“And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”
There are three things that the Holy Spirit convicts unsaved people about. The Lord Jesus spoke about these three things in the gospel of John when He said; “And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world now stands condemned.” (John 16:8-11) Now let’s look at this…
1. He Convicts the Word of Sin:
The average person in the street has little or no knowledge of how much sin grieves the heart of God and has consequences in this life and in the life to come. While the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, the first and foremost sin He convicts an unsaved person about is their sin of unbelief in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Lord, whose blood has been shed to atone for the their sin and for the sins of the whole world. (John1:29) (1 John 2:2)
The sin of unbelief in the Lord Jesus is the root cause of all other sins that people commit. As an illustration, if you take Dominos and stand them on end to support each other there will always be a lead domino that supports all of them. However, if you collapse the lead domino all of the other dominos lined up will also collapse. Once the Holy Spirit has really dealt with this sin of unbelief He can then deal with the other sins that proceed from it.
Now we most certainly need to preach God’s Law (the Torah) to expose the sins of men but this in itself will not get people saved and put into a right standing with God. The blessed Holy Spirit Himself must show them the spiritual darkness and ignorance of their heart and mind as revealed in the law of God (the Torah). The blessed Holy Spirit needs to first and foremost convict an unsaved person of their broken relationship with the Lord Jesus and that He is their only hope for the future in this uncertain world and for eternity to come where heaven and hell are stark realities.
The Holy Spirit shows them the true spiritual condition of their innermost being and that without God it is a very dark place spiritually imbued with all kinds of evil intents and desires. (Romans 7:18) (Psalm 51:3-5) As Jeremiah writes; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Once the unsaved person, under conviction by the Holy Spirit, sees the true spiritual condition of their heart attitude towards God, and the spiritual depravity that lurks there, they will cry out to God for mercy, pardon and cleansing.
There must be a deep conviction of one’s sin and an intense desire deep down on the inside to be saved from its power and consequences, a thirst for God that will not be quenched until they find Him. Unless the blessed Holy Spirit produces this deep conviction down on the inside they will never be saved. (Acts 2:37) (John 3:3) This conviction of their unbelief in the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord will make them aware of their need of salvation. It will also galvanize them into action in that they will make a turnaround in the way they have been living in this world. They will be willing to have God change them from a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting way of life, to a Messiah loving and Messiah accepting way of life. This is Biblical repentance.
They will show this repentance towards God by acknowledging their sin and without making excuses for it. They will then be willing to turn away from their sins and turn in faith to the Lord Jesus for salvation. (Acts 19:18-20; 20:21) It will be a faith in the heart that produces obedience in the life. (Romans 1:5; 16:26) This obedience is something that must be nurtured, grow and develop. The newly saved person will not be perfect but the first and foremost desire of their heart will be to obey God and to walk in His commandments by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:12-14) It is this kind of faith that always pleases God. (Hebrews 11:6)
One thing to also keep in mind when witnessing to others is that while our work is to present them the gospel of the kingdom it is the Holy Spirit’s work to bring about in them conviction of sin. No matter how we might use the Bible if the Holy Spirit does not do His convicting and converting work through us then that person we are seeking to witness to will not be saved. This is why we need to be filled with the Spirit when witnessing to the unsaved. (Acts 1:8) (Acts 2:4) (Ephesians 5:18) Then we are told the second thing the Holy Spirit does…
2. He convicts the world of Righteousness:
Man’s greatest need is righteousness before God, to have that righteousness that God desires from all people everywhere, a righteousness they need if they would enter into God’s eternal kingdom. There needs to be a hungering and thirsting for righteousness that only God can give. (Matthew 5:6) Man’s best attempts to be righteous and upright in His sight are at best like a filthy discarded woman’s menstrual rag. (Isaiah 64:6)
This righteous standard of living God requires cannot be obtained by trying to keep His laws and commandments even though they in themselves are holy, righteous and good and given to us for the benefit and well-being of all men. (Romans 7:12) The problem is not with God’s law (the Torah) but with us and we cannot keep His law, neither can it in itself save the soul. (Romans 3:19-20)
It is the law (the Torah of God) the Holy Spirit uses to make us conscious of our sin and inability to keep God’s laws and commandments. It is through the law of God we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20) The instrument the Holy Spirit uses in His convicting and converting work is the Word of God. (Luke 8:11) In the work of the new birth it is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God that produces spiritual fruitfulness that pleases God. (1 Peter 1:23) (Galatians 5:22-25) Once the Holy Spirit has shown an unsaved person their lack of righteousness He then points them to the perfect righteous standard of life that Jesus Himself possesses. It is the righteousness from God that an unsaved person can have when they repent and believe on Him who has shed His blood to atone for their sin. This righteousness is bestowed by God and received by faith in the Lord Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
So then once the blessed Holy Spirit has convicted an unsaved person of their unbelief in the Lord Jesus He then shows them their need of His own righteous nature. (Philippians 3:7-9) So then the second thing the Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved about is their need of righteousness without which they will never be able to enter the kingdom of God. It is not only a righteousness bestowed and received, but a righteousness that will be seen in the way they live. Then there is the third thing the Holy Spirit does…
3. He convicts the world of judgment:
Most of the unsaved people in the world do not consider the fact that God is going to judge men and that they will have to give an account to Him for how they have lived their lives on earth. When an unsaved person repents and encounters the salvation of God through encountering the Lord Jesus, they become aware that there is a spiritual outlaw in the world. The revelation comes that they have been serving Satan due to spiritual ignorance and wilful sin. Also they know that God is going to judge the sins of men and women. They have judged correctly.
Through the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom Satan and his minions from Hades are exposed for what they are and what they have been doing. The one who has been spiritually reborn from above recognizes who their real enemy is, being Satan. Because they have the Holy Spirit living down on the inside they will find that the Holy Spirit starts to re-train and re-programme their natural senses to become receptors of spiritual light and power from God. As they grow in their relationship with the Lord they are able to discern truth from error and darkness from light. (Hebrews 5:13-14) (1 John 2:20, 27)
Added to this, they become aware of Satan and the unseen spiritual realm in the atmosphere where he operates and that they are now engaged in a wrestling match with spiritual forces of wickedness in the unseen spiritual world and not merely with humans. (Ephesians 6:12) They also come to see that Satan was judged at the cross and defeated, that their sins were nailed to the cross removing the sentence held against them because of their past sin, and that through Jesus death He has publically and openly shamed the devil! (Colossians 2:13-15)
They also come to see that the Lord Jesus has stripped Satan of his power to keep them slaves to sin, to fear and to death. (Hebrews 2:14-15) They now know the reason the Son of God was revealed was that He might destroy the diabolical and destructive works of the devil being all sin in every form. (1 John 3:8) (Hebrews 2:14-15) Added to this, the one born again sees that all of his or her sins have been forgiven and washed away in the blood of the Messiah. (1 John 1:9) (Ephesians 1:7)
They also realise that there is now no condemnation for those who have been placed by God into a brand new personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and have now started to live according to what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:1-2) They now realise God is their Heavenly Father who has only their very best interests at heart. (1 John 2:12-13) Added to this they now know of the coming judgement and have taken the exit God has provided for them in and through the Lord Jesus.
So then in this passage of scripture in John’s gospel we are told three things that the Holy Spirit does. Firstly, He convicts the unsaved of their sin of unbelief in the Lord Jesus. Secondly, He convicts the unsaved of their need of the righteous nature of the Lord Jesus because they have no righteousness of their own. Thirdly, He convicts the unsaved of coming judgment, that Satan himself has already been judged and sentenced and exposed for what he is, and that they can be saved out of his clutches and from the judgment to come.
To sum up:
The blessed Holy Spirit has other functions that He performs and He is a wonderful counsellor, guide and the very best friend a born again believer can have through all the changing circumstances of life. When one allows the blessed Holy Spirit to remake them brand new all over again deep down on the inside, they are given a brand new start in life and their feet set on a course that will please God and bring them to heaven. As it is written; “Therefore if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Indeed then, it is the work of the blessed Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.