HOW THE SPIRIT WORKS ON SINNERS
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I go not 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.” Most of study on the Holy Spirit is done on His relationship to Christians, but in this passage we are informed of His relationship to the world of unbelievers.
The text informs us that the chief thing the Spirit was to do for the people of the world was to reprove or convict them. The word convict is the better translation, for the word reprove means to convict or refute, and carries the idea of the shame of the person convicted. It involves authoritative examination, unquestionable proof, and decisive judgment.
To convict another person is to place the truth of the case in dispute in a clear light before him so that it must be seen and acknowledged as truth. He who then rejects the conclusion rejects it with his eyes open and at his peril. In effect, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come and counter-attack those in the world who are not Christians. What would He convict them of? There are three points concerning which all who are not Christians are to be convicted. He would convict the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment. In other words the Holy Spirit would come to this world and set things straight about Christ.
One thing He was to convict the world of was sin, their sin, and Jesus explained what He meant by saying, “because they do not believe in Me.” The apostle John said that Jesus was in the world , and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not(John 1:10).. The divine Being who made the world made a visit to this world and dwelled in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, but the world did not even recognize Him and for the most part outright rejected Him. This was a primary reference to His own nation of Israel, but the Gentile world gave Him the same treatment. One of the greatest sins of which the human race is guilty is unbelief in Jesus as the divine Son of God. The supreme sin of mankind, the acme, the greatest sin, the top of the heap, is the rejection of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. . If the people of the world have no other sin to answer for, this will be enough to destroy them. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would show the world that in rejecting Him they had committed a great sin. The people of the world with all their respective religions, philosophies,
and ideologies do not know that the God of heaven charges them all with being great sinners simply because the do not believe in Jesus and refuse to obey Him. The murder of Christ stands out as the most appalling blot in human history. The last time the world saw Jesus was on the cross, and ever since many in the world have been left with the impression that He was either a fanatic or an imposter because of the claims He made. If anyone does not believe in Him today, he is no better than those of his own nation and the Roman government who nailed Him to the cross.
Another thing the Holy Spirit was to convict the world of was righteousness, the righteousness of Christ. This had to do with Jesus as with the first matter of sin. The Holy Spirit would convince the world that Jesus was innocent of all charges made against Him by the Jewish nation and the Roman rulers. He would prove to the world that Jesus was not a blasphemer or false Messiah, or a man who claimed to be something that He was not. Rather, the Spirit would prove that Jesus was a holy person with a spotless character, that He was the only person who ever lived that never once violated the will of God. He was the one and only member of the human race who lived a sinless life. He wasn't a sinner like the world charged Him to be. .The Holy Spirit has proved the world was wrong He proved to the world that God raised Jesus from the dead and that His resurrection canceled the shameful death of the cross and vindicated the righteousness of Christ. One of the greatest evidences of the holy and righteous character of Christ is that God exalted Him to His own right hand in the heavens. He proved to an unbelieving world that the shameful death on the cross was not a discredit to Christ but a crown of glory, and that He nailed the sins of the whole world to the cross with Him.
The third thing the Spirit would convict the world of was judgment, the judgment to come. He proved to the world that God has appointed Christ to judge all mankind in righteousness. Christ will determine the destiny of ever human being who has ever lived in this world(Acts 17:31).
Finally, let us pass on to another very important aspect of the Holy Spirit's work. How was the Spirit to do this work of reproving, convicting and convincing the world of Christ's true character? Did the Spirit do this work personally and directly by working on the hearts of unbelieving people? No, for no one has ever seen the Holy Spirit He is an invisible Being. He did all this wonderful work through Human agents and in no other way. He convicted the world through the apostles. He used the mouth of the apostles to declare the wonderful works of God and the truth
about Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles and not to the world. In John 14:16,17 Jesus said to the apostles, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another comforter, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” People of the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because they are unbelievers. Thus He did none of the counter-attacking against the world personally or directly, but through the words of the apostles. He convicted the world indirectly through the mouths of the apostles and through their inspired writings.
Shortly after the first century, the true method by which the Holy Spirit convicts the world was distorted and corrupted.. The church of Rome and many other churches taught, and still teach, the Spirit works by a direct operation on the mind. Many teach that the Holy Spirit works directly, separate and apart from the Bible, on an infant a few days old, who can neither reason or have faith. Our Protestant forefathers who came to America taught this same error. In their revival meetings there were screaming, fainting, jerking, laughing, shouting, and all this was said to be done under the direct operation of the Spirit on sinners. The Quakers received their name from men and women who would fall down and shake, as if struggling for life. This supposedly was caused by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit.
We have two great evidences that the Holy Spirit does not convict people, separate and apart from the word of God. The first is that no person has ever known a single fact about Christ where the Bible, or some tradition of it, has not gone. If the Spirit works on the mind separate from the Bible, why doesn't He do so among such nations as China, Russia and the Arabic countries? There is no greater need for a direct operation of the Spirit than in lands where the Bible is not believed and has not gone. The Christian religion never flourishes where the Bible has not gone. Secondly, no person has ever expressed a single truth about conversion or salvation that is not already found in the Bible. When people learn from the Bible, the Holy Spirit teaches them, and when we follow the teachings of the Bible, the Holy Spirit guides us and indwells us. We are filled with the Spirit by making the mind of the Holy Spirit our mind. The more that we have the mind of the Spirit in our minds, the more the Holy Spirit indwells us. . The more the word of the Holy Spirit indwellsus, the more He indwells us. Hence, the Holy Spirit indwells some Christians more than other. The Bible says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, thsese are the sons of God”(Romans 8:14). He leads Christians, not by a supernatural operation on the mind, but by the educational method, by which He teaches us God's will and the virtues of Christian character.