Sometimes the soul wonders whether it is a child of God or not, because so much of the old nature still remains. So the soul brings out all the evidences to prove its claim to be a true child of God. To support this claim, the Holy Spirit comes and bears witness that the claim is true.

The picture is that of judicial proceedings in a court of law. The judge being seated, the person concerned lays his claim, produces his evidences and pleads his case. Then a person of known and approved integrity comes into the court and testifies on behalf of the claimant. This stops the mouth of all the adversaries and fills the man that pleaded with joy and satisfaction. It is the same with the believer. The soul, by the power of his own conscience, is brought before the law of God. There the soul puts in his plea that he is a true child of God, that he does indeed belong to God’s family, and to prove this, he produces all his evidences, everything by which faith gives him a right and title to God. Satan, in the meantime, opposes with all his might. Sin and the law add their opposition also. Many flaws are found in his evidences. The truth of them all is questioned and the soul is left in doubt as to whether he is a child of God or not. Then the Comforter comes and by a word of promise or in some other way, overwhelms the heart with a sure persuasion, putting down all objections, showing that his plea is good and that he is indeed a child of God. And therefore the Holy Spirit is said to ‘witness with our spirits that we are children of God.’

At the same time, he enables us to show our love to the Father by acts of obedience to his will, which is called ‘crying Abba, Father’ (Gal. 4:6). But as the Holy Spirit works sovereignly of his own will and pleasure, the believer may be kept in doubt for a long time. The law sometimes seems to prevail, sin and Satan to rejoice and the poor soul is filled with dread about his inheritance. Perhaps by his own witness, from his faith, sanctification and previous experience, he keeps up his claim with some life and comfort. But the work is not done, the conquest is not fully won, until the Spirit, who works freely and effectively, when and how he wills, comes in with his testimony also. Clothing his power with his promise, he makes all parties concerned listen to him and so puts an end to the whole dispute.

In this, he gives us holy fellowship with himself. The soul knows his voice when he speaks. There is something too great in that voice to be only the voice of some created power. When the Lord Jesus Christ at one word stilled the storm, all who were with him knew there was divine power at work (Matt. 8:25, 27). And when the Holy Spirit with one word stills the storms in the soul, bringing calm and assurance, then the soul knows by experience that divine power is present and so rejoices in that presence.

~ John Owen.