Witness of the Holy Spirit - J. W. McGarvey

J. W. McGarvey, scholar of the American Restoration Movement shows that the two witnesses of our salvation are the Spirit's Words and our own spirit bearing the fruit of the Spirit. This leaves no room for some form of charismatic breakdown.

One writer quotes Romans 8:1:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Romans 8:1

This leads false teachers to claim what Scripture claims for Christ:

"No one is authorized to preach the gospel unless he receives this anointing of the spirit."The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach" (Isa. 61:1).

However, just read this passage and ask whether you want to claim this for yourself:

THE Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

If you would find the Mein Kampf-like secret to the mind control of revolutionary religion, where would you look?

Of course, you would look to the claim of supernatural, God-orained power of the speaker or book writer. Just the claim of such authority -- "God led you directly to the bookstore or the religious festival" -- is enough to call the unthinking masses to "go out" in defiance of Jesus Who said, "The kingdom of God is within you." If we can paraphrase Paul to the Corinthians: "Fools love to be fooled." It is the national pastime.

J. W. McGarvey notes that ministers enjoy telling believers that they have an internal witness of the Holy Spirit proving that they are saved or that they have a secret. If they have this witness then they will probably grow violent if you continue to put the emphasis upon baptism which Jesus Christ put upon it. Their proof-text is:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: Romans 8:16

However, no sooner has the believer some experience which is too profound to be told, do they experience some loss of confidence and the witness is gone and confidence in God is gone. This makes the True God a fickle "now you have it now you don't Giver."

Our first step in freeing ourselves from what Paul called the "hupers" or "super apostles" is to uinderstand that Romans Eight does not give anyone a "person' of the God-family to supernaturally guide them into knowledge which you do not have -- free of charge (Isaiah 55:1f).

McGarvey understood that the Holy Spirit as a divine being is not under discussion in Romans eight. Rather, Paul laid the foundation by showing the conflict between the human body and the human spirit. The spirit which bears witness is the believer's own spirit believing the testimony of Christ the Spirit through the apostles.

Now, of course, if you have the witness of the Spirit indwelling you then you must believe the preacher who also has the witness and tells you: "The prophets are telling us that great changes are going to take place in our church. When it happens, you must not question them."

If God Himself told us first hand that we were His children then how could there ever be any doubt? McGarvey notes that:

"Even the preacher, of whom I spoke as addressing some young converts, had, just before that speech, made them all believe that they had the witness of the Holy Spirit itself, bearing witness with their spirits that they were children of God.

"Yet he was then telling them that they would be certain, in many future days, to doubt this testimony of the Spirit.

What was the trouble with the man? Could he and his young converts really doubt what the Spirit of God would testify to? I suppose not. And yet, they are full of doubt while dwelling upon and relying upon the very passage of Scripture which gave the apostles their unwavering confidence. What clearer proof could we possibly have that their understanding of the passage is different from that held by the apostles.

How does the preacher convince you that you have the internal witness of the Holy Spirit? Well, At Cane Ridge and other early "revivals," Barton W. Stone and his inter-denominational group would say that "barking, laughing, damaging your body, believing that you are dogs and fighting over the garbage" was the internal witness that you to could be saved in spite of those Calvinists who said that you couldn't be saved unless you were predestinated.

"When they have experienced some emotional feeling they are told that this is the "result of a direct impact of the Holy Spirit upon their spirits, and which they understand as the testimony which the Holy Spirit bears to them that they are children of God. But the trouble is, that they can never be altogether certain that it was the Holy Spirit which they felt. from such uncertainty, and lead us into the clear light that shone upon the path of the early disciples!

However, many could not get past the closest "bourbon watering hole" on the way home and lost th e witness. Others were so embarassed over their total loss of control of themselves that they never sat foot in a church building again. Barton W. Stone understood, many years later, that more harm than good was done. Alexander Campbell's ancestors understood the unbiblical nature of such mind control before it happened.

However, the way to have the witness of God one must ask what Scripture demands that our character be like that of His children. Even today, science can determine whether we are the son of our father by our very nature.

Then one must determine whether they have that character. If so, then the Spirit in the words witness to our spirit that we are children. That is, our own spirits give us testimony and not a direct witness of the Holy Spirit.

The first level of Witness of the Spirit

The apostles were promised "another" Comforter to guide them into all truth. Therefore, the apostles had the Incarnate Word present with them and, after Pentecost, He would be in them as the Holy Spirit to guide and teach.

The apostles had heard Jesus testify; but he had not told them all the truth; nor could they, with certainty, remember all that he had said. It was left for the Spirit to bring to memory all that Jesus had spoken, and to lead them into all the truth.

"Upon the Spirit, then, they depended for all their knowledge of the will of God. If they wished to know what constitutes one a child of God, they learned it from the testimony of the Spirit. They had no other way to learn it, and no other way was needed, for this was infallible.

"What they learned thus, they spoke with equal infallibility to the world. "God has revealed these things to us through his Spirit," says Paul; "which things we also speak; not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but in words which the Holy Spirit teaches."

The Second Level of Witness of the Spirit

On a secondary level, everyone who heard the Apostles speak heard just what Jesus the Spirit had already revealed and would continue to reveal:

"Others, then, heard the testimony of the Spirit through the lips of those inspired men, and in this they heard the very words of the Spirit. These words, again, were written down, so that those who had not the opportunity of hearing the living voice of the apostles might have the same words in writing, and suffer no disadvantage, as compared with those who first heard them. We stand in the position of this last class. We have no testimony of the Spirit by inspiration of our own minds, neither have we the living voice of inspired men to inform us; but we have, what is just equal to this in value, the written depositions of the Spirit of God; and these testify, in unmistakable terms, what a man must do to be a child of God.

The Word as Witness of the Spirit

The statements of the Scriptures are clearly the testimony of the Spirit. Listen to a few examples of Scripture:

The words of the prophets was the testimony of the Holy Spirit:

Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. Nehemiah 9:30

Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 7:12

In the tenth chapter of Hebrew, Paul wrote:

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, Hebrews 10:15

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; Hebrews 10:16

This is quoted from Jeremiah, chapter 31. Therefore, when the Spirit of Christ inspired the prophets it was to be a witness of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit in Jesus Christ was the Spirit of Christ speaking to the prophets:

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 1 Peter 1:11

And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

God is pure or Holy Spirit and is therefore a "Him." However, in our world, the spirit is the mental disposition of God:

Pneuma (g4151) pnyoo'-mah; from 4154; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by anal. or fig. a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by impl.) vital principle, mental disposition, etc.

The Mind of Christ was inspiring the prophets and apostles. Therefore, His Words are His witness or testimony.

The Spirit of Truth was not a "being" but the mental disposition of God expressed in terms such as knowledge and understanding:

The One God of the universe would come Incarnate as the "Son" or "Child" or as a "Branch" out of a stump or tree. The "Stump" is the Father and the Branch is the Son:

AND there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: Isaiah 11:1

And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; Isaiah 11:2 (Quick understanding is included in verse 3 making this "spirit" the same seven-fold spirit represented by the candlesticks as supplying the oil for the light of God).

This was not another God or a third member of the "god family" but it was, as the Hebrew definition of "spirit" demands, symbol of "a spirit, but only of a rational being including its expression and functions " Therefore, the symbol of the spirit was not a human form but a dove, or perhaps a pigeon as a symbol of God's message.

Jesus promised to be "Another Comforter" or the Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of Truth:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; John 14:16

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. John 14:17

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. John 14:18

Jesus in Spirit form gave His same testimony to Paul and promised to guide Him into all truth. Therefore, paul could say:

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; Ephesians 3:5

From beginning to end it is the Spirit of Christ as the Holy Spirit or Mind of God (1 Corinthians 2) Who gave up His glory as the invisible God and gave us Divine testimony which can be written down, transmitted and still retain the same power Christ, the Word Incarnate, put into them.

Now, don't miss the vital point: It was promised that Messiah would be God bringing the Mind or mental disposition of God in the Incarnate Word. Jesus came to reveal His Words to mankind. He would return as the Spirit of Truth to guide them into all truth. Our primary comfort is through believing the promises in His revealed Words;

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4

The Scriptures show how to recognize the Witness of the Spirit:

"The whole matter of the Spirit's testimony resolves itself into this: that the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, testifies that men

who pass through certain changes,

and maintain, afterward, a certain character,

are children of God.

"Whatever may be men's theories of spiritual influence, 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. 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; but none will 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.

The Second Witness of Romans 8 is our own Spirit

Simply hearing Christ first-hand, hearing the Apostles or hearing their inspired record is the Spirit's testimony to our spirit. However, the testimony must work both ways: our spirit must agree with and accept the witness coming from God to us:

"But, when a man has heard this testimony of the Spirit of God, he is not yet quite ready to say whether he himself is, or is not, a child of God.

There is another witness yet to be examined before a conclusion can be reached, and though his testimony is given so briefly and so silently as to be sometimes overlooked, it is, on this account, none the less indispensable.

This second witness, according to McGarvey, is our own spirit as the subject of Romans eight. The "spirit of adoption" is not a personal spirit called adoption. Rather, when we have the spirit or mental disposition of sonship we believe that we are children of God. We begin to think of Him as Father and not as "foster-care-giver." Our spirit is also a "he" or "Him" because it is our true or inner person:

"This witness is your own spirit. He is the only witness who can tell you, with certainty, whether you have believed with all the heart, or whether you have really, through sorrow for sin, turned away from it. And still further, in the present distracted condition of the public mind on the subject of baptism, your own soul must testify for itself--as it will answer to God in the great day--whether you have been really baptized.

The Holy Spirit does not bear witness to our spirit by a direct operation upon our Mind. Rather, the Spirit or mental disposition of Christ revealed by His Spirit Words (John 6:63) declares the nature of a child of God. Our own mind or spirit bears witness with the testimony that we have a clear conscience because our mental disposition looks like the Spirit or mental disposition of Christ:

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 1 John 5:10 For more Click Here

"In respect to our own spirit's testimony, especially, have our friends of the religious parties generally misunderstood this passage of Scripture. They understand the text as if it read: "The Spirit itself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God." This would make but one witness, the Holy Spirit.

But Paul has two witnesses, for he says: "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit." This is an exact translation of the Greek. Now, when I testify to my brother, there is but one witness; but when I testify with him, he and I are both witnesses, and my testimony agrees with his. This is just Paul's idea. The Holy Spirit itself bears testimony which agrees with the testimony of our own spirit, that we are children of God.

The point of agreement is just this, that the character which the Holy Spirit asserts to be that of a child of God, agrees with what my own spirit asserts to be my own character.

"Perhaps some one is ready to object, just here, that it is rather a strange mode of speech, for a man to represent his own spirit as being a witness to himself. But this is not the only passage in which Paul speaks in this way. When speaking of the unbelief of Israel, in the ninth of Romans, he uses this language: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart." In the Greek we have here the same verb as in our text, so that, more exactly translated, it would read, "my conscience also bearing witness with me." Here are two witnesses, himself in the aggregate testifying to the brethren, and his conscience, which does not in every man agree with the spoken words, asserting within him the same thing.

To see Whose spirit searches whom Click Here.

"We now have the subject sufficiently before us, to begin to feel the solid ground beneath our feet. When the Holy Spirit testified to Paul what character God would adopt as a 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.

We do not expect the fig tree to have a direct testimony that it is a fig tree. Rather, if the tree produces figs, it is a fig tree. It has the witness within itself. In the same way, when a "whispered voice" tells us that some charismatic fit is proof that we are children of God we should rather look for the fruits of our lives to see whether they are spiritual (mental) or physical in our human senses.

"The Holy Spirit testifies what character a man must sustain, in order to continue in the Father's house, and not, like the prodigal son, wander away and squander what the Father has given in riotous living. My own soul testifies at every point whether these are the traits of my own character. And here it is that I feel most called upon to glorify the favor of God; for at almost every point my own spirit testifies that I come short of the character that the Holy Spirit's testimony prescribes, and were it not for one gracious provision, the answer would always be, I have become a prodigal.

"That gracious provision is made through the blood of Christ; for a part of the Spirit's testimony is this, that if the children will confess their sins, they have an Advocate with the Father, who is faithful and just to forgive their sins, and to cleanse them from all iniquity.

My own spirit leaps with joy at this, while it testifies that in humble penitence I daily confess to God my daily sins, and thus, from day to day, the Spirit itself still bears witness with my spirit that I am even yet a child of God. This is no airy and unsubstantial means of determining this momentous question, such as prevails in the sectarian world.

To doubt that our spirits, made in the image of God, can tell our whole selves that we are the children is to doubt the power which God put into His spoken and written Word. The experiences of life tell us that when people claim a direct testimony from God it is often to excuse a personal spirit which is not Holy. Walter Scott defined the term "Holy Spirit" as being God and our own spirits made holy by Him.

The scholars of the Restoration Movement gained their view of the Holy Spirit from the Bible. Modern, professional theologians having lost their roots to the restoration movement have adopted the views of neo-pentecostialism which rose up in the 1950-1960 era and began to shrink the restoration of New Testament Christianity.

If you are still listening to a restored, Old Testament-like Priest or Levitical musician to bear witness and bring you into the presence of God, then you do not have the witness of the Spirit and you probably are "none of His."

McGarvey's Total Article

Kenneth Sublett

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