Signs and Seals

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Adam Olive, Oct 15, 2017.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Adam Olive

    Adam Olive Puritan Board Freshman

    How would you explain simply to someone what is meant by signs and seals and the difference between them?
  2. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    The sign is outward and can be seen by all. The seal is inward and it is the encouragement/assurance the Spirit brings through the thing signified.
  3. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    A sign is like a railroad sign. It points you to the reality of the railroad, but is not the railroad itself, it is merely a sign reminding us that there is a railroad.

    A seal is the guarantee that if you receive that which is signified by the sign by faith, you will absolutely receive what is promised in the sign.
  4. Adam Olive

    Adam Olive Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks that is very clear
  5. Panegyric

    Panegyric Puritan Board Freshman

    Hold up, I don't think this can be supported biblically.

    But before I get into that, let me just say, the point of a seal is to guarantee something. Seals provide assurance. So in the above quote, you are articulating that a seal guarantees to someone that if they do x, they will receive a. Now to be frank, when x=by the power of the Spirit repent & exercise saving faith & persevere in it, and a=be saved, I don't think the aforementioned seal provides much or any assurance. It basically is assuring someone, "You could be saved." Well, isn't that a reassuring!

    As an example, if I told someone, "I'm going to give you a hand shake as a guarantee that if you run a mile in 1 minute I'll give you a $1,000,000, just like I promised," I don't believe they would garner much assurance that they were going to actually get the million dollars from my handshake.

    Where am I going with this: seals are guarantees; they give us assurance.

    Two examples of biblical seals: Rom. 4:11 and Eph. 1:13. Both examples of sealing accomplish roughly the same thing. They seal a person's interest in the covenant of grace to them. They are meant to give someone assurance that they are in the covenant of grace. That is to say, they give someone assurance that they possess salvation.

    The sealing of the Spirit does not say, "on so and so condition, you will be saved." It says, "You will be saved."

    When Abraham was given the sign of circumcision, it did not say, "on so and so condition, you will be righteous." It said, "you are righteous." It gave him assurance he was righteous, not assurance that he could be righteous.

    It is manifestly clear that circumcision did not seal this to every single person it was given, or quite possibly, to any one else it was given to. For loads of people received circumcision who were clearly not righteous. So it couldn't be sealing to them that they possessed righteousness.

    If it is asserted that it sealed to all that they could be righteous (via faith), then I say it is no seal of one's interest in the covenant of grace, for that statement can be affirmed of every man.

    Consider the circumstances of Abraham's receiving circumcision. It was a great privilege and endowment of God, with many promises attached, which surely manifested and further confirmed that which had already been proclaimed in Genesis 15:6, that he was reckoned righteous in the sight of God (via the Covenant of Grace), and was considered a friend of God.

    God's giving him circumcision surely gave Abraham great assurance that he was interested in the covenant of grace. But all those circumcised thereafter where so used derivatively. That is to say, Abraham had no account to give for God's giving him circumcision, save that he was interested in the Covenant of Grace, whereas his descendants may account for their circumcision in this manner: that they were descendants of Abraham, and therefore ought to be so used on his account.

    Sorry for the late post, hopefully that was a helpful elaboration on the use of sealing in the Bible, and the often mangled Romans 4:11.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Would this be akin to when I would say that water baptism is the sign pointing towards the sealing by the Holy Spirit of that person already been baptized into Christ?
  7. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    From Thomas M'Crie's Lectures on Christian Baptism (very useful in general):

    "Be pleased, then, to mark the sense in which we understand the word seal as applied to baptism. The term is used in three senses in Scripture. The first is in the sense of security, as when a person seals a letter. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." (2 Tim. ii. 19.) The second is in the sense of distinction, as when a merchant puts his seal on his goods to appropriate and distinguish them. "In whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." (Eph. i. 13.) The third is in the sense of confirmation, as when a seal is affixed to a charter or bargain. "And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it." (Neh. ix. 38.)

    Now, in applying the term seal to the ordinance of baptism, it is not either in the first or second senses here noticed that we are to understand it. It is not used in the sense of securing the person, or of distinguishing him from others. Baptism is not an assurance of salvation to any, or a pledge of sonship. In this sense it is the Spirit alone that is the seal of God's people. It is in the third sense only, namely, in that of the confirmation of a deed, that we use the term in relation to baptism. It is the seal which God has been pleased to append to the charter of his covenant. It is not like the signet which Pharaoh put on the hand of Joseph as a badge of distinction, or like the ring put on the hand of the penitent prodigal in token of acceptance; it is rather like the signet by which King Ahasuerus sealed the letters which saved the Jews from destruction.

    Thus, while baptism viewed as a symbol has a relation to the grace of the covenant, viewed as a seal it stands related to the covenant itself. We must carefully distinguish between the grace of the covenant, and the covenant of grace. Baptism is the sign, but it is not, properly or directly, the seal of regeneration; it symbolizes the blessing, but it seals the covenant. By keeping this distinction in view, you will save yourselves from a world of confusion. By not attending to it our views have been sadly misrepresented.The distinction is very obvious. As a symbol, the ordinance addresses itself to the senses; as a seal, it appeals to faith. As a symbol, it is a badge of distinction from the world; as a seal, it stands related, not to the person, but to the covenant. A seal implies something spoken or written; and the design of baptism as a seal, is to confirm the faith of the Church in God's written Word, in his everlasting covenant with her. It is the visible pledge added to the verbal promise. And where is the inconsistency of supposing that God may ratify his word by an outward symbol? Has he not "confirmed his promise by an oath, that by two immutable things, wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation?" And why not also confirm it by a seal? All bonds and covenants are thus confirmed, and God never made a covenant yet without a seal. The tree of life was the seal of Adam's covenant, the rainbow was the seal of Noah's, circumcision was the seal of Abraham's, and baptism is the seal of Christ's.

    In accordance, therefore, with the very design of a sacrament, as well as with the uniform doctrine of the primitive church and of our reformers, we maintain that baptism is not merely a symbol of spiritual grace, but is the seal of God's holy covenant. And remember it is God's seal. It is not the baptizer's, nor the baptized's, but God's only. Its validity is independent of man's act. God delivers the promise signed and sealed, presenting it to all, and saying, "Here is my salvation: behold the seal of the King!" And there it stands, sealed and sure, whether we accept or reject it. "If we believe not, he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.""
  8. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    One is an inanimate object often found near roadways or other establishments/sites. The other is a creature most often found near water. The two may not be mutually exclusive in that it is possible for a sign to have an image/picture of a seal, and it is not entirely untenable that a seal could wear a sign. Hope this helps immeasurably.
  9. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Signs: Pictures
    Seals: Promises

    So sacraments = Tangible pictures of God's eternal promises of salvation
  10. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm not sure I understand the differences (perhaps because I have never sealed a charter or even know what that means).

    The second sense I can understand. You put a seal on a box or livestock to show the world that it is yours. He does say baptism does this "As a symbol, it is a badge of distinction from the world". But not as a "seal"??

    The first is like licking the envelope of a letter which secures the contents?

    The third is like signing a legal document? Meaning your signature represents the fact that you agree to the terms of what is in the document?
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    In the days before modern envelopes with their glue creating a closed-neat container, paper was simply folded to protect the contents and wax dribbled on the edge which drying/hardening held the paper closed. Typically that wax was pressed flat and impressed with the sender's mark. The closure itself was (like glue) a form of security for that which was sealed, but so was the mark if respected--as that of a king. None dare tamper with his seal and break it without authorization. Will not the Lord defend his honor?

    The same mark also puts the stamp of naming on various things; be it a manufacturer's name on goods denoting their quality and standing-behind the work, or a distinction of ownership, "This is mine, while that lacking my name is not." These words, "As a symbol, it is a badge of distinction from the world," describe the way baptism functions to the eyes of anyone, even an unbeliever. It cannot function ideally as a seal to one who does not have faith, hence does not respect the Name. But it does distinguish between have and have-not.

    I don't think this quite gets to the intent of "confirmation," as by a seal. If you have a graduation certificate, it typically bears some unique printing, it has signatures, it may even have a fancy "seal" (these days not often wax, but an embossed, gold-foil). What is the point of all that? Well, the school doesn't just give these away willy-nilly. The diploma is their pledge to honor any questions whether you have completed their requirements; in advance of which they have signed their names, and put the school's or the instructors' seal upon it. This is a guarantee that what the page says is their will.

    God's "signature," as it were, is not his agreement to terms. God lays down terms for others. He does express his purpose and intent, and offers confirmation and demonstrates his willingness to fulfill what he promises. His promise of blessing is conditioned upon one thing: faith. There can be no blessing which is not received from him by faith. It is quite literally a condition that is hardly a condition since it is productive of nothing: it is the condition of receptivity. Not only that, but it is a condition that the Giver supplies himself.
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • List
  12. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    Perfect. Thanks so much!
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page