Romans 8:16 And Assurance -- By: Kenneth W. Yates

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 30:59 (Autumn 2017)
Article: Romans 8:16 And Assurance
Author: Kenneth W. Yates


Romans 8:16 And Assurance

Kenneth W. Yates

Editor

I. Introduction

In Rom 8:16, Paul makes the statement that, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Many feel that this verse is saying that we are able to gain assurance of our eternal salvation from the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit tells our spirit that we are God’s children.

If this is the case, we must conclude that such assurance is very subjective. How do we know if it is the Spirit of God “speaking” to us, or if it is our own spirit? Couldn’t we even wonder if an evil spirit is communicating to us in order to deceive us?

This issue is of extreme importance. If assurance of salvation comes from such a subjective source, can we ever be certain? Maybe one day we feel that the Spirit is telling us we are children of God. But on another day, perhaps a day in which we have failed badly, we do not “hear” this testimony. Or, perhaps, we feel the exact opposite is the case. The Spirit is telling us that we are not children of God. At face value it seems that we could never have assurance of salvation. In this article I will argue that Rom 8:16 is not telling believers that they gain assurance of salvation from a subjective witness of the Holy Spirit within them.

II. Support For The Subjective View

In the writings of many Evangelicals, one can find support for the view that assurance comes through the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit. This is seen in most commentaries. In addition, both grammatical and lexical arguments are used to argue the same thing.

A. The Commentary Tradition

Many conservative Bible scholars take Rom 8:16 to mean that believers find assurance of salvation from an inner testimony of the Spirit of God. Newell says that the Holy Spirit produces, within the believer, a “consciousness” of being born of God and being a part of His family.1 However, the Spirit does not say this “to” our spirit, since the spirit of the believer already knows that he is a child of God. The Spirit of God joins “with” our spirit in declaring the truth.2

Newell, however, recognizes the subjective nature of this testimony of the Spirit and tries to alleviate it. He says that the assurance it brings is not a “feeling.” Instead, it is an unconscious certainty. At the same time, the Ho...

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