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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Welcome to HBS. It’s good to have you all back here again with open minds, open hearts, and open Bible’s, organized, and ready to search the Word of Truth - rightly divided. If you’re a new visitor, we’re pleased you took the time to drop by as well.
We’ve been away from the book of Romans for the past two lessons while we took a brief look at some of the roles of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and compared those with a few of His roles in the Church Age to see how they differed.
But now we’re back on track, as they say.
Please turn to Romans chapter 8 and we’ll drop in at verse 16.
16: The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are (truly) children of God,
There’s no denying that the Spirit does witness “to” a Believer’s spirit for this is what the verse says. However, what we are concerned with is the manner or mode in which the Spirit communicates with our Spirit.
There are two possible translations and arguments for this verse, meaning Bible scholars are divided on this issue. The favored view is: “with our spirit” – the associative view. Most Bible translations adopt this view. Thus the reading “with our spirit” is found in the AV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, HCSB, NIV, TNIV, JB, and NJB.
The other argument or view is this translation, “to our spirit” – the indirect object view. Most English translations do not support this argument but the Vulgate and Luther’s Bible do support it.
In addition, several notable scholars adopt this view, such as Luther, Calvin, Leenhardt, Godet, Hodge, Strathman, Morris, Murray, and Cranfield. This view is well represented by the older reformed works than more recent writers.
I believe the indirect object view is the proper translation based on my study of Scripture. Permit me to guide you to a passage in the book of Hebrews that looks as if it was lifted right from Romans 8:16.
15: And the Holy Spirit also testified (affirmed) to us; (and not with us).
As you can see, this passage says the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit.
Therefore, Romans 8:16 should read: “The Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are children of God,”
There are examples of the Holy Spirit witnessing “to our spirit” in the New Testament and we’ll look at a couple of these as a starting point.
Let’s revisit Hebrews, chapter 10 and we’ll complete the Bible message.
15: And the Holy Spirit also testified (affirmed) to us; for after saying,
16: “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”
He then says,
17: “AND THEIR SINS AND THE LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
This is an authentic example of the Holy Spirit witnessing to the author of Hebrews.
You’ll note, the Spirit did not witness “in” him but “to” him.
You’ll also note that this witness had nothing to do with inward feelings or emotions.
In other words, the Holy Spirit’s witness did not consist of anything that the author felt or thought but was composed entirely of what the Spirit of God had said.
The Holy Spirit lives in us, teaches us, guides us through God’s Word and convinces us of its truths. He does this by communicating to our spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; John 14: 16-17; Romans 8:14). Permit me to illustrate.
I had a platonic friendship with a woman many years ago. We weren’t BFF’s but we attended social events together. We were members of the same church. Our friendship was solid, meaning we could talk about anything and we did for hours. One day she confided in me that she was a lesbian and pregnant.
The child wasn’t the result of a previous marriage and the baby wasn’t the result of her “sleeping around.” The pregnancy had been achieved through artificial insemination. Her significant other left her months earlier for someone else so she was on her own.
About 3 weeks later her child was born premature and only lived a couple of days.
I wasn’t present the night her baby passed away but I helped her plan the funeral.
The majority of her “friends” did not bother to attend the memorial service. Their absence confused her and made the situation worse. She had no family in the area. She was alone, so I sat with her during the ceremony and remained by her side the rest of the day…and we talked about many things.
She wrestled with the issue of homosexuality, in tears, during our conversations.
She called herself a Christian but I knew her faith was “fragile” (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 1:23). In trust, she asked my opinion on the subject. Because I was her friend, I responded truthfully – right from the Bible.
Afterwards she said, “I know in my heart that God loves me. He made me this way, and God doesn’t make junk… I’m going to heaven when I die.”
I pray you can see her reaction was based solely on her feelings.
I told her I believe it’s all or nothing when it comes to trusting in what God has revealed to us in His Word. In short, you can’t treat the Bible as if it were a menu, selecting only those items from it that you can agree with and ignoring the rest.
She didn’t agree with me or more importantly she disagreed with God. This leads me to say my friend’s without faith. She had her own belief system. Therefore, the Holy Spirit did not dwell within her (Romans 8:5-9).
What does this book say?
6: Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father.”
9: However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
Like the majority of the world’s population she too is unable to perceive the truth (Jeremiah 5: 1-22; Zechariah 6: 11-12; John 3:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
The true witness of the Holy Spirit, is not dependent on something as wild and variable as our emotions, but on that which is intentioned and unchanging; i.e. the Word of God.
The Word became flesh… Jesus came to the earth, not to replace God the Father, but to reveal Him to the world (John 3:16). Jesus said the words I speak are not My own (John 12:49), but His that sent Me. The Holy Spirit has come down, not to replace the Son, but to bear witness to Him. Jesus Christ said He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9). He who has heard the Spirit’s voice has received both the Father and the Son (John 13:20).
If you have indeed “heard” the Spirit’s voice witnessing to your spirit, if you have believed the gospel, and obeyed it - this was accomplished through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).
Faith comes by “hearing” and it is by the hearing of faith that the Spirit of God is received (Galatians 3:2).
As I said earlier, it’s the manner or mode of communication between the Holy Spirit and our spirit that we are concerned with here. The line of communication was not open between my friend’s spirit and the Holy Spirit because she was not a believer.
The Spirit of God did not dwell within her; she was not a “child of God.”
Let’s visit the next example which is the Holy Spirit witnessing to Paul’s spirit.
23: except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.
Here again the witness of the Holy Spirit consisted of a spoken message.
Paul did not name the person(s) who delivered these messages to him, in each of the cities where the witnessing occurred, but we have one incidence recorded for us in Scripture of how it was done. It took place at Caesarea.
10: As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11: And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’
Once again, the Holy Spirit did not witness “in” Paul but “to” him and not by the use of feelings, or emotions. The Holy Spirit came to Paul through the spoken word; plainly identified as not being the words of Agabus the prophet but rather the words of the Holy Spirit Himself. Agabus said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says…”
Now it’s time to flip back to Romans 8:16. The following question begs an answer:
How does the Holy Spirit bear witness to our spirit that we are children of God?
The fact that the Holy Spirit witnesses to our spirit is not a mystery, the Bible tells us this. But the manner in which this communication occurs is a profound Bible mystery.
The existence of the Holy Spirit in the Believer and His inner witness to our spirit is a Bible truth we accept on faith; it’s something that we know (it’s instinctive) even though we don’t know how it works like the peace from God that surpasses all understanding. These are elements of our faith that may not be practical or verifiable from an unbeliever’s perspective but this makes them no less true. I don’t know how gravity works either but I know it works, so I accept it on faith alone without all the details.
The Holy Spirit gives witness to my spirit that I am a child of God and for me this is “instinctive.” This is something “I know.” I rest in this. Since I didn’t receive an e-mail, a phone call, or a note to verify this fact then it is outside the realm of that which is objectively verifiable. But this doesn’t make it any less true.
I think it’s time for an illustration.
Have you ever been in love? If you have, then at one time you “fell in love.”
What scientific means did you apply to verify the state or condition of your heart?
I would guess, none. As every mother has told her child, when asked, “You just know.”
No one challenges your statement, “I’m in love,” because there are no scientific means to do so. No one brings you to a laboratory to determine whether or not you’re in love.
Where do they begin? How do you prove or disprove this condition?
However, the individual who is in love “knows” in their heart that they’re in love.
Now, at some point during this experience, a step of faith is involved; doubt is cast aside and you trust in the evidence at hand. You see, you can’t prove you’re in love either. It’s purely instinctive. “You just know.”
You can’t prove scientifically that the Holy Spirit dwells within you either.
Where do you begin? His presence can’t be determined with an x-ray, CT-scan, or fluoroscope. However, Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit is “intimately” involved with Believers today.
There is evidence that you as a Believer can recognize (John 14:17). For example:
Now that you’re a Believer are you more aware of sin and its damaging effects?
When you do sin, are you nonchalant about it or does the Spirit convict you of it?
Have you dropped sinful habits all together because the Spirit has led you to do so?
Here’s further evidence that the Spirit of God exists and dwells within Believers:
The indwelling Spirit of God comes to a soul dead in sin and creates new life (Titus 3:5).
The indwelling Spirit confirms to the Believer that they are a child of God and a fellow-heir with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:15-17).
The indwelling Holy Spirit baptizes the new Believer into the Body of Christ
(1 Corinthians 12:13).
The indwelling Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts (God-given abilities) to Believers for service to edify the church and to serve the Lord effectively (1 Corinthians 12:11).
The indwelling Spirit empowers the Believer to understand the Scripture and helps them apply its teachings to their daily life (1 Corinthians 2:12).
The Spirit of God intercedes in the Believer’s prayer life (Romans 8:26-27).
The Spirit empowers the Believer to live for Christ Jesus and to do His will (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Spirit of God is grieved when the Believer sins (Ephesians 4:30).
The Spirit of God seals the Believer until the Day of Redemption so that the Believer’s arrival in the Lord’s presence is guaranteed after this life (Ephesians 1:13-14).
These are truths that we “just know.” Not only does the Bible teach on this, but we know “instinctively” these things are so because the Holy Spirit bears witness (communicates) to our spirit that all these gifts are ours and from the Father.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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