March 27, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NRSV)
For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
In this mortal life we will struggle and suffer. We will experience life mixed with death. But beyond physical death we will enter into the fullness of life. Our “perishable” bodies will put on “imperishability” and our “mortal” bodies will put on “immortality” (1 Cor 15:53). That sounds marvelous, but we may wonder if this is really going to happen or if it’s just wishful thinking. 2 Corinthians 5:5 shows that the Holy Spirit supplies God’s response to our wondering. The Spirit reassures us of the future we have in God. Someday we will experience life in all of its fullness and joy.
This devotion is part of the series: Treasure in Clay Jars.
When my family and I moved to Texas from California in 2007, we began looking to buy a home. Our realtor, Pete, asked us about how much earnest money we planned to pay. I told Pete I was not familiar with the phrase “earnest money.” He explained that earnest money was offered to the seller of a house by a potential buyer as a show of good faith. If the buyer went through with the sale, then the earnest money would be counted toward the purchase amount. If the buyer backed out of the sale after the option period and didn’t have good reason for doing so (such as a failed home inspection), the seller would usually keep the earnest money. So, earnest money vouched for the good intentions of the buyer and guaranteed that the buyer would follow through on the sale.
I would suggest that the Holy Spirit is rather like earnest money. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:4-5. Verse 4 speaks of the time when, in God’s future, our mortal bodies will be “swallowed up by life.” In that age we will be more fully alive than we have been during our mortal existence. Verse 5 adds, “He who prepared us for this very thing in God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” The presence of the Spirit in our lives guarantees that the promise of becoming fully alive is something we can count on. The Spirit is God’s “earnest money,” so to speak.
The Greek word I’m translating with “earnest money” is arrabōn. Modern English Bible translations of arrabōn render it with “guarantee” (NRSV, NLT, ESV), “down payment” (CEB), “deposit, guaranteeing” (NIV), or “a taste of what’s ahead” (Message). The classic King James Version, however, goes with “the earnest of the Spirit.” Plus, if you look up arrabōn in the standard lexicon of ancient Greek you find “earnest-money, deposit, pledge, earnest” (LSJ).
Why might “earnest money” be a better translation of arrabōn than “down payment”? When you pay a down payment as part of the closing of a sale of a house, you get to move into the house at that time. When you pay earnest money, however, you’re making a promise and a guarantee, but you don’t get to live in the house yet. That comes later on.
So it is with the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is God’s guarantee that, when the time comes, we’ll be swallowed up by life. We’ll enter into the fullness of life in the age to come, or what we usually call Heaven. But we don’t get to experience this fully right now. We don’t get to move into the house yet, so to speak. That will happen later when earth and heaven are made new and God dwells among us (Revelation 21). In the meanwhile, the presence of the Holy Spirit “is a pledge [arrabōn] of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14).
In this mortal life we will struggle and suffer. We will experience life mixed with death. Ultimately, our bodies will die. But beyond death we will enter into the fullness of life. Our bodies will no longer be temporary “tents” but eternal “buildings” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). Our “perishable” bodies will put on “imperishability” and our “mortal” bodies will put on “immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). That sounds marvelous, but we may wonder if this is really going to happen or if it’s just wishful thinking. 2 Corinthians 5:5 shows that the Holy Spirit supplies God’s response to our wondering. The Spirit reassures us of the future we have in God.
If you’re someone who has had dramatic experiences of the Spirit’s presence and power, then you’re apt to be readily reassured of your future. But even if you can’t point to obviously miraculous works of the Spirit in your life, if you’re a Christian you have surely experienced the Spirit’s influence. Think of times when you were trying to understand a difficult passage of Scripture. Suddenly you grasped the truth. That was a gift from the Spirit. Or, if you are growing in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – then you have evidence of the Spirit’s activity within you. Or if you are engaging in some sort of ministry and have found that your service to people really makes a difference, this also indicates that the Spirit is working in you. Or perhaps you’ve been kind to a colleague at work who is often quite difficult to get along with. This too comes from the Spirit of God.
I could go on and on with examples, but I expect you get the point. Even if you’re not regularly aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, the fact is that the Spirit is both present and active in you. In response to this Life for Leaders devotion, I would encourage you to set aside some time to reflect on how you have experienced the Holy Spirit. Let this be for you evidence of the “earnest money” God has invested in your life. Yes, the Spirit will help you right now to live more fully. Plus, the Spirit backs up the promise of much fuller and richer life to come.
If you ever have doubts about your future in Heaven, what do you do with these doubts?
How have you experienced the presence and power of the Spirit in your life?
How confident are you in the future life you have in God? Why are you this way?
Talk with your small group or a wise friend about ways you have experienced the work of the Spirit in your life.
Gracious God, how we thank you for the “earnest money” of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for guaranteeing our future with you. Thank you for the ways in which your Spirit prepares us and reassures us for what lies ahead.
Help me, Lord, to have confidence in you and your future. Help me to attend to the ways your Spirit is at work in and through me. Amen.
Banner David Cantelli by Name on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How Can I Know That My Future With God Is Secure?.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.