What is the evidence that we have the Holy Spirit? This is a common question among Christians. Following is my sampling of some of the answers I have heard. One answer is that the Holy Spirit indwells only through the word of God; so the evidence of indwelling is an increasing understanding of the word of God, the Bible. A second answer is that the gifts of the Spirit are the evidence. A third answer is that you know you have the Holy Spirit by the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, which are the qualities and deeds of Christ-likeness. A fourth answer is that the evidence of the Holy Spirit is the blessings received through the church’s ministry according to the word of promise.
While you are contemplating the answers, imagine you are renting a house. The owner of the house informs you that you must write out a big check for a down payment. The owner wants proof of your promise that you are really going to rent his house and make the monthly payments. In a few days you observe that your down-payment has been deposited into the owners escrow account. Picture your own bewilderment if the owner of the house then complained: “What evidence do I have of your down payment?” The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment, proof and evidence of God’s promise to give you the full inheritance of eternal life as a child in the family of God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13-14). How our Lord must be bewildered that even a mature Christian will ask: “What is the evidence that I really have the Holy Spirit?”
Since the Holy Spirit himself is evidence of God’s promise, then we must know we have him within our hearts. We must be aware and able to articulate our fellowship with Christ’s presence and the blessings of his work within our bodies, which is his holy temple. I fear that when we question how we know whether we have the Holy Spirit, that the question exposes a real inner uncertainty of our relationship with the Lord. While that explanation is likely, I believe it is more likely that we are so used to living and speaking about our lives on the basis of the flesh, that we are inexperienced and out of touch with the inner reality of God’s Spirit seeking a fuller fellowship with our spirit. We are like the half-Vulcan and half-Human Spock in the television and movie series of “Star Trek.” Spock suppressed the human side of his being in favor of expressing the Vulcan side. If we are largely material in the outlook, experiences, and descriptions of our lives; then the truly unseen, inward spiritual realities may elude us or even spook us.
If you are willing to explore the implications; then for now I want to leave you with some food for thought. First, the sampling of answers in the first paragraph — however incomplete or misunderstood — shows that that the fullness of the church’s experience of the promise of the Holy Spirit is large. Congregations and Christians everywhere need enlargement in their knowledge and experience of the promise of the Holy Spirit. Why? The reason is because the scriptures make a big deal about the promise of the Holy Spirit as the Christ’s (Messiah’s) means for bringing God’s restoration of his blessings to Israel and the rest of the world (Isaiah 44 and 61, Ezekiel 36-37, Joel 2 and Acts 1-2).
Second, it is completely understandable when a new or uninformed Christian asks: “How do I know I have the Holy Spirit?” There are blessings and manifestations of God’s down payment; and this question is a way of getting to the teachings that explain these truths. Thus, the question provides an opportunity to explain what the Bible teaches about the inspired word of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the ministry of the Spirit in and by the church (1 Corinthians 2, 1Corinthians 12, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 4).
Third, I think a very important question for all Christians to ask, especially those who think they are mature, is: Is Christ Jesus in me? The Apostle Paul asked this question as a test of genuine in devotion and service to Christ. Paul proved his genuineness as an apostle by sharing in the sufferings and love of Christ (2 Corinthians 10-13). Much is taught in the New Testament about the formation of Christ within us; and you may explore the deeper realization of this in the teaching of Jesus recorded in John 6. For now, I leave you with this aspiration from Galatians 2:20 (ESV): “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Fourth, it is also critical that congregations of Christians ask: Do people and fellow Christians see the evidence of the faith, the grace of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our praise and service to God? Acts 11:23-24 (ESV) beautifully expresses this thought from the example of Barnabas. It tells us: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Notice that the working of God’s grace in his church, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit and faith in a leader like Barnabas, was observable and discernible. Thus it could be described as a story; and the telling of testimony is an important way for others to learn what to expect and emulate.
Finally, Jesus himself explained in John 14:15-24 his promise to give his disciples the Spirit of truth as a Helper. He promised that we would know of his Helper because he would dwell within us. Let me emphasize: We know through his indwelling. Through the indwelling both Father and Son make their home with us, and assure us of abiding fellowship, so that we are not orphans. Then Jesus explained how he would manifest his indwelling presence and fellowship to us. To manifest is to show and prove. The Lord’s purpose is that he shall manifest himself to us so that we have the comfort of his presence; the help he wills to provide to us; and fruitfulness that glorifies himself and his Father in us (See also John 15). It is so simple: Jesus promised that he would manifest himself to us if we love him by keeping his words. Isn’t that evidence enough?