I previously wrote about the grace movement and one of the scriptures that they talk about is John 16:8-11. Phil Drysdale has an article on the subject:
To quote him:
“…not only will the Holy Spirit never convict you of your sins, He actually convicts you of your righteousness! Verse ten [of John 16] outlines who will be convicted of their righteousness – believers, followers of Jesus. So the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of their sinful nature and convinces believers of their new righteous nature, that they are new creations AND convicts Satan of his judgment.”
You can see how they get this because they basically say the verses in John outlines three groups of people that the Holy Spirit convicts:
John 16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16:9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
John 16:10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
John 16:11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
When it comes to the righteousness part, since the word “convict” is rather harsh, they change the word to mean “convince”, as in the Holy Spirit will convince believers of their righteousness. But when I look up the word convict in Strongs, it says it means things like, “to find fault with, to correct, to reprehend severely, to chide, to admonish, to reprove, to call to account, to refute with a suggestion of shame, to expose”. I don’t see how you can convert that to say it really means “to convince”. And moreover, verse 8 applies the word equally to all three categories. So if it means “convince” for the righteousness part, then it must also mean merely “convince” when it comes to the world’s sin.
But what does the word “world” refer to anyway? Is it indicating that ALL these verses apply only to non-believers. Or is it a expansive term that encompasses all categories, from un-believers to believers to the “ruler of this word” (Satan)? The grace teachers are clearly using the expansive sense, because then they can apply the righteousness part to believers. But the righteousness part could just as well mean that the Holy Spirit will convict un-believers not only of their sin, but also of what righteousness they should be doing.
Note, that Dr. Michael Brown points out that the same Greek word for “convict” in John 16:8 is also used in Rev 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke [convict] and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” This is followed in verse 22 by, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”, which shows us that the Holy Spirit is the one who is doing this convicting. So the idea that the Holy Spirit will never convict us of our sin seems a bit off to me.
Looking at this a bit closer I notice two Greek words “kai peri” are used in verse 8 in front of each of the three words sin, righteousness and judgment. I’m no Greek scholar, but Strongs says peri means “about, concerning, on account of, because of”. In other words, verse 8 literally reads more like:
John 16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world on account of sin, and on account of righteousness, and on account of judgment:
This makes the meaning of this verse a little clearer to me. The world is convicted on account of its sin, and on account of God’s righteousness (and their lack thereof), and on account of the fact that the kingdom of this world will be judged.
Thus, I would tend to agree with the side that says that all three parts of these verses are talking about the world, not just the conviction of sin part.
Except that I also look at this from a kingdom perspective. Every day we decide what kingdom we will walk in. When we walk in God’s kingdom, then we walk in His righteousness and are not judged. When we walk in the world’s kingdom. Well, I fail to see how a Holy God, by His mere existence, cannot help but to convict us.
The grace teachers say we are not convicted of sin because we believe in Him. But I tend to see that many Christians are fairly lukewarm in their belief. The word “believe” in verse 9 (pisteuo) means putting your trust in God, and even having fidelity towards Him. It does not mean believing in Him and yet doing our own thing.
But one last thing. Why does verse 10 mention “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more”? For me, this ties back to the overall context of this chapter, where Jesus is preparing His disciples for what things will be like when He is gone. Verses 2 says, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service”. Clearly Jesus wants his disciples ready for when this time comes, for in verse 1 He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble”.
And why would they stumble? Well if they began to think that they were the ones in error, the ones in fact in sin. But this is then why the Holy Spirit’s coming is so important. The Holy Spirit will not only be their Helper, He will also put everything into true perspective. When He comes, it will become clear to the disciples that it is the world and not them who is error. Why? Because they believed and the world did not. The Holy Spirit will also make it clear that Jesus was righteous. Why? Because the world nailed Him to a cross, but the coming of the Holy Spirit proves that Jesus has gone to be with the Father. And it will become clear to the disciples that it is the ruler of this world who is judged (perhaps even Caiaphas the high priest specifically) and not them.
In other words, Jesus is saying that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will expose who is truly in error. It is the world who is in sin for not believing in Jesus, it is also in error for not seeing Jesus’ righteousness, and it will be judged because as the ruler of the world it is the one who is responsible (for what was done to Jesus and in the future for what will be done to the disciples).
Thus, you could say that the Holy Spirit is the living word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing between joints and marrow, showing who is really in sin, who is really righteous, and who will be judged.
To me, that is what these verses mean. What do you think?