WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT CONCERNING SONSHIP
15. What did Paul write to the Roman congregation about the witness of the spirit, and what question now arises about those who today expect to go to heaven?
15 Back there in the first century C.E., the Christian Bible writers and their fellow disciples were in no doubt as to their relationship with God and their responsibility toward Him. They really had the conviction that they were the spiritual sons of God, and they had a heavenly inheritance in view. So, before the apostle Paul ever got to Rome, he could, in no uncertainty, write to the congregation there and say these confident words: “You received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17) Who today, who says he expects to go to heaven, has such a witness of God’s spirit with his own spirit?
16. What kind of interaction was there between God’s spirit and the spirit of the first-century Christian congregation?
16 Certainly God’s spirit would not bear such a witness to a professed Christian who is actually not an heir of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ. For every action there is a reaction. The reaction can be either responsive or unresponsive, repellent. In Romans 8:15-17, the apostle Paul speaks of a responsive reaction. He describes a harmonious interaction between God’s spirit and the spirit of the real spiritual child of God. Well, now, how did God’s spirit bear witness with the spirit of the members of the first-century Christian congregation, that “new creation”?
17. (a) Did the first-century congregation dispute the testimony of God’s spirit to them through his inspired servants? (b) Hence, how did the congregation in Thessalonica regard the message presented by Paul?
17 If God’s spirit bears witness to us about our Christian identity and our tie-in with God and his provisions for us, then we ought to agree with that spirit and not dispute it. So, when the first-century Christians had a letter from an inspired apostle or disciple of Christ read to the congregation of which they were baptized members, they accepted what that letter said to them and about them as to their standing, their obligations, their hopes for the future in God’s arrangement. They recognized that God’s spirit was active in such authoritative apostles and disciples and that it acted and wrote by means of these human instruments. The apostle Paul’s letter to the first-century Christian congregation in Thessalonica, Macedonia, bears out that fact. They knew the truth of it when Paul wrote: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.”—1 Thessalonians 2:13.
18. To be consistent, how would those Thessalonian Christians accept Paul’s written word, and why had God chosen them, according to what Paul said?
18 Hence it would be consistent for these believers to accept also the written word of Paul to be likewise “the word of God.” In this letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers about God’s “choosing” of them. Why had they been ‘chosen’? “Because the good news we preach did not turn up among you with speech alone but also with power and with holy spirit and strong conviction, just as you know what sort of men we became to you for your sakes; and you became imitators of us and of the Lord, seeing that you accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit.”—1 Thessalonians 1:4-6.
19. The imparting of gifts of the spirit by means of the apostles would signify what relationship of the recipients to God?
19 They knew that, by means of holy spirit, God had spoken to his chosen people in pre-Christian times. Similarly, in their own first century C.E., God could speak by means of the same active force through the inspired apostles of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, God was using those very apostles to transmit to the baptized believers the various gifts of the holy spirit. Certainly the reception of those gifts would indicate to the receivers that they had been made God’s spiritual children.—Acts 8:15-18; 19:2-6.
20. How, through the letters of the Christian Bible writers, was holy spirit bearing witness to the first-century congregation that their relationship to God was of a specific kind?
20 Were those apostles and other Christian Bible writers setting before the baptized believers an earthly hope, the hope of becoming the children of the Eternal Father, Jesus Christ, and living on a paradise earth forever? No! They were setting before those to whom they preached and wrote the hope then of those begotten as children of God, the sons of Jehovah. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) In the inspired Christian writings the disciples of the day were assured that they had the calling to a kingdom that was heavenly and that their hope was that of being joint heirs with Jesus Christ above. (Colossians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Peter 1:10, 11) Only one thing was set before them; they were left in no uncertainty. In this way holy spirit was bearing witness to those first-century disciples that they were children of God, heirs of God. This meant that, at the same time, they were joint heirs with the glorified Jesus Christ.
21. How did the spirit of such first-century Christians react to the witness-bearing of God’s spirit, with what effects upon them?
21 Their own inward urge, their own spirit, responded harmoniously to that witness-bearing by God’s holy spirit. The heavenly Father’s spirit was encouraging and strengthening them as his spiritual children and heirs. He had implanted in them, not a sense of sonship to their earthly father, but a sense of sonship to their heavenly Father, a spiritual sonship.
22. (a) No longer did the Christianized Jews feel themselves under what covenant, in what condition? (b) In response to God’s spirit, how did the spirit of the Christians move them to demonstrate that they were God’s spiritual sons?
22 No longer did the Christianized Jews or Israelites feel that they were slaves under the old Mosaic Law covenant and still waiting for the Messiah. They felt, they knew that they were the spiritual sons of the God whom they worshiped according to the new covenant. Their own spirit, the impelling force that issued from their hearts, moved them to react to the operations of God’s spirit. Spontaneously, as sons, they cried out to God, “Abba, Father!” Their Father’s commandments for his spiritual sons they applied to themselves. His assigned work for his sons they lovingly took up. His heavenly promises to his spiritual sons they accepted and strove to prove worthy of the fulfillment of these in their case. The heavenly hope that he held before his sons they entertained, and by this hope they endeavored to live. Willingly they suffered mistreatment at the hands of this world.
23. For what hope were they willing to suffer with Christ and to die in the likeness of his death?
23 They knew that they were to become the glorified sons of God together with Jesus Christ, “provided we suffer together.” (Romans 8:17) So they were willing to suffer for living in harmony with their heavenly hope. They accepted the fact that they must die in the likeness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in order that they might share in the likeness of his resurrection.—Romans 6:5-8.
24. (a) Their spirit joined with God’s spirit in a united testimony over what fact? (b) Their prayers and lives harmonized with what hope, even to what eventuality?
24 In that way the spirit of those first-century spiritual sons of God joined his holy spirit in the united testimony that they were God’s children, by a second birth and with an inheritance reserved for them up in heaven. Accordingly their own spirit acted as an impelling force in their lives so as to fashion their prayers to their heavenly Father in perfect harmony with the witness that His spirit bore to them and not contrary to it. They wove the Scriptures that pertained to their heavenly inheritance into their prayers to God. Such prayers brightened their hope of entering into the heavenly inheritance. So they lived, thought, spoke and acted in accord with their prayers and their hope. Their prayers strengthened them to endure trial and persecution in order to gain an approved standing with God; and they knew that this approved standing with Him builds up a hope that will never be disappointed. They knew that, in order to realize their heavenly hope, they must prove themselves “faithful even to death.”—Romans 5:3-5; Revelation 2:10.
25. Why should the foregoing serve as a guide to a dedicated, baptized Christian in determining his relationship to God, especially since the spring of 1935 C.E.?
25 All the above should serve as a guide today for dedicated, baptized Christians to determine whether God’s spirit is bearing witness with their own spirit that they are His spiritual children and his heirs, as well as joint heirs with Jesus Christ in his heavenly kingdom. This has to be the case, especially since the spring of 1935 C.E. Why since then? Because then the “great crowd” described in Revelation 7:9-17 was explained to be an earthly class that is not “born again.” Instead, it has set before it the prospect of surviving the world’s “great tribulation” that is just ahead and coming out of it into God’s righteous new order, there to enjoy an earthly paradise under the heavenly kingdom of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 joint heirs. (Luke 23:43) By being obedient to the Kingdom and proving their devotion to the universal sovereignty of Jehovah God under the final test, they need never die in the flesh from off the surface of the earth. They belong to the “other sheep” of whom the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ spoke in John 10:16.
23. For what hope were they willing to suffer with Christ and to die in the likeness of his death?