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The Witness of the Spirit: An Overview

 

The Witness of the Spirit: An Overview

 

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1]  We are in bondage to sin, yet ignorant of it.  We are complacent in our sinnership, and simultaneously sincere in our goodness, humility, etc., naively thinking that our sincerity is sufficient before God.

2]  We are awakened to our predicament by any means God chooses, ultimately, however, being shocked through the law of God.  Herein we are made aware that (i) we have violated God’s law, and (ii) in violating his law we have violated God himself.

3]  We repent and believe the gospel.

4]  We seek the witness of our own spirit; i.e., we gain assurance of our life in Christ by deducing our spiritual vitality from the fruits of the Spirit we find in us.

5]  The testimony of God’s Spirit is qualitatively different.  Here God speaks to us directly as he “impresses” himself upon us so as to eclipse our indirect, inferential operation.

6]  This testimony of God’s Spirit is logically antecedent to the testimony of our spirit, and must be so or else the testimony of our spirit is finally a delusion, since the testimony of our  spirit is the deduction that we are holy, while we can rightly deduce this only if we are holy.

7]  The dialectic here is as follows:
(i)     God loves us.
(ii)    We are aware that God loves us with a pardoning love (mercy) only as God’s Spirit testifies to us of his mercy and our inclusion in it.
(iii)    We then love God.
(iv)    The ongoing dynamic reciprocity of God’s love for us and our swelling love for him issues in holiness of heart and life.
(v)     We become aware of God’s work of grace within us.

The key is #(ii).  This is the hinge on which there turns everything in the Christian life.  In the wake of #(ii), #(v) is legitimate — otherwise #(v) would be “enthusiasm.”

8]  The manner of the Spirit’s testimony can’t be explained even as the fact of it can’t be denied.

9]  The testimony is finally the joint testimony of the Spirit and our spirit.

10]  To safeguard ourselves against natural presumption and devilish delusion we must measure ourselves against Scripture.

11]  Ultimately, however, if we were left looking to Scripture only we’d have returned to an inferential operation.  Therefore the immediate witness of the Spirit is essential to our assurance.

 

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12]  Upon searching our hearts, we may conclude that we see only sin.

13]  Therefore the witness of the Spirit must assure us of justification or pardon rather than of fruit-bearing sanctity.

14]  The witness of the Spirit is essential to justification by faith, for without the witness of the Spirit we’d have no evidence of our justification, justification by works having been ruled out.

15]  The direct witness of the Spirit may be vivid while the witness of our spirit is slight.

16]  Not only residual sin but also trials may beset the Christian so that only the witness of the Spirit maintains our “filial confidence” in God.

17]  If we claim the witness of the Spirit without possessing the fruits of the Spirit we are fanatics (enthusiasts.)  If we claim to possess the fruits of the Spirit without the witness of the Spirit we are formalists.