What does the word “earnest” mean (2 Corinthians 1:22)? 

The Earnest 

The word “earnest” (Gr. Arrabōn) means “down payment,” or “pledge” (Genesis 38:17–20). This word was used by ancient traders and it was found in the ancient papyri. Earnest money was often paid for an engagement ring, for a wife, for a land and so on. To confirm a deal, it was a down payment that the full sum would be paid at the appointed time. But if the deal was not carried through by the buyer, the seller would then take the earnest money. 

2 Corinthians 1:22 

In his second epistle to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul wrote, “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22 – KJV). Paul used the word earnest money to show the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians, as a first partial payment of their full inheritance in the eternal kingdom (Ephesians 1:13, 14; Romans 8:16).  

The Bible assures us that it is the Christian’s right to be given the conviction of acceptance with God as His child at the new birth and to keep it through life (1 John 3:1), to accept the gift of eternal life (John 3:16), and to experience the change of heart done by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1–4; 12:2; John 16:7–11).  

The apostle wanted to highlight the fact that the joy that comes when a person submits to God’s will (Psalms 40:8), desires His perfection (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 4:13, 15; 2 Peter 3:18), and have a continual relationship with Him— is the “earnest” of the eternal joy.

The Earnest and the Firstfruits

The “earnest of the Spirit” may be considered 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. Earnest money is given when there is to be some hindrance in completing the deal. God’s children become heirs to His blessings as soon as they have a relationship with Him (Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:3–12; 1 John 3:1, 2); and the “earnest of the Spirit” is given to them as a sign of that privilege and they live as if they are in heaven (Ephesians 2:5, 6; Philippians 3:20).

Justification and Sanctification

The faithful children of God, who have this “earnest of the Spirit,” are sure that their heavenly Father has accepted them through Christ, and has given them the eternal kingdom (John 3:16; 1 John 3:2; 5:11). But the full payment, which is the actual entrance to heaven, is postponed in order to allow them to grow in character to be actually ready for heaven. Thus, the Christian’s right, to the eternal kingdom automatically becomes his the moment he receives justification by faith through the imputed merits of Christ but readiness for the kingdom is gained through a life long process of sanctification and claiming the imparted righteousness of Christ to overcome sin in the life.

As the Holy Spirit gives the believer power to triumph over sin, the believer experiences an “earnest” of the complete triumph and victory that will be his when he enters heaven. Thus, fellowship with Christ and fellow believers on earth is likewise a sample of the future experiences in heaven. Only those who have received the “earnest of the Spirit” can be certain of what lies ahead (1 Corinthians 2:11, 15). This assurance comes only through spiritual experience which the world can’t understand nor comprehend. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

More answers: