One of the great certainties offered by the Christian faith is the certainty of the Holy Spirit and his active ministry. Whenever people recite the Apostles’ Creed they affirm their belief in the Holy Spirit of God. The New Testament testifies repeatedly to the role of the Spirit in accomplishing the good work of salvation.
For example, in Ephesians chapter one we are told that believers are chosen by God the Father (v.4), redeemed by God the Son (v. 7), and sealed by the Holy Spirit (v. 13). “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance . . . .” (vv. 13-14).
If someone asks, “How do I know the Holy Spirit is living in me?” a simple response might be, by the same way you know there is music on your digital playlist. You cannot see the music, but you can believe the message on your screen that there is music in your smart phone. A second way you can know is by playing the music and hearing it.
We can know the Holy Spirit works for us and in us because of the words of scripture. We believe in the Holy Spirit as we exercise faith in the promises of God’s Word. In addition, we may experience the benefits of the Holy Spirit’s ministry as we prayerfully trust him to guide, instruct, comfort and strengthen us, as our Lord Jesus promised that the Spirit would do.
That is what had happened to the people to whom Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians. Acts 19 gives the history. The people of Ephesus had not even heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-2). Paul stayed there and taught boldly in the Jewish synagogue for three months (v. 8). Then he moved to a lecture hall and continued his ministry in Ephesus for two more years (v. 9). From that base the entire region was evangelized (v. 10). “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (v. 20). Through the teaching and miracles they observed, the people came to understand and experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit (v. 6).
To these people Paul wrote, “you heard the message of truth” (Ephesians 1:13). “You believed” the gospel. When that happened you were “included in Christ” and “marked with a seal,” a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The object of their belief was the message of the cross where the Lord Jesus shed his blood to secure the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7). The confirmation of their belief was the Holy Spirit.
Paul used the familiar imagery of a seal to illustrate the Holy Spirit because in the ancient world a seal was a mark of ownership, identification, and authenticity. It may be compared to the computer chip embedded in your passport. The chip can be read by a scanner at U.S. Customs portal when you reenter the country from overseas. It identifies you as a citizen of the United States.
The Holy Spirit in the believer is God’s way of validating and confirming the believer’s identity in Christ. The discovery of the DNA molecule led to ways for scientists to prove physical identity. DNA carries genetic information that sets individuals apart from each other and can prove their association in families. This illustrates the role of the Holy Spirit in establishing and sealing an individual in the spiritual family of God.
In Romans 8:9 we are given a test of whether a person is a real Christian or not. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ , they do not belong to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 recommends that we examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith. Here is a simple self-examination, based on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. It is intended to give certainty, not to foster doubt and anxiety.
Ask yourself, do I believe the gospel of Christ (Titus 3:5-7)? Have I experienced the guidance, assurance and encouragement of the Holy Spirit through the promises in the Bible (Ephesians 1:17-19, 3:16-17)? Do I have love for others, and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Do I regularly fellowship with God in prayer (Romans 8:26-27)? Do I love God’s word and is its truth clear to me (John 16:13-15)? Do I seek to live in a way that pleases the Lord (Ephesians 4:17-30)?
If these things are true in your life it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. If this is not a description of your life, but you want it to be, that may indicate the Holy Spirit is drawing you to surrender yourself in faith to Jesus. He offers certainty of a new life. “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
Pastor Randy Faulkner