Paul has come to recognize the possibility that the Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming may not happen during his lifetime. This should not be an overwhelming disappointment instead we should be encouraged by the fact that God has prepared us a building in heaven to be occupied when our earthly tent finally gives up. The Holy Spirit has been given as a guarantee.
The Greek word translated In the English Standard Version as “guarantee” only appears three times in the New Testament. Apparently the most common use would be, “money which in purchases is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will be paid.” Paul certainly did not mean to indicate that the Spirit is a deposit to be returned which would indicate one could lose their salvation. It may help us to know that in modern Greek the word, “arrabon”, can mean “engagement ring”.
So how can the Spirit be God’s pledge of the Christian’s inheritance? I believe it would be through his empowering of the Christian’s daily spiritual development and growth. We can be encouraged by 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” And, Ephesians 3:16 “that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
The presence of the Holy Spirit gives us a guarantee that God will do, in us, whatever he has promised. He is ever present to guide, guard and protect his people. In Philippians 1:6 we are told, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Add to that Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” One of our greatest needs is the assurance of salvation. We need protection from our enemies both physical and spiritual. After all while Satan is roaming the earth looking for someone to devour.
(1 Peter 5:8) We should not be fearful. The eyes of the Lord are constantly seeking people whose hearts are wholly his so he can show his strength on their behalf. (2 Chronicles 16:9) I am so grateful to God that the completion of our salvation does not depend on us but instead depends on God himself. Nothing could be more sure. God, through his word, assures us that he will meet all our needs including the need to know. We can rest in him as we journey through this life. Jesus promised, (Matthew 18:20), “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” And, (Matthew 28:20) “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When I was about 15 years old I had a Harley Davidson motorcycle. One day I was doing one of my favorite things, sitting at the counter in the drugstore, I heard my motorcycle start up. We never locked anything in this days. I ran to the door and saw my machine going away with two men on it. They were local toughs! I went to the payphone and called home. My Dad was there and he told me that he would come immediately. When he arrived he asked me if the two guys had a car, I pointed it out and he went to it and raised the hood. Dad did something to the car and put the hood down and we waited. The hoodlums arrived and Dad asked them if they had asked permission to ride my motorcycle. They answered, “No”. My Dad pointed to me and told them to give me five bucks. Now my Dad was over six feet tall and very much a man. After a short hesitation the money was forthcoming. As they handed me the money Dad handed them the rotor out of their distributor. Then he told them they had best not take my motorcycle again without permission.
We have a heavenly Father that cares for us in a similar manner. When we face difficulty in the day-to-day events we should quickly go to the payphone called “prayer” and he will come to our aid. He will stop the hurt and fix the problems. The Lord Jesus has promised and he always keeps his word. He may not fix the problem exactly the way we want, or expect, but He will not abandon us.
When we face danger we need to take the advice Joshua was given when he faced the problem of taking over the leadership of Israel after Moses died. God said to him, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous,” (Joshua 1:5-6).
Paul gives us assurance, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
We have many reasons to be of good courage. Even though we certainly face hardships that cause us to groan while awaiting our heavenly body we have the Holy Spirit as our guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Our Father guarantees our salvation. I feel really sad that so many believers are not confident that God will take them through to heaven. Paul definitely suffered physically and was constantly under attack spiritually. All of that opposition was used by God to strengthen his faith. He reminds us that even though we are under attack we live by faith not by sight. The pattern of a faith-walk is to be courageous, informed and faithful. We should desire to be at home with the Lord. Our day-to-day activity should focus on pleasing the Lord.
When we live by faith the Lord Jesus Christ becomes our defense attorney. We must appear before the judgement seat. There, the Lord will evaluate believers’ lives in order to give eternal rewards. Our punishment has been carried by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, for believers, judgement is not to determine who will be saved or lost but what rewards will we receive.
But we must guard against misunderstanding here: Even though there will be degrees of reward in heaven, the joy of each person will be full and complete for eternity. If we ask how this can be when there are different degrees of reward, it simply shows that our perception of happiness is based on the assumption that happiness depends on what we possess or the status or power that we have. Our true happiness consists in delighting in God and rejoicing in the status and recognition that he has given us. The foolishness of thinking that only those who have been highly rewarded and given great status will be fully happy in heaven is seen when we realize that no matter how great a reward we receive, there will always be those with greater rewards, or who have higher status and authority, including the apostles, the heavenly creatures, and Jesus Christ and God himself. Therefore if highest status is essential for people to be fully happy, no one but God would be fully happy in heaven, which is certainly an incorrect idea.
Instead we each have a reward container. It will be filled at the judgement. Some will have a cup, others a jar – say a pint, quart or gallon, some will have a storage tank (50 gallon or 100 gallon).
It would be morally and spiritually beneficial for us to have a greater consciousness of this clear New Testament teaching on degrees of heavenly reward. Rather than making us competitive with one another, it should cause us to help and encourage one another that we all may increase our heavenly reward, for God has an infinite capacity to bring blessing to us all, and we are all members of one another. We would more eagerly heed the admonition of the author of Hebrews, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). Moreover, in our own lives a heartfelt seeking of future heavenly reward would motivate us to work wholeheartedly for the Lord at whatever task he calls us to, whether great or small, paid or unpaid. It would also make us long for his approval rather than for wealth or success. It would motivate us to work at building up the church on the one foundation, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10–15). According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
The Christian life is a struggle, but it is not without equipping and training. I want to share with you a quote from Erasmus Sarcerius, a German Theologian who lived during the 16th century, “The spirit and the flesh are opposed to one another like two powerful lords who are always waging war with each other. One of them orders us to do spiritual things, the other carnal ones. One of them tells us what is good, the other what is bad, and so on. “Flesh” means anything in the heart that does not live according to the Holy Spirit. The flesh is that part of a person that does not do what God wants but differs from him. The flesh is also our complete human nature, with both its higher and its lower senses. The spirit is whatever lives in our heart by the Holy Spirit. The spirit is that part of us that does what God wants and that is born again by the Holy Spirit so that it can do good works that are alive and spiritual. When the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, it rebounds on the spirit with its own impure desires and outwardly evil deeds, because it is the flesh that tempts the spirit to have such wicked thoughts and do such evil things. When the spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh, it rebounds against the flesh with its own pure desires and outwardly good deeds, because it is the spirit that provokes the flesh to have good thoughts and to do good deeds, and it is the spirit’s job not to give in to the temptations of the flesh.”
Paul encourages us with these words Galatians 5:16-26, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Do not struggle against the flesh that is a lost cause! Instead, live by the Spirit’s direction and you will not be comfortable when the flesh lifts its ugly head. You will find a commitment to Christ Jesus is not only possible but live by the Spirit and you will grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus! Today could your day to begin a restful walk in the power of Jesus. If you feel the call to come to Jesus he will not turn you away. He is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep who hears his voice.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.