Earnest #5

Friday, November 20, 2020

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 1:21,22 KJV).

What exactly is an “earnest?” How is the Holy Spirit involved?

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).

Now, back to Paul’s employment of the term….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What is a ‘fuller?’