Proof of ownership is usually required for the recovery of a lost possession. If your vehicle is stolen and then recovered, the police department will typically ask for evidence that the car belongs to you before releasing it into your care. Should your dog or cat be lost and picked up by local animal control, the pound may require a tag or some other identification before it allows the animal to come home with you.
Remarkably, God has proof that He owns His people. Of course, this evidence is not presented to anyone else to secure our release, for, as the Creator and highest authority, no other stands above Him to whom He must appeal. Instead, His proof of ownership exists for our benefit, to assure us that we belong to Him. This proof is the seal of the Holy Spirit, as described in today’s passage (Eph. 1:13).
In the ancient world, written correspondence, cattle, and other objects were imprinted with specially designed seals that identified their owners via symbols, letters, and so on. “The promised Holy Spirit” has sealed us in this sense, burning in us the image of our Savior. Knowing that we have the Spirit assures us that God owns us, that He possesses a love for His people that He does not have for the rest of the world. This seal protects us from divine judgment, for it shows that we are forgiven in Christ (Ezek. 9:4–6; Rev. 7:1–8; 9:4). It also comforts us with the knowledge that God is our Father, for “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). The Father and Son gift Him to all believers at conversion, for the sealing happens when we hear — heed — the gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13).
Ephesians 1:14 explains that this seal is the guarantee that we are the Lord’s inheritance until He receives full possession of us, for our earlier studies have shown how the term inheritance refers to us in the Greek. God certainly owns us now, for all of creation belongs to Him (Ps. 50:10), and yet a day approaches in which He will glorify us and we will always follow Him completely and eagerly. In a sense, He will have full “ownership” of us only when we, as His inheritance, reflect entirely our owner’s character. Just as a down payment promises that a loan will be paid, so the Spirit guarantees that the day of glorification is coming. His pledge will not falter, for while many default on their loans, God never fails to keep His covenant vows.