In its noun form the word earnest appears only three times
in the New Testament (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). In both of
the Second Corinthian verses the word is used in the phrase, earnest
of the Spirit. In the Ephesians verse it appears in the phrase,
earnest Of our inheritance.
Thayer defines the Greek arrabon (translated earnest in
these three passages) as "a foretaste and a pledge of future
blessedness" (p. 75). Interestingly, Thayer likens foretaste
to "tasted" as found in Hebrews 6:4 ("tasted
of the heavenly gift"), in Hebrews 6:5 ("tasted the
good word of God"), and I Peter 2:3 ("tasted that the
Lord is gracious"). The idea of tasting is "to
partake of, to enjoy, to experience."
An analysis of these three verses reveals the contextual usage
of the word earnest.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5
"Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed
us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the
Spirit in our hearts."
"Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave
unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
Attention is called to three words used in these two verses as
defined by Thayer:
- Anointing (chrisma): "a miraculous gift"
- Seal (sphragidzo): "to mark with a seal"
- Earnest (arrabon): "foretaste and pledge of future
Notice also the usage of the expression, an anointing, as
referring to a miraculous gift in I John 2:20, 27:
"And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know
all things ... his anointing teacheth you concerning all things."
Brother Guy N. Woods (in his chart #20, used in his debate with
Given 0. Blakely on the subject of the Holy Spirit) says (regarding
the word earnest),
The word is used three times in the New Testament, but always
in a figurative sense: in the first (2 Cor. 1:22) it is applied
to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which God bestowed upon the apostles,
and by which he might be said to have hired them to be the servants
of his Son; and which were the earnest, assurance, and commencement
of those far superior blessings which he would bestow on them
in the life to come as the wages of their faithful services: in
the two latter (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1: 13,14), it is applied to the
gifts bestowed on Christians generally upon whom, after baptism,
the apostles laid their hands, and which were to them an earnest
of obtaining a heavenly habitation and inheritance, upon the supposition
of their fidelity.
The contextual setting wherein the words (anointing, seal,
and earnest) are used, show their relativity to the Holy Spirit
as being the miraculous gifts that God bestowed upon the apostles
and early Christians through agency of the Holy Spirit. Therefore,
their primary application was to those of that age and not to
us today. The word anointing is not applicable to us in
any sense, who live in the post-miraculous era. The words seal
and earnest could be said to apply to us today only in a secondary
". . . ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which
is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's.
own possession. . . ."
In commenting on Ephesians 1: 13, J. W. Shepherd says, "They
[the Ephesians] received the gift of the Spirit in its miraculous
manifestation. We do not; but we receive it in our hearts and
bring them in subjection to it" (Gospel Advocate Commentary,
p. 27). Commenting on verse 14 (p. 28), he uses the meaning
of Romans 8:16, 17 to illustrate the meaning of the earnest
of our inheritance. He says, "It is rather the very work
of the Spirit himself." Then he explains how the Christian's
godly life, as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), is the
assurance of God's approval. David Lipscomb adds: "So much
of real spiritual blessings as he enjoys is heaven already in
his heart; what he has in the work and fruits of the Spirit is
for him alike pledge and foretaste."
Is it reasonable that the Spirit, himself, given to Christians
as a seal and earnest for confirming God's approval and guarantee
(as some contend) would himself be dependent upon "outside
evidence" (i.e., God's word) to confirm his indwelling? It
is the result of the indwelling, and not the indwelling itself,
that serves as the seal and eam6st. Testimony and confirmation
by the Spirit is dependent upon action and not passivity on his
part unless there was an effect, the cause would serve no purpose.
Some, in contending for a direct, personal indwelling, are ready
to admit to direct operations (miraculous manifestations) of the
Spirit in the Christian's life today.
Actually the Spirit proves his indirect indwelling, not in being
passive, but rather by being active in producing fruit iii the
Christian as the result of his teaching. This work performed by
the Spirit in today's Christian is accomplished indirectly through
the medium of the all-sufficient, Spirit-empowered word (John
6:63, 68; Acts 20:32; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12, et al).