"And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know ... For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 8:2, 13:9)

you are here: > > >

Commentary on 2 Cor. 1:21,22 [seal and earnest of the spirit]

"He who is confirming you with us into Christ, and did anoint us, [is] God, (22) who also sealed us, and gave the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (YLT)

Synopsis: in Christ we are by taking up work towards identifying our characters with the character of Jesus Christ, full of truth and obedience to God. The means to fulfill this purpose is God's spirit of love of truth, which is given to the elect as the earnest of Christ's maturity. The result of believers' surrendering to this spirit is the development of the knowledge of God's Word, which then, like a seal, finds a reflection in character.

Confirmed in Christ

Interpretation of 2 Cor. 1:21,22 first of all requires one to delve into the original text and determine what relation there is between each of the listed elements. Young's Literal Translation quoted at the beginning suggests that in fact we are dealing with four independent elements: God confirms us in Christ, anoints us, seals and gives the earnest of the spirit in our hearts. However, a literal translation of the original text offers a slightly different view: "the One confirming you with us into Christ, ... and having annointed us is God, having sealed us and [having] given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts". Even though a text in this form is not especially reader-friendly, it shows clearly one thing, i.e. the dependence of the last three elements on the first one. A series of three past participles points to what God did to establish us in Christ. So God confirms us into Christ by anointing us, sealing and giving the earnest of his spirit.

Therefore, the subject of 2 Cor. 1:21,22 is the confirmation of believers by God in Christ. In the New Testament we read that both believers are in Christ and that Christ is in believers (Col. 1:27). This is the same information, only presented from different points of view. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth and obedience to God. Every moral being in the universe must be shaped according to his character. That is why the Bible speaks of 'gathering everything in Christ' and that is why we say we are in Christ - we form the Body of Christ as a community of his disciples (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Eph. 1:10). On the other hand, looking from the point of view of one who takes up the work of shaping himself in the image of Christ, it will be reasonable to say that Christ is in us - the image of his character must be reflected in the individual character of a believer. 2 Cor. 1:21,22 adopts the first of the above-mentioned perspectives, at the same time indicating the means that lead us to be shaped in the Body of Christ.

The earnest and the seal of the spirit

Returning again to the literal wording of 2 Cor. 1:21-22, I suggest that the order in which the three elements are listed - the anointing, sealing and earnest of the spirit - is exactly the opposite. Since all these activities were given in the form of past participles, each of the following activities is in fact earlier than its predecessor. And so the first step to transforming man is for God to give "the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts". Everything therefore begins with emotions, with the heart. The Apostle Paul emphasizes in 1 Cor. 1:17 and 2:1-5 that faith does not begin in the 'wisdom of the word', but in the power (dynamis) of the spirit; "the love of God hath been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that hath been given to us" (Rom. 5:5 YLT). The fact that faith begins with emotions does not mean that for the rest of life one must remain mindless, swinging in the vapors of the spirit. On the contrary, this love that God pours into our hearts, Paul calls 'the love of truth' (2 Thes. 2:10).

This is the love that generates in the believer the need to know the Word of God and makes it possible. That is why Jesus says that eternal life is learning - it is a continuous activity (Jn. 17:3). If we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the need for knowledge is something obvious. God for some reason does not give us knowledge immediately, but puts it before us as a goal to be carried out on a continuous basis. For this purpose, he provides us with the earnest - he gives his love of the truth that is supposed to lead us in this direction. If this is indeed happening - if we let ourselves be guided by the spirit of learning - the consequence of this will be the sealing mentioned by Paul in 2 Cor. 1:21-22 as another element of confirmation in Christ. What we call the truth is in fact the description of reality. Just like the seal contains an image with an engraved structure (graphic sign, text), the truth also presents the image of what it describes.

The seal serves to reflect the structure it represents in the plastic material (e.g. wax). The truth serves to reflect the structure of reality which it describes in character. The domain of truth - the 'place' of its collection and processing - is the area of ​​conscious thought. Meanwhile, the human character is created by the patterns of behavior written in our subconsciousness. These are the mechanisms that we implement in specific situations without consciously analyzing them every time. The task of the truth is to shape these subconscious mechanisms in accordance with the justice of God; reflection of the structure of the truth in the character just like a seal carries its sign. Here, too, the earnest of the spirit has its role because the knowledge of things does not necessarily mean the will to act in accordance with this knowledge. The love of the truth that we are endowed with by God, however, "compels" its holders not only to gain understanding, but also to act in accordance with God's principles - to live for Christ (2 Cor. 5:14,15).

The earnest and the seal in the context of the letter to the Ephesians

Therefore, the goal of the spiritual earnest is to enable the elect towards the development in the truth, so the structure of the truth can be 'imprinted' like a seal on our character and that we may thus participate fully in Christ (Eph. 1:22,23). The discussed passage of 2 Cor. 1:21,22 does not explain this in detail, but only refers to this transformation process of the character of the elect. In other writings, however, the apostle Paul describes it quite literally. Here, especially, I would like to point out the letter to the Ephesians. In Eph. 3:16-19 we also read about "might to be strengthened through His Spirit, in regard to the inner man" (YLT). The basis for the development of the new character must be agape love, in which we are to be "rooted and founded" and which will allow us to learn "what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of the truth (Eph. 3:17,18 YLT). As a consequence, the knowledge of the Word of God will shape deeper layers of character, so we will be "filled to all the fulness of God" - both in the element of truthful thinking and reforming deeply rooted instructions of conduct (Eph. 3:19 YLT).

The other fragment is Eph. 4:20-24. Here, the apostle describes the change that takes place in the 'inner man' as shedding of the old man and putting on the new one. How to achieve this change - according to the interlinear translation, the apostle recommends to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind" (verse 23). The spirit in question is the earnest - the spirit of the love of the truth, which is supposed to lead the 'mind' to a better and better understanding of the truth. The result of the action of the spirit and the change of the way of thinking will be the renewal of the inner man - shaping a character consistent with the principles of God. Another reference to the goal of the earnest can be found in Eph. 1:13,14. Here Paul uses exactly the same terms he uses in 2 Cor. 1:21-22 - "ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance" (YLT). The purpose of the earnest is presented in the following verses as working out the knowledge of the truth: "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of the glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the recognition of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints"(Eph. 1:16-18 YLT).


The anointing is the last of the activities listed in 2 Cor. 1:21,22. Similarly to the earnest and the sealing, the anointing is also connected with the development in the truth. In the Old Testament, although all Israel were a chosen people, only the priests - the descendants of Aaron - received the anointing to perform service in the Tabernacle. Their special task was to serve in the Sanctuary, where by the light of the candlestick they fed on showbread. In the antitype, this element of the priesthood service represents our feeding on the Word of God directly from the text of the Bible. In the New Testament, all the elect who repent in the name of Jesus Christ receive the spiritual earnest. Few of this group, however, take up priestly service. The majority of new creatures remain passive recipients of the teachings presented to them, and in this sense they constitute the antitype of the people. Antitypical Levites follow the spirit of the truth in personal search, but they do so mainly based on the teachings of other members of the Church. Antitypical priests reach out to learn directly into the Word of God, and they do so because they have received the Divine authority in the form of the anointing spirit - the spirit of prophecy that enables them to exercise priesthood in the service of the antitypical Sanctuary (Rev. 19:10).

Keywords: 2 Cor. 1:21-22, earnest of the spirit, seal of the spirit, anointing
Bible translations used in the commentary:
YLT - Young's Literal Translation