How Does the Holy Spirit Convict the World?

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:4-11). 

The Helper in this case would come and bear witness. And he would do this through us. But we must see that our witness would have a purpose in our proclamation, a purpose in the words given.

The work of the Spirit is immense:

  • He is an agent of creation (Genesis 1:2);
  • He is the third person of the Trinity
  • He regenerates a heart to belief as one born “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Genesis 3:5).
  • He seals our hearts and thus guarantees our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  • He grafts us into the vine to which we must be connected (John 15:1-11; Romans 11)
  • He dwells in and with the believer as our Counselor, our Advocate (John 14:15-17).

All of these things (creation, salvation, the keeping of our souls, the grafting us into the vine of Christ, the dwelling in and through) are all initiated and upheld by the Spirit.

But here we see one more role of the Spirit—convicting the sinner of his sin, and righteousness, and judgment. Look at verses 9-11:

9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

What are we to make of what Jesus is saying? The Spirit’s purpose is to bring glory to Jesus (see John 16:14) and to make people aware of where they stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Spirit begins to peel back the spiritual aspect of their lives and the spiritual aspect of creation. So the Spirit intervenes and convicts them.

Concerning sin. We can label sins all we want, but all sin comes down to unbelief. Even when Christians sin, we sin because at that time, Jesus is not enough. Tullian Tchividjian rightly said:

So, here’s the connection between sinning (the fruit of the problem) and unbelief (the root of the problem): our failure to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles is the direct result of our refusal to believe in the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ–we’re not believing that, by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, everything we need and long for, we already possess.[1]

So, he’s right: sin is the fruit of the problem, unbelief the root.

Concerning righteousness, because I go the Father and you will see me no longer. Repeatedly, Jesus told them that he would leave them, and that it would be necessary and good for them. Where was Jesus going? He was going to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Jesus told the High Priest, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).

He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Romans 8:34 says,

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

To intercede is to pray on behalf another, and this is what Christ does to His Father.  We see an example of this in the moments before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion with this exchange with Simon Peter:

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

This strengthening of the brothers leads us to judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is Satan. He is the ‘god of this world,’ one of the three of the Unholy Trinity (along with the world and the flesh—see 1 John 2:15-17) that seek to divert us away from the things of God. He causes great grief in the world—but when Jesus gets finished with Him and eventually throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:1-7), there will be a peace. Knowing this will happen to the Adversary (capital ‘A’), this gives believers confidence in the Spirit that the devil’s time is short, not eternal!


[1]Tullian Tchividjian, The Root of All Sin. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/11/25/the-root-of-all-sin/

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