And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
There is probably far more packed into these four verses than I could make sense of if I spent every day for a year trying to sort it. Here is what struck me this morning.
The Holy Spirit comes with a mission. As Jesus came with a mission to offer Himself as a sacrifice, so, too, does the Holy Spirit come with a mission. These verses outline three things that the Holy Spirit will do and gives the reason why He will do them.
One: The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin … because they do not believe in Me. The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world concerning sin. It is a strange truth that we all know we have done something wrong. The Holy Spirit is the One Who convicts the world of sin. This means several things. It means that I need not browbeat people regarding their sin. They know that they have sin in their life. They do not need me to tell them. C.S. Lewis once wrote that [a]ll men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt. This also means that the world is convicted concerning sin because they do not believe. If they believed, then the Holy Spirit would perform a different work. But, because they do not believe, He performs the work of conviction.
Two: The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning … righteousness … because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me. Without Jesus running around showing us the perfect standard, there are only imperfect disciples to look at. And look at us the world does. And condemns our Lord because of us. This is not to say that we should be perfect. We will not be. Not this side of Heaven. This is to say that the world uses us as a scapegoat; as a straw man for their argument that Christ’s teachings and claims are invalid. The world rages against no other teacher the way it does against Christ. This means that I need to do two things. First, I need to recognize that I will be examined as a stand-in for my Lord and will be found wanting. Big surprise. Second, I need to understand that the reason the world is so bent on using me as a straw man is because the Holy Spirit is convicting the world concerning righteousness; is showing the world that its best efforts are not good enough to get into Heaven.
Three: The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning … judgment … because the ruler of this world has been judged. The world knows it will be judged and knows that it deserves to be judged. So, like a child who knows he is in trouble and figures he might as well make the punishment worthwhile, the world grows more and more wicked, as if daring God to move and take action against unrighteousness; challenging God to prove Himself by raining judgment on the heads of those who reject Him.
None of these things is new. None of them is particularly surprising. However, there are some very practical things that I can do in light of the Holy Spirit’s work. First, I need to start witnessing not with the reality of wrongdoing — we all know we have done wrong — but with the hope that is offered by God. I am told to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in me, not convict the world of sin. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. My job is to be ready to give a reason for my hope for salvation from sin. Second, I need to understand that my failings will lead to me being used as a straw man so the world can try to discredit Christ. We all recognize the straw man as not being particularly substantial and only a birdbrain — pun connected to scarecrows intended — would see it otherwise. The hatred that feels aimed at me in those moments is aimed at my Lord, I am merely a convenient stand-in and a terrific example of how imperfect Jesus’ disciples still are. Third, I need to understand that the news reports looking darker is actually to be expected. The world and its ruler have already been judged, it is merely a matter of carrying out the sentence. My place in all of it is to offer God’s pardon to everyone who seems interested in it.