THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS BELIEVERS BY CONVICTING THE WORLD OF SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT
Shortly before His arrest, Jesus told His disciples that there would be three things the coming Holy Spirit would convict the world of—sin, righteousness and judgment:
And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the WORLD of SIN, and of RIGHTEOUSNESS, and of JUDGMENT:
These three convictions by the Spirit are meant for the world. They are not meant for believers of Christ, because Jesus separated the two groups when He told the Father in the following chapter that His disciples “are in the world” but “not of the world” (John 17:11, 14). Since those who believe in Him are not of the world, then these three Spirit convictions cannot be for them.
Now, why would the Holy Spirit convict the world (or non-believers) of sin, righteousness and judgment?
To “convict” means to reprove or admonish. The original Greek word used here is “elengchoo.” It’s a negative word that means, “to convict, refute, confute, generally with a suggestion of the shame of the person convicted…to find fault with, correct…reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove…to chasten, punish” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). So why would the Holy Spirit do all this to non-believers in the three areas of sin, righteousness and judgment, such that they feel some sense of shame for each conviction?
The answer lies in what Jesus told His disciples just before He spoke of the coming Holy Spirit and His convictions:
John 16:2–3, 7–8
They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me…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. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The disciples would soon face much persecution for their faith in Christ. They would be thrown out of the synagogues and some of them would even be killed by religious zealots crazy enough to think they were helping God.
Because of this impending persecution, Jesus told them, “Look guys, it’s better I go away so that the Helper can come. When He comes, He will help you by convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.”
The disciples needed supernatural help to carry on the ministry of Jesus, or the Great Commission. And help was coming to them in the person of the Holy Spirit, aptly named, the “Helper.” And He would help them, as they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, by convicting their non-believing hearers of sin, righteousness and judgment.
- Of SIN, “because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9):
As the disciples preached how Jesus is the Messiah and how one needs to believe in Him to be saved, the Holy Spirit would help them by convicting the hearts of their hearers, telling these unbelievers that refusing to believe in Jesus is a grave sin for which there is no forgiveness, since they would be rejecting the one-and-only final sacrifice for sin that God accepts.
- Of RIGHTEOUSNESS, “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (John 16:10):
As the disciples preached how righteousness comes by faith and not by works (obeying the Law of Moses), the Holy Spirit would again help them. He would convict the hearts of their hearers, telling these unbelievers that the only righteousness that God accepts is the righteousness of the One who came from the Father, and who was able to return to the Father because He had successfully finished the job He was sent to do. A righteousness from above was required, and this righteousness is a gift that must be received by faith, not works.
- Of JUDGMENT, “because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11).
Finally, as the disciples preached about God’s holy judgment against sin and unrighteousness or self-righteousness, the Holy Spirit would once more help them. He would convict the hearts of their hearers, telling these unbelievers that there will certainly be divine judgment for the world, since the devil himself could not escape God’s judgment.
Friend, that’s how the Helper helps us even today, as we preach the gospel in and to an unbelieving and sometimes hostile world. We may speak with eloquence, passion, boldness and even wisdom, but ultimately, we still need the help of the Holy Spirit. Only He can convict the hearts of our unbelieving hearers with regard to sin, righteousness and judgment, and bring about revelation, repentance and salvation!