What does “the earnest of the Spirit” mean? 


By BibleAsk Team

The Earnest of the Spirit 

Paul wrote, in his second epistle to the Corinthian Church, “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22, KJV). The word earnest (Gr. Arrabōn or Heb. ‘erabon), means “down payment,” or “pledge” (Genesis 38:17–20). The word “arrabōn” is found often in the papyri of the ancient nations to mean a down payment money paid for a cow, land or financial transaction. This payment confirmed an agreement.  

In 2 Corinthians 1:22, Paul uses the figure of “earnest” money to illustrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers, as a first installment, an assurance of their full inheritance in God’s new kingdom (Ephesian 1:13, 14; Romans 8:16). It is the believer’s privilege to receive the assurance of acceptance of God as His child at the new birth and to retain this assurance throughout his life (1 John 3:1), to accept the gift of eternal life (John 3:16), and to experience the change of character by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1–4; 12:2; John 16:7–11).  

An “earnest” is much more than a pledge. The “earnest of the Spirit” is regarded as equal to the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23), which is a sample of what the harvest at the end of the world will be like. The true children of God, who have this “earnest of the Spirit,” are assured that God has accepted them in Christ, and will indeed give them eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 3:2; 5:11).

Guarantee for Eternal Life 

The pleasure that comes when the believer’s will is in harmony with God’s will (Psalms 40:8), when he wants to be perfect as Christ (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 4:13, 15; 2 Peter 3:18), and when there is daily relationship with the Savior —this happiness is the “earnest” of a greater and eternal happiness in God’s eternal kingdom. Paul and the Corinthians had such a fulfilling experience (2 Corinthians 1:21).

Earnest money is given when there is to be some delay in fulfilling the agreement. The children of God are made heirs to all the blessings of heaven as soon as they accept the Lord as Savior (Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:3–12; 1 John 3:1, 2); and the “earnest of the Spirit” is given to them as a token of that privilege. In a sense, they already live in heaven (Ephesians 2:5, 6; Philippians 3:20).

The full and complete payment is postponed in order to allow for the development of character, till God’s children are fully prepared for heaven. The Christian’s right to heaven automatically is gained the moment he is justified by faith. But sanctification is gained through a lifetime of claiming God’s promises to obtain victory over sin in this life. As the Holy Spirit imparts grace and power to overcome sin, the Christian experiences an “earnest” of the full glory that will be his upon entrance to the eternal kingdom of glory.   

 In His service,
BibleAsk Team 

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