Do you have a Bible verse you’ve heard or read many times, but simply didn’t understand? One that you’re reading in English, but which might as well be in Hebrew or Greek for all the meaning you’ve been able to derive from it? I have, and it’s this one; I’m including the verses surrounding it, to put it in context:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] 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)
Do you understand what this means–what Jesus was telling His followers, and us, about sin, righteousness, and judgment?
Jesus was explaining that He had to leave His followers and return to the Father for a reason: so the Helper, also called the Holy Spirit or Christ’s Spirit, could come to them. Why couldn’t He come if Jesus had stayed? I don’t know, but it wasn’t possible. But once He came, He would convict the world of sin, and righteousness and judgment. What does that mean?
To convict is to seriously impress on someone–to convince, to really help them see and understand in the depth of their being. So the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.
1) He convicts us of sin. That’s reasonably straightforward–He impresses upon us how terrible our sin and it’s effect on us and others really is, how utterly beyond fixing, how truly depraved and hopeless. This is important, because the rest makes no sense without our recognizing this first.
Once we see with eyes wide open just how miserable our condition really is, 2) He convicts us of righteousness. That means, He helps us see what real righteousness–the opposite of sin–is. He helps us fully comprehend not only how far we fall from the mark of perfection, but He also helps us see that it is only Christ Jesus who has that kind of perfection, and that only by believing in Him–that He is also God, God’s Son, who can fix us, forgive and change us–that we can have His holiness attributed to us.
And finally, 3) the Spirit of Christ convicts us of judgment–of judgment on sin, on those who rejected the righteousness Christ would have worked in them, had they let Him.
I think the New Living Translation is perhaps one of the easiest for understanding these verses, so here they are, again:
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John 16:7-11 NLT)
Sin, righteousness, judgment: this is the gospel in a nutshell! 1) Our sin, 2) Christ’s righteousness for those who want it, 3) judgment on those who don’t. Jesus said, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NLT)“ This has so many applications on so many different levels, but a major one is that when we look for Truth, when we really want to know Him, to understand, He let’s us get it–and we are free! Free from fear, doubt, condemnation, guilt, uncertainty. Free from the horrifying judgment we deserve. Free from not knowing the One we were meant to live with forever, from living a life separated from genuine Love, because He is love. Ultimately, free to be the people He wants us to become–in this life and the next!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Send me Your Spirit, that He May convict me of sin, righteousness, and judgment: of my sin; of true righteousness–which is only of You and which I get when I let You in; and of the coming judgement on sin. Amen.