Witness Of The Spirit
The Holy Spirit
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God—Romans 8:16
By John Trzyna
No one is authorized to preach the gospel unless he receives this anointing of the spirit.”The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach” (Isa. 61:1).
Every ambassador of the Lord must first receive his share of the blessings of Pentecost.
The word “witness” (Rom. 8:16) is not the usual word which is translated into English as “witness.” The usual Greek word is martus or martureo, from which we obtain our word “martyr.” The word in our text is the Greek word summartureo, “to testify jointly,” “to corroborate by concurrent evidence,” “to confirm, to testify in support of someone or something.” “Someone” is the consecrated one. “something” is the evidence of the begetting of the holy Spirit.
In the early church, this witness was sometimes startling—manifested by a visual aid in the form of a cloven tongue of fire.
Certain gifts of the spirit were given for the purpose of speaking a foreign language, enabling the hearer to understand the message in his native tongue. Some gifts involved power to heal.
Miraculous gifts passed away when the apostles died, for such publicity was no longer necessary. The church was firmly established. Early in the age, these gifts became a stumbling block, and they have continued to stumble nominal Christianity ever since.
A More Quiet Witness
After the apostles and the early church fathers fell asleep in death, the witness of the holy Spirit was evidenced in a quiet, unseen, inward manner. “The Spirit . . . beareth witness with our spirit . . . we are the children of God.”
We Acquire an Advocate
The evidences of the operation of the holy Spirit are multiple. One is when an individual can verbally affirm his full consecration to God—his talents, time, influence, his life. Based on Hebrews 7:25, this is a witness that he is of the true Church “whose names are written in heaven.”
“He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott helps even more: “He is able to save completely those drawing near to God through him.”
This is consecration. Those desiring to return to God’s favor are shown the way. Symbolically, they are provided with a “robe,” the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, imputed to the spirit-begotten as a covering for their imperfections. In this verse, we find the entire intercessory work of an Advocate. The exalted and glorified Savior intercedes, using his merit.
We Become Fruit-Bearers
Another evidence of the spirit is fruit-bearing, character development. These outward indicators are called fruits and graces of the holy Spirit (II Peter 1:5-8): “Add to your faith virtue . . . knowledge . . . temperance . . . patience . . . godliness brotherly kindness . . . [love] . . . if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful.”
Notice the associated blessing (v. 11): “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.”
A maturing Christian will grow in various degrees. One should examine his own progress. If growth is evident, behold the witness of the spirit. If he has difficulty recognizing his own growth in Christ-likeness, another might be better able to recognize it. Thereby they could aid each other. Cultivating the fruits and graces of the spirit is necessary to maintain standing in the body of Christ.
Purging and Pruning
In the parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:2), the Church is represented as branches. Their steady growth is required. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: …every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
There is another lesson here in connection with another witness of the spirit. We abide in Christ if we grow as a branch on his vine. The Father prunes each branch to remove the dross of our characters. When we appreciate his purpose and grow in grace, this is another evidence of being a child of God.
“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”—Hebrews 12:6, 7
Chastening is difficult for us, but look at the results (v.11): “It yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
These pruning experiences are not the same with each son. Some need a parental glance. Others need repeated scourging.
We Sin Not
“Whosoever is born [begotten] of God sinneth not” (John 5:18). The Greek word “geneo” can be rendered “born” or “begotten,” depending on whether it is used with the masculine or feminine gender. Used in connection with God (v. 16), God generally being considered masculine, “geneo” should here be properly translated “begotten.” “Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not.”
Is it possible that one begotten of God sins not? The thought is that the spirit-begotten one may be overtaken in a fault or make an error in judgment. But he will not willingly transgress the Divine Law. Nor would the new mind delight in these sinful inclinations of the flesh. They would be detested by the new mind. A new will would delight in doing the Father’s will. It would cringe from opposing it.
The Norley translation renders 1John 5:18 “will not practice sin” rather than “sinneth not.”
The Hatred of the World
Our Lord was not of this world: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own” (John 15:18, 19).
If it is our experience to be hated by the world, the spirit of God witnesses with our spirit that we are his sons. Those with God’s mind have not the spirit of the world, in contrast to the minds in whom the spirit of the world has gained a foothold.
Most of our Lord’s persecutions came to him from the religious element (scribes, Pharisees, chief priests, doctors of the Law). Had he cooperated with them, he would not have been hated by them.
He could have avoided persecution if he would have remained silent concerning God’s truth. We should expect persecution to result from proclaiming the Truth.
The Power of Faith
Another witness of the spirit is found in I John 5:4: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world… this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Again, the word “born” should here be “begotten.” For “whosoever is begotten of God overcometh the world”—another indicator that we are out of harmony with worldly methods. But we have aid unseen, the heavenly things of God—in contrast to things seen, the unsatisfying things of this world. The value of things of this world diminish by the degree of our faith.
Setting a Standard
Another aid in overcoming is to set a standard—one that is in harmony with the Lord’s Word and out of harmony with the deteriorating ambitions of the world.
In 1 John, the expression “overcoming the world” indicates that “overcoming” requires activity, constantly striving—no compromise. John is positive that the victory that overcomes the world is faith. The spirit thus witnesses that an overcomer must walk by faith, not by sight.
Growing in the Lord
Another evidence of the spirit, that we are sons, is in our growth. Peter tells us (1 Peter 2:2): “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that ye may grow.”
Note the word “grow.” As one matures in the Truth, he desires something more than just milk.
“Everyone that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness .. . is a babe . . . strong meat belongeth to them . . . of full age.”—Hebrews 5:13, 14
By meat, Paul means the deeper truths of God. The spirit-begotten would not be satisfied with merely the milk. That would show little progress. Instead, they would seek ways of growing, ferreting out truths from God’s Word. Based on this fuller knowledge, they would develop a greater sufficiency of the spirit.
“If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Peter 1:8.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (vs. 10).
Growth is all-important, a witness of the spirit of God.
Proclaiming Our Testimony
A ninth witness—the holy Spirit witnesses through the words of Jesus: “Whosoever . . . shall be ashamed of me and of my words . . . of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed” (Mark 8:38).
Whose heart is tuned with the Lord and his Word will take delight to acknowledge Jesus as his Redeemer, Master, Teacher, always endeavoring to present this testimony to any hearing ear.
If any, having not this witness, is ashamed to confess Jesus’ name and to be identified with him and their brethren, the Lord will be ashamed of him. “I will deny [him] before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33).
One more witness of the spirit is knowledge—an important ingredient which Peter included in the fruits and graces of the spirit. The Apostle John agreed: “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
This promise of being guided in all truth was specially applicable to the apostles. Ultimately, it would reach the entire Church through them. The guidance concerned God’s plans. Truth would confound the “wisdom” of learned religionists. No eloquent error could withstand its logic.
Truth would fill the Church with enthusiasm—a desire to share the good tidings. Its knowledge would come upon them gradually, progressively, beginning with the foundation truths, firmly establishing them, then expanding into more difficult understandings. Their new spiritual mind would be nurtured on milk, but then they would require meat, and finally strong meat (Heb. 5:12)—the deeper ramifications of divine promise.
This is the progression that John referred to when he said, “[The holy Spirit] will guide you into all truth.”
The same apostle said,”Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things…the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you . . . the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth . . . even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:20,27).
Here is that same anointing, the holy Spirit. The apostle does not mean that the Church would have no need of human teachers. This would be in opposition to other scriptures which speak of pastors, teachers and overseers directing the church. Peter was pointing out that the church did not want teachers who would corrupt the truth with worldly philosophies. As long as the spirit abides in us, it serves against these sophistries.
Different witnesses of the spirit intertwine with each other. Knowledge is related to growth; growth brings forth activity and loyalty and faith. Overcoming is associated with faith. All of these evidences seem to apply concurrently and are dependent on each other.
The Holy Spirit In the Next Age
The holy Spirit will witness to the reconciled world of mankind in the next age. Its operation will be somewhat similar to its operation during this Gospel age; but it will be bless all. No longer will it be possessed by a few special servants and handmaidens. As Joel 2:28 states: “Afterward I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
The witness of the Spirit will no longer be with those who live godly and as a result suffer persecution, for no persecution will be permitted under the reign of the Mediator. The holy Spirit will no longer witness to a narrow way of sacrifice for a little flock, for the day of sacrificing will be past. The world will, instead, have a highway to traverse—one that will be free of any impediments. All obstructions that we encounter now will be removed. The spirit’s witness will be that of blessings to the well-doers. The punishment for willful sinners will eventually be that of destruction.
With this understanding of the holy Spirit, let us examine ourselves to recognize its absence or presence in our lives. If we find it to be present, let us nurture it conscientiously, joyously, and gratefully.