The Witness of the Spirit

By: Eddie Estep

A fond memory from my early years is the singing of the saints in the church attended by our family. When I learned to read music – both words and notes – the hymns of the church came alive. One of the songs the congregation most loved to sing was “It Is Well with My Soul.” Saints with names like Batson, Duncan, Crane, Stewart, Hawkins, VanCamp, and Ward would lift their voices, singing from hearts filled with assurance. It was not rare for the singing of such songs to result in spontaneous testimonies of God’s grace.

How do you know that you are entirely sanctified? Or, for that matter, how do you know that you are saved? How do you know that it is well with your soul?

The Witness of the Spirit – commonly known as the doctrine of assurance – is one of Wesley’s most distinctive contributions. Wesley describes it as the Spirit of God’s direct impression on his soul of the certainty of being accepted and loved by God.

Acts 15:8-9 is the most significant passage on the Witness of the Spirit – “God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit.” The writer to the Hebrews also makes a strong statement regarding assurance: “By one offering, he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us” (Hebrews 10:14-15). The numerous “we knows” in 1 John are also helpful, especially where we read, “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (3:24).

This is the doctrine of assurance – we know that we know that we know.

The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene addresses the Witness of the Spirit in several places:

9.3. We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are received by faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.

10. Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by grace through faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.

20.7. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the new birth, and also to the entire sanctification of believers.

925. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the new birth and to the subsequent work of heart cleansing, or entire sanctification, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

God will assure us that the deeper work of entire sanctification has been accomplished. Just as the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God, the Spirit also assures us that God has purified our hearts. When believers give themselves fully to God and by faith receive the grace of entire sanctification, the Holy Spirit directly witnesses that the work of grace has been accomplished. Wesley taught that besides the direct witness of the Spirit to our own hearts, there is an indirect witness from the “fruit” of our life. But the direct witness is primary. When your heart has been transformed, no one knows it better than you.

Do you have such assurance, such absolute certainty? You can! Such assurance leads to peace of heart and mind that passes all understanding.

But it’s real, it’s real! O I know it’s real!

Praise God the doubts are settled, For I know, I know it’s real!

(Chorus of “It’s Real.” Words by Homer L. Cox)

One thought on “The Witness of the Spirit

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  1. Needless to say “It’s Real” has, for the most part, been forgotten about.
    It has been years since I have heard it sung but do remember how it brought life into the singing and touched individuals. Thank you for reminding me of the value in bringing these meaningful hymns back. We will sing this title next week in our church.


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