The Spirit Convicts of Sin

In a telegraphic description made by Christ just before His death, He pointed out three aspects of the Spirit’s work. “He will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.” John 16:8, R.S.V. In explaining the first of these, Jesus said, “Of sin, because they believe not on me.” Verse 9.


The Bible mentions four general categories of sin. First is the sin of “commission” “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Second, the sin of omission: “To him that knoweth to do good, and do it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17. Third, the sin of coming short of glorifying God in our acts: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Fourth, the sin of unbelief: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23.


Of all sins, the sin of unbelief looms the most treacherous because it destroys the means whereby we receive forgiveness. Unbelief is subtle, deceiving, and often unperceived. Beginning with the voicing of a doubt as an opinion, it soon becomes an attitude of the mind. Like a chancre within the heart, it slowly eats away. Finally, it bewitches its victim, fouls the character, and damns the soul. “He that doubteth is damned.” Romans 14:23. If you are inclined to doubt, you should listen to Christ’s words spoken to Thomas, the disciple who had this weakness: “Be not faithless, but believing.” John 20:27. Pray as did the father of the demoniac lad: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 8:24.


We must have faith to please God. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Hebrews 11:6. Of all the doctrines set forth in the Bible, faith receives by far the most attention.


The “spirit of faith” works to stimulate faith and to create within the soul a desire for greater faith. (2 Corinthians 4:13.) The great goal, of course, is that we may experience righteousness by faith: “we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Galatians 5:5.


The word convince in John 16:8, R.S.V., can be used in a judicial context: that is, to arrest, apprehend, convict, and bring under surveillance. The Holy Spirit acts as a sheriff apprehending a law-breaker and saying, “You are under arrest.” In effect, the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to trial in the court of his own conscience and says, “You know you are guilty.” The sinner experiences inner distress when he is made to acknowledge the verdict of his own conscience and sees himself a moral “convict,” a fugitive from justice, an outlaw whose life is forfeited unless he can find pardon. We say he is under “conviction.” Here is where many try to compromise with the Holy Spirit. Though the sinner knows that he has done wrong and feels restless, uneasy, and frustrated, yet his human nature squirms and twists trying to evade facing up to wrong. He often hides his guilt behind a disarming smile. Self, ever on the defensive, contests the verdict, and for obvious reasons, for self must die when sin is confessed and forsaken. Self fights for this present life. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit works to save the sinner from yielding to the fierce resistance or whimpering of self, for it self is not slain, the soul must die.

The Holy Spirit does not remind the sinner of his sins that He might make him unhappy. He knows that sin is man’s worst enemy; He has the sinner’s present and eternal welfare in mind. However, like a faithful doctor, He diagnoses the case and then presents Christ to the sinner as his only remedy.


When explaining the charter under which the Holy Spirit would operate, Jesus said that men would be convicted “of sin” because they believe not on me.” (John 16:9.) The moment Adam and Eve sinned, he became a lost man. “By one man sin entered into the world.” Romans 5:12. Every human being by heredity partakes of the weakened nature transmitted by Adam, but each is lost because of his own sins. Though all are lost, however, all may be redeemed upon one condition: belief in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Those who refuse to look in faith to Christ have “an evil heart of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:12.)  Love has no greater argument to present to the sinner than the cross.


Those who believe in Christ are those who have realized their own sinfulness. The Holy Spirit has worked upon their hearts, convicting them of sin-but the work of the Spirit does not end there.


Memory Verse:

Hebrews 3:12.   “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

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