A Question I Was Asked:

“What does the Scripture mean by saying that the Holy Spirit is 'the earnest of our inheritance' in Ephesians 1:14?”

My Reply:

Okay. 'Earnest' there is from the Greek word 'Arrabon' - this is Gk. word No 728 in Strong's Concordance system. The meaning is 'pledge' or 'part of the full purchase money – or property – given in advance as security that the full amount will indeed be paid.' Today we would say 'deposit' or 'down-payment.' When you pay a deposit on a house or a car you are offering a small security of your commitment to paying the full purchase price within either days, months or years (depending on the terms of the agreement). What God is saying to Christians is that we should look upon the Holy Spirit as a divine guarantee that we are indeed saved and will finally inherit Eternal Life! The use of 'arrobon' is further - and surely pretty conclusive! - evidence that Eternal Security is indeed a biblical doctrine.

The questioner quotes the KJV and one of the several problems with that particular Bible translation is that many English words in that version are either now completely obsolete or now have different meanings. No one would now use 'earnest' in that context and even when I check my dictionary for 'earnest' the senses of 'small token,' 'pledge' or 'firstfruits' are placed last in a list of meanings of this English word. This is actually made completely clear in the NIV, but let us start from verse 13 to get the full context:

'And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession – to the praise of his glory.' (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV throughout ).

The Holy Spirit should be seen as a little bit of Eternal Life which God allows to reside in believers right now. Does that make us absolutely perfect? Absolutely not! But it gives us some of the very mind of God, we start to actually look on the problems of the societies in which we live through God's eyes and – yes! – because of this, we even start to see some of the real solutions to those problems! And that should be a testimony to us that we are now ambassadors for Christ – living in the present world but truly not part of it, for we represent a coming world! All of this should really excite us but I feel we tend to become a bit blasé about it.

Funnily enough although this question usually arises because of Ephesians 1:14, 'arrabon' (deposit) also occurs in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5. Let us check those verses out too:

'Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.' (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).


'Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.' (2 Corinthians 5:5).

Without actually using 'arrabon,' Paul also expresses almost the same sentiment in Romans 8:23 where he writes,

'Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.' (Romans 8:23, my underlined emphasis).

'Firstfruits' is from Gk. Word 586 (apodekatoo), which means 'a tenth' 'a pledge' 'a firstfruits' – again, the sense is in giving or receiving a little, but pledging something infinitely grander. This word is rendered 'firstfruits' (and sometimes 'first converts' – NIV), in not only Romans 8:23 but in Romans 11:16, Romans 16:15, 1 Corinthians 15:20,23, James 1:18 and in Revelation 14:4.

The teaching is clear: True Christian believers are now granted the 'firstfruits' of the Spirit – not the full measure yet, of course, and we should see this as God's 'arrabon' or, pledge, or guarantee, that He will indeed one day grant us Eternal Life in His eternal kingdom. He pays us a deposit right now and we are told to look upon this as a guarantee – yet another indication that Eternal Security is a fully biblical doctrine!


Robin A. Brace, 2006.