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In John 16:8-11, we read (emphasis mine):

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.

Leaving aside for a second the question of how the phrase "convict the world of guilt" might otherwise be translated, what does it mean for the Spirit here to convict the world in regard to righteousness? And what is the causal connection with Jesus going to the Father?

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Check out Isa. 11:2-4. I believe there is a strong connection there. Also, Isa. 2:4. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Feb 19 '13 at 21:35
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7 Answers 7

The word "convict" (elegcho) can also mean "reprove" or "rebuke", as in Rev 3:19, "Those whom I love, I reprove..." It's not too hard to imagine the Spirit rebuking the world concerning righteousness. The "because" is that Jesus himself cannot do so when his body is no longer walking around on the earth.

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The cornerstone of the Book of Romans is Romans 1:17, which quotes Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB) -

Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.

Righteousness is only through faith. When Jesus said that "you no longer see me" in John 16:10, he was referring to trusting in him by faith. We have never seen Jesus (nor can we see him at the moment), but we trust in him. This faith results in righteousness, which is the crux of the Book of Romans. The Spirit of God convicts us that the only means of righteousness is through faith on Jesus Christ.

Thus we can also understand why the Spirit also convicts the world of sin (John 16:9). This sin not only includes our transgressions against God but also our very state of spiritual death (separation from God). This spiritual death is removed, or washed away, by faith in Jesus Christ, when the believer is "born again." Thus the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, "because they do not believe in me." That is, belief in Jesus removes the condemnation of sin, which is spiritual death.

Last but not least, the reference to the devil for conviction of judgment (John 16:11) is the certitude that in as much as the devil is condemned to eternal fire, so also will be the destiny of those who remain in a state of spiritual death.

The issue is not whether or not you are a good or bad sinner, but whether you have the righteousness of God through faith.

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I think the answer can be deduced from the text itself. Here's the first part, itemized for clarity: (NASB)

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning
    (A) sin and 
    (B) righteousness and 
    (C) judgment

So the Spirit will bring conviction in three general areas. Next, Jesus gets more specific with each of these areas of conviction:

    (A) concerning sin,
        because they do not believe in Me; and
    (B) concerning righteousness,
        because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and
    (C) concerning judgment,
        because the ruler of this world has been judged.

So the result is as follows:

    (A) The Spirit will bring conviction because they do not believe in Me,
        which, in more general terms, is a statement about sin
    (B) The Spirit will bring conviction because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me,
        which, in more general terms, is a statement about righteousness
    (C) The Spirit will bring conviction because the ruler of this world has been judged,
        which, in more general terms, is a statement about judgment

So in summary, the fact that Jesus ascended from this earth and went to the Father is a statement about righteousness, which the Spirit would use to bring conviction to the people of this world.

How was His ascension a statement about righteousness? Because the Righteous One exited the fallen world where He was rejected and murdered. The Righteous One left the world behind. And He was received by the Father into Heaven ...proving His righteousness. This speaks volumes about righteousness in general, and more specifically, about Jesus' righteousness, and the world's unrighteousness. (But I'll save the rest of that explanation for a theology site.)

And the Spirit, when He came, would convict the world concerning righteousness, because the Righteous One left this world behind and was received by God into Heaven. This brings conviction about where righteousness is, where it is not, and what the path to righteousness looks like.

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This was a tough one to answer without getting theological. Let me know if you want to discuss further, or if there's anything I could clarify here. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 12 '13 at 0:46
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"When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin" i.e. a sin. He does NOT convict the populace that it is righteous.

For the second two parts of the phrase, see the Acts 2 message. The only Way to obey the Acts 2:38 command is by the faith of confessing directly to God that you are sorry Jesus was crucified. This command was entered into (Paul 'when the commandment entered") law causing the sin of Jesus' crucifixion to to increase. Rom. 5:20 It was the sin of murder to crucify him and unilaterally, for all, it became a sin NOT to give account in regard to the sin (the trespass) of his crucifixion. Hense to be declared righteous by God it is by the faith of confessing to that sin or commit another sin that is not forgivable

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According to the text of Jn. 16:8, which is a direct quote of God by the way, tampering with what his direct statements mean is a capital offense. Putting him to the test turns out to be an extremely hot idea for those who do so. There is no stated purpose of God to convict the world's populace that it is righteous. –  Theodore A. Jones Sep 13 '13 at 21:31
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This question should belong to the English Language sectio, because it concerns the meaning of the English word "convict".

e.g.

DL Moody was a man of strong convictions. He was convicted in his youth of the need to do his part for the Gospel.

In contrast,

This is a dangerous place. It is full of people convicted of crimes. There are convicts everywhere.

con•vict (v., adj. kənˈvɪkt; n. ˈkɒn vɪkt) v.t.

  1. to prove or declare guilty of an offense, esp. after a legal trial.
  2. to impress with a sense of guilt. n.
  3. a person proved or declared guilty of an offense.
  4. a person serving a prison sentence. adj.
  5. Archaic. convicted. [1350–1400; Middle English < Latin convictus, past participle of convincere to overcome (in a suit), convict; see convince]

OTOH

No hermeneutical adventure is complete without reading the source language. I find it baffling when students argue over biblical interpretation based solely on the English word as found in KJV or NIV, veering totally off course from the meaning of the passage.

And the word used is Strong's G1651 elegxei (ελέγξει):
to confute, admonish.
KJV: convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.

Apparently, I think,
verb, indicative future active 3rd person singular of G1651 ἐλέγχω elencho, to expose, will be exposing.

For example (using its biblical meaning),

The journalist will expose the scandals of the priesthood, using the exposé to rebuke their improper practices and to refute that they were even fit for their vocations.

http://www.teknia.com/greek-dictionary/toc/epsilon:

1649    ἔλεγξις, εως, ἡ elenxis  rebuke, reproof
1650    ἔλεγχος, ου, ὁ  elenchos     certainty, proof
1651    ἐλέγχω  elencho  to expose; to rebuke, refute, 

Etymology

http://el.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%AD%CE%B3%CF%87%CF%89

uncertain etymology, apparently of ancient Attic dialect.
verify , examine, audit, be in control of, check up on

Modern meaning ...
exercise control on someone or something as competent or proper
to constrain, to place limits

  • will check up on someone to ensure competent performance.
  • will check on machine to ensure proper functioning.
  • to verify quality.
  • to take, or be in, control of situation, person or machine.
  • e.g., to bring a fire or catastrophe under control
  • to discipline and limit someone's excesses.

Related terms:

ελεγκτής
έλεγχος
ελεγκτικός
ελέγξιμος
ελεγκτήριο
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"Sin, righteousness and judgment" refer to the threefold process found throughout the Bible. It is seen typologically in a number of key ways.

Firstly, it is seen in the "three-decker" primeval world: the Garden Sanctuary (Adam), the Land (Abel/Seth), and the World (Noah).

Secondly, it is inherent in the three-decker architecture of the Tabernacle: the Most Holy contained the Laws of Moses (conviction of sin); the Holy Place contained furniture which imaged the blameless nearbringing sacrifice (blood/Table + fire/Lampstand + smoke/Incense altar = righteousness); the Court (blood and water = judgment). This construct is a miniature of the primeval world.

Thirdly, it is seen in the threefold offices of priest, king and prophet, which correspond to the three furnitures in the Holy Place. The priest makes offerings for sin against the Law, the king serves in the light of the Law, and the prophet speaks the Law.

Priest: God's face is against Adam until blameless blood is shed (Showbread).

King: God's face shines upon Adam (Lampstand).

Prophet: As a priest-king, Adam speaks as God's face (Incense Altar).

You might also notice that a priest deals only in judgment upon animal substitutes, a king judges human lawbreakers, but a prophet proclaims the end for entire nations and empires.

In the New Testament, Jesus paid for sin in the Garden, the "firstfruits" apostles proclaimed His righteousness and resurrection to the kings of the Land (leading to AD70 and the avenging of the blood of Abel), and the Church now carries their doctrine to the entire world, leading to the final judgment.

So the threefold process applies to individuals and also to nations. In individuals it is the process of hearing (faith: they do not believe in me); seeing (obedience: I go to my Father) and speaking (legal witness: the satan/prosecutor stands condemned).

Also, the process aligns typologically with Genesis 1:

Priest: Days 1-3 - FORMING (dividing light from darkness, etc.) King: Days 4-6 - FILLING (beginning with the governing lights) Prophet: Day 7 - FUTURE (entering into God's rest)

Jesus, as priest, king and prophet, is the entire creation in human form.

Finally, the causal connection between Jesus going to the Father and righteousness is that after He fulfilled the priestly office of atoning for sin, He ascended to rule as king in righteousness (Revelation 4-5 shows Him ascending as the "firstfruits lamb" and opening the New Covenant scroll - four gospel horsemen ride out into the Land). Notice that His kingdom really begins at Pentecost, where the tongues of fire correspond to the "seeing" of the lampstand. Jesus sat at the Father's right hand, as Joseph was Pharaoh's right hand man, and Daniel was Nebuchadnezzar's right hand man, with "all power."

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There are some interesting parallels here, but the whole answer feels like you are starting at the wrong end of the stick -- or like we're being shown the tail end of a whip without getting the perspective of the handle it's attached to. While the parallels are interesting, half of them seem quite tenuous and nothing actually shows how the connections are derived. –  Caleb Sep 13 '13 at 10:25
    
@Caleb I can understand that, but it's a pattern woven throughout all of Scripture. An awareness of structure is not a common thing among modern readers. But keep it in mind as you read the Bible and I believe you will start to see it. –  Mike Bull Sep 13 '13 at 11:09
    
Mike, you have clearly thought a great deal about this; your thoughts are intriguing. However, as I read your post I struggled to see a consistency in how you were observing sin, righteousness and judgement in the "types" you set forth. It might help to provide a focused definition of these terms first so you can show how all of the "types" relate directly to them. More importantly though, I perceive the question to be: In what way is the world convicted of righteousness by the Spirit because the Son goes to the Father and the world sees him no more? You made no mention of the Spirit. –  Sarah Sep 13 '13 at 14:29
    
@Sarah The Spirit is there in the Lampstand and Pentecost. The best thing is to think of the three as a legal process. The entire Bible is built of processes, not of isolated events. Our problem is that we want to define everything in isolation, and in isolation they lose a lot of their meaning. –  Mike Bull Sep 13 '13 at 23:52
    
Hi Mike, re this new meta post, I'd be grateful if you give it some consideration and perhaps your vote. –  Jack Douglas Oct 4 '13 at 18:39
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The Greek scriptures use of the word ‘righteousness’ is greatly revised from the Hebrew usage, for it principally no longer means just an attribute of God, or conforming to God’s law but is a ‘means of salvation’. It is a righteousness ‘from God’ by faith. (Rom 1:17). We must presuppose this 'gospel' definition of righteousness as the previous verse argues that sin = ‘people do not believe in me’. Therefore, the righteousness in this context is the opposite of sin, i.e. the righteousness from God that saves sinners by faith, i.e. ‘people believing in me’.

The question is how does Christ’s resurrection provide proof, or material that the Holy Spirit uses to convince people about this righteousness that saves? The answer is so central to Christianity that we find it in the very introduction of Romans:

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. (NIV, Romans 1:1-3)

Therefore we find that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection and by this declaration we find ‘righteousness’ re-defined and convincingly made known by the Spirit:

17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (NIV, Romans 1:17)

Clearly this is the only convincing exegesis of that ‘righteousness’ which is made known by the Holy Spirit in reference to the resurrection of Jesus. It would be unreasonable to stop at saying Christ's resurrection proved that 'he' was righteous. The word 'righteousness' must be extend under the high priestly imagery of an 'atoning righteousness'. His 'going into heaven' means also that he would present his righteousness to his father on our behalf. Without taking this 'gospel' sense of the word 'righteous' we would deny the Spirits primary purpose, i.e. convincing men of the gospel, by sin and by the free righteousness of Christ for sinners.

This view is commonly held by many excellent commentaries. For example:

Righteousness has come after sin. After the transgression of Adam, and the unnumbered offences of his sons, one Son of Man has entered our world who never transgressed, who always obeyed; and up to His last hour, though tried by fire, His course was the love of righteousness, the hatred of iniquity. It is by this title, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS ONE,’ that our Lord stands distinguished from all other men. So the Holy Ghost witnesses (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1). ‘Ye denied the Holy One, and the Righteous.’ The Spirit would first convince the world of Christ’s own righteousness as the Perfect One, in opposition to the charge of sin brought against Him in His putting to death as an impostor. ‘Certainly this was a Righteous Man.’ The personal righteousness of Christ is established by His resurrection and ascent to God’s throne. But this personal righteousness of Christ would not alone and in itself bring us any salvation. God needs a righteousness for the unrighteous, else how can He pronounce any sinner justified? His wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness. That this life of obedience, and its merit are transferable to us, constitutes the Gospel. (Govett, R. Exposition of the Gospel of St. John ,Vol. 2, p. 247)

Due to the simple persuasiveness of the argument when considering the context it is even found as far back as Cyril of Alexandria (~400 A.D.) in commenting on this verse:

Justly then have those been justified who without seeing have believed; but the world has missed the attainment of an equal blessedness, not seeking to obtain the righteousness that is of faith, but deliberately preferring to abide in its own wickedness. (Cyril of Alexandria. Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John (Vol. 2, p. 445). London: Walter Smith.)

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