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Theology 101: Paraclete Promises (Part 4 of 4)comment (0)

July 3, 2014

By Jerry Batson


This week we consider the final passage in which Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit by the special term Paraclete. In the prior three passages, Jesus emphasized the Spirit’s role in the lives of His followers. In John 16:4–11, He began by pointing out the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the world of outsiders and unbelievers.

At the time of speaking to the disciples, the coming of the Spirit to abide with them was still in their future. So Jesus informed them, “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Students of the Bible have understood the meaning of Jesus’ verb to be either “convict” or “convince.” English versions usually reflect one or the other of these meanings. As we take a closer look, perchance we do well to allow the Bible’s “two-edgedness” to come into play. Rather than choosing between these meanings, we can profit by allowing both to stand. Let’s see how this plays out as the Spirit joins human witnesses in making an impression on the world.

Concerning Sin

The Spirit seeks to reprove the world by bringing conviction that sin is serious, and sinners need forgiveness. At the same time, the Spirit is at work convincing the world that the God-provided means of sin’s forgiveness is through Jesus, the sin-bearer. Viewed this way, the word Jesus used conveys truth in two directions. The Holy Spirit works in the world to convict people about the wrong way and to convince them of the right way.

Concerning Righteousness

The Spirit seeks to bring reproof or conviction that people left to their own efforts are without the kind of righteousness that God accepts into His heaven. While convicting the world of its lack of real righteousness, the Spirit also works to convince people that Christ is the only way to the righteousness that meets God’s requirements. At the heart of the good news is the declaration that Christ’s perfect righteousness is accredited to those who forsake unbelief and begin trusting Jesus as Savior.

Concerning Judgment

The Spirit seeks to bring conviction that judgment awaits the unrepentant. Jesus’ thought runs from the greater to the lesser. Judgment upon Satan is at the greater end, while judgment upon the world is at the lesser end. If the greater judgment has been wrought, the lesser also will follow. While convicting the world of the danger of divine judgment, the Spirit works to convince people that escape from God’s judgment is found only in Christ’s atoning work.

Earlier Jesus had said His followers were to bear witness to their world and that His Spirit also would bear witness (John 15:26–27). He has not changed our assignment. We are to bear witness. However, our assignment is not to reprove or cause conviction. That is the Spirit’s work. We are not assigned, nor are we capable, of convincing people of the truth about sin, righteousness and judgment. That also is the Spirit’s work. If we aspire, and hopefully we do, to see unbelievers come to faith in Christ, we must be partners with the Holy Spirit. He needs the human witness and we need His convicting and convincing power to accompany that witness.

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