The Sealing of the Father
David E. West, Leicester
There are a few New Testament scriptures which refer to a ‘seal of God’ or to an object or a person sealed by God. Thus, for example, Paul makes mention of the seal of God in the context of foundational truth. He tells Timothy that false doctrines are being propagated and some men are seeking to ‘overthrow the faith’ of believers. However, Paul is able to offer encouragement, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his’, 2 Tim. 2. 19. A further example takes our thoughts on to the future when there is reference to a group of people, the 144,000 from Israel, who have the seal of God in their foreheads and thus His protection, during the great tribulation. As part of the fifth trumpet judgement, demonic locusts from the bottomless pit attack the people of the earth with ‘power, as the scorpions of the earth’, Rev. 9. 3, but ‘only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads’, v. 4; there is a divine limit placed upon these locusts.
However, there is only one reference to the sealing of the Father, ‘Labour . . . for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed’, John 6. 27.
In John chapter 6, we read first of the miracle [sign] of the feeding of ‘about five thousand’ men, v. 10; this is followed by the confession of these men, ‘This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world’, v. 14. However, the Lord Jesus, perceiving ‘that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king . . . departed . . . into a mountain’, v. 15. Meanwhile His disciples ‘entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum’, v. 17. When ‘it was now dark’, v. 17, ‘they see Jesus walking on the sea’, v. 19, the second sign of the chapter. ‘Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went’, v. 21. Was this the third miracle of the chapter?
‘The day following’, v. 22, ‘the people . . . came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus’, v. 24. ‘And when they had found him . . . they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?’ v. 25. The Lord Jesus did not answer their question, but rather He gave a word of rebuke, ‘Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled’, v. 26. These details give the background and the introduction to the key verse we are considering.
If, in verse 26, the Lord Jesus gives a rebuke, in verse 27 He gives an exhortation. ‘Labour not for the meat which perisheth’; perhaps ‘work not’ is a better rendering, for it clearly shows the verbal connection with the verses that follow, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ v. 28; ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent’, v. 29; ‘what dost thou work?’ v. 30.
Man consists not only of body, but of spirit and soul as well. There are two kinds of food: food for the body, necessary, but not the more important; food for the inner man, the spirit, which is essential. Satisfying one’s physical appetite is not the most important thing in life.
Our verse continues, ‘but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life’. The expression used here by Christ is a relative and comparative one. His meaning is ‘Labour for the latter rather than for the former’. The Lord is presenting a proper balance in motivation; men should be in real earnest over spiritual things, they should spare no pains to obtain that which supports, nourishes and strengthens the soul. The qualifying clause is ‘which the Son of man shall give unto you’. The Lord Jesus was not preaching salvation by works; such ‘food’ is obtained only from the Son of man. What the people needed was not material food, but life, and life is a gift. Food only sustains physical life, but the Lord Jesus gives eternal life.
Then we have the reason, ‘for him hath God the Father sealed’. The sealing here signifies the authentication, the commissioning with authority, of the Son of man, by God the Father, as the sole giver of eternal life. It is as ‘Son of man’ that He is said here to have been sealed, that is, as the Son of God incarnate. The Father has made Him known and approved Him on the occasion of His baptism, by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him and by the voice from the opened heaven, declaring Him to be His beloved Son, Matt. 3. 16, 17, and has confirmed Him to be the promised Messiah by the miraculous works He gave Him to perform.
How secure then is this gift of eternal life to those seeking and receiving this unperishable food!