Romans 8:16, Part 2
Assurance Must Be Consciously Received
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 8:16 (Holman) The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit
that we are God’s children.
The former sermon noted two vital lessons. One, God wants His children to have a sense of assurance. Two, this assurance is possible because salvation is based on what God does, not on what we do. Now we continue our analysis of the blessed truth presented in this passage.
Three, assurance is given by the Holy Spirit. The gender of the Greek word for spirit is neuter. Hence, its pronoun is also neuter (itself). This does not mean the Holy Spirit is an “it.” The Scriptures overwhelmingly teach us He is God of very God, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Thus the Holman writers are wise to translate the word as “Himself”.
The Holy Spirit is responsible not only for our conviction and conversion, but also for our confirmation. He provides confirmation we actually are the children of God.
The fact the Spirit Himself does this witness-bearing adds an extra dimension of warmth to our relationship with God. The personal touch adds dearer preciousness to our relationship. God could have simply stated the fact, “You are my child” and then left it at that. But He refused to do so.
Think of a father and little son walking along side by side. Suddenly the father lifts the boy high in the air and gives him a huge hug. The child all along knew he was the man’s son, but suddenly that fact seems clearer than ever. The father’s love has been poured on him, and the boy feels immensely better because of it.
Somehow the Holy Spirit directly impresses the truth of our sonship upon our mind. This confidence is inspired by some method of direct communication.
To require a minute and philosophical explanation of how this is done requires more than we can provide. It cannot be adequately explained; it can only be experienced. There is no whirlwind, no fire, and no earthquake – just the voice of God speaking silently within.
This inward assurance is a huge blessing. We may someday lose our Bibles, friends, churches, and preachers. Hence, we had better have a confidence within that transcends all these earthy supports. We need something that can never be taken from us. This is what Robert Bruce (1554-1631), a Presbyterian pastor in Edinburg, needed when he was exiled from his beloved city. Heartbroken and downcast, he prepared to leave the place that had banished him. A few days later, he wrote in a letter of his moment of departure, “I leapt no sooner on my horse but the gates of Heaven were cast open to me; I got such applause in my heart, with such floods of tears, with such real and constant approbation, that my heart could not wish for greater access.” Only the Holy Spirit can give this kind of assurance.
Four, assurance must be consciously received by the child of God. The confidence we have is a joint witness-bearing by the Holy Spirit and our spirit.
The assurance is a gift from God, but is borne in people, and therefore subject to being checked and suppressed. It is sad, but true; believers are safer than their fears allow them to think. Christians definitely are the children of God, but there is a vast difference between being a child of God and being sure we are a child of God. A person can have salvation without having assurance of salvation.
A believer can have faith without the comfort of faith. It is sad to think many have justification without ever knowing “the peace that passeth all understanding” (PH 4:7).
Along with faith of trust and reliance, pursue a faith of assurance. God wants His children to be confident; the Bible teaches it can be a reality; receive it as a gift of God.
Do not grieve the Spirit by refusing this blessed gift. As we reject His overtures, His face is hidden from us, and our confidence will be made even weaker.
Concentrate on the promises of the written word. Put confidence in them, and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them to you individually. His voice inside wants to say “Amen!” to His voice outside. The Spirit will not contradict Himself. Allow him to confirm what He has already said in His written word.
Five, assurance encourages godly living. In the golden age of Rome, honesty was valued very highly. If a loyal Roman were tempted to dishonesty, he would immediately stand upright and say, “I am a Roman.” Nothing else had to be said. That settled the matter.
It should be ten times more appropriate for Christians to verify their heritage. When tempted to evil, we should readily confess, “I am God’s child.” This should be enough to settle the matter. The old Romans produced many fine examples of valor and integrity. God forbid the idolaters could breed better people than those who profess to know Christ. We need motivations to godly living, and contrary to what many believe, assurance of salvation is a tremendous encouragement to holiness.
The greatest witnesses for God in all ages have been those who sensed full assurance of their own salvation. Their confidence regarding their own standing before God gave them liberty to help others.
However let me offer a word of warning here! Beware the Devil’s counterfeit. The Holy Spirit’s assurance proves itself by causing a desire for more holiness. Children long to please their parents. Even so, the believer who has the Holy Spirit’s assurance, will be striving to please our heavenly Father.
The Devil’s counterfeit confidence will confirm itself through a careless attitude. Do not presume to be a child of God while habitually acting like a child of the Devil. A person who has no regard at all for holy living knows nothing of the Holy Spirit’s assurance.
The Devil’s counterfeit confidence will produce a Pharisaical spirit. Holy Spirit assurance reminds us ever of our sinfulness. The fact of our adoption should always humble us. The Holy Spirit will keep us cognizant and fully ashamed of our sinfulness, but He also, in the same moment, will overwhelm us with a flooding sense of the Father’s loving forgiveness. We should always sense a divine tenderness.
There is no danger in genuine Holy Spirit assurance. The counterfeit is harmful, but “the real McCoy” will do nothing other than encourage holiness.
Knowing one’s position will influence one’s behavior. Any child’s self-concept is important in determining their behavior. This explains why we must be so careful about what we call our children. Such things can become self-fulfilling prophecies. They often “live up to” their parent’s demeaning remarks. The same is essentially true of believers. They are not going to live any better than what they know is expected of them. As the Spirit assures them they are His children, Christians will try to live as a child of God ought to live.
This is absolutely critical for effective Christian living. The goal of our lives is to please God in everything. This is our way of demonstrating our love for God, which is the first and greatest commandment. The love, of course, must precede and stimulate the pleasing. We will not please God unless we love God.
However, our love for God is merely a reflection of our recognition of His love for us; “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).
Therefore, the more we sense His love for us the greater will be our love for Him. This, in turn, will lead to a greater desire to please Him. It all begins in the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are the children of God. This is the catalyst for effective Christian living.