There was a time when a young girl doubting her salvation unburdened her heart to me. Together we looked at the truth of John 6:47 that when you believe on Jesus, you have eternal life. I asked if she had ever depended on Jesus to save her. Looking up with sincere eyes, she answered yes. I then asked, “So what do you have?” This time, she looked perplexed so I pointed at the text, the promise of John 6:47, “everlasting life.” With that sure foundation I emphasized, “You can count on this—because it says so!” With this focus, her face lit up, and with new joy in her eyes, she exclaimed heartily, “Because it says so!” She left our conversation having been freed in her spirit.
Many times I have seen those troubled with doubt switch their focus back to God’s sure Word and immediately find assurance. Their discovery comes from the written Word in conjunction with the living Word. The objective assurance is the written Word. The subjective assurance is the living Word, Jesus, speaking by His Spirit, and this divine communication is the witness of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16). This affirmation simply and profoundly declares personal assurance truth.
The Holy Spirit speaks and bears witness to our spirit, not to our soul. The communication is in the very core of our being, not the outer man. The inner man is where the Spirit speaks to us. What He speaks is found in the phrase “that we are the children of God.” The biblical precision of the word are indicates this is not a feeling on the soul level because feelings come and go. Instead, the word depicts a knowing. It does not state that you feel like the children of God; it says you are His children. Soul impressions may arise and later dissipate, but Spirit-to-spirit communication is a deep knowing. The Spirit confirms to your spirit that you are a child of God.
However, such assurance is not automatic every moment. The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6) and as the Spirit of truth, the Spirit bears witness to truth, not doubt. The Spirit of truth bears witness to the Word of truth. He bears witness to what He authored (2 Pet. 1:21). This is why I have emphasized the importance of focusing on the sure Word of God.
The witness of the Spirit in the matter of salvation only comes when you side with truth regarding salvation. The Spirit of truth will not bear witness to doubt. But when you side with truth (specifically, that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life), the Spirit of truth bears witness to that truth. He bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.
Subjective assurance comes when objective assurance is embraced by faith. The witness of the Spirit corroborates with the focus of faith in the sure word of God. When someone plagued with doubt focuses on the truth of salvation by faith and sides with that truth, the Spirit of truth bears witness with their spirit that they are a child of God.
Infallible assurance, the witness of the Spirit, comes through faith in the infallible Word.
John Van Gelderen