God's down payment to us

The infilling of the Spirit is a down payment on Heaven.

I had never really thought of it that way before I read Ephesians 1:13-14 in the Italian Bible.

In the classic King James Version, that passage speaks of the Holy Spirit as the "earnest" of what is to come. That never made much impression on me. I was familiar with "earnest" as an adjective, as in "he seemed very much in earnest." However, "earnest" as a noun was not something I had often heard and I don't think I personally had ever used it as a noun. To be sure, the NIV speaks of "deposit," but that wasn't very vivid for me either. As a result, I had not paid much attention to that passage, nor to 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5 where the same wording occurs.

Then one day I was reading Ephesians 1 in my Italian Bible when verses 13-14 came alive. There was "pegno," a very ordinary word meaning down payment or first installment. It is used often by Italians in stores, in hotels, and in buying cars. And, as I discovered, its nuances reflect almost exactly the original Greek in both meaning and commonness of everyday usage.

Though used only three times in the New Testament (once in Ephesians and twice in 2 Corinthians), this particular word offer us a significant perspective on the Spirit-filled life.

To begin with, isn't a down payment something one receives in a moment in time? Therefore, to fit into the Apostle Paul's illustration of a deposit or down payment, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is something that comes in a particular moment. It is, as some have noted, an instantaneous, crisis experience that is also described in that way in other New Testament passages.

An understanding of this down payment or deposit idea sheds light on what is meant by the passage in Hebrews 12 that says "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." It is obvious that people should not expect to receive full payment ("seeing the Lord" ) if they have refused the offered down payment.

To understand better this concept, it is helpful to see how it was used outside the New Testament writings. In some old papyri documents from the time of the New Testament,, there is a record of an advance payment being made to a troop of castanet dancing girls for their appearance at a village festival. The advance payment serves as a guarantee that they will appear and that the full fee will be paid. In another instance, a mouse catcher is being paid so much as a deposit to assure that he would get on at once with the job.

In each of these cases, the down payment binds both the giver and the receiver. The giver is guaranteeing full payment while the receiver, by his acceptance, was guaranteeing a certain course of action. The infilling of the Holy Spirit is God's down payment on Heaven. Our acceptance of that down payment indicates our willingness to live out, as perfectly as possible, God's will for us.

In what sense is the infilling of the Spirit, or the experience called entire sanctification, an advance payment of Heaven? Well, when one goes to make a down payment he does not take enough cash to pay the full purchase price and then tear off small parts of each bill to give to the seller, leaving the seller with only an unspendable "promise" or "pledge." Down payment means whole bills that are good money. While it is a part of the full payment, it is whole, but not the whole.

Sanctification means freedom from enslaving domination by the carnal nature. Isn't that a taste of Heaven? Sanctification means victory. Isn't that a taste of Heaven? Sanctification means perfect love. Isn't that a taste of Heaven?

Yet, while it is "full salvation," it is not being glorified. In translating th phrase in Ephesians, Weymouth used "foretaste" in addition to "pledge." While "foretaste" doesn't excite me, it does capture at least this facet of meaning. H. Orton Wiley, in writing of this down-payment concept, spoke of the "sample" of Heaven that God gives to us now.

The kingdom of God is "hot" topic today. Understood in Kingdom terminology, this down payment would illustrate the paradox of the Kingdom which has already come (i.e., as a down payment), but which is yet to come (i.e., incomplete payment).

After having saved us from our sinful past, the Eternal God now offers us a down payment on the future. Other scriptural passages called it entire sanctification or the baptism of the Holy Spirit . Here Paul refers to it as the first installment which guarantees full payment of all that God has promised us.

Why hesitate? Why not accept this down payment, agreeing joyfully to fulfill the conditions He has laid down so we can one day receive full payment?

This article was written and published in what is now called Holiness Today while Barbara and I were missionaries in Italy.

A New Year's promise and project

Jesus gave His followers some daunting instructions. They included statements like:

In a commissioning address to His followers Jesus said, " Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38).

Discipleship does have a high cost. In 1945 a German pastor and theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis. In a 1937 book titled The Cost of Discipleship, the martyred Bonhoeffer had written, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

To be sure, during the short years of Jesus' earthly ministry, He did more than give commands. He also made some promises. Big promises. And those promises speak not only of life in Heaven someday, but also of life here and now.

Jesus talked of giving abundant life. Referring primarily to the work He would leave His followers to do, Jesus said, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." His last words spoken just before His ascension to heaven were words of promise: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you" (Acts 1:8).

Perhaps as this year has been coming to a close, we have looked back over some crumpled shells of hopes and dreams we had had for these past twelve months. It may be that we didn't experience or utilize all the resources that Christ promised for us.

In looking ahead to this new year, we should accept the assurance of God's inexhaustible power and appropriate His strength available to us. Christ offers everything we need to obey His commands and to live holy, Spirit-filled, world-changing lives. That kind of life must be lived by the power of His Spirit -- or it cannot be lived at all.

All who are part of His Church Christ promises to fill to overflowing with His presence and power. However, too often we have failed to make ourselves available to Him. Instead of being mountain-movers, instruments of divine miracles, we have been content to kick pebbles into the gutter.

Paul highlighted two very different life-styles with his dual imperative, "Do not get drunk on wine. . . Instead, be filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18). One question that comes to mind from that passage is: So, what are you going to be controlled by: Alcohol or the Holy Spirit?

Materialism would say, "Gorge yourself on the things of this world. Grab all you can." In contrast to that, the challenge of God in His Word is clear: "Live the great adventure for which you were created."

And that should be Project Number One in this coming year for all Christians -- allowing the power of the living Lord to control us and to be exhibited for His glory through us.

If, during the next twelve months, we live with the Spirit as a dimly realized fact -- our souls bleached and anemic -- it is because we are content to live this way. The beginning of a New Year is a good time to yield fully in an unrestrained way to the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

This article was written and published in what is now called Holiness Today while Barebara and I were missionaries in Italy.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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