WHAT IS AN “EARNEST” IN SCRIPTURE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
On three occasions in the Authorized Version, we find the term “earnest.” God the Holy Spirit appears in all those passages. Before we expound the verses, we will read them.
- 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “ Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;  Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-5: “ For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:  If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.  For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.  Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
- Ephesians 1:12-14: “ In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
Having read the pertinent passages, we can now proceed to learn one of the most important roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives as Christians.
One effectual way Satan’s policy of evil vexes Christians is to cause them to doubt they are truly saved and bound for Heaven. It is thus frequently stated, “But I do not feel saved!” (Emotions deceive.) Entire denominational systems teach their members, “‘Once saved, always saved’ is a lie!” (Traditions of men deceive.) People even twist Bible verses to challenge the security of the member of the Church the Body of Christ. (Non-dispensational Bible study deceives.) As always, Satan and sinful man go to great lengths to defy whatever the God of Scripture says and does.
Paul the Apostle wrote 1 Corinthians to provide carnal believers with Divine insight, that these fleshly or worldly saints reform their thoughts and behaviors to fit grace doctrine. Spiritual conditions were so deplorable in Corinth, to the point where Paul intended to visit them in person again to reprove them. Yet, he decided not to go. Instead, he would let them resolve their problems by using his written communication. Read 2 Corinthians 1:15-24 for his explanation. Since Paul had a change of plans—saying he would come but did not—the Corinthians wondered if he had been dishonest concerning Jesus Christ. The Apostle reassured them: his preaching of the Lord was reliable, worthy of their faith or trust.
Let us return to 2 Corinthians chapter 1: “ For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.  Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;  Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” Firstly, Father God “stablisheth” (stabilizes) us in Christ. Secondly, He has “anointed” us, appointed us to the office of functioning as His children. Thirdly, He has “sealed” (preserved) us, marked us as His own. Lastly, He has “given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” We use other verses to amplify this latter concept.
Moving to the final verses of chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians, and reading into chapter 5: “[4:16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [4:17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [4:18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
“[5:1] For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [5:2] For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: [5:3] If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. [5:4] For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. [5:5] Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
Friend, do you have the same strength and energy you had when you were younger? In case you have not noticed, your physical body is wearing down with age. You can no longer do what you used to do. Also, you do not feel as good as you once did. The aging process is not pleasant, for the body daily grows frailer and more susceptible to disease, injury, and limitation. Finally, death occurs. How depressing! Thankfully, the good news is we are not perpetually bound to this “earthly house of this tabernacle.” In Christ, we are guaranteed new glorified bodies. At the resurrection, we will receive bodies immune to all sickness and debility. Yea, we have “the earnest of the Spirit” to prove it!
Read this excerpt from Ephesians chapter 1, which is really three colossal sentences in Greek (!): “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
“ In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
“ In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Again, the Holy Spirit has “sealed” us, permanently making us—and marking us as—God’s own. We have a destiny in the Heavenly Places, sure to arrive at that inheritance because of “the earnest of the Spirit.”
In business terms, “earnest money” is a percentage of the purchase price the buyer pays the seller, as a gesture that the buyer will eventually pay the full amount to complete the transaction. Even more succinctly, it is “part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest.” This deposit or pledge can also be seen as a down-payment that the entire amount will be subsequently paid.
The Greek word is “arrabon,” transliterated from the Old Testament Hebrew “`arabown.” Greeks and Romans evidently borrowed the term from the Phoenicians, the inventors of traffic or trade. In the Greek New Testament, the word is found thrice—the very three passages now familiar to us here. Before we deal with the “earnest of the Spirit” any further, we turn to the Old Testament for the equivalent idea. While a rather distasteful context, a deal between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar amplifies Paul’s usage of the term.
In Genesis chapter 38, Judah (one of Jacob’s 12 sons) had three children with a Canaanite woman. The first boy (Er) was evil, so God killed him and left his wife (Tamar) childless. Judah married Tamar to his second son (Onan), but Onan too was wicked so God slew him. Tamar is still childless. Judah’s last son (Shelah) is too young for marriage, but Judah promises Tamar she can have Shelah when he has matured. Unfortunately, as the years pass, Judah fails to give Shelah to Tamar, so she connives to bear a child with Judah’s bloodline directly. Disguised as a harlot, she renders “services” to unwitting Judah, producing twins Zerah and Pharez. (Pharez was Jesus’ ancestor through both Mary [Luke 3:23,33] and Joseph [Matthew 1:3,16].) Judah ultimately paid his daughter-in-law in the form of a lamb, but he used his signet (seal ring), his bracelets, and his staff as a “pledge” until he paid in full with the sheep (Genesis 38:17,18,20).
Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” God does not justify us based on our good works. However, He wants to do good works in and through us. We are His “workmanship”—His “poiema” (Greek), poem, creature. He has wrought such a mighty deed in rescuing us from the penalty of sin (Hell and the Lake of Fire).
Walking by faith in our position in Christ—we are dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:11)—we are delivered from the power of sin. Daily victorious Christian living is Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;….” Now, there is one more type of salvation, which we await. It is deliverance from the presence of sin (leaving this sin-cursed world to enter Heaven).
Romans chapter 8 speaks of this future bodily, or physical, redemption: “ For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the indwelling Holy Ghost, the third Member of the Godhead. Remember 2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” Ephesians chapter 2 closes: “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Also, Romans 5:5: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” First Corinthians 3:16: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Now, chapter 6, verse 19: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Finally, 2 Timothy 1:14: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”
We thrice read about the Holy Spirit being the “earnest”—2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:13,14. Recall the Ephesians reference: “Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Father God gave us the indwelling Holy Spirit to show us He will one day finish His transaction in securing us from sin. We have been redeemed soul and spirit—Christ’s blood bought us out of sin’s slave market (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Yet, we are waiting to receive a physical redemption; this is the bodily resurrection in Romans 8:18-25, Ephesians 1:14, and Ephesians 4:30 (“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”). Just as “earnest money” in the business world anticipates the full purchase, so the Holy Spirit is our “earnest” in expectation of our whole redemption.
Although Father God has wrought a mighty work in us believers in Christ, we are actually a “work in progress.” Indeed, our souls and spirits have been redeemed, purchased out of sin’s slave market with Christ’s shed blood.
Romans chapter 3: “ For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
However, we are not yet redeemed physically: we are still in these mortal bodies of flesh and blood. Since God is still operating the Dispensation of Grace, He has left the Church the Body of Christ on Earth. To delay His wrath another day—so more people trust His Son and escape the coming judgment this present evil world deserves—He keeps us here. The Apostle Peter learned this from the Apostle Paul: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
We have been justified (made right in God’s sight). We are being sanctified (daily set apart unto His plan and purpose). We will be glorified (brought into the heavenly places). The indwelling Holy Spirit is our “earnest”—or “taste” (“arrabon” in Hebrews 6:5)—that what mighty work God started in us He will also finish. The eternal life we are promised in Heaven can be ours now… and the indwelling Spirit of God guarantees it!
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