“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.” - (John 14:26- World English Bible Version)
“And we are His witnesses of these sayings, and the Holy Spirit also, whom God gave to those obeying him” (Acts 5:32, YLT).
PROFFER: When Acts 5:32 is interpreted correctly, we can understand the significance of Romans 8. The Holy Spirit in the NT performs as Witness. He does this by divinely guiding the apostles in their witness, so that the NT Scriptures are inerrantly inspired.
Acts 5:32 emphasizes the power of the witness of the Holy Spirit with the witnessing of the apostles. John 14:26 assures the apostles of accurate recall.
We should rejoice and be glad to have the New Testament which is a record with the testimony of those that lived with Jesus and were taught directly by Him. That is, we can read the book and say, “Now these were people that are writing about what they saw and heard.” However, it is important to recognize that the New Testament is not just a book of human beings’ memories. It is more than that. It has the guarantee of the Holy Spirit’s backing that the teaching is true and is an inerrant witness.
Thankfully God has furnished an infallible witness, His Holy Spirit, to guide and back up the apostles in their thinking, their testimony, their witness, and their memory (Acts 5:32). Hence, for us to hear Peter or Paul is to hear the Holy Spirit, too. In fact, in order to hear the witness of the Holy Spirit we must give hear the apostles (and prophets).
EYE WITNESS TESTIMONY UNDER DOUBTFUL SCRUTINY
Social scientists have concluded that eye-witness testimony is unreliable.
It isn’t enough to say that a witness is saying what he saw and heard. Or, that he’s an honest and reliable person.
“Since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing had been based on eyewitness testimony.”i Now DNA testing has become a salvation to innocently accused victims. Eyewitness accounts are flawed by the very nature of man. The act of remembering, says eminent memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, is ‘more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a video recording.’ Even questioning by a lawyer can alter the witness’s testimony because fragments of the memory may unknowingly be combined with information provided by the questioner, leading to inaccurate recall.”ii
The Law of Moses recognized the shortcomings of eyewitness from natural men and therefore required more than one witness in an accusation. The Jewish court historically interrogated witnesses separately in order to get a consensus.iii This rule is why we can be certain that accusations against Jesus are not suspect; i.e., because the witnesses did not agree. “But neither so did their witness agree together” (Mark 14:59, cf. v. 55).
God has provided a guarantee of witness.
TWO MAJOR WITNESSES FOR US
“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
There are two major witnesses in this passage as to whether we are children of God in the text.
The text implies subordinate questions, such as, “Am I a child of God? What constitutes a child of God? What evidence do I have that I match that child?”
To summarize it, if I can learn with certainty what a man must do and be, in order to be adopted into the family of God, and then ascertain, with equal certainty, that what I have done and what I am, the question is settled. If what I am, and what a child of God is, are the same, then I am certainly a child of God. If they are different, then I am certainly not a child of God, and there is no doubt about the matter either way.”iv
Each of our questions must satisfactorily be settled by evidence, and the evidence is supplied by two witnesses: the Holy Spirit and us.
The First Witness In Romans 8:16.
The first witness on whether we are children of God or not must be the Holy Spirit. Man cannot conjure up a suitable and adequate answer.
The Spirit of God is the only competent witness who can tell us what identifies a child of God. God determines who His child is. Now, "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God," and "the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2).
How do we obtain the Spirit’s witness? We have concluded from John 14-16 and Acts 5:32 that the Spirit is given directly only to the apostles. The Spirit is not given to us in that manner. Should we not go to the bearer of the Holy Spirit’s witness?
We are assured by the apostle Peter that the Holy Spirit witnesses with and by them in the words (“things”- rhema, words, Acts 5:32; compare to the 10 commandments Deuteronomy 4:13, “ten words, rhema”). The apostle Paul adds in 1 Corinthians 2 that the apostles had received the Holy Spirit directly thereby giving assurance that their words are absolute and from God.
The Second Witness In Romans 8:16.
Some would read this passage as "The Spirit itself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God." This is not what it says. This interpretation would make but one witness, the Holy Spirit.
The second witness in the text is your own spirit. "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit." This is an exact translation of the Greek. Your spirit is the only witness who can tell you, with certainty, whether you have believed with all the heart what the Spirit witnesses, or whether you have really, through sorrow for sin, turned away from it. Your own soul must testify for itself.
Your Spirit Must Examine Yourself.
“(You) Try your own selves, whether ye are in the faith; prove your own selves. Or know ye not as to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed ye be reprobate" (2 Corinthians 13:5). “Try” πειράζωG3985; Strong’s: “test: endeavor, scrutinize.” The Corinthian Christians were to emphatically test/witness whether they were in “the faith” (Jude 3; Ephesians 2:8).
Source of First Witness.
What yard stick were they to use except it be with the standard revealed by the Holy Spirit? This standard is the Spirit's testimony given to and through the witness of the apostles and prophets, oral or written (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The disciples at Corinth were well acquainted with the standard available to them. “The Faith”: “And my (apostle’s) speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. That your faith (Greek, the faith of yours) should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5). The apostle in this context emphasizes God giving the Spirit directly to him.
The standard of test was not mere men’s preaching of words but the preaching of the Faith of words given by the Spirit and power of God; i.e., ability given the preacher of God.
An Example Of Exchange Of Testimony
When the Holy Spirit testified to Peter what God would accept to make one His child, he could not doubt it; and when he honestly inquired of his own spirit what his own character was, he could not doubt the answer that was given. When these two characters agree, to doubt that you are a child of God is to doubt either your own consciousness, or the words of the Holy Spirit. Peter was confident that he had the testimony of God by the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit in the NT performs as Witness. He witnesses with and through the apostles selected by Jesus. The apostles are divinely guided in their witness so that the NT Scriptures are inerrantly inspired just like the Old Testament prophets (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
The Testimony of the Holy Spirit About “Child of God.”v
1. The Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, testifies that men who meet certain changes, and maintain a certain character, are children of God.
2. In spite of modern theories you will find no believer in the inspiration of the Scriptures who will deny that the Spirit does thus testify, or who will affirm that he communicates ideas on this subject in any other way.
3. And when you come to the details of the testimony itself--whatever may be men's theories of conversion--you will find few to deny that the man who believes with all his heart in the Lord Jesus Christ, who really repents of his sins, and who is really baptized, becomes a child of God. Some will insist that baptism is no part of the process;
4. But none would probably deny that the true believer, when truly penitent and truly baptized, is a child of God. Here, then, we have the unquestioned testimony of the Spirit describing a certain character, who, unquestionably, becomes a child of God. But, when a man has heard this testimony of the Spirit of God, it is left up to him (his spirit) to judge whether he himself is, or is not, a child of God.
- Gaylon West
Throw Out the Lifeline
Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:
i “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts”
iv John William (J. W.) McGarvey (March 1, 1829 – October 6, 1911) was a minister, author, and religious educator in the American Restoration Movement.