"The Spirit Beareth Witness"

Billy Boyd
Waukesha, Wis.

There is a need in the life of every person for a condition of confidence and assurance. The mental upheaval and f rustration which has become such a pressing problem in our age has resulted largely from a lack of assurance in different areas of life. Yet, there is no phase of life where assurance is more needed than in the religious. When a person's relationship with God is characterized by doubts, fears, and uncertainties, then his entire life will be unstable. James described such an individual in his epistle: "for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double minded man, unstable in all his ways."(Jas. 1:6-8). Conversely, if a person can approach God with confidence and boldness, his entire life will be filled with calm assurance.

God Gives Assurance

In his bountiful provisions for our lives, God has given us a means of obtaining boldness in his sight. We can have divine assurance that we are right with the Lord. Paul wrote in the Roman letter, "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." (Rom. 8:16). Being a child of God is not a "hit-or-miss" proposition where a person can never be sure. Instead, it is a matter about which one can have absolute knowledge. Paul spoke of his relationship with God in this confident tone: "for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day." (II Tim. 1:12).

The means of obtaining this confidence with God is revealed in the passage from Romans quoted above. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." Divine assurance results from a dual witness, the witness of God's Spirit and the witness of man's spirit. Both parts of this twofold testimony must take place if we are to have real assurance. It is entirely possible for a person to possess a feeling of confidence without having a divine basis for this feeling. Many people speak of a feeling which they have in their heart and they often state that they would rather have this feeling than everything which the Bible teaches. Those who base their confidence toward God upon a personal feeling such as this, have failed to understand the basis of divine assurance. Personal feelings involve only the testimony of man's spirit. If true boldness toward God were obtained in this manner, then the witness of the Holy Spirit would be eliminated.

The fallibility of human feelings should make it manifest that this is not the sole basis of confidence toward God. We find an example in the Old Testament of one who was deceived by his feelings. Jacob is the case in point. When his sons came to him with Joseph's coat which had been dipped in blood, he felt that Joseph was dead. He was so sincere in his feelings that he almost went down to his grave in mourning. The fact that Joseph was alive and safe in Egypt did not alter his feelings, nor did his feeling that Joseph was dead change the true status. It might be well to point out in passing that Jacob experienced the same emotional feelings as he would have if Joseph had really been dead. The testimony of Jacob's spirit was not sufficient to establish the true condition. Even so, man's personal feelings are not sufficient to produce genuine confidence toward God.

Spirit With Spirit

But someone responds by saying that this feeling in the heart results from an experience in which the Holy Spirit testifies to man that he is a child of God. However, this is a distortion of what Paul said. Such a condition would have Paul to say, "The Spirit himself beareth witness TO our spirit, that we are children of God," and this is just the way that many people read Rom. 8:16. If this were what Paul wrote, then again there would be only one witness, that of the Holy Spirit. But let us read the passage again. "The Spirit himself beareth witness WITH our spirit, that we are children of God." (Emphasis mine, B.B.) Possessing assurance that we are children of God must result from the twofold testimony of God's spirit and our spirit. God's Spirit does not testify TO us but WITH us.

There is nothing mysterious about this combined testimony of the Holy Spirit with the spirit of man. It comes about in a very logical and understandable m a n n e r. The Spirit of God, through the inspired writings of the New Testament, reveals to man God's plan of salvation with the conditions and commands of this plan. The Spirit's work in this respect is unerring and infallible. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth." (I Jn. 5:7). Jesus gave his apostles the promise of the Spirit's guidance. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come." (Jn. 16: 13). When the apostles of Christ revealed and recorded the terms of God's scheme of redemption, they did it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In this way the Spirit of God was bearing witness concerning the conditions of man becoming a child of God. Since the Spirit's witness is true, the conditions specified are unalterable.

The part which man's spirit places in this process is reciprocal. Since the Holy Spirit has revealed the terms of our becoming children of God, man's spirit testifies as to whether or not he has met these conditions. When the spirit of man can truly testify that he has complied with the commands of God's word, then the twofold testimony of God's Spirit and man's has taken place. We can see this dual testimony in action in the matter of faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit has testified that "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him," (Heb. 11: 6), and that those who believe on the name of Christ are given the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has provided abundant evidence to produce this required faith. "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." (Jn. 20:30, 31). Then man's spirit must testify as to whether or not he believes that Jesus is the Son of God. If he does, then the Spirit himself beareth witness with man's spirit on this particular point. The same principle applies to the other conditions of one's becoming a child of God. The Holy Spirit, in the word of God, testifies that man must repent (Lk. 13:3), confess the name of Christ (Rom. 1:9, 10, and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). When man's spirit can testify that he has met these conditions, then he has full assurance that he is a child of God. This assurance, which is based upon the combined witnessing of the Spirit of God and the spirit of man, is far superior to personal feelings and unexplainable experiences. It is the divine assurance in which one can know that he is a child of God.

The witnessing of God's Spirit with man's spirit does not cease when one becomes a child of God. Paul speaks of Christians being "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13), and of the "earnest of the Spirit" in the heart of Christians (II Cor. 1:22). To be sure, this is accomplished in its primary sense when one obeys the conditions of God's word and becomes a child of God. But the testimony of the Spirit is something t h a t continues throughout the life of the Christian and continues to give him confidence and assurance in his approach to God. Just as a person can know without a doubt when he becomes a child of God, he can know with equal certainty if and when he is continuing in God's favor. And the manner of obtaining this latter confidence is by the same method as the f ormer. Again, it must be the two-fold testimony of the Holy Spirit and man's spirit. In Gal. 5:16-18, we read: "But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other, that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Then after enumerating the works of the flesh, Paul writes: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering. kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof." (Gal. 5:22-24). From this scripture we would emphasize that the Holy Spirit testifies that a man's life must be filled with the fruits of the Spirit. If this is not true then he is not led by the Spirit of God. At the same time the Spirit testifies that a man must not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. When a man's spirit can truthfully testify that he has the fruits of the Spirit and that he is not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, then again God's Spirit bears witness with his spirit that he is a faithful child of God.

There is nothing that can bring us more spiritual comfort and joy than having divine assurance. This divine assurance can only come as a result of the combined testimony of the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. When we know that we have complied with God's conditions of pardon as witnessed by his Spirit, and that we are living daily in such a way as to manifest the fruits of the Spirit, then we have every right to approach God confidently and boldly. And with this confident approach toward God, there comes the "peace that passeth understanding." Our lives are stabilized and we have a joy that is unspeakable. May the Lord help us to search his word earnestly and apply it diligently that the testimony of God's Spirit with our spirit may become a reality.

Truth Magazine I:12, pp. 16-17, 27-28
September 1957