“who is the downpayment of our inheritance, into the redemption of his possession, to the praise of his glory.”
The classic definition of faith is found in Hebrews 1:11:
“And faith is the essence of that which is hoped for, the proof of things not seen.”
This is a definition which we have explored elsewhere and does not bear repeating here. The main idea that the author of Hebrews is driving home is that the faith given to us is part of the proof that God is working within our lives — proof to us and proof to the world. What follows, then, in Hebrews 11, is a series of examples from the lives of those with faith as to what that faith looks like when it is lived out in a believer’s life. One might summarize the chapter this way, “If you live boldly for God and for His Kingdom then it is an indication that you have faith and the faith that you have (as it comes from God) is that which affirms that you are genuinely a child of God.
Paul is alluding to that same idea here. Paul again, ties this idea of a downpayment (or earnest) with the notion of being sealed by the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and reminds us that this is once again a work of God in 2 Corinthians 5:5. Why a downpayment? That is simply because we will not understand the fullness of the sealing of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of our faith until we are glorified in the presence of our King and Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet, for now, God gives us a little taste of such things in this life through the faith we are given — and this is a big part of the assurance that we have.
Over the years as a minister, one of the questions that I have often fielded is that of assurance. “How can I know that I am saved?” people ask. Certainly, one of the places I go is to Romans 10 and ask, “Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead?” Then I ask, “Do you confess that Jesus is Lord of your life in word by action?” Assuming the answer is “yes” to both of these questions, then my response is to remind them of God’s promise that you will be saved. Remember, our salvation rests in God’s will and power and not in our own.
That said, people often want something that is more experiential in nature (not that a living testimony of Jesus’ Lordship is not experiential — it most certainly is!). So, in such cases, I remind them of this passage and of that in Hebrews 11:1. I ask, “Do you have faith?” If the answer is “yes,” then that faith comes from God himself and he has given it as a kind of “good-faith payment” to assure you that in the fullness of time, what he has begun in you he will make complete and whole. Though you see as through a mirror dimly now, you will one day see as if face to face. If you struggle with assurance of salvation, be encouraged by the faith you have, it is deposited in you by God as a sign that he will fully apply the payment worked by Christ on the cross and bring you eternally into his presence.