by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 9 September 25, 2007 Lincolnton, N.C.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
1901 ASV Translation:
15 For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God:
I. The Witness of the Spirit.
A. This is declared to be a "witness" of Spirit to spirit.
c. References to another spirit: 8:15; 11:8; 12:11
2. In respect to Paul's references to his own spirit, in 1:9 he says that he serves God "with my spirit" in the Gospel and in our present text he says that "our" spirit is the recipient of the witness of God's Spirit.
a. This presents an interesting question: if Paul can serve God by means of his own spirit, what need did he have of the Holy Spirit? This question is a large question in that it raises the issue of why God gave His Spirit to men at all. If men are able to serve God out of the resources of their own bodies, souls, and spirits, what need had they of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Paul's associate, Luke the physician, wrote of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-6 that "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless." Now this was prior to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost so that we have to wonder: if Zacharias and Elizabeth could walk blamelessly before Pentecost, why can men not do so now also? And if they can do so now also, what was the point of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost? It is possible that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were empowered by the Spirit in the same way that David and Daniel and the judges of Israel and many others of that era were, but if they were, why the Pentecostal Gift? Jesus told His disciples on one occasion, "...He dwelleth with you and shall be in you..." (John 14:17) but that same apostle also said of Jesus' promise that living water would flow out of His disciples that "...this spake He of the Spirit Which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39).
b. There are some possible answers. First, it seems clear from Ephesians 2:2 that there is a "spirit" that is at work in "the sons of disobedience", which strongly implies that the human spirit is not at all fully responsible for all the evil that comes out of the "sons of disobedience", or there would be no need for that "spirit" who is also heavily involved. Second, there is a clear teaching in the Scriptures of demon possession that is a greater degree of spiritual proximity than that mentioned by Paul in the Ephesian text. Third, if it is true that there are varying degrees of a "spiritual unity of spirits" so that the evil spirit can work "in" all of the "sons of disobedience", but sometimes also "possesses" some of those "sons", it is also likely to be true that the Holy Spirit engaged in a relative "unity" with the spirits of believers that could be characterized in terms of "relative proximity" (He is in heaven; He is in the world; He dwells with you; He dwells in you). Fourth, the statement by John the Baptizer regarding Jesus the Christ that "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34) strongly implies that the "spiritual sharing that goes on between spirits" is a "measured" reality that shows up in Paul's comment in Romans 12:3 that humility arises from the recognition that God "measures" various measures of faith to His people so that some are capable of greater things than others are capable. Paul claimed a "superior" accomplishment, but hastened to give the credit to a more abundant measure of grace given to him (1 Corinthians 15:10). Thus, we can, perhaps, understand this: the Holy Spirit, in this present age, indwells all believers (Romans 8:9), but even the indwelling is not without barriers between Himself and the human spirits that also dwell in the bodies of the people. There is a closerproximity, but it is not an absoluteunity. The closer proximity is a significant step forward from the Old Testament era's "Spirit with spirit" typical reality (the common experience of the people of God), but it is still only a "firstfruits" fact that has not, as of the present, solved all of the problems of Sin (Romans 8:23). Now, if this be so, we can understand that Paul's claim to "serve God with his spirit" in Romans 1:4 was not a claim of his spirit's adequacy apart from God's Spirit's gracious input of power. The fall apparently "broke" something in the spirit of man that made the human spirit incapable of serving God ("they that are in the flesh cannot please God"), but redemption in the present time is a reunion of the Spirit of God with the human spirit tosomedegree so that service out of the human spirit can still happen as long as the "union" exists. This means that I will have to "adjust" my thinking that the Holy Spirit has replaced the human spirit intheproductionoftheLifeofJesus to the more biblical concept that the Spirit has joined Himself with the human spirit to notonlysupply what it lacks for that great calling and task, butalsotooverrule its continuing obstinacy that is the product of Adam's massive failure. This represents a move from the idea of a totaldestruction of the capability of good out of the human spirit to a rather significant brokenness of that capacity that makes it impossible to actually achieve goodness by itself but does not erase the possiblities if aid is given by God's Spirit. The Scriptures teach a concept of a "point of no return" for the spirits of men which implies a progressive development of dominion by Sin over the broken human spirit to a point where no aid can restore. By way of analogy, if a tractor can no longer pull a plow because a piston in the engine has shattered, the tractor is unusable for the task because of a total incapacity. But, all it takes to get the tractor back on line is an engine overhaul. But, if, after the piston shatters, the farmer allows the tractor to sit year after year, the processes of disintegration will eat away at it until the day will come when it is impossible to restore the tractor to usefulness (perhaps rust has eaten away too much metal so that the frame and other parts could not function because of weakness even if a brand new engine was installed). In the same way, Adam's transgression ruined man's ability to "plow for God" and if the Spirit of God is not reunited with him before the processes eat away too much, he moves beyond the "point of no return". This is "total depravity" but it is not "absolute depravity"..."total" in the sense that every aspect of man was involved in the fall, but not "absolute" in the sense that man is unrecoverable.
B. This is not explained in terms of the witness; it is simply observable after the fact.
1. The content of the witness is given: we are the children of God.
2. But what actually happens in the Spirit to spirit communication is only known by the results.
a. Paul wrote in 8:15 that "we are crying 'Abba' " as a result of the coming of the Spirit.
b. Paul now claims that there is an undercurrent of knowledge that we are the children of God. John also wrote of this reality in 1 John 3:34.
c. Jesus said that one of the characteristics of those born of the Spirit is that they would only be known by the results of His presence (John 3:8).
3. But there are difficulties...
a. The results in anyone's life are a mixed bag and that very reality raises the question of self deception (a.k.a. James 1:26) as well as the deception of others.
b. Also, 1 John 5:13 strongly implies that it is possible for a person to "believe" and not "know".
c. So, why did Paul raise the issue of the Spirit's witness to our spirit if it does not resolve anything certainly?
1) What is a "witness" if it does not lead to valid understanding?
2) Of what value is a "witness" if certainty is not the result?
3) In the flow of Paul's thought, he began the paragraph with the contrast between the reality of the deadness of this body and the reality of the Spirit as Life. From that beginning he moved to the promise that the indwelling Spirit of Resurrection Power would "make life" for the mortal bodies. Then he moved on to the reality of our indebtedness -- but not to the flesh because if we live after the flesh we die, but if we use the resurrection power to put to death the deeds of the fleshly focused body, we live. And from there he addresses certain actual actions of the Spirit: He leads the sons; He empowers the cry of Abba; and He bears witness together with our spirit as to our identity.
4) One thing is sure: there is no benefit to things that are to be believed to those who do not believe them. If a person does not believe the promise of forgiveness, he cannot have any confidence that he is forgiven. If a person does not believe in the resurrection power so that he counts on it and finds it sufficient to put to death the deeds of the body of flesh, he does not have any ability to put those deeds to death. If a person is fearful and unbelieving, yet professes to want what is only available to those who believe, he is setting forth an impossibility: he cannot be unbelieving and possess what is only given to those who believe.