THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RINGS AND THE BARS
What is the difference between the sealing of the Holy Spirit and the keeping of the unity of the Spirit? To receive the sealing of the Holy Spirit is easy. Once we believe, we have it. But to keep the unity of the Spirit is not as easy. After having it, we need to keep it. If I were to ask if you have the sealing of the Holy Spirit, you would answer, “Amen.” But are you keeping the unity of the Spirit? That is another matter. There may be three brothers who all believe in the Lord Jesus; therefore, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. But since they live together in the same house, they are fighting all the time. Do you think they are keeping the unity of the Spirit?
The Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians 1:13 in the past tense: “In Whom also believing, you were sealed.” This has already been accomplished. But in chapter four, he says, “Being diligent to keep the oneness of the Spirit.” They have something, yet they lack something. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, but they are short of being diligent to keep the oneness of the Spirit. Thus we see that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is an initial experience, but keeping the oneness of the Spirit is something of further growth and improvement. We all have the sealing of the Holy Spirit. This occurs at the beginning of our Christian life. It is without condition or terms, for it is an accomplished fact. But keeping the oneness of the Spirit depends upon certain conditions. You may have it, and I may not have it. I may have it now, but I may not have it later. You may have it today, but you may not have it tomorrow.
Keeping the oneness of the Spirit is a great improvement from the sealing of the Holy Spirit. It is still one Spirit, but in two stages. In the first stage of our Christian life, the Holy Spirit is the sealing Spirit. But we must go on from the first stage to the second in order to experience the Spirit of the uniting bars.
In the first stage, the Holy Spirit is just a ring. In ancient times, a ring was used as a seal. Even today some still use a ring as a seal. Every item of the tabernacle in Exodus has a spiritual meaning. The golden rings on the boards are a type of the sealing Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the golden ring that seals us. After we were saved, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.
This can be seen in the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15. “The father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand” (v. 22). The father put a robe on his son, which signifies Christ as his righteousness. But this is not all. He also put a ring on his hand. This is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given as a seal.
All the boards of the tabernacle had rings, but that alone could not unite them. They needed the uniting bars. Two brothers may be saved and have the sealing of the Holy Spirit, but they may still argue and always act independently of one another. They need lowliness and meekness, longsuffering, and forbearing of one another in love (Eph. 4:2). This cannot come from their humanity; it requires another kind of humanity. One version says “making allowances” in place of “forbearing one another.” This is why it is necessary to be diligent to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. If these two brothers go on from the first stage of the Spirit to the second, there will be some improvement. Not only will they have experienced the Holy Spirit as the golden rings, but they will also experience Him as the uniting bars. In the first stage, the Holy Spirit was just a ring, purely of gold; there was no wood. But in the second stage, something is added. There is not only gold, but also acacia wood. Instead of one element, there are now two. Hence, to keep the unity, we need the humanity of Jesus.
(Christ as the Reality, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)