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How May I Know I Have the Spirit?

by R H Boll

(Part 3 of 3 Part Series)    (From June 1927 Word & Work)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Having in the preceding article brought out the fact that the Holy Spirit is given without exception to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus and comes to Him in the obedience of faith, and that “if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his” (Rom. 8 :9 )— we now take up the important question,

     How can I know that I have the Holy Spirit? Most people who are concerned on this score look for the manifestation of the Spirit in their feelings. From their feelings they would deduce their faith; and from this they would assure themselves of the fact. Now that is going at things exactly backward. In every other inquiry we consider that the fact is first and fundamental. The testimony rests upon fact, and comes next in order. Then follows faith and corresponding feeling. To illustrate, some disaster has befallen a man’s home or business during his absence; the word is carried to him; he believes it and then comes his distress and necessary action. Or, an unexpected inheritance has fallen to a man: — that is the basal fact. Then he is notified of the fact: —that is the testimony. He receives it unquestioningly: — that is the faith. Then he is filled with corresponding emotion, and proceeds to take possession of what has been given him. The order is not: feeling, faith, fact; but fact, testimony, faith, feeling, action. Now the fact is that God gave His Holy Spirit unto us, even to those who have believed in Jesus and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:38). We learn of this fact through the sure and certain testimony of God’s word. Then we know it, by faith (“Know ye not that ye are a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God?” 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). There comes, certainly, as we believe that, a sense of reverence and awe, a joy and peace; and we shall go forth and act upon this great fact which is thus revealed to us.

     This is normally the first knowledge we have, and this must always be the foundation of everything. I do not say that this is all, but that this is fundamental. And we may be thankful that our foundation is thus laid upon the firm and sober testimony of the Word. For all inward experience is liable to fluctuation; and what we may be strongly conscious of in ourselves at one time may be a question and a doubt at another; and we would be always anxiously observing our feeling and the state of our inward consciousness—and that is the sure way to make oneself doubtful and hopeless. We must accept first of all what God says and base our faith and assurance upon that that produces conviction; and conviction does not change with bodily or mental states. It matters not if some in New Testament times, (or since for that matter) had received the Spirit in some palpably evident way—that is not our case, no more than we were permitted to see the risen Lord or put our fingers in the print of the nails. Most of us, all of us in fact, have to walk by faith in this instance, and set our seal to this that God is true. And that is not half bad. All the seeking for supernormal experiences is to be disparaged. It is not of God’s will, and it causes delusions and despairs.

     Nor ought we to think that we ought to be conscious of the Spirit’s presence within as of some strange and foreign personality or force within us. He does not intrude like that, or obtrude Himself upon our minds. He is not present as a different personality, but to permeate and strengthen our own personality. He is not a blind, irrational power acting upon us, nor does He work within us by arbitrary compulsion. He does not violate our reason, intelligence, or moral constitution, nor interfere with our liberty of choice. It would be nearer the facts to say that His presence secures to us the true liberty of choice, in choosing God’s will and ways. He works through our wills and minds. He leads, He enlightens, He warms our hearts, and works in us both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.

      I feel it necessary to say this in order to clear away common misconceptions that We hold almost without knowing or knowing why. No such things as those above disparaged ought to be assumed.

But no man ever starts out purely by faith and in obedience without finally having some more or less palpable experience. Abraham went forth in faith, not knowing whither he went; but his way was as the dawning light that shone more and more unto the perfect day. At the end of his journey the certainty of that in which he had trusted was more assured to him than all knowledge of his senses. So, will those who believing and obeying Jesus, and who accepting the promise of the Spirit by faith, go forth acting upon it, come to a deeper realization of it by increasingly clearer evidence. “I will manifest myself unto him,” said the Lord Jesus (John 14:21-23); and the context shows (vs. 15- 24) that this “manifestation” will come through the presence of the indwelling Spirit.

     There will be the fruit of the Spirit— things which spring up most marvelously, and which we know did not grow just out of our own little garden—a power to love, a peace in trying circumstances, a joy that burns on in the floods of sorrow; an unwonted ability to put up with the continued failures and misdoings of others: “longsuffering” ; the faculty of taking wrong kindly and humbly; “meekness” ; the new and sometimes surprising way in which we can handle ourselves: “self-control.” And from the realization of this and what it means, our hearts become happy in Jesus. We come to know that the Spirit is bearing His fruit in us; and we shall want, more and more, to let Him have His way with us, in accordance with the Word.

      “There will be,” says one, “deep and quiet peace; at times a great joy that sings . . . a new hunger for the old Book, and a new soft light on its pages. There will be an inner drawing to talk with God, and an intense desire to please Him, to find out what He wants you to do, and then to do it. . .. Temptation will come anew, and a sense of sin, a feeling that there is some­ thing within you fighting you— the new you. These things will tell you that the Spirit has taken possession of what you surrendered, and that He is now at work within.”

     But, whether you have been aware of such things or not, set yourself square with God’s word and promise, and proceed upon it, experience or no experience, blindly, hopelessly, if you cannot do otherwise; but follow on to trust and obey. Thus, shall you come to know.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10