The Holy Spirit as “Proof”

Anthony Hoekema, in his book *The Bible and the Future* has a chapter on “The Holy Spirit and Eschatology,” which he begins by saying, “The role played by the Holy Spirit in Eschatology has not always been fully appreciated.” That is, to put it mildly, an understatement. I don’t think I’ve heard Him mentioned in this context in mainstream theology at all. Charismatic voices, like Rick Joyner, will talk about the future pouring out of the Holy Spirit during the end times, performing such works as miracles and wonders as a *sign* of the end times, but little has been said about the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer throughout the Christian age as a guarantee of Jesus’ future return. Yet, scripturally, this is one of the Holy Spirit’s major functions in the church.

In Acts 2, Peter quotes Joel’s famous prophecy about the pouring out of God’s Spirit:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Joel 2:28-29

Hoekema:

> Peter quotes the prophecy from Joel … indicating that this prophecy has now been fulfilled, and that therefore the “last days” have now been ushered in. From this it is clear that the eschatological “new age” is to be *marked* by the presence of the Spirit in the church *in all his fullness* (emph. added).

In the church age, the Holy Spirit is **proof** to the individual believer that all the things we believe are true – the authority of Scripture, our new relationship with God, the future return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8:14-16, Paul points out that it is the Holy Spirit which ratifies our “sonship” with God:
> For all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

So the Spirit is doing two things here. First he is working *in us* that we might cry out to God, saying, “Abba! Father!” Since in our fallen nature we are inimical to God, it is only by a work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to turn to God with boldness and affection to call him “Father!” And not just Father, but “Abba!” meaning “Daddy!” Secondly, not only does he reconfigure our affections, but he also witnesses *back to us* that we have in fact been adopted by him as children of God.

It’s the same in Galatians 6:4 – “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” So the Holy Spirit functions for us as a constant **proof** of our right relationship with God. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (vs 7). So, through the Holy Spirit, we *know* what we’ve got coming.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit serves as proof of Jesus’ second coming. He is a deposit, a down payment, a guarantee that what we now know in part, we will one day see face to face. In Romans 8:23 it says that “not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” The word for firstfruits, απαρχη (aparchē), signifies the first bud of a fruit, perhaps like a green apple, which indicates a promise of a future harvest to come. By extension, the word can mean a birth certificate: legal proof that a child has been born. Under the old covenant, people were required to take a sheaf of their first fruits and wave them before the Lord in the temple. By doing this, they acknowledged that God had indeed done what he had promised – to provide and care for his people – for here were the first fruits, proof that there would be a harvest. In this same way, says Paul, God has given us the first fruits of the parousia in the form of his Holy Spirit. I suppose you could say by extension that we ought to present these firstfruits back to him by manifesting the work of the Holy Spirit in our worship. In any case, the scripture is clear that because we have this first proof of God’s promise, we groan with longing for the final fulfillment – the redemption of our bodies.

Again, in II Corinthains 1:22, II Corinthains 5:5, and Ephesians 1:14, it speaks of the Holy Spirit being given to us as a kind of collateral, or down payment, guaranteeing the fulfillment of what has been promised. I won’t go on to fill this page with explications of these verses, or spend too much time reminding you that traditionally the Protestant church has agreed with Calvin that we can know that the scriptures themselves are true based upon the witness of the Holy Spirit, because I want to get on the point that must be made: that this “proof” which the Holy Spirit offers *cannot be an article of faith*.

Faith must not be confused with openmindedness, or gullibility, or with taking things for granted. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That is, it is belief, in spite of legitimate reasons for doubt or disbelief, *on the basis of some other proof or guarantee*. The old illustration of the chair isn’t really an example of faith. People don’t sit in chairs because they have some sort of abiding faith in chairs or chairmakers. They sit in chairs because they take chairs for granted. Faith requires both a legitimate reason for doubting and an even greater, more substantial proof or guarantee.

This is precisely the mistake many people make with the Holy Spirit. So many people believe that they have the Holy Spirit because they are Christians, and Christians are, by definition, those who have the Holy Spirit. This is backwards; it cannot be! The gift of the Holy Spirit is the only *proof* that scripture gives us that all his promises will be fulfilled. “The Spirit *himself* bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” In some way then, the Holy Spirit must be experienced *directly* and not merely on the basis of some other party’s word.

What Jury would be fool enough to accept the testimony of a witness who could not be seen, could not be heard, could not be *experienced* in any way? A statement could be read, but on what basis may the statement be trusted, when a witness cannot be produced? A never-ending recursion occurs, or can the lawyer himself be sworn in? But at no time can “proof” be submitted as an article of *faith*, because then it would have to be believed on the basis of some *other*, more sure foundation.

“You’re pitting experience against the scriptures!” someone might say, and in a certain sense that’s true. I am pitting experience – the reality of God himself – against scripture, as one might pit the walls of a building against its foundation and ask, “which is the foundation?” Scripture itself declares that *God* is the ratifier of his word and not the other way around. Hebrews 6:13 – “When God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself.” And again, “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (vs 16-18). It was God himself, and the surety of his character which confirmed his word. So which is greater – the promise or the God who ratifies his promise? When God made his oath to Abraham, he made sure he knew, experientially, that it was God himself who was swearing, and not some unconfirmable voice within the mind of Abraham.

We believe, without doubt, that every word of scripture is true, the very words of God. We believe that he has made us his children, and joint heirs with God. We believe that one day Jesus the Christ will return for us, and fulfill every promise. But on what basis do you believe, what proof? Is it because *I* said so? Is it because you grew up in a community that believed these things? Did you believe a preacher? Then your faith is in that preacher. How did *he* come to know these things? From some other preacher? And so it regresses *ad infinitum*. But God cuts through these things. “Let God be true and every man a liar!” For the scripture says that God himself is his own witness, his own seal, his own proof.

So I ask you again: knowing that proof is not a thing that can be believed on faith, knowing that every kind of faith requires some surety behind it, do you **know** that he has set his seal upon you? Does his Spirit cry out “Abba! Father!” within you?

**Have you received the Holy Spirit?**

2 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit as “Proof””

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