In the last two articles, we established our identity and the truth about righteousness. Now, we want to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit concerning our righteousness and how God responds when we sin.
Does the Spirit Convict Us When We Sin?
This is a major stronghold in the minds of so many Christians. They really believe that part of the operation of the Spirit in the life of the Christian is to convict them when they sin. Why do they believe this? Because of tradition! We hear a part of a message or read a portion of Scripture out of context, and we find ourselves formulating a concept, a teaching, a pattern of believing.
Many have come to believe this concept of the Spirit convicting us because we were taught it and saw one Scripture allude to it when taken out of context. Tradition-bound believers would say, Jesus Himself said the Spirit convicts us of sin. Is this the truth?
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Before we look at this text, I want to point out that the word for “rebuke” in Hebrews 12:5, elegchō, is the same word which is translated “convict” here in verse 8. We’ll be talking in details about that passage from Hebrews and how God responds when we sin in the next article. For now, let’s look at this word convict. This word conveys the idea to condemn, to refute, to expose to light and it also suggests a shaming to the person convicted.
Consider the meaning of the word “convict”:
- Verb: declare someone to be guilty of a criminal offense by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law.
- Noun: a person found guilty of a criminal offense and serving a sentence of imprisonment.
Does the Holy Spirit ever declare the righteous guilty? Of course not! If He did, it would be like saying Christ’s redemptive work was an insufficient remedy for your sin. Since you have been justified by his grace (Romans 3:24), you cannot be convicted for your sin. Not now, not ever.
This is probably the number one teaching on sin in the church: When you sin, the Holy Spirit will convict you of your guilt in regard to your sin. But there’s a problem. How can the Holy Spirit convict you of sins he chooses not to remember?
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this … “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:15,17)
Under the law-keeping covenant, you had to keep track of and account for every single sin. But the covenant of God’s grace is characterized by divine forgetfulness:
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:34c)
Why does God choose to forget our sins? Has he gone soft on sin? Quite the contrary. On the cross God gave sin such a smack-down that it will never get back up again. In honor of his complete and total victory over sin, God can now dismiss sin as irrelevant to his eternal purposes in Christ Jesus.
You need to understand that God is not the one making you feel guilty. God removes guilt; he doesn’t give it. To be guilty means to be held responsible for your sin, and God doesn’t hold you responsible. Look to the cross, where Jesus took responsibility for all our sin. He bore our sin so that we might bear his righteousness. Under law, the best of us is charged guilty on account of sin. But under grace, the worst of us is charged righteous on account of Jesus.
You may say, „I know I am righteous and justified, yet I still feel guilty.” Connect the dots. If you are righteous and justified you cannot be guilty. In Christ you have been judged and found not guilty for all time. That feeling of guilt is a symptom of unbelief in the goodness of God. Don’t let that feeling reign over you. Take it to Jesus and let him deal with it. Do you believe that his blood is God’s cure for sin? Then believe it is also his cure for guilt. (Hebrews 10:22)
Notice that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Comforter,” not the convicter.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16)
It says that He will send “another” Comforter. “Another” means one of the same caliber, the same kind. Jesus was and still is a comforter; He didn’t condemn people during His earthly ministry. (John 3:17-19)
Why the Spirit Can’t Convict You of Your Sins?
There are three major reasons for the Spirit not convicting you.
- The number one reason is the role of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus Christ. (John 16:14) To glorify Jesus would be to lift high His name and His finished work. For the Spirit to diminish the Finished Work would be to diminish Jesus not glorify Him. The finished work dealt with the sin problem.
- Secondly, Jesus in His finished work purchased our complete forgiveness. Jesus has forgiven us of all our sins. (Colossians 2:13) Past, present and even future sins were forgiven once for all time on that Cross. For the Spirit to convict you for something that’s already been forgiven is to make light of the Finished Work. The Spirit would be denying the finality of the work of the Cross, and He will never do that.
- Finally, God our Father said our sins and Lawless deeds He’d remember no more. (Hebrews 8:12) To convict you and to remind you of your sins would be dishonoring the Words and promise of our Good Father. God isn’t dishonoring Himself. He said He wouldn’t remember our sins. Our Father is faithful and true, He never lies. He said He wouldn’t ever remember our sin and He hasn’t.
How does the Holy Spirit convict us?
In light of what has been said above, the other meaning of this Greek word, elegchō, has to be taken into account – to expose or bring into the light. The Holy Spirit convicts us by turning on the lights. He does this not to shame you (Jesus carried your shame), but to show you the way to life.
This new covenant definition of conviction is not based on our sin and guilt. The Holy Spirit will never condemn you or pile guilt on your head because if he did, it would be an admission of defeat. It would be tantamount to saying Christ’s work on the cross was an insufficient remedy for your sin.
As an expression of his love and mercy, the Holy Spirit seeks to convict or convince us that Jesus is the cure for sin.
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (John 16:8-9)
Jesus’ one-time sacrifice was the cure for the world’s sin, and the Holy Spirit purpose is rather to get you to believe Jesus has taken away your sin. “Concerning sin—see Jesus. Believe in Him.”
10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
„… And because you see Me no more, you can’t see My approving eyes, My smile, My acceptance.” So, you have to know you are righteous by faith. And the Holy Spirit has been sent to convict you of righteousness. You have an everlasting righteousness – a righteousness you cannot lose because of sin. This is a confidence we have in the gospel.
This conviction reminds us of our right standing before God. It convinces us that we are forever accepted in His presence. This conviction leads us to God not away from Him. It allows us to come to God and continue in fruitful relationship with Him. Secondly, this conviction helps us overcome. When we are convinced of our righteousness we begin to manifest who we already are in Him.
Do you remember the woman caught in adultery? After all her accusers walked away, Jesus said: “Then neither do I condemn you; go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10-11)
This is what true conviction looks like. It’s Jesus drawing your attention to the radiant light of his love and acceptance. It’s the hand of grace lifting your head and shielding you from the heavy stones of condemnation. It’s the Son of God speaking in your defense and silencing your accusers.
Religion says, “You’d better stop sinning or God will condemn you.” But grace says, “I don’t condemn you; I am for you, and I will help you leave your life of sin.”
When you sin, your conscience may condemn you, the law will condemn you, the judge and jury may condemn you, the religious may condemn you, and the devil will certainly condemn you. But while all of this condemning is going on, the Holy Spirit will be there to remind you of your righteousness in Christ Jesus. This is what empowers us to sin no more – this good news that God justifies sinners.
11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Holy Spirit is convincing you that the devil had been judged and has no legitimate authority in your life. When sickness, lack or when things are going wrong, it’s easy to feel that you’ve done something to deserve this judgement. Many people think that God is the One allowing those negative situations as judgement for some sin you’ve done. But that’s simply not true. All judgement for sin was placed on Jesus on the cross and that is where the devil was judged. In those moments when it feels like you’re just getting what you deserve, the Holy Spirit is ministering to you and encouraging you by reminding you that the devil has been judged… and because he has been judged, there is now no condemnation for you. (Romans 8:1)
The Holy Spirit’s conviction has nothing to do with your sin and everything to do with God’s grace. It’s not about the bad thing you’ve done but the good thing He wants to do in you right now.