(Author’s note: this article is an excerpt from my book “The Gospel of John – As Seen Through The Eyes of a Relative Nobody – Volume 2”)
In John 14:6 Jesus refers to Himself as “the truth”. Later, as He prepares the disciples for His departure, He refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”.
“…when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26)
He explains why this is a good thing.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
The term “it is to your advantage” literally means “what is coming actually conducts in and brings together the next thing”. Our Father is an orderly God. If we need to know the whys and wherefores, God will let us know at the appropriate time - everything comes in its time, sometimes by virtue of what shows up.
We’ve been seeing that Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure. In our earth-bound lives we tend to get used to what we have…to our situations and circumstances. Even when they are bad we’ll hold onto them because, at least, we know how to deal with them…to some degree, anyway. We’re familiar with them. The disciples have something good here: Jesus with them and here He is saying, “I’m fixin’ to go.”
Sometimes we need to hear that we will lose something and that something better is coming. At times, what comes isn’t immediately better. We have to trust the Lord to bring what He will. Here Jesus says, “The Helper is coming.” He is referring to the Holy Spirit and the Greek word translated as “the Helper” is “parakletos” and is more correctly translated “intercessor, consoler, advocate or comforter.”
Next Jesus tells them...and us...what the Spirit will be doing:
“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8)
The Spirit will convict.
The word “convict” means to “admonish; reprove, convince” of something. It is the job of the Spirit to convict people of their sin and other things.
Next in John 16 Jesus will teach the disciples and explain why the Spirit convicts. I want to say going into this that the first one that He speaks on has been used a lot as a reason for evangelism. I’m not convinced, though, that leading a person to Jesus for salvation is the only way it applies
What I do in my ministry has been described as evangelism....for the saved. In other words, Christians are saved but parts of our lives are often not completely redeemed by the Lord because we haven’t allowed Him to rule and reign over them. Sometimes I run into someone who does not yet belong to Him and I do classic evangelism but mostly I work with believers.
So, when we read this:
“of sin, because they do not believe in Me;” (John 16:9)
…that the Spirit convicts, Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit convicts unsaved people of their sin that is leading them to hell. He is also saying that He convicts saved people of the sin (usually flesh) that leads them to resist sanctification. Why do I say this?
I say it because with both, the same problem exists: “because they do not believe in” Jesus (literally, “because they do not ‘be living’ in” Jesus). Phrasing it another way: “because they do not practice a lifestyle of ever increasing dependency” upon Jesus.
In essence, this means that in convicting believers of our sin the Spirit is still working on us even after we are born again.
Then Jesus says that the Spirit convicts:
“of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;” (John 16:10)
For the unbeliever the Spirit convicts of the righteousness of God....and in comparison...their LACK of righteousness.
Also, regarding the believer the Spirit convicts of the righteousness of God....and in comparison...the own righteousness that they DO have in Christ.
I see among my brethren four main issues that bear mentioning here:
Many have experienced so much rejection that they just don’t sense that God is pleased with them at all….ever. In fact, much of Christianity actively pushes the concept that we are just lowly worms. (From “Amazing Grace” - “…that saved a wretch like me.)
Many are busy working to get righteousness through works and that never works because none of this is based on our works. The Word is clear about that. This approach leads many Christians to despair.
We tend to see ourselves in terms of what we have done or failed to do or in terms of what we have or do not have and that approach really has to do with identity. The problem here is that this is the way of impossibility because two of the most impossible things to accomplish are to become what we already are and to get what we already have. In contrast, I believe that the Spirit wants to convict us that we already ARE righteous in Christ, so, let’s live that!
Many of us do not live in righteous ways because we don’t think that new creations in Christ have literally been made righteous by Christ. The antidote to this, it seems to me, is for us to receive our identities in Christ, ask the Lord to renew our minds in regards to that, and begin to repent….rethink how we think about ourselves so we agree with God about that, and then to match our behaviors to who we REALLY are in Christ.
Jesus says that the Spirit also convicts:
“of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11)
To the unbeliever this means that since satan is their functional father and since he is guilty, they are guilty too. Before we were saved, we all sat under a guilty verdict. The penalty was eternal death. This is the spiritual state of all lost people.
For believers it means that we have been judged innocent. Someone else has paid the death penalty for us. Someone else has been guilty on our behalf. So many of us see ourselves and see only our sins, yet God does not. He has removed our sin pretty far from us.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 NASB)
Now, spiritually, (which is our deepest reality) we are seated in the heavenlies in Jesus at the right hand of the Father where sin cannot go.
Why are we able to be there? It’s truly because we are innocent in Christ. It is also tragically true that in many traditional churches I would be virtually stoned for saying that.
This is because shame and guilt is often used to control people in the Body of Christ. Many styles of Christianity really don’t appear to trust at all the Holy Spirit to guide His people.
Meanwhile, the Spirit is here with us...in us. He exists to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment not one time, but continually.
Conviction is not a bad thing. It’s the best thing; it’s one evidence that a Living God is still working in us.
There is much more freedom in surrendering to that than in remaining under the shame and guilt thing. Man cannot convict and correct like GOD can, but God through man can or, better still, the Holy Spirit can convict us directly.
Let’s delve a little deeper here. The Holy Spirit exists to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment. The UNHOLY spirit (satan) always tries to present an unholy version of whatever God has. He, too, convicts. He convicts (convinces us) to do things: sin.
This is called temptation.
He convicts (convinces us) to keep doing sin by convincing us that we are dirty and unrighteous. He convinces us to stay in our sin...because, after all (he says). “You’re nothing but a liar or a
This is called shame.
He convinces us to hate ourselves because of our sin because, after all, (he says) “You must hate yourselves for that in order to KEEP YOURSELVES from doing it anymore.”
This is called unbelief.
So, when the unholy spirit (satan) sends temptation and we obey him the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and we feel guilt. This feels bag but is, in reality, a good thing.
Guilt is designed by God to convince us to stop sinning.
When the unholy spirit (satan) sends shame and we receive that, the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness and we feel freed, knowing we no longer need whatever short term benefits the sin seem to have offered.
When the unholy spirit (satan) sends hopelessness and unbelief and we receive that, the Holy Spirit convicts us of judgment and we feel cleansed knowing we are innocent.
The Apostle Paul, who had helped kill Christians, says something curious in Acts:
“…I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” (Acts 20:26 NASB)
How can he say such a thing when we know that he did help kill Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:3)?
He can truthfully say it because he has been convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment and has received from Jesus his freedom, his righteousness and his judgment of innocence. Paul was living in recognition of these spiritual realities.
We can too.
Let us, then, embrace the various ways the conviction from the Spirit of truth manifests, knowing that this is one of the ways God blesses us through the continual purifying of our souls.