Watchtower: January 2016
Study Article: “The Spirit Bears Witness With Our Spirit”
Study Date: March 14-20, 2016
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:16
We continue with Part 3 of our commentary on the first study article in the January 2016 Watchtower magazine (“WT”). The Spirit Bears Witness Part 1 (paragraphs 1-4) and Part 2 (paragraphs 5-7).
How Does Someone Know?
WT Paragraph 8:
“8 The vast majority of God’s servants today may find this anointing process difficult to comprehend, and rightly so. It is not something that they experience. God’s original purpose was for mankind to live forever here on earth. (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 37:29) The selection of some to go to heaven to rule as kings and priests is not the norm. It is an exceptional arrangement. This calling causes a profound change in the thinking, outlook, and hope of a person when he is anointed.— Read Ephesians 1:18."
The scripture to read states:
“He has enlightened the eyes of your heart, so that you may know to what hope he called you, what glorious riches he holds as an inheritance for the holy ones.”
– Ephesians 1:18
We, of course, agree with Paul’s writings to the Ephesians. Anointed sons of God are a spiritually enlightened group.
However, we strongly disagree with the erroneous assumption that “God’s original purpose was for mankind to live forever here on earth.” There is no scripture in the entire Bible that tells us God’s original purpose is for each faithful person to live forever on earth. And we note that the scriptures cited, Genesis 1:18 or Psalms 37:29, do not support this erroneous assumption either. Notice what those scriptures actually say:
“Further, God blessed them, and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving on the earth.”
– Genesis 1:18
This scripture is instructions to Adam and Eve as to their purpose while on earth. It makes no comment as to whether this commission continues forever, nor does it speak of a purpose for mankind to live forever on earth. It simply explains to Adam and Eve their commission. The original purpose of God was not revealed in the Adam and Eve story. It was revealed at the latter part of the days by Jesus himself:
“Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, as he chose us to be in union with him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and unblemished before him in love. For he foreordained us to be adopted as his own sons through Jesus Christ, according to his good pleasure and will, in praise of his glorious undeserved kindness that he kindly bestowed on us by means of his beloved one.”
– Ephesians 1:3-6
So even before Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, before any sort of seed on earth was planted, God had purposed, foreordained, that those of mankind who exercised faith in Jesus Christ would be adopted as His sons in the heavens!
The other scripture cited in the paragraph also fails to support the erroneous assumption of God’s original purpose:
“The righteous will possess the earth, And they will live forever on it.”
– Psalms 37:29
This scripture prophecies that at some time in the future, the earth will be populated with righteous people and from that time forward, it will continue to be populated with righteous people – forever. It does not say that the individual faithful man or woman would remain here forever. If it did, then the psalmist would be in direct conflict with Jesus’ own teachings as recorded by the apostle Paul. In such an instance, we hope the children of God will side with Jesus’ clear and unambiguous teaching. For more details about this scripture, see The Destiny of Man.
We do, however, agree that the anointing “causes a profound change in the thinking, outlook, and hope of a person when he is anointed.” Notice how Paul described the change:
“Now I say that as long as the heir is a young child, he is no different from a slave, although he is the lord of all things, but he is under supervisors and stewards until the day set ahead of time by his father. Likewise, we too, when we were children, were enslaved by the elementary things of the world. But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent his Son, who was born of a woman and who was under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then you are also an heir through God.”
– Galatians 4:1-7
The change is from a slave of God to a son of God. From a slave’s mentality to that of a son who is an heir of all that the Father’s owns! (Romans 8:15)
Anointed sons abandon the pursuit of the ‘elementary things of the world.’ They no longer serve under ‘supervisors and stewards,’ nor follow men. They are faithful and discreet, thus they do not follow the directions of men “whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”
When the children of God pray, they do not call God by name. The spirit of the Father that dwells within them (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19) causes them to cry out “Father!” They have an intimate and personal relationship with the Father, quite different from slaves.
WT Paragraph 9:
“9 But how does a person know that he has the heavenly calling, that he has, in fact, received this special token? The answer is clearly seen in Paul’s words to the anointed brothers in Rome, who were “called to be holy ones.” He told them: “You did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but 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.” (Rom. 1:7; 8:15, 16) Simply put, by means of his holy spirit, God makes it clear to that person that he is invited to become a future heir in the Kingdom arrangement.—1 Thess. 2:12.
The questions for paragraphs 8 and 9 ask:
“8, 9. (a) Why is it difficult for most people to understand what happens when someone is anointed? (b) How does a person know that he has been invited to go to heaven?
We notice here that the writer of this Watchtower study article is unable to explain what happens when someone is anointed or how one would know it. Thus, we must conclude that the writer, along with those who approved the publication of this profound lack of knowledge, are either spiritual babes not qualified to teach others (Hebrews 5:12), or they are among those who have not received the anointing and therefore do not understand it.
All the paragraph says is: “Simply put, by means of his holy spirit, God makes it clear to that person that he is invited to become a future heir in the Kingdom arrangement.” The phrase “simply put” implies that the answer is too complicated for the reader. But it is really a cop out by the writer who does not even attempt to provide a satisfying answer. People who are sincerely curious about this subject matter will not be satisfied with such a cursory uninformative response. To those who seek more information, we share the following:
The way one knows they have been invited to go to heaven is not really that complicated. As Paul explained:
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:16
So, there are two spirit influences: (1) “the spirit itself;” and (2) “our spirit.” The ‘spirit itself’ refers to the Spirit of Truth that was poured upon all flesh out at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Acts 2:2-4, 16-21) ‘Our spirit’ is the spirit of God that dwells within us:
“Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:16
“What! Do you not know that the body of you people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God?”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19
The spirit of God that dwells within us stirs our hearts to consider the possibility that we are the children of God. It operates when we are praying, studying spiritual material, or reading the Bible. It operates when we are serving others, when we are caring for our families, when we are contemplating our future. This spirit exists in ALL of those who love God, regardless of whether they are pursuing the ‘Synagogue hope’ or the ‘Christian hope.’ It is ever present, ever bearing witness, and ever drawing us Godward.
As a lover of God continues to take in knowledge about Jesus Christ and his earthly ministry, he or she discovers that the Christian Bible writings only speak favorably about a heavenly hope, and actually discourage pursuing a permanent place on earth – such as these scriptures:
“For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things of the earth. As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has, even to subject all things to himself.”
– Philippians 3:18-21
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For in this dwelling house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
“We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This [hope] you heard of before by telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as [it is doing] also among you, from the day you heard and accurately knew the undeserved kindness of God in truth.”
– Colossians 1:3-6
“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above not on the things upon the earth.”
– Colossians 3:1-2
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.”
– 1 Peter 1:3-5
He or she reads scriptures that show that unless they are a part of the ‘body of Christ,’ they are not in the Christian congregation, such as these:
“Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation.”
– Colossians 1:17-18
“I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for you, and I, in my turn, am filling up what is lacking of the tribulations of the Christ in my flesh on behalf of his body, which is the congregation.”
– Colossians 1:24
“He also subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.”
– Ephesians 1:22-23
And he or she takes to heart Paul’s counsel:
“Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on [it]; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead. I am pursuing down toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.”
– Philippians 3:13-15
Accordingly, such a person prays to God for the proper mental inclination. In heartfelt prayer, he or she finds themselves calling out to God, not by name, but as “Father.” Yes, in spite of all their learning to call Him “God” or “Jehovah,” in their critical times of need, the physical man is silenced, their spirit takes over and they cry out “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:16)
In time, sometimes while in the midst of prayer, the peace of God wells up in such a person, and in response, he or she abandons all resistance and accepts the truth that they, too, are a child of God. Immediately, the Spirit of Truth – the spirit of conviction – envelops them and resonates with the spirit of God within. This double witness – from inside and from outside – gives that person a conviction, not just a suspicion, but a conviction, that he or she is, in fact, a son of God! There is no inner talk about being kings or priests, nor any inclination of self-importance. There is only an inner confirmation that they are sons. They have received the token guaranteeing their heavenly inheritance, and no one can take it from them. That is how the Spirit of Truth bears witness. It does not necessarily tell you truth. It serves to confirm the truth of a matter.
In some instances, this mental and spiritual realization is so profound and intense that it causes physical sensations within the body that, when articulated, can sound very supernatural. It is hard to put into words and convey the ‘knowingness’ to a person who has not experienced it. But next comes the greater challenge – making public declaration before men and publicly confessing their new found union with Jesus Christ.
Here is where the insecurity arises. They are not insecure in their sonship, they are insecure in how others will respond. And so they begin dropping hints and putting the idea out there to people they feel close to, hoping to find a compassionate and supportive ear. In our experience, and that of many others, we can tell you that those who are not listening to the spirit of God that dwells within them will not offer any relief or support. They will parrot the sayings of others who are blind to spirit guidance and treat such a new son as mentally diseased or emotionally disturbed! But as Paul wrote, it is those who are not pursuing the heavenly calling who need the ‘mental attitude adjustment.’ (Philippians 3:13-15) They would do much better taking their concerns to another anointed child of God who can relate to the experience.
This presents a precipice moment for Jehovah’s Witnesses who accept the token of the spirit. Are they willing to openly confess union with Jesus and publicly partake of the Memorial emblems? Or will fear of man and cowardice overtake them in an distorted quest for peace? It is helpful at these times for such new sons to seek out their brothers in the faith for support and encouragement.
WT Paragraph 10:
“10 Those who have received this special invitation from God do not need another witness from any other source. They do not need someone else to verify what has happened to them. Jehovah leaves no doubt whatsoever in their minds and hearts. The apostle John tells such anointed Christians: “You have an anointing from the holy one, and all of you have knowledge.” He further states: “As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.” (1 John 2:20, 27) These ones need spiritual instruction just like everyone else. But they do not need anyone to validate their anointing. The most powerful force in the universe has given them this conviction!
We agree that an anointed child of God does not need to seek the approval of another. The witness of the spirit and the work of the anointing is sufficient assurance. But as mentioned above, having the support of your brothers in the faith can make the transition much more joyful.
The question for paragraph 10 ask:
“10. What does 1 John 2:27 mean when it says that an anointed Christian does not need someone else to teach him.”
1 John 2:27 means exactly what it says, namely:
“And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”
– 1 John 2:27
The anointing will teach those who have this witness of the spirit about all things, not just about the anointing. This scripture is problematic for those who seek to supervise and direct the faith of others. It is hard for them to accept that the Spirit of Truth can do a better job at teaching than can men. But whether they accept this scripture or not, Jesus confirmed this role for the Spirit of Truth:
“And I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you.”
– John 14:16-17
“I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares it to you.”
– John 16:12-15
It is helpful to be able to distinguish the difference between ‘taking in information’ and ‘being taught.’ As an example, you can surely think of many things that people have told you that you do not accept as true. You took in the information, but it did not ring true to you. In the same way, we can take in information from others, but unless the information rings true to you, you have not been ‘taught.’
It is not necessarily the spirit’s work to provide information. It is up to the individual to seek out information:
“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8
The work of the spirit – the anointing – is to resonate with the spirit of God that dwells within you so that you know what rings true. One’s ability to know truth is only limited by the quantity and quality of the information he or she takes in. If one is not ‘seeking, knocking and asking’ for information, there is nothing for the spirit to bear witness with. For this reason, continued study, prayer and communion with the Father equips you to receive truth, the truth of your anointing as well as the truth “about all things.”
We hope this has been enlightening to those who wonder about how the spirit bears witness and how one knows they have been anointed. We address the remaining paragraphs in our next commentaries.