30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
October 22, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"The Witness of the Spirit"
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour,"The Witness of the Spirit", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
In previous lessons, we have studied, step by step, the plan of salvation that we find in the Bible. We have found that the church is the body of Christ purchased on Calvary's tree, and that Christ is the first fruit of them that sleep. It has been pointed out that when He came from the tomb He ascended to the Father and, on the right hand of God, took His seat on David's throne. We have found that we must be in Christ to be saved, that freedom from sin is in Christ, that reconciliation is in Christ, and that we must be in Christ to be new creatures. One of our lessons pointed out that the sinner must come to Christ. Christ has already come to this world of tears and woe for the sinner. In the Savior's invitation, He called for the weary and heavy-laden to come to Him and find rest. On the basis, therefore, of these truths we have concluded that all men have to obey from the heart all that God says to do, if they are to be saved, that the attitude of all men should be to "Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth."
This morning I want to deal with this vital theme of salvation under this heading: The Witness of the Spirit. How can we know we are children of God? Does the Bible give a direct answer to this question? Certainly it should be the aim of every one within the sound of my voice this morning to search and find the answer to this question. The highest position of this world is not equal to the place occupied by the child of God. Every honor that this world can bestow is insignificant when compared with this glory, and every place of distinction that the earth can give is minor compared with the importance of being a child of God. To be a child of God has been the aim of the faithful for ages past, and it has occupied the minds of the greatest of the great and of the wisest of the wise, to a greater or lesser degree, for almost 2000 years. The Bible does answer the question, How can I know that I am a child of God, and to the Bible we call your attention this morning. In Romans, chapter 8, from the 14th through the 18th verse, we find these words from the pen of Paul, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Here it can be seen by all that we have a divine answer to the question, How may I know that I am a child of God? Unfortunately there are different interpretations given to this statement of Paul and to the Bible answer to this all-important matter of certainty, which are confused and confusing. This is true of too many passages in the Bible, and men are responsible. Every word of the truth of God will harmonize if handled properly, but if dealt with in a loose or biased manner, prejudice will take the upper hand and the true meaning will be lost. Let us for a moment consider some of the interpretations of this passage, and examine them closely, being interested only in the truth that we find there.
The first theory is that the Spirit of God inspires and guides men today just as it did in the days of the New Testament, that it literally puts words into the mouth of the preacher, and that it actually and literally guides the sinner to the Lamb of God by words not necessarily found in the Bible. Let us point out first that in the days when the apostles and others were guided by the Holy Spirit in the things they were to say, they were also given power to perform miracles so the words they spoke would have effect. Since those who believe that the Spirit operates in this direct and mysterious fashion with words, do not claim to have the power to perform miracles, it would be safe to conclude that their theory is wrong. We simply need to let the Bible speak! Paul declares in the following passage that the Bible is the word of the mystery, and that a knowledge of it is obtained by reading. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:3-4: "how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)." These words tell us that the mystery, that is, the gospel, was revealed unto Paul, and we are to know and to understand it by reading, not by the direct or oral witness of the Spirit. This same lesson is found in 2 Timothy 2:2: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Let us now read one other passage on the subject so that we may all see that this conception of the work of the Holy Spirit will not stand the light of investigation. 2 Timothy 2:15 says:"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Here is the point: If the Holy Spirit will orally inspire, there is no use for study. Timothy was to study that he might handle correctly the word of God. Hence he was to study the word of God. Timothy represents the beginning of the age of study when the Spirit would no longer put words into the mouths of men.
The second interpretation is that the Holy Spirit bears testimony direct to the human heart, and hence the feelings of the
heart tell a man that he is a child of God. This theory demands a thorough investigation for there are thousands who are
under its influence. The basis for this position is of course our feelings, and hence we need to examine them closely. We
wish to ascertain whether our feelings, our consciences, or anything that belongs to the heart or mind, can make known or
reveal to us anything that we cannot observe and have had no chance to know. Let me emphasize: Can the feelings alone tell
us what is taking place in the outside world?
Study the old and familiar story of Joseph. His brothers banded together against him and sold him into Egypt. They took the coat of many colors and put the blood of an animal upon it and brought it to Jacob. The old man heard them say, "A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all of his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. How honestly did Jacob believe that the boy was dead! He felt in his heart that Joseph had been torn in pieces. His feelings cried out that the favorite son was dead. But now here is the question: Upon what testimony? Was it because he simply believed it to be true or because of the blood on the coat that the father had so lovingly given to the favorite son? Why the answer is clear. The bloody coat, together with the suggestive story of the brothers, caused the old patriarch to believe that the boy was dead. His feelings were therefore as false as the story and evidence of the brothers. We believe the things we see and hear. Our feelings are thus formed and are not any more nearly correct than the evidence upon which they are based. Several years ago in a newspaper I read of the glad return home of a soldier who had been reported lost. The family believed he was lost because they had been notified to that effect. They believe the evidence, and in this case, as in thousands of others, the worst did not develop. Our feelings are not, therefore, a safe rule to follow. We may, like Saul of old, believe that we are right, and yet be wrong. Jacob could not believe that Joseph was alive and well in Egypt until he saw the wagons of Pharaoh, and then he cried out, "It is enough, Joseph is alive, I will go and see him before I die." Hence, if the evidence is sad and sorrowful, the feelings of the heart will be sad. If the thing believed is happy and joyous, our feelings will leap for joy. We learn secondly that believing a thing will not make it true. If it is a falsehood, no matter how sincere man may be, it is still false. I am well aware of the fact that many men today believe that as long as we are sincere and honest in our convictions, all will be well with us in the judgment. But, again I urge you to listen to what the Bible says regarding this as is found in John 8:31-32, "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." 1 Peter 1:22 says, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth..." John 17:17 says, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." Galatians 3:1 says, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth..." ,The lesson is clear. The Lord does not promise salvation until man has heard and obeyed the truth. It has been clearly shown that the second theory is also false. The feeling of the heart is not an infallible guide in telling us that we are children of God.
Paul said in the scripture read in the text passage, that "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Notice the mistake that is almost invariably made. The scripture says with my spirit, not to my spirit. There is a great deal of difference. If I bear witness with my neighbor, there are two witnesses: My neighbor and myself. If I bear witness to my neighbor, there is only one witness; Just me. There are two (not one) witnesses involved in this passage. The Spirit of God is witness number one, and our spirit is witness number two. Read it again! "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." Men who teach that the Spirit operates upon the human heart separate and apart from the word of God have but one witness: The Holy Spirit, telling a man that he is saved. There must be a better answer.
That the Spirit made known the way of salvation and guided the apostles, all will admit. On the day of Pentecost, recorded in the second chapter of Acts, when the Holy Spirit descended, they began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance. In speaking of this, Peter expressed it this way, in 1 Peter 1:12: "Which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven." Hence the Spirit of God would be known by that which he came to make known, namely the gospel. His testimony is found in that which he revealed, expressly the gospel. He guided the apostles into all truth and they preached the gospel; therefore His witness is found in that which He bore witness to, and that is the gospel.
The Holy Spirit tells us in the word of God what we must do to become children of God, and how we must live to remain children of God. When we comply with that which the Holy Spirit sets forth in the Bible, and have such obedience prompted by the heart or spirit that is in us, we have two witnesses bearing one testimony: That we are children of God.
The direction of the Spirit to the alien sinner is found in such passages as Mark 16:16 which says, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." or Acts 2: 38, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." This is the infallible direction of the Holy Spirit and cannot be improved upon. The conditions that the Holy Spirit caused the apostles and New Testament preachers to present to men and women as a basis for salvation, had the complete approval of God, and hence were free from error. The man who obeyed them was guaranteed that he was a child of God, and had the witness of the Spirit to that fact, because the apostles were guided by the Spirit. Now friends, let's follow this thought.
The apostles wrote, in the New Testament for you and me, those things that they commanded men and women to do to be saved. In this, all will agree, they were guided by the Spirit. When we, therefore, do the things they command in the word of God, we have the complete assurance from the written word, that they had from the spoken word, that we are made children of God. So the Spirit of God directs and commands by the written word, just as it did by the oral word. It is what we do that makes us children of God, not what we feel. Now I invite you to open your Bible once again and listent to what the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-27, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." It is only natural then that the Bible speaks of our having the Spirit of God in us in the same manner that it speaks of our having the word of God in us. Notice the scripture of Colossians 3:16," Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Now listen to the parallel from Ephesians 5:18,"Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit." Now, notice verse 19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." It is easy to see that in these two verses having the Spirit of God in us is the equivalent of having the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom. It is little wonder, then, that Christ said in John 15:7, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you."
Now, let us notice how the two, the Spirit of God which is the Holy Spirit, and our spirit which is in us, bear witness together that we have completed the requirements and are guaranteed that we are the sons of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that our spirit is in us, and it is by our spirit that we know the things concerning us. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2: 11, "For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" It follows, then, that when the Holy Spirit commands, and we by our spirit obey, the two are bearing witness together. What better assurance could a man have that he is a child of God than to read from the very words of Christ, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved," and then to believe and be baptized? If the word of Christ is true, and His promises never fail, when we obey to the letter the things commanded, there can be no doubt about the outcome. Thus, step by step, the Spirit reveals the commanded things, and, step by step, our spirit prompts us to obey them. The Spirit of God and the spirit of man walk along together to the consummation of the things commanded. Therefore, they bear witness with one another of one fact: That we are children of God. This witness is presented to the people of the world so that they may do the same things, and be saved from sin. If a man believes the Bible, then he must believe the promises of the Bible. When he meets the conditions given in order to receive the promises, he is content to let the storms of doubt and mystery roll on, saying with Paul, "I know him in whom I have believed." Men often times change the experience that they declared was told to them that they were saved, a half dozen times, but there can be no change to the commandments of God.
The Holy Spirit tells the sinner from the book of inspiration that he is to believe in Christ. The sinner's spirit tells him that he believes, and the two bear witness to the first step together. There can be no mistake about this. You, or your spirit, know if you believe, and thus you complete the testimony.
The Spirit of God in His word tells the sinner to repent. Again, in Acts 2:38 it says, "Repent and be baptized." Your spirit, and your spirit alone, can tell you if you have repented, that is, turned from sin and from the love of sin.
The Spirit of God tells you to be baptized. Baptism is only for the man with a penitent heart. Your spirit, and your spirit only, tells you if you are a scriptural candidate for such baptism. Christ, in the great commission, in Matthew 28:19, tells the apostles, "Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Since the name of the Holy Spirit is used along with the Father and the Son, then the Holy Spirit would have you to be baptized.
There are two parts to salvation, the divine part and the human part. The Spirit testifies to the divine part, and the human spirit testifies to the human part, and hence, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"