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The "earnest of the Spirit" is a phrase unique to Paul in the New Testament. The Greek word ἀρραβῶνα is also rendered as "pledge" or "guarantee" in some translations.

From 2 Corinthians 1:

21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (KJV)

and Ephesians 1:

12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

(see also 2 Cor. 5:5)

I understand Paul is referring in Ephesians to the concept of a deposit on a purchase, but what exactly is the earnest of the Spirit? And is it a function of the Holy Ghost?

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In the year 1249 ad in England people used the word "earnest" in everyday language e.g. "From God's Penny as Earnest money" -"If anyone buy herring or other aforesaid goods and should give a God's penny or other silver in earnest, he shall pay the merchant from whom he bought the said goods according to the bargain made, without breach of contract or breach of the earnest".

An earnest was a first down payment which guaranteed the eventual completion of the deal. But not just a guarantee, as a first payment it was significant part of the whole.

The Holy Spirit as an earnest, "his Spirit in our hearts" 2 Cor 1:22, is a first "payment" and guarantee.

"payment"- first instalment of the good things to come.

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What is the earnest of the Spirit?

From 2 Corinthians 1

21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (KJV)

Other translations render it, " guarantee". "pledge", "down payment"

GOD'S WORD® Translation

In addition, he has put his seal [of ownership] on us and has given us the Spirit as his guarantee.

Weymouth New Testament

And He has also set His seal upon us, and has put His Spirit into our hearts as a pledge and foretaste of future blessing.

World English Bible

who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts.

Down payment:

Down payment of what is to come , spirit annointed Christians are conviced of their hope because of this pledge that they receive. What is their hope? Paul explains: ( 2 Cor 5:1-5 , 1 Cor 15:48-54 )

Their full pledge is immortality and an imperishable body in heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NASB

The Temporal and Eternal

5 For we know that if our [a]earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed, in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 since in fact after putting it on, we will not be found naked. 4 For indeed, we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a pledge.

1 Corinthians 15:48-54 NASB

48 As is the earthy one, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly one, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, [a]we will also bear the image of the heavenly.50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does [b]the perishable inherit [c]the imperishable. 51 Behold, I am telling you a [d]mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this [f]perishable must put on [g]the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this [h]perishable puts on [i]the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in

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In addition to Ozzie and Stroud's excellent answers. I show an etymology from https://www.google.com/search?q=earnest&rlz=1C1CHZL_enCA846CA846&oq=earnest&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

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