For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
There is one obvious allusion to the inward witness in this passage, and a more subtle reference, also.
Verse 16 says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit. There must be an inner witness of the Holy Spirit saying to our inner man, "you are a child of God." This is a mystical thing. It is something spiritual, that happens between God's Spirit and our spirit. This is the most crystal clear verse on the inward witness. Anyone who is saved, has this witness.
In verses 15 & 17 we see family kinship with God as a form of inward witness. There is a closeness to God that relates to him as "daddy," versus Supreme Ruler/Creator of the Universe. Verse 16 says we are God's children. Verse 17 says we are fellow heirs with Christ, as if we were His brothers. So, another part of the inward witness is kinship with God.
Other forms of the inward witness I believe are:
- An ongoing, Romans 7 style struggle with sin (Rom. 7:7-25).
- Progressive (perhaps) slow inward growth (Phil. 1:6).
- And others that I won't go into here, like communion with God.
Here are just a few of the many verses that talk about outward fruit:
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mat 7:16-21)
As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Mat 13:23)
"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? (Luk 6:43-46)
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:5)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:1-2)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Php 2:12-13)
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jas 2:17)
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:26)
If someone professes belief in Christ, and has the inward witness and the outward fruit, the only conclusion that can be made is that he or she is indeed a Christian, saved from their sins and on their way to heaven.
Now the problem that particularly the outward witness presents is this: Innumerable people have made a profession of faith, as discussed in previous blogs, but are not and do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance. What's our attitude towards them? Evangelism. What damage is there in repeating the gospel to someone who has already heard it? Either they will repent of their carnal living and continue to grow (if they were saved), they will reject Christ either actively or passively by continuing to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, or they will be converted.
This inward witness and outward fruit applies to all, but we should go back and think about our children. If and when they make a profession of faith, we should rejoice assuming that they have been born again. But we do not stop teaching the gospel, nor do we present a model of "eternal security" that turns into licence. Then we look for them to have inward confidence that they are a child of God, and display outward fruit confirming God is their Vine. We must look for all three: Profession of belief, inward confidence, and outward fruit.