The Witness of the Spirit

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
 that we are the children of God.” – Romans 8:16

Excerpted from Discourse by Eugene Burns

This doctrine is very important to God's people because on it depends to a considerable extent their possession of peace and assurance of faith.  If they lack this testimony of the Spirit, doubts and fears will assail them, and they will find themselves among those who sing the well-known hymn:  "'Tis a point I long to know--Oft it causes anxious thought:  Do I love the Lord or no?  Am I his or am I not?"

The misconceptions concerning the witness of the Spirit have led to much confusion and despair on the part of some.  They imagined that feelings and emotions of joy possessed  in the beginning when they first knew the Lord, were evidences of their sonship, and when, as it were, the "woes" of life overtook them and the first impulses of joy were lost in sorrow and disappointment, then uncertainties assailed the convictions of their sonship and acceptance with the Father.  Alas! they cry, "Where is the blessedness I knew, when first I found the Lord?"  Anyone who allows his feelings to affect his course in life, even from a worldly standpoint, can never gain stability enough to live a life of accomplishments.  One must persevere in what he has committed to do irrespective of feelings.

Can we imagine a Christian, with the great warfare before him, with the lofty heights to attain, and the path of self-sacrifice and death before him, allowing feelings to dampen his zeal or weaken his convictions?  No, there must be a more firm foundation than this.  The Christian must be guided by knowledge, that comes from a proper understanding of the Word of God; otherwise he will be an "on again, off again Finnegin."  All those who recognize that they have been drawn to the Lord, and who have faith in the atoning merit of Christ and who consecrated their all to God. may have the witness of the Word of God that they are accepted as sons, as probationary members of the church.  The anointing and seal of the Spirit which they have received is a witness to them of their sonship. There are many other scriptural factors which augment this witness.

 It is written, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:6, 7)  Every evidence of our Heavenly disciplining hand upon us is a testimony that we are his sons, and while "no chastening the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:  nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”  (Heb. 12:11)  We may not be able to rejoice in the chastening experience itself, but we may rejoice in the witness that it brings as a fresh evidence of our relationship to God.  When we remember God's statement, "As many love, I rebuke and chasten", we may take fresh confidence that we are still in the special love of the Father as long as we are being disciplined.  (Rev. 3:19)  Every experience, properly received, has a little note attached with it--if you look for it you will find it--it reads--"with love from the Father."

Employing the figure of a vine and its branches, the Master said, "I am the vine, and the branches” and "every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:  and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."  (John 15:5, As "branches  in the "vine" we are subjected to such experiences that tend to cut off tendencies to "wood-making", that is, all inclinations toward earthly attachments.  If find such 'purgings" being made in ourselves it becomes another evidence that we are children.  It is true that even the worldly people have hardships and difficulties which resemble those of the Lord’s people, but they cannot be considered marks of sonship, be-cause only those who have made a covenant with the Lord in consecration, are dealt with. Others may be profited by their adversities, to be sure, but may not view as a “witness" of their relationship as sons in the divine family.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."  (Gal. 5:23, 24)  To the extent that we find these graces in our hearts and as they increase in intensity and maturity we may know from this that the "Spirit" is strongly testifying that we are the "sons of God."  While we may never perfection in these graces so far as our actions are concerned, yet we should realize a richer and fuller possession of them as we progress in the way. And one day there come a ripeness and maturity to this "fruit of the Spirit” in our lives which will make for the inheritance promised all the faithful.  And such completion in these graces be sought as early in the Christian life as possible; there should be no procrastinating our part and no time or effort spared from so grand a work. This life is too short, is too long, to be otherwise minded.

Another vital "witness" is found when we are rejected and persecuted by our fellowmen for our insistence on preaching the message of truth. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake,  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.”  Those in whom the Word dwells richly must find expression of it by telling the glad tidings to others.  Whether men hear or forbear, they shall still feel impelled to preach and make known the divine plan far and wide.  Naturally the darkness hates the light and oppositions and persecutions will arise as they persevere in their ministry. But all such suffering and opposition brought about by a faithful proclamation of the truth is a “witness of the Spirit" reassuring such of son-ship and acceptance with God.  In that the very terms of discipleship entail suffering, it must follow that all those who "suffer" with him are his brethren and shall consequently "reign" with him.  (2 Tim. 2:12) Every sorrow and pain that results from a close following of the Master becomes a "witness" of sonship, and an incentive to greater faithfulness.

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."  (Col. 3:1, 2)  To the extent that we find ourselves spiritually minded, seeking those things which are above, we may know that the "Spirit" is witnessing, confirming not only our sonship, but our growth and progression as sons.  If we find an increasing desire for spiritual wisdom and understanding and a deeper knowledge of the truth, this is also an encouraging evidence to us.  The apostle says, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.   (Born. 8:6)  Hence, to be so minded should give us  great confidence with respect to the "great recompense of reward."--Heb. 10:35

There are many other witnesses of the Spirit, but greatest of these may be summed up in the word, love.  "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment (krisis, the church's trial time associated with the Lord's return) because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear."  (1 John 4:17, 18)  If our love has been perfected and we are free from fear, allowing only the sweet influence of love to guide and control in life's affairs, then we have one of the grandest testimonies which can be had, and should rejoice in our blessed position.

When once we divorce our relationship with the Lord from ephemeral emotions and place it on a surer foundation of understanding and knowledge, we are then better prepared for a more effectual walk in this narrow way that leads to life.  "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)"  Heb. 10:23

“. . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."--l Tim.  1:12