What is the Gospel? : Track #14

A Series of Studies on the foundational Doctrines of the Gospel

Part V You were Marked with a Seal (Ephesians 1:13)

V.2 Grateful, not Complacent: Sanctification

The seal is a mark of ownership – the outward evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, visible evidence that we belong to God as his family likeness is reproduced in us.

“Orthodox doctrine does not assert the certainty of salvation because we have once believed; rather the certainty of perseverance in holiness if we have truly believed.” A.A.Hodge

1. The Need to Seek Assurance

The Puritans had a serious view of assurance as a reality to be enjoyed by those who had wrestled with God in seeking to “make their calling sure.”

2. How to Seek Assurance

“It requires a great deal of diligence to make sure our election and calling (2Peter 1:10); there must be a close examination of ourselves, a very narrow search and strict enquiry, whether we are thoroughly converted.” Matthew Henry

The genuineness of our calling can be checked against these biblical characteristics:

a) Holy calling 2Timothy 1:9
b) High calling Philippians 3:13,14; Hebrews 3:1
c) Humble calling Matthew 9:13
d) Illuminating calling 1Peter 2:9
e) Liberating calling Galatians 5:1,13
f) Relational calling 1Corinthians 1:9

3. The Benefits of Gaining Assurance

  • 2Peter 1:10,11 An unfaltering walk into a glorious welcome.
  • Romans 8:12-17 The experience of assurance of salvation comes to us in three ways:

a) As a test: “Am I led by the Spirit, into holiness?”

b) As a consolation: “Whatever happens, the Spirit will lead me.”

c) As an assurance: “I know that I’m not perfect, but I know that the Holy Spirit is at work drawing me into a more Christ-like walk.”


Some may have noticed that in this series we have looked at Paul’s presentation of the Gospel under five headings:

1. You were dead (Eph 2:1)
2. He chose us (Eph 1:4)
3. In Him we have redemption (Eph 1:7)
4. He made us alive (Eph 2:5)
5. You were marked with a seal (Eph 1:13)

In this way we have covered what are known as The Doctrines of Grace. These five headings have come to be known as the key points of Calvinism. Does this mean Paul was a Calvinist? No! - but we might say that Calvin was a Paulinist!

The so-called “five points of Calvinism” were first put together at the Synod of Dort in 1618 to counter to a series of affirmations that had earlier been made by Arminianists. Over time, those five points have come to be conveniently known by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited (or particular) atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints. These five points correspond to the headings in our studies in this series.

J.I.Packer (in “A Quest for Godliness”, p.128) has summarized these points in this way:

  1. Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. [In Paul’s words: “You were dead.”]
  2. God’s election is a free sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. [In Paul’s words: “He chose us.”]
  3. The redeeming work of Christ has as its end and goal the salvation of the elect [In Paul’s words: “In Him we have redemption.”]
  4. The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object [In Paul’s words: “He made us alive.”]
  5. Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God until they come to glory [In Paul’s words: “You were marked with a seal.”]

This contrasts starkly with much of the way the gospel is commonly preached today. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One makes salvation depend on the work of God; the other, on a work of man. One regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation; the other, as man’s contribution to salvation.

We affirm that “Salvation is of the Lord.” The Gospel is all of grace - so there is no room for us to boast of any contribution we have made, that all the glory may go to God!

Brian Watts is Pastor of The King's Community Church and lives in Langley with his wife Rosalind.
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