery of a blessed intercourse and communion with Christ, when the expression of love in that holy Dialogue, the Song, do give light and life to his mind, and efficaciously communicate unto him an experience of their power. But because these things are little understood by many, the book itself is much neglected, if not despised.” In the words of the saintly McCheyne, “No book furnishes a better test than does the Song of the depth of a man’s Christianity. If his religion be in his head only, a dry form of doctrines; or if it hath place merely in his fancy, like Pliable in Pilgrim’s Progress, he will see nothing here to attract him. But if his religion have a hold on his heart, this will be a favourite portion of the word of God." Beza, the friend and associate of Calvin, writes: “Those instructed and advanced in the divine life, the writer of the Song does, as it were, carry away with him beyond the regions of earth to the contemplation of heavenly things – as though being now citizens of heaven, they might knock for admission at its gates.” Rutherford’s Letters, so rich in pious affection and heavenly unction, take their colouring from the Song; and McCheyne, who found in these “Letters” daily delight, though dying at the age of nine and twenty, had scarcely left himself a single text of the Song on which he had not already discoursed.” – Introduction to George Burrowes’ The Song of Solomon.

p.s. I gave away my copy of a shorter version so I don't know what year it was printed, but my present copy, which is the longer version, is the 1973 reprint of the original 1958 reprint by B of T. That may help if you'd like the complete copy, as book listings do not always say how many pages are in the book for sale.

Last edited by hdbdan; Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:22 PM.

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