Guarantee—Musings on Ephesians 1:13-14

Guarantee—Musings on Ephesians 1:13-14

He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (ἀρραβῶνα).  –II Corinthians 1:22 RSV

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (ἀρραβῶνα).  –II Corinthians 5:5 RSV

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee (ἀρραβῶν) of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  –Ephesians 1:13-14 RSV

The Greek term ἀρραβῶν arrabōn is simply a transliteration from the Hebrew  ‎ עֵרָבוֹן֘  ‘erābōn. In addition to the three New Testament passages above, it occurs in only one other place in the Greek Bible, viz., three sentences within the Greek translation of the story of Tamar and Judah in Genesis 38:17-20 (it’s this account that offers the Hebrew noun  ‎ עֵרָבוֹן֘  ‘erābōn). The clear meaning is something on the order of down payment or guarantee or pledge or security or deposit.

I first became a Christian within a legalistic sect that taught that the Holy Spirit was, essentially, a “retired author.” That is, the Spirit’s job had been to see that the New Testament got written—after which he ended all direct interactions with people. During the couple of years of my experience with this sect, I puzzled over the statements quoted above from II Corinthians and Ephesians. I couldn’t figure out how in the world the Holy Spirit could be a guarantee, since of course I had no way of experiencing the Holy Spirit.


Mysterious stranger: “Guess what, kiddo, I’m hereby making you into a Master Magician in my invisible kingdom.”

Child: “Wow, that’s exciting! But how can I be sure that you’ve made me into a Master Magician?”

Mysterious stranger: “That’s easy. I’m giving you this invisible cloak that, when you’re a grown-up, will enable you to read people’s minds.”

Child: “Cool! Read minds! Wow!”

. . . . . . .

Child: “Hey—I’ve been made a Master Magician in an invisible kingdom!”

Child’s friend: “Ummm, that’s cool. How do you know you’re a Master Magician?”

Child: “Because I’ve been given this nifty invisible cloak. When I’m a grown-up, it will let me read people’s minds.”

Child’s friend: “OK, that’s at least twelve years away. No mind-reading for you in the meantime. So tell me again how you know this is true?”

Child: “Because I have this invisible cloak!”

Child’s friend: “How do you know you have an invisible cloak?”

Child: “Because it’s going to let me read people’s minds when I’m a grown-up.”

Child’s friend: “I think we’ve covered this ground already. . .”


In retrospect, I marvel at my cluelessness concerning the new Testament passages quoted above, as well as dozens of others relating to the Holy Spirit. How in the world did I not see the inconsistency between my experience and the expectations revealed by the scriptures? It’s appalling to realize how easily our minds are darkened (“veiled,” to hijack the term used for slightly different circumstances in II Corinthians 3:14-18).

Question: Are you fully, subjectively aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life? Is the Spirit’s presence and power so obvious that you feel no doubts about God’s closeness with you now as well as about the resurrection life God has promised you?

If not, how can the Spirit act as a  guarantee/pledge/deposit/down payment  of what God has for you in the future?

It’s clear from the context of the opening quotes, as well as from the entirety of the New Testament, that daily communion with our Lord through the Holy Spirit, including the privilege of knowing his very heart and mind, and being able to share in his power through the gifts and guidance of the Holy Spirit, are the defining benefits that accrue to believers during our lives on this planet.

If you do not daily experience the presence of the Spirit in ways that affirm the reality of God’s love and the power of his kingdom, then I have this encouragement for you: That is your inheritance! In this life! You have an incredible adventure ahead of you! Guaranteed!

God wants you to experience that closeness even more than you want it. He adores you, and he wants to be involved in every part of your life (from the crappiest stuff to the most glorious parts). And there are no hoops to jump through. You do not have to attain some imaginary level of righteousness or goodness or faith before he will immerse you in and fill you with his Holy Spirit. It’s just the opposite: only through the Spirit’s presence and power can you even begin to grow into that person whom God created you to be.

There are no limits to what God wants to do for you and in you and through you. The only limits are the ones you establish.

Go for it! Whether it’s impediments you have erected or those that have encrusted themselves onto your mind and heart via your culture or through religious teachings, ask God to sweep away all barriers to your being able to receive/accept everything he has for you. Ask him to fill you with, to immerse you in, his Holy Spirit. Ask him to open your eyes so you can discern his kingdom now. Ask him to remove doubt from your heart and to instill in your heart levels of trust that you have never imagined possible.

That’s pretty much it. If you want a few more ideas about how to go about this process, you might want to check out a couple of the essays on this website, e.g., How to Seek God—Musings on Hebrews 11:6 and God’s Call to Us to Be More Filled With the Holy Spirit.

I care. Contact me through this website if you have questions.