It’s quite common to hear people talk about the Holy Spirit witnessing to them and telling them things they should be doing or even things they should not be doing. It’s not at all uncommon to hear someone tell of the Spirit’s message to them and have them go into great detail about what all was said on such occasions. It is worth questioning the whole concept of the Spirit’s witness in our lives. The classic Scripture from which to look at this topic is in Romans 8. In this chapter Paul is explaining the difference the Spirit of God makes in the life of the Christian In chapter 7 he talked abut the futility of trying to live right and do good on our own power. He described himself during that time as having the desire to do what is good, “but i cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:18-20) His agony came out in verses 24-25 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
In Romans 8 the turn around is powerful. It opens with “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” In verse 4 he introduces the power in us that makes the difference between the old way of life and the new life in Christ. “In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” In the next two verses he gives a clearer view of what is involved in living according to the Spirit. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” Living after the flesh leaves one fighting sin and Satan on their own power. That is about as effective as trying to get rid of darkness in a room by sweeping it out with a broom. We need the power of the Spirit to make it possible to for us to fulfill the requirements of the law of the Lord. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Vs. 7-8) But the reality is that as a Christian we aren’t living in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit, “if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Vs. 9)
As a part of the work the Spirit of God does in the Christian that gives us the ability and strength to live as God wants, the Spirit leads and witnesses with the Christian. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to Sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Sprit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Without the help of the Holy Spirit we are completely helpless in living the life God calls us to live. Among the things the Spirit clearly does to help us is that he leads us and witnesses with our spirit. His leadership leads us to be able to cry out to God as “Abba Father”. “Abba” was an Aramaic word that a child would have learned from their parents. It would have been comparable to a child calling his father, “daddy” or “da,da” or “papa”. It wasn’t a formal word but the normal word of a loving child for his or her dad. Our relationship with God is such that God’s Spirit doesn’t lead to our being slaves but children or sons of God.
Also, the Spirit testifies or witnesses WITH our spirit. It is hugely important that one see the word here used. He doesn’t say that the Spirit witnesses or testifies TO our spirit but WITH our spirit. Notice also what the Spirit of God is testifying with our spirit, “That we are God’s children.” The Spirit’s witness isn’t to tell us what to do in given situations. His Spirit witnesses with our spirit about our sonship, our relationship with the Father. This witness is one in which God’s Spirit testifies to us God’s will and our spirit witnesses back that we have followed the will of God.
Later in verses 26,27 Paul will declare that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. He then offered an illustration of such help. “We don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” The Spirit helps us with our weaknesses. Notice it isn’t by telling us what to pray. It is by interceding with God on our behalf. He gives wordless groans to God.
What stands out is the that the Spirit does indeed help us in living the life God calls on us to live. He leads us and witnesses with us. He helps our weaknesses according to the will of God. So, there is no doubt God sends His Spirit to be with, live in and help us in living right. So, how do I know if the witness I’m receiving is from the Holy Spirit or from some other spirit? In I John 3:24-4:1 John said, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.” In our next blog we will look at how to test the spirits to see if they are from God.