Down payment

When my wife and I first married — way back in 1978 — our first home together was a one-bedroom apartment in an urban area, one block off the main drag.  I loved that place.  There wasn’t much of a view, but the apartment was clean and spacious, and the rent was good (less than $200).  And most of all, it was all ours, hers and mine.

Except that, really, it wasn’t.

Not that we had an intrusive landlord.  But the simple fact was that while we lived in the building, we didn’t own it.  We would live in three more places before having the down payment for a house, and even then, only with my parents’ help.  And it would be one more move and many, many years before the mortgage was finally paid off and we owned our home free and clear.

The down payment signals to the lender that you are ready to take on the mortgage.  Buyers may even accompany their offer with a deposit of “earnest money” to show sellers that they’re serious.  Both the down payment and the deposit have the character of a hope-filled promise of fidelity, looking forward to the day in which the transaction will be complete.

It’s amazing to me to think that God makes that kind of promise to us:

God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ and who anointed us.  God also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.  (2 Cor 1:21-22, CEB)

As we’ve seen in previous posts, Paul has been responding to charges of capriciousness from the Corinthians.  He firmly insisted on his integrity, grounding the sincerity of his word in the Word, the gospel message.  His “Yes” would always mean yes, because Paul’s very life reflected God’s Yes to us in Jesus Christ.

And with that pronouncement, Paul reaches out to the Corinthians in the words above.  Instead of taking a defensive and adversarial posture –as I might if I were in his shoes! — he embraces them: People, listen to what we share in common as those who have received God’s Yes!

  • God continually makes us firm and secure in Christ;
  • God has anointed us (in English, Paul’s wording would be something like “Christ-ened”);
  • God has set his seal on us, marking us as royal possessions; 
  • God has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a down payment on the full promise of our destiny.

As a homeowner, I find that last one particularly striking.  In transactions between humans, the one who gives the down payment is in the less powerful position; anyone who’s ever had to sign a stack of mortgage documents without understanding their full meaning knows that feeling of risk.

But God, the one who establishes, anoints, and seals, also makes a gracious down payment on his promise: Here, let me show you that I mean business, that my promise can be trusted.

Why?  Because God is like that.  And he knows we need it.

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