The Spirit Witnessing
The Holy Spirit is first a witness for Christ, and then He is a witness to His people of Christ’s infinite love and the sufficiency of His finished work. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify (bear witness) of Me" (John 15:26). The Spirit bears His testimony for Christ in the Scriptures; He bears His testimony to us in our renewed minds. He is a Witness for the Lord Jesus by all that is revealed in the Sacred Volume concerning Him. He bears witness to the abiding efficacy of Christ’s offering: that sin is effectually put away thereby, that the Father hath accepted it, that the elect are forever perfected thereby, and that pardon of sins is the fruit of Christ’s oblation.
The sufficiency of the Spirit to be Witness for Christ unto His people appears first, from His being a Divine Person; second, from His being present when the Everlasting Covenant was drawn up; third, from His perfect knowledge of the identity of each member of the election of grace. When the ordained hour strikes for each one to be quickened by Him, He capacitates the soul to receive a spiritual knowledge of Christ. He shines upon the Scriptures of Truth and into the renewed mind. He enables the one born again to receive into his heart the Father’s record concerning His beloved Son, and to give full credit to it. He enables him to realize that the Father is everlastingly well pleased with every one who is satisfied with the Person, righteousness, and atonement of His co-equal Son, and who rests his entire hope and salvation thereon. Thereby He assures him of the Father’s acceptance of him in the Beloved.
Objective and Subjective Witness
Now the Spirit is a Witness unto God’s people both objectively and subjectively: that is to say, He bears witness to them, and He also bears witness in them—such is His wondrous grace toward them. His witness to them is in and through and by means of the Scriptures. "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a Witness to us" (Heb. 10:14, 15), which is explained in what immediately follows. A quotation is made from the Prophet Jeremiah, who had spoken as he was moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). The Lord declares of His people "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). Whereupon the Holy Spirit points out, "Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (v. 18). Thus does He witness to us, through the Word, of the sufficiency and finality of Christ’s one offering.
But something more is still required by God’s needy people, for they are the subjects of many fears, and Satan frequently attacks their faith. It is not that they have any doubt about the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, or the unerring reliability of every thing recorded therein. Nor is it that they are disposed for a moment to call into question the infinite sufficiency and abiding efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. No—that which occasions them such deep concern is, whether they have a saving interest therein. They are aware that there is a faith (such as the demons have—James 2:19) which obtains no salvation. They perceive that the faith of which many empty professors boast so loudly is not evidenced by their works. And they discover so much in themselves that appears to be altogether incompatible with their being new creatures in Christ, until they often fear their own conversion was but a delusion after all.
When an honest soul contemplates the amazing greatness of the honor and the stupendousness of the relation of regarding itself as a joint-heir with Christ, it is startled and staggered. What, me a child of God! God my Father! Who am Ito be thus exalted into the Divine favor? Surely it cannot be so. When I consider my fearful sinfulness and unworthiness, the awful depravity of my heart, the carnality of my mind, such rebellion of will, so prone to evil every moment, and such glaring flaws in all I undertake—surely I cannot have been made a partaker of the Divine nature. It seems impossible; and Satan is ever ready to assure me that I am not God’s child. If the reader be a stranger to such tormenting fears, we sincerely pity him.
But if his experience tallies with what we have just described, he will see how indispensable it is that the Holy Spirit should hear witness to him within.
But there are some who say that it is a sin for the Christian to question his acceptance with God because he is still so depraved, or to doubt his salvation because he can perceive little or no holiness within. They say that such doubting is to call God’s Truth and faithfulness into question, for He has assured us of His love and His readiness to save all who believe in His Son.
They affirm it is not our duty to examine our hearts, that we shall never obtain any assurance by so doing; that we must look to Christ alone, and rest on His naked Word. But does not Scripture say, "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world" (2 Cor. 1:12)? And again we are told, "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him" (1 John 3:18, 19).
Doubting and Professing Christians
But it is insisted that Scripture forbids all doubting: "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matthew 14:31). Yes, but Christ was not there blaming Peter for doubting his spiritual state, but for fearing he would be drowned. Yet Christ "upbraided them with their unbelief’ (Mark 16:14): true, for not believing He was risen from the dead—not for calling into question their regeneration! But Abraham is commended because "against hope (all appearances) he "believed in hope" (Rom. 4:18): yes, and that was that he should have a son!—how is that relevant to what we are now discussing? But "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7): yes, the conduct of the Apostles was governed by a realization of that which is to come (see v. 11). But "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23): but this is nothing to the purpose; if a man does not believe it is right to do some act, and yet ventures to do it, he sins.
Let us define more closely the point now under discussion. We may state it thus: Does God require anyone to believe he has been born again when he has no clear evidence that such is the case? Surely the question answers itself: the God of Truth never asks anyone to believe a lie. If my sins have not been pardoned, then the more firmly convinced I am that theyhave been, the worse for me; and very ready is Satan to second me in my self-deception! The Devil would have me assured that all is well with me, without a diligent search and thorough examination for sufficient evidence that I am a new creature in Christ. O how many he is deceiving by making them believe it is wrong to challenge their profession and put their hearts to a real trial!
True, it is a sin for a real Christian so to live that his evidences of regeneration are not clear; but it is no sin for him to be honest and impartial, or to doubt when, in fact, his evidences arenot clear. It is sin to darken my evidences, but it is no sin to discover that they are darkened. It is a sin for a man, by rioting and drunkenness, to make himself ill; but it is no sin to feel he is sick, if there be grounds for it, to doubt if he will survive his sickness. Our sins bring upon us inward calamities as well as outward, but these are chastisements rather than sins. It is the Christian’s sin which lays the foundation for doubts, which occasions them; yet those doubtings are not themselves sins.
But it will be said, Believers are exhorted to "hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6) and that "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (v. 14). Yes, but that "confidence" is that Jesus is the Christ, together with a true faith in Him, as is clear from the whole context there. Nothing is more absurd than to say that professing Christians are made partakers of Christ by holding fast the confidence that they are saved, for that is what many a deceived soul does, and does to the very end (Matthew 7:22). There can be no well-grounded confidence unless it rests upon clear evidence or reliable testimony. And for that, there must be not only "the answer of a good conscience" (1 Pet. 3:21), but the confirmatory witness of the Spirit.
The Office of Witness
The Holy Spirit who dwells in Christ, the great and eternal Head of His people, dwells also in all the living members of His mystical Body, to conform them to Him and to make them like Him in their measure. He it is who takes possession of every quickened soul, dwelling in them as the Spirit of life, of grace, of holiness, of consolation, of glory. He who made them alive in the Lord, now makes them alive to the Lord. He gives them to know the Father in the Son, and their union with Christ. He leads them into communion with the Father and the Son, and fulfills all the good pleasure of His will in them and the work of faith with power (2 Thess. 1:11). In the carrying on of His "good work" in the soul—commenced in regeneration, and manifested in conversion to the Lord—the Spirit is pleased to act and perform the office of Witness: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16).
Now the office of a "witness" is to bear testimony or supply evidence for the purpose of adducing proof. The first time this term occurs is in the Epistle to the Romans in 2:15, "Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing." The reference is to the Heathen: though they had not received from God a written revelation (like the Jews had), nevertheless, they were His creatures, responsible creatures, subject to His authority, and will yet be judged by Him. The grounds upon which God holds them accountable are, first, the revelation which He has given them of Himself in creation, which renders them "without excuse" (Rom. 1:19, 20); and second, the work of His Law written in their hearts, that is, their rationality or "the light of nature." But not only do their moral instincts instruct them in the difference between right and wrong, and warn them of a future day of reckoning, but their conscience also bears witness—it is a Divine monitor within, supplying evidence that God is their Governor and Judge.
But while the Christian ever remains a creature accountable to his Maker and Ruler, he is also a child of God, and, normally (that is, while he is sincerely endeavoring to walk as such), his renewed conscience bears witness to—supplies evidence of—the fact. We say "renewed conscience," for the Christian has been renewed throughout the whole of his inner man. The genuine Christian is able to say, "We trust we have a good conscience, in all thingswilling to live honestly" (Heb. 13:18)—the bent of his heart is for God and obedience to Him. Not only is there a desire to please God, but there are answerable endeavors: "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and men" (Acts 24:16). When these endeavors are carried on there is inward assurance of our state: "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience" (2 Cor. 1:12).
Thus, the Christian’s sincerity is evidenced by his conscience. It is true that there is also "another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin" (Rom. 7:23); yet that is his grief, and not his joy; his burden and not his satisfaction. It is true that "to will is present with him; but how to perform that which is good (how to attain unto what he ardently desires and prays for) he finds not." Yea, the good that he loves to do, he often does not; and the evil which he hates, he often falls into (Rom. 7:18, 19). Even so; yet, blameworthy and lamentable though such things are, it in no way alters the fact that the one whose experience it is, can call God Himself to witness that he wishes with all his heart it were otherwise; and his own conscience testifies to his sincerity in expressing such a desire. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Spirit Witnessing")