What is the witness of the Spirit spoken of by Paul in Romans 8? This is something that I have not come to a definite conclusion on both exegetically or personally. Bare naked thoughts bring to mind some sort of subjective feeling that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers. Maybe a sort-of voice inside you that says at all times, “You are God’s child.” If that is what the witness of the Spirit is, I don’t think I have it.
Paul speaks to the Romans:
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Rom 8:14-17)
That was from the New American Standard. However, the NET Bible takes the dative a bit differently at a key point saying, “The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8:16; emphasis mine). However, most other translations elect the word “with.” Regardless, the Holy Spirit is in view here and there is a definite testimony which believers should have.
Most of the time the connection sought here is between the cry of “Abba” and the witness of the Spirit. Certainly this should be kept in view, but my thoughts extend to the broader context which follows. The question is one of dependency. Hang with me here. Paul is often very hard to understand because of his syntax. (Translation: Paul gets excited and off track here and there.) I am not really saying that he is off track here, but when he uses the qualification “if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we might be glorified with Him,” it is hard to know what is the conditional referent here. In other words, we don’t get something if we don’t suffer with him. What is the something?
I think the text allows us one of two answers:
1) We don’t get salvation if we don’t suffer with him. This would take the condition to be dependent on the statement immediately preceding. We are heirs of Christ if we suffer with him. In other words, we are saved if we suffer with Christ. This could be the case and does not really present any theological problems as Christian suffering is presented as a norm for the Christian and, therefore, a sign of being God’s children. However, there is another option.
2) The condition is relevant to the witness of the Spirit. In other words, Paul could be saying that we receive this witness (whatever it is—we have not gotten there yet) only if and when we suffer. If we were to take it this way, the syntax might be changed in this way: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ) if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” Continue Reading →