Seven Great Questions
(Part 3) What is Conviction?
Robert Wurtz II
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: 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 is judged. (John 16:7-11 NKJV)
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44 KJV)
Since the fall of man the Holy Spirit has been striving with man. In Genesis 6:3 God tells us that man had given themselves over to the flesh and that His Spirit would not continue seeking to enforce His rule over them. If man continues to rebel, God, at His own discretion, will leave the person(s) to their own devices. There can be no more dreadful state than this, that God would remove the restraining influence of his Holy Spirit from them as a consequence of their continued rebellion.
We have a picture of what it is like to be “under conviction” from David in the Psalms. It happens that he had taken the wife of Uriah the Hitite and tried to cover it up. At first he tried to get Uriah to lay with her so he could shift the blame to the husband; but when that failed he sent a letter with Uriah to the leader of the army to abandon Uriah in the heat of the battle so he would be killed. David would eventually be confronted by Nathan the prophet, but in between the act and the confrontation he was in a state of denial. He went on with life doing what he called, “keeping silent.” We read, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah” (Psalms 32:3-4 NKJV) David was under tremendous conviction, but he still refused to acknowledge what he had done. Silence is the oldest trick in the book. People figure that if they don’t tell on themselves they can never be prosecuted. Denial is the Devil’s strategy for keeping a person from repentance. Pride enters in until a person’s vitality is all but gone. They become a shell of who they once were. The only solution is to stop resisting and allow God to “pour in the oil and the wine.”
Many centuries later, in Acts 7, Stephen is contending with the religious leaders in Israel. They had called him to the carpet to answer for his beliefs. After giving his sermon, he concludes with this statement, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51 NKJV) He puts his hand on the pulse of the problem; not merely among the Jews who refused to believe, but among Gentiles as well. Simply stated God’s message to unrepentant man is, “You do always resist the Holy Spirit.”
Some time later Saul (who was present for Stephen’s sermon) was traveling along to Damascus persecuting Christians when suddenly he is confronted by the LORD. Blinded, falling to the ground and stunned, Saul hears these words, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Act 9:4-5) Pricks were goads that farmers used to keep their animals plowing in a straight line. Some would “kick” against the goads only to suffer the pain of being gouged by the person in charge of keeping the animal going the right direction. It was uncomfortable. It was “hard” for them. Jesus uses this metaphor to describe what Saul was doing. Saul was kicking against the strong dealings of the Holy Spirit. The Greeks and Romans used this same metaphor to denote a mortal man fighting against their pagan gods (Vincent).
Saul repented, was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. From that time forward he was taught of Christ and taught Christ to the people. In Romans he makes this statement that summarizes the examples we have given above, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘WILL RENDER TO EACH ONE ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.’ ” (Romans 2:4-6 NKJV) To resist God’s dealings is to store up (as in a treasury) not wealth, but wrath. God deals with people in a longsuffering, gracious manor. He provides for their needs. In fact, every good thing that we experience in our lives is a call from God to turn to Him in repentance and faith. Every breath we take and every bite of food we eat contains God’s fingerprint of grace. There is an eternal consequence, above the rest of our sins, for resisting God’s dealings.
Convincing The World
While Jesus walked the earth He dealt with individuals and groups according to their need. He met them right where they were. This is why we find Him dealing gently with some and sternly with others. He was gentle with the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, and Zacchaeus; but He was stern with most of the scribes and pharisees. His dealings fit their heart condition. In fact, when Jesus spoke with the rich young ruler He put His hand on the controversy that existed between God and him. It was his wealth. Jesus gave Him specific direction as to what to do to remedy the controversy. The rich young ruler went away sorrowful. He would not obey what God was telling him and could go no farther until he did.
As a man Jesus was limited on the scope of His earthly ministry. This is why He stated, 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. The Helper is the Holy Spirit. He would be sent into the earth in a way not known before to do three specific things; And when He 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 is judged. The Holy Spirit was coming to bring to bear individually the reality of who Christ is and the sinful condition the person is in.
First, God wants all people to know that they are indicted for their sins. We are charged with a life of sinning against the Holy God. We have sinned and God expects us first to acknowledge our sins. This is not shifting blame or “staying silent” as did David at the first. No excuses. Moreover, if we refuse to believe on Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross we will die in our sins. There is no other path to forgiveness than through the shed blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit convinces us of this reality. Once we have truly repented and believed (repented and believed in a way that God can ‘amen’ our repentance and faith) the Holy Spirit will apply the blood of Christ to our conscience – purging it from dead works to serve the Living God. Conviction is replaced with God’s Joy, Love and Peace, etc..
Second, God establishes authority in the life of a person by the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus has ascended, the Holy Spirit takes on His role pointing out the controversies we have with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. He will lead us or goad us (depending on our heart state and need) to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit into all righteousness. He will lead us and teach us as surely as Jesus led and taught the disciples when He walked the earth. This is why Paul could say to the Ephesians, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (see Ephesians 4:20ff) The Holy Spirit speaks the things of Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ speaks the will of Christ to the churches (Revelation 2-3). When we “hear” what the Spirit is saying to the churches we are hearing what “Christ” is saying to the churches.
Third, the Holy Spirit will convince us that there is coming a great judgment day. Satan’s judgment is sealed as evidenced by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus Christ overcame the world – dashing all hopes the Devil could have had of prevailing in his schemes. There is nothing preventing judgment of every person alive but the mercy and grace of God alone. When the Holy Spirit comes to deal with us, He will make that plain. Paul took up this line in agreement with the Holy Spirit in Acts; “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Act 17:30-31 NKJV)
The Holy Spirit has come into the world to convince (convict) the world of the truth of God’s claims. He will bring these things to bear upon us with a view to seeing us agree with God, turn from our evil ways, and allow Christ to be Savior and Lord. As ministers we must be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s function in the earth today. He has come to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. He has come to lead us into all righteousness. He has come to convey to the Saints the will of Christ and to lead us or goad us into fulfilling that will.