Study 1 CONVICTION
GREAT WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 16: 1-11)
The salvation of a soul is always preceded and accompanied by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. No one is ever truly saved without experiencing this conviction of which Jesus spoke in John 16:7-11. People often think that they can be saved “at will”; that is, just when they decide they would like to be saved, and very often those who preach the gospel fail to realise how imperative it is to secure the convicting work of the Holy Spirit if ever spiritual results are to be produced. In the salvation of a soul it is always God who takes the initiative – look up Genesis 3:9 and John 15:16. If God did not seek man, man would never seek after God – look up Romans 3:11, and compare John 5:6 and 6:44. This raises the question: How does the Father draw men and women to Christ? The answer is – by the Holy Spirit, and the first great work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes is the work of conviction; this means, in simple terms, that He convinces us of our desperate need of a Saviour – look up Genesis 6:3 and Hebrews 3:7-8. His “striving” and His “speaking” are all with a view to His great work of conviction.
1. OF WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICT THE SINNER?
- He convicts the sinner of SIN. Not simply “of sins”, the fruit, but “of sin”, the root, and of the paramount sin of unbelief – the sin of rejecting Christ (John 16:9). Our consciences, if they are not too seared (1 Timothy 4:2), will convict us of sins, such as theft, untruthfulness or jealousy, but it is only when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes that we see the enormity of the sin of rejecting the Saviour whom God has provided. The greatest sin anyone can commit, and the one sin by which we are condemned, is the sin of rejecting Christ – look up John 3:18 and 3:36.
- He convicts the sinner of RIGHTEOUSNESS. He convicts of a righteousness which is required (Isaiah 64:6); of a righteousness which is provided by God and offered to man in the Person of His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21), and which is receivable by faith (Romans 3:21-22). Apart from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, man has no true conception of his own unrighteousness or of God’s righteousness (John 16:10).
- He convicts the sinner of JUDGMENT. The Holy Spirit convinces man that Satan, and all who belong to him, are already doomed – see verse 11, and look up Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 12:7-9 and 20:10.
What great need there is today for this three-fold convicting work of the Holy Spirit! There is no substitute for it. Organisation, the personality of the preacher, etc., all fail. Only the Holy Spirit can convince men of their desperate need of the Saviour.
2. HOW DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT BRING THIS CONVICTION?
- He does His work of conviction through the preaching of the Gospel. The Word of God, the gospel, the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), is the powerful instrument which He uses (Hebrews 4:12) to effect the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16). We shall only see conviction resulting from our preaching if we are faithfully preaching “the gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and “the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). When Peter preached the gospel on the Day of Pentecost his hearers were convicted of sin (Acts 2:23), of righteousness (Acts 2:24 and 33), and of judgment (Acts 2:19-20) – as verse 37 tells us.
- He does His work of conviction through the personal witnessing of Christians. He does it not only by public preaching, but by personal witnessing, as was the case when Philip preached Christ (Acts 8:26-39); when Paul reasoned with Felix (Acts 24:24-25), and when Paul testified before Agrippa (Acts 26:26-29).
- He does His work of conviction by special providences and interventions. Saul was brought under conviction by a sudden revelation of the Lord Himself as he travelled down the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-6); the people of Joppa were brought under conviction by the death and miraculous resurrection of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42 – and note verse 42); the jailer was brought under conviction, not only by the testimony of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25), but by the earthquake which God sent (Acts 16:26 – note verse 30).
- He does His work of conviction in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Here is scope, not only for the preacher, but for the Christians who are present in a gospel meeting, to pray with the preacher for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit to accompany the message as it goes forth – look up Matthew 18:19.
- He does His work of conviction through cleansed, yielded and Spirit-filled lives. Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60), and Saul witnessed his death (verse 58); he heard his testimony and he saw his Christ-like spirit (verse 59). Was it not at this point that Saul first became convicted?
In closing, note John 16:7-8: “I will send him to you. When he comes (to you), he will convict…” The measure in which He can convict is the measure in which He has come “to you.”