[#] Called as a witness

Pastor Brad, in his continuing effort to get me fired so I can blog full-time and have my wife and kids leave me, asked this (among other things) in the meta:
Here is what I'd like to know about what you wrote. You write:

Because our spirit is doing the things the Holy Spirit wants done, we have a witness that we are children of God.

The question is, what do you mean by "a witness"? Do you mean that we rest assured in our salvation based on the works that we do? That they are our "witness"? Or do you mean that as we do, with joy, those things our Lord calls us to do we have an inward witness that says, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" (Not audibly, but spiritually.)

I think that we have to be careful to look to the whole counsel of Scripture when we start talking about the way in which the Spirit "testifies" to us about anything.

For example, in the passage in Rom 8 we are considering here, Paul is making a somewhat-protracted point. If we follow it from the beginning (which is actually in Rom 1), Paul is making a case here that there is a difference between the idolatrous reprobate and the person saved by grace – and that difference is not merely eternal or supernatural but active and present.

In that, Paul begins this section "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". That distinction – being in Christ vs. not being in Christ – is the basis for the balance of this section's discussion of how those in Christ shall live. Being "in Christ" is equated with being "in the Spirit" (v.7-9). Those "in the Spirit" have a "life to [their] mortal bodies through his Spirit" (v.10-11) rather than a life still stuck in death by sin.

Then Paul says this, which is the basis of your comments:

    14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For 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!" 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and 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.
My opinion on this passage goes like this:

(1) Paul has already demonstrated that he's talking about what we will do based on who and what we have been made into. That is, if we have been given the second birth, we will act in the new life we have been given and not in the old life.

(2) Paul has also already demonstrated that the flesh is lead by the spirit, and not the other way around – remember, this is the wonderful rejoiner to the dilemma of the problem that I do what I do not want to do, and do not want to do what I do.

(3) If this is the case, Paul is here saying, "look: your human actions – the things you do with your flesh – will be reformed as your flesh is lead by the new spirit Christ gives to you. If you are sons of God, you will be led by this new spirit in you. When you show you are sons of God (when your spirit leads your flesh), you can know that the Spirit of God testifies to the Father in the same way your spirit, leading your flesh, testifies to your Father."

(4) Paul also says here that we will undoubtedly suffer if we are demonstrating this spirit because we will be sons in the way Christ is a son – obedient even if it means death.

I don't think this is talking about a still, small voice or anything like that: I think it is talking about (a-hem) incarnational theology. It is talking about our salvation being present and real and not just a promise which is far off and only for the "end times". Paul is saying, as he does further down the page, that we are more than conquerors: nothing can separate us from God's love either in this life or the next.

The testimony of the Spirit is not, in this case, Scripture per se: it is our conformity to Christ. Now, we might go elsewhere and try to hash out how we know what the Spirit will do in us – and that might point us back at Scripture (I think it does) – but Paul is not talking directly here about the Spirit speaking through the Scripture: he is talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit reforming our motives and our actions to demonstrate Christ-likeness.

Pastor Brad continues:

Let me sum up by emphasizing the main things in the passage that indicate that the Holy Spirit communicates with us:

1. Verse 14 says we are "led by the Spirit of God".

2. We cry "Abba!" by His Spirit.

3. His Spirit bears witness with ours that God is our Father.

Is it His Spirit alone or our works alone that confirm our salvation? You may say, "Both." However, I'd like to hear how works confirm salvation to the heart of a believer but the same work brings no rest to the unbeliever.
As you can see above, I do say "both". But your question is an interesting one because it makes the assumption that if BonoBill Gates gives $1 billion to Katmandu and Brad Williams gives $1 billion to Katmandu, they have both done "the same work". I disagree with that on-premise.

I suggest to you that Romans 2-3 gives us a very important context for the affirmation Paul makes in Romans 8: "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself" and of course "we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law". See: when Bill Gates spends $1 billion on anybody for any reason – let's say, for the sake of the argument, that he spends it specifically on food and shelter – Bill Gates is only acting in the spirit of the flesh. In the best possible case, he has only condemned himself by demonstrating he knows what the Law says. But when Brad Williams gives $1 billion to Katmandu, Brad Williams does so in the name of Jesus Christ, confessionally and intentionally for the sake of the mercy already shown to him. There is a vast gap between those two things which Paul has enumerated in Rom 7-8.

The reason the unbeliever cannot take solace in the work is that the unbeliever wants to take credit for the work. Doug Wilson had a fabulous parable last week about bus fair, and this is exactly the same thing: the believer comes to the table with nothing but the firstfruits of the Spirit – something he didn't earn and has no right to, but has the obligation to give away as freely as it was given to himself. The believer knows that only Jesus Christ has any merit in the equation, and please God do not let me stand between Christ and what He wants to accomplish.

That's what I think. You might think something else, and that's what the meta is for.