The Convicting Work of the Holy Spirit

(Acts 2:36-37) “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?”


(John 16:8-11) “When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

It is only through the convicting and converting work of the Holy Spirit that people will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit alone to convince people of their need to believe in Jesus, to live righteously and to flee from the wrath to come. There are four things that the Holy Spirit does in his convicting work.

1. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.

(Vs 9) “In regard to sin because men do not believe in Me.”

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to show people their wrong ideas about sin in such a way as to produce in them a deep sense of personal sinfulness and that the consequences of their sin is an eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. The average person has no real realization of the awful effects and consequences of sin. Unbelievers have no realization that they are great sinners and rebels in God’s sight. Notice in verse nine that the first and foremost sin that the Holy Spirit convicts people about is their sin of unbelief in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

On the day of Pentecost people were convicted of this when Peter was preaching the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter’s sermon was scripture from beginning to end and as he was preaching God’s Word the Holy Spirit was doing His convicting and converting work. We read where the hearers were “cut to the heart and cried out, “men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter told them to do three things. First, he told them to repent. They were to turn from their unbelief in Jesus Christ and from their rebellion towards Him. They were to change their attitudes from a Christ hating, Christ rejecting way of life to a Christ loving, Christ accepting way of life. Second, Peter told them to be baptised. This involved confessing Jesus Christ as saviour and Lord and receiving Him into their lives. On their confession of faith they were to be baptised in water. Third, he told them that they would receive the Holy Spirit upon repentance, faith and baptism. That day 3000 people were saved.

Peter was not producing the conviction of sin but it was the Holy Spirit working through Peter that did the work. As believers we are not responsible for the results in evangelism but only for giving people the seed of the word. Conviction of sin does not depend on us at all. It certainly does not depend on psychology, certain counselling strategies, or methods of evangelism, Purpose driven secular marketing strategies for Church growth or upon music and slick programs. It certainly does not depend on big name preachers, moving stories and testimonies or by whipping people up emotionally at meetings. Our human methods of persuasion cannot produce a deep sense and conviction of personal sinfulness. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Today so much preaching and speaking is spiritual hype with very little content of the Word of God.

On the other hand there are those who preach the word today but they have no anointing on their words. It is only the anointing that breaks the yoke of sin and rebellion. Man himself cannot change the evil inclinations of his heart. Jeremiah the prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul tells us in Romans that the sinful mind is hostile to God and cannot submit to God’s Law and that those controlled by their sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8) Only the Holy Spirit can produce the new birth. It isn’t a matter of just being converted we must be born again. A person may be converted many times but you can only be born again once.

Now the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses in His convicting and converting work is God’s Word the Bible. The first century believers used the Word of God in their preaching and witnessing. (Acts 8:4) Jesus used the Word of God when he was speaking to Nicodemus about the new birth. Peter was using God’s Word on the day of Pentecost. Phillip used the Word of God with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Paul used the Word of God with the Jailor at Philippi when he led him to faith in Jesus. Paul did not just tell him to believe but gave him something to believe in. We read where, “Paul spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house” (Acts 16:32.) The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to convict people of their need to believe in Jesus as their personal saviour and Lord. The Bible itself is the sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) (James 1:18) (1 Peter 1:23) (2 Peter 1:4) Just preaching the Word itself will not produce conviction of sin unless that preaching is accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must take the seed of the Word and plant it into the receptive soil of the heart and then water the seed resulting in spiritual life and faith. (Luke 8:11) (Romans 10:17)

The Holy Spirit knows no barriers because he can reach people where we can’t. He can reach from the drunkard in the gutter to the highest man in the land because nothing is impossible to Him. He knows exactly what should be done and how it should be done. Our responsibility as believers is to be totally at His disposal and totally available to him to use us at anytime and in anyway He chooses. We must not only believe that the Holy Spirit can work through us but count on Him to work through us. If we do not depend entirely on the Holy Spirit in ministry and service then we will actually create barriers between God and the people to whom we are witnessing. So then the Holy Spirit alone must convict people of their unbelief in Jesus as saviour and Lord. He alone must produce in them such a deep sense of personal sinfulness that leads them to forsake their sin and unbelief with all of their hearts.

2. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness.

(Vs 10) “In regard to righteousness because I am going to the Father where you can see Me no longer.”

The Holy Spirit convicts people about the true nature and character of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “No one can say,” Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Unless the Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus Christ to us we will not be able to see Him for who He is. If we want to be born again then we need to pray two things. “Lord show me myself” and then, “Lord show me yourself.”

First, we need to pray, “Lord show me myself.” “Lord show me what I am really like, let me see myself as you really see me.” When the Holy Spirit shows us the true nature of our heart and mind in God’s sight we will clearly see just how ungodly and rebellious we are and how much we love to do our own thing and to go our own way in life. Not only that the Holy Spirit will show us from God’s Law book the Bible just how far short we fall of His Divine and perfect standards of righteousness. In fact unless we are righteous as God is righteous we will not be able to go to heaven. When Isaiah the prophet really encountered the Lord in his life he cried out, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”(Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah also says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean (a leper) and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;” (Literally, like a woman’s discarded menstrual rag) (Isaiah 64:6a)

When the Holy Spirit really shows us from God’s Word what we are really like down on the inside we fully realize just how hopeless it is for us to even seek to be right with God through our own morality, good works or self effort. We see ourselves as condemned and under the sentence of an eternal separation from God. We see ourselves as God sees us. Isaiah puts it this way, “Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil”(Isaiah 1:6) When the Holy Spirit convicts us about the need for righteousness we discover that we have non-whatsoever. (Romans 3:10-18) So then we need to pray “Lord show me myself, show me what I’m really like in your sight.”

Second, we need to pray, “Lord, show me Yourself.” show me what you are really like.” The Holy Spirit not only shows us our destitution of righteousness but also the perfect righteous character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and our desperate need of that kind of righteousness. The apostle Paul said, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). When we believe and trust in Jesus for our salvation two things occur. First, God declares us to be innocent in His sight even though we have sinned against Him. He credits to our account the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God imparts to us the righteous life of the Lord Jesus Christ through the indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit reproduces the righteous nature of Jesus in us the moment we believe. (Galatians 5:22-25) God no longer sees us as sinners but sees the image of His Son Jesus in us consequently God declares us to be righteous in His sight. (Romans 4:5, 23-25) This righteousness makes us fit for heaven and acceptable to God. This righteousness enables us as God’s children to come boldly into His presence at anytime of the day or the night. (Hebrews 4:16)

Everything we need for holiness and happiness in this life and in the life to come is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul says, “He is our life!” Paul also tells us, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We may be troubled by Satan who is called, “the accuser of the brethren” and struggle at times with guilt and the memories of our past sins and failures but we are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Paul also tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we live righteously. The Lord Jesus Christ is in us and He is always keeping the demands of the Law in us. His seed (life) remains in us enabling us to resist temptation and to walk uprightly before the Lord. (Galatians 5:24-24) (1 John 3:4-10 5:18)

3. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment.

(Vs 11) “In regard to judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

The world needs to be convicted about the judgment to come. The average person does not really believe that there will be a future judgment. When the Holy Spirit convicts a person about their sin and their need of righteousness He also convicts them about the judgment to come. Often the truth people do not want to hear is the truth they need to hear the most. Unless people see that they are great rebels and sinners in the sight of a Holy and Just God they will never be driven to Him to seek mercy through the blood and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the prince of this world is Satan and the last thing he wants is for people to see that he has already been judged and condemned by the work of Jesus at the cross. The last thing Satan wants is for people to see the Lord Jesus Christ for who He really is and what he has done for them by His death and resurrection. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The only reason Satan has any power at all is because people give him that control because of the sinfulness and rebellion of their hearts. However, Jesus has stripped Satan of his power. (Colossians 2:15) (Hebrews 2:14-15) (1 John 3:4-9) If a person really wants to be born again and seeks the Lord for the new birth there is nothing that Satan can do to stop it happening. Once we have been born again we no longer have to be slaves to sin because the Spirit of life that resides in Christ Jesus has set us free from the downward pull of sin. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the strength to overcome everything that Satan throws against us. The unbeliever has no choice where sin is concerned they will automatically sin because they are still controlled by the old sinful nature which is in itself under the control of Satan.

Multitudes of people do not believe in a future judgment because Satan has deceived them. He’s pulled the same trick on them as he did on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. His constant lie is to make people believe that God does not mean what He says. When Satan confronted Adam and Eve he said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Satan got them to doubt what God had said. Then we read where he said to them, “You will not surely die.” Satan told them a lie and they fell for it and people have been falling for it ever since then.

The unsaved need to hear about the Love of God and the provision God has made for them through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus but they will never turn to God until they see their desperate need to be saved from the coming judgment and the lake of fire. If we do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord then we stand condemned already. Jesus himself said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in him stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”(John 3:18).

4. The Holy Spirit convicts the world through believers.

God is a Sovereign God and if He wanted to He could save people by the direct action of the Holy Spirit upon their human spirits without any human intervention. However, He has chosen believers through which to reach people with the good news about Jesus. In every instance of conversion in the book of Acts human beings were involved in leading other human beings to faith in Christ. The only exception was in the case of the apostle Paul where he had a direct revelation of Jesus Christ yet even in his case he must have been influenced by the death of Stephen. Paul, before his conversion had been “kicking against the goads” implying that he had been under conviction for some time before he got saved.

As believers we are the channels through which the Holy Spirit reaches others. Jesus himself implied this when he said, “Whoever is believing in Me as the scripture has said streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who are believing in Him were later to receive” (John 7:38-39). The Holy Spirit needs the total surrender of our time, our talents, our money and our selves. He needs the total surrender of our feet, our hands, our mouths, our minds and our hearts. Above all of these things He needs the total surrender of our wills to Him.

The Holy Spirit desperately wants to reach others through us but are we available to Him? We need to be unconditionally available to Him without reservation to use us according to His will and not ours. We need to be available to Him whenever he chooses to use us day or night. We need to be available to Him to use us wherever He chooses to use us whether at home or on the mission field. We need to be available to Him to use us however He chooses and in anyway that He chooses to use us. He will choose the avenue of service and the gifts we will need to complete the task. (1 Corinthians 12:11) We need to be ready for the Holy Spirit to use us at any moment of the hour of the day. So then, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment but also through believers. May we respond to the call of the Holy Spirit and say with Isaiah the prophet, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).