The Holy Spirit in II Corinthians

I am scheduled to teach this lesson tomorrow morning, March 7, 2021, at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri, where Mitchell Bland is pastor. The study guide below is taken from my newest book, The Holy Spirit: A Commentary. I plan to post the video of the lesson no later than March 8, 2021.

The Holy Spirit in II Corinthians

March 7, 2021

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

Twitter: @danielsegraves

[1] The first mention of the Spirit in this letter declares it is God who establishes believers in Christ, anoints them, seals them, and gives them the Spirit in their hearts as a guarantee (II Corinthians 1:21-22). This affirms the essentiality of the Spirit in the hearts of believers. Without it, there is no guarantee of the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives. (See II Corinthians 1:20.) The word translated “guarantee” (arrabōn) is rendered in a variety of ways in attempts to catch its subtle nuances: “earnest” (KJV); “first installment” (NAB); “pledge” (NAS); “down payment” (NIV). In the economic world, it refers to “the first or initial payment of money or assets, as a guarantee for the completion of a transaction or pledge.”[1]  It is used in the New Testament in reference “to the Holy Spirit as the pledge or guarantee of the blessings promised by God.”[2] The word appears also in II Corinthians 5:5 and in Ephesians 1:13-14. In Ephesians, it can be translated “you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit which he promised and which is the first installment of what we shall receive.” [3]

[2] Each key word in II Corinthians 1:21-22 deals with a specific aspect of the salvation experience. To be established in Christ is foundational. Without this, there is no foundation upon which to build. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

[3] To be anointed at the beginning of our spiritual journey is as essential for us as it was for Jesus, who, shortly after His return from His wilderness temptation in the power of the Spirit, said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me” (Luke 4:14, 18).

[4] To be sealed is necessary as a sign of authenticity and as a means of security. Paul used this term also in I Corinthians 9:2: “If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”[4]  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul had a similar idea in mind: “Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’ ” (II Timothy 2:19).

[5] Then, there is no reason to think that to have the Spirit in our hearts comes by any means other than Spirit baptism. As Paul expressed it in this same letter, “Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (II Corinthians 3:3). This resonates with the New Covenant promise of Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you.” (See also Ezekiel 11:19.)

[6] In II Corinthians 3:4-6, Paul prepared his readers for an extended comparison of the law of Moses with the New Covenant: “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The following description of the law of Moses, the old covenant, may shock with its negativity. It was a “ministry of death.” It was “passing away.” It was a “ministry of condemnation.” In comparison with the New Covenant, it had “no glory.” The eyes of those to whom it was given “were blinded.” For those who are not “in Christ,” there remains “until this day” a “veil . . . unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament.” (See II Corinthians 3:7-15.)

[7] But the good news is that “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:16-18). The last phrase can be translated “just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The context indicates that the Lord is none other than Christ.[5]

[8] In II Corinthians 6:4-10, Paul listed thirty-seven personal character qualities, events, life circumstances, and spiritual realities by which he commended himself as a minister of God. Fifteenth and sixteenth in this list are the Holy Spirit and sincere love. It was not unusual for Paul to link these two. (See Romans 5:5; 15:30; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 2:1-2.) Wherever love is found, the Spirit will be there.

[9] II Corinthians closes with a reference to the Holy Spirit: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Corinthians 13:14). Some see this as evidence of three persons in the Godhead, with grace being a characteristic of Jesus, love of God, and communion (or fellowship) of the Holy Spirit. We would not have to look far, however, the see these qualities associated differently.[6]  To suggest that a quality is more typical of the Lord Jesus Christ than of God or the Holy Spirit divides, separates, and fragments God.


  1. The Spirit is our seal of salvation and guarantee that God will keep every promise He has made to us.
  2. The law of Moses was a passing ministry of condemnation and death.
  3. The Lord is the Spirit.

Louw-Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 57.170.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See also II Corinthians 12:12.

[5] See the discussion in David K. Bernard, The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ: Deification of Jesus in Early Christian Discourse, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series, vol. 45, gen. ed. John Christopher Thomas (Blandford Forum, Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2016), 172.

[6] See, e.g., the association of God with grace (II Corinthians 1:12), Jesus with both love and fellowship (Ephesians 6:23; I Corinthians 1:19), and the Spirit with love (Galatians 5:22).