John 16:8–11 (ESV) — 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
In John 16 Christ is preparing his disciples for his departure. In the above verses Christ states that it is imperative that he goes away so that He could send the Holy Spirit. It will be the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to convict. He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. What then is conviction?
Conviction is not “conversion”, yet it does help accomplish conversion. Conviction is truth laid out to us in a clear manner so that the evidence can either be accepted or rejected. The idea is that the evidence for the truth is set out in a very logical way so that the hearer understands what is required. It is then up to the hearer to accept or reject the claims.
Who then are the ones convicted? The world is convicted, but not necessarily the entire population. This means all those who are presented with the truth. Not everyone presented with the truth accepts the truth however. A large portion of humanity is presented with the truth, but not all will believe it.
What are they convicted of? Concerning sin first of all. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned. That sin is what placed Christ on the Cross. We must see our need for Christ in order to understand salvation. The truth about our sin nature should point us to the truth about the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. This conviction then should lead us to the belief in who Christ is, and what He has done. Second the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. That righteousness is the truth concerning the Gospel. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Christ is alive and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. His sacrifice was accepted by God and his righteousness is now available to all humanity. That righteousness is only available when you believe the truth of the Gospel. The third thing that the Spirit convicts us of is the judgment of sin. Satan is the ruler of this world and because of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, the world ruler ship was taken from Him and given to Christ. Not only is humanity reconciled to God, but the entire creation is set free from the rule of sin.
The order of the conviction is logical in that it demonstrates that man is sinful and needs the righteousness which is provided in the Gospel. If he rejects that righteousness then he will face certain condemnation.
How then do we become convicted?
John 6:44 (ESV) — 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
1 Peter 1:23 (ESV) — 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
This brings to mind the phrase used in the TV show X-files. “The truth is out there”. This is a fitting saying for how we become convicted. It is the word of God that convicts us, whether that word comes from our own reading or a sermon on Sunday. It doesn’t matter if a friend tells us or we hear it on the radio. When you hear the word of God it demands an answer. That answer is either belief or rejection. Remember that Philippian jailer who asked what must he do to be saved?. The answer was given in the very next verse.
Acts 16:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”