How Does the Holy Spirit Witness Today?
Roger D. Campbell
Many people are convinced that the Holy Spirit speaks to them and testifies to them. Count me in, because I am one of those folks. Yes, the Spirit of God speaks to me and bears witness to me. That the Spirit talks and testifies is an undeniable biblical fact. The question which we must address, though, is how does He do it?
On the night before Jesus’ death when He was gathered with His apostles in an upper room in Jerusalem, He told them, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26,27). Jesus went on to tell the apostles, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13,14).
We would make these observations from the above statements about the Holy Spirit. First, the Christ promised that the Comforter would testify of Him (Jesus). Second, according to Jesus, the Holy Spirit would not glorify Himself, but would glorify Jesus. Third, the promise of the Comforter miraculously guiding someone into all truth was not given to every person in the world, nor was it even made to every follower of the Christ. Rather, it was a special promise made to a specific group of people — the apostles of Jesus.
When the apostles testified in the first century, of what were they witnessing? On the Day of Pentecost they witnessed the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:32). At the temple, John and Peter testified of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 3:15). In Jerusalem, the apostles gave witness of our Lord’s resurrection (Acts 4:33). In Acts 5 we read that both the apostles and Holy Spirit bore witness in Jerusalem of Jesus’ death and resurrection (5:30-32). The apostles were simply telling of what they had seen and heard. They were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death, then later saw and heard Him after He rose from the dead.
How was the Holy Spirit testifying in the first century? He was not going to and fro and whispering in the ears of lost people, “Jesus is Lord.” Make no mistake about it, the Holy Spirit got the message out about Jesus’ death, Jesus’ victorious exit from the tomb, and Jesus’’ instructions about what to do in order to be saved. But, the Holy Spirit did not give witness of such matters by speaking directly to lost people.
The Holy Spirit gave witness to Jesus and glorified Jesus through the message that He (the Spirit) inspired. At first, that witnessing was done orally. The Holy Spirit revealed the mystery of the Lord to apostles and prophets and inspired them to preach it mistake-free to others (Eph. 3:4,5). The Holy Spirit thus testified through them.
At the same time, the Godhead gave witness or testified to the authenticity and authority of the Gospel by providing the preachers and teachers with the power to do miracles. Those miracles served to confirm the word, that is, show to all that heard it and observed the accompanying miracles that the message came from God and thus must be true (Mark 16:19,20). Hebrews 2:3,4 also records that God bore witness to the truthfulness of the Gospel message by means of “signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.”
Those miraculous signs from the Spirit were temporary (1 Cor. 13:8). Once “all truth” was revealed to mankind (John 16:13), there was no further need for such miracles. When God’s revelation was given in its fullness, there were no more miracles needed since there would be no more new revelations.
So, in the first century the Holy Spirit testified through the oral propagation of the Gospel. God’s Spirit also witnessed or gave confirmation through the “signs” that He empowered the disciples of Jesus to perform. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit testified through the written Word. That the Spirit spoke through the written Word is a matter of indisputable fact. When quoting from Psalm 95, the writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts ... They shall not enter into my rest)” (Heb. 3:7,8,11). Thus, it is clear that the Holy Spirit spoke through the written message of the Book of Psalms.
Let’s turn our thoughts to a statement that is recorded a few chapters later in the Book of Hebrews. In a context in which the subject is the once-for-all-time-saving sacrifice of the Christ, the writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Heb. 10:14-16). Note what verse 15 says: “...the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” In this instance, to whom was the Spirit witnessing? To the Christians. How did the Spirit witness to them in the first century? He witnessed through the written Word, which in this case was the inspired Book of Hebrews coupled with a quotation from Jeremiah 31.
What about Romans 8:16? There it is written, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” According to this verse, there are two spirits that bear witness of the truth that we are God’s sons and daughters: the Holy Spirit and our personal spirit. If we have obeyed the Gospel, then we are children of God by “faith” and through “the faith” (Gal. 3:26,27). When we have complied with the conditions set forth in the Gospel about how to become a child of God, then our mind/spirit knows that and can say, “I have done what God said to do to become a Christian, and since He keeps His promises, then I know that I am His child.
But what about the Holy Spirit’s witness? How does He give witness that we are
the children of God? He does so through His sword, which is the word of God
(Eph. 6:17). The Holy Spirit revealed the Gospel by which we are born again (1
Peter 1:23-25). When we comply with the conditions of salvation that the Spirit
of God set forth in the Gospel, then we are born of water (baptism) and of the
Spirit (John 3:5). The Holy Spirit’s testimony is that anyone who complies with
God’s terms of salvation is God’s child. That is His witness.
The correct conclusion is that the Holy Spirit speaks today and testifies today, but He does so through, and only through, the message of the Bible (the Word of God). The Holy Spirit’s witness is not a feeling, it is not a hunch, and it is not a direct message from Him. Anyone that thinks the Holy Spirit has directly witnessed to him that he is a child of God either misunderstands the Bible or has been deceived. Anyone who claims to others that the Holy Spirit has miraculously revealed to him that he is a child of God is a deceiver. Beware of the deceived and deceivers.