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John 16:8-15 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 10 mins 40 secs

Conviction of the HS and Common Grace; John 16:8-15

 

The context of this whole discourse is that the Spirit is going to be giving new revelation and He is going to be indwelling the church so that they can then comprehend this new revelation. God has not only given us His Word through His Spirit but He has given us His Spirit to understand His Word, and His Spirit has given us gifted men who have the skills and abilities and innate spiritual gift to get into the Word God and to extrapolate from it the doctrines of the Word of God that are in turn taught to the congregations so they can be spiritually nourished and grow. The important thing is that pastors need to be trained. Just because they have the gift of pastor-teacher doesn't mean that they have some sort of intuitive gift that so they can just open the Bible and start teaching it. It is a communication gift but it has to be trained.

 

We are talking about witnessing and the context of hostility in John 16 In verse 8 Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit. John 16:8 NASB "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." This is an extremely important passage to understand and it is one that is often misunderstood. We have to look at the key words here. This tells us that the Holy Spirit has one particular priority in evangelism. When we are witnessing to an unbeliever this tells us that inside that unbeliever the Holy Spirit is doing something. He is convicting them in three arenas: sin, righteousness and judgment. "When He comes" is speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in 33 AD and that this is going to be His mission. He "will convict" is the main verb, elencho [e)legxw], future active indicative. The future tense means that it is not fulfilled at the time when Christ was on the earth. He had to ascend to heaven before the Comforter, the Helper, could come. It is active in that the subject performs the action of the verb. The subject is the Holy Spirit. He will perform the action of then verb, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts, not the evangelist-witnesser. We present the information and he uses it to convict the unbeliever.

 

This word elencho is a word that has quite a history in the ancient world in the judicial system where it meant to prove something, to convict someone of a crime, which means to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they performed a certain action. It is an objective term that means to trot out the evidence and make it clear that somebody is guilty. It means to convict in a legal sense, to convince beyond a shadow of a doubt. That is the Holy Spirit's role. What is the object of the verb. This is indicated by the accusative case. The object is the world. That has been Jesus' subject since verse 18 of the previous chapter. So the Holy Spirit is going to be convicting the world, the cosmic system. The believer is not in the cosmic system positionally. You can do a word study on elencho and not once anywhere in the Bible is the believer the object of the verb elencho where the Holy Spirit is the subject of the verb. The Holy Spirit doesn't convict the believer of sin; the text says the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. This is His ministry to the unbeliever—every unbeliever. This is why it is foundational to understand this is terms of common grace. Common grace is that work that God performs on every unbeliever, regardless of their volitional position. God sends the rain upon the believer and the unbeliever, on the just and on the unjust. God provides the air to breathe, he gives people life whether they are believer on unbeliever, regardless of spiritual status. That is common grace, and part of common grace is that the Holy Spirit convicts. Just as God makes it clear to the unbeliever at God-consciousness that He exists and makes it evident within them, so to the Holy Spirit makes it clear to every single unbeliever that of these three issues: the conviction of sin, of righteousness, and judgment. They know it. That is our edge. That doesn't mean He convinces them in the sense that they acknowledge it or accept it as true, but in their core being they know it is true. And just as they suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness they will, if they are negative suppress the truth of the gospel.

 

 "In view of a finished work by Christ  wherein sin is borne and all blessings are secured, the immeasurable failure for the individual for who Christ died is that he does not believe on Him. It is noticeable, though contrary to general opinion, that the Spirit does not enlighten the mind with respect to all the sins the individual has committed. It is not a matter of creating shame or remorse concerning sin, nor is it so much as a reminder of sin that has been committed—though there is nothing, on the other hand, to preclude sorrow or consciousness of sin; it is rather that, since sin has been borne by Christ, there remains the one great and only responsibility of one's attitude toward the Savior who bore the sin." L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, p. 218.

 

The point he is making is clear. The issue is faith in Christ. It doesn't say in the text that He will convict the world of sins. The Holy Spirit is not coming along, despite whatever the evangelist may do by outlining all of the "terrible" things that the unbeliever has done, and convicting them of all their personal sins. He is convicting them of sin in the singular. What sin is that?

 

Chafer goes on to says: "This unbelief the Lord declared is the basis of final condemnation: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. (John 3:18). To make the unsaved realise this is a task too great for the preacher; it must be accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and He will reveal this specific truth to the unsaved, within the elective divine purpose, as the gospel is preached to them. The fact indicated in this text, that the one ground of condemnation is the failure to believe on Christ as Savior, confirms the truth, that the one and only condition of salvation is faith in Christ as Savior."   

 

Chafer's point accurately made is that the sin mentioned in this passage is not personal sins. The issue is salvation, the issue when we are witnessing, is not to deal with the individual's personal sin. Our personal sins were all dealt with on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for every single personal sin in human history on the cross. Therefore personal sins are not the issue, the issue is faith alone in Christ alone.

 

Acts 2:23 NASB "this {Man,} delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put {Him} to death." The issue that Peter focuses on here is Christ's death on the cross, not the personal sins. The sin that is mentioned here is the sin of rejection of Christ, not some catalogue of personal sins that they probably had committed.

Acts 3:13-15 NASB  "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, {the one} whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, {the one} whom God raised from the dead, {a fact} to which we are witnesses." One thing that is being emphasised in their gospel presentation is not personal sins but what is thought about Jesus Christ and attitude to Him. That was to a Jewish audience. In Acts chapter ten the shift is to a Gentile audience.

Acts 10:38 NASB "{You know of} Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and {how} He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. [39] We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross"—the rejection of Christ right there, the focal point, not the sins of the Gentiles, not their personal sins, but the death of Christ. [40] God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, [41] not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, {that is,} to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. [42] And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. [43] Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

Paul does the same thing in Acts 17 where there is another Gentile audience in view. Verse 30 NASB  "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all {people} everywhere should repent, [31] because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." So the issue is Jesus Christ and His righteousness. The issue is: is your righteousness good enough to get into heaven. We will see that it is Christ's imputed righteousness that is the issue, that at the moment of salvation God the Father imputed to the believer the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can only get into heaven if we possess that perfect righteousness.

The point of all this is simply to emphasise that the issue in witnessing is not to detail the sins of the unbeliever, not make them the issue; the only issue is faith alone in Christ alone.

1.  Everyone, every single human being, has enough information and they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. Romans 1:19, 20.

2.  They all know they are sinners, according to Romans 2.

3.  The highest revelation in all of human history is Jesus Christ and the New Testament, and no more revelation is given in history. So in evangelism we are not looking for some new revelation, some new insight.

4.  We need to emphasise that sin is a violation of God's character and integrity, and it is not a violation of social mores. (Society redefines sin every 20-30 years)

5.  Since sin is against the character of God and not man the ultimate sin is against Christ the eternal Son of God, the revealer of God, the Logos of God. The ultimate sin against Christ is to reject Him, the sin of unbelief.

John 16:9 NASB "concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me." The Holy Spirit reveals this to us. It is not because the unbeliever has committed a whole host of sins, not because they have committed adultery, murder, etc. So what sin? "Because they do not believe in Me." 

John 16:10 NASB "and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me." Is the Holy Spirit convicting unbelievers because of their lack of imputed righteousness, or is He convicting them because they are just not good enough? If we interpret the righteousness here as experiential righteousness then we have a works salvation. We are basically saying that the Holy Spirit is convicting them because they don't have enough good works. We know from Scripture that it is not by works of righteousness that we have done but according to His mercy He saved us. So we have to define the righteousness here as imputed righteousness. How many times when we have been witnessing have we explained the doctrine of imputation to an unbeliever? And yet that is what the Holy Spirit is focusing them on. Here is what L.S. Chafer has to say about this:

"Gospel preaching has made much of the remission of sin through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and not more than should be; but a deplorable neglect has been accorded the equally requisite truth that a perfect standing is imputed also to the one who believes. The truth of the gospel, as outlined in John 16:7-11, is presented in a full-orbed perfection. Wherein is exceeds man's restricted discernment of the gospel will but serve to demonstrate the inattention of men to the paramount theme. As over against this careless notion that any kind of a statement will serve as a gospel message, attention should again be drawn to the unrevoked anathema of Galatians 1:8, 9. So little, indeed, is the fact and value of imputed righteousness comprehended—due to a large extent to the neglect of it—that it is not easy to develop this truth to the same level of realisation to which the more accentuated verity of forgiveness of sin has attained. There can be no question that the two ideas—imputed righteousness and remission of sin—are, as a challenge to the human understanding, incomparable, largely due, it would seem, to the obvious fact that remission of sin is a more or less common experience in human relationships, while the imputation of righteousness has no parallel in human experience outside that set forth in the gospel…. Here is introduced a supernatural feature of the gospel. Divine forgiveness of sin is also a supernatural accomplishment when based on the death of Christ; but far too often forgiveness of sin is computed to be no more than a divine benevolence or generosity." Systematic Theology, vol. 3, pp. 219, 20.  

What he is saying is that forgiveness that we have at the cross is profound and supernatural and different categorically from all other kinds of forgiveness. It cost God everything to provide our salvation. He sent His Son to the cross, it is a supernaturally purchased forgiveness of sin that took place at the cost of Christ going to the cross where He who knew no sin was made sin for us; all those sins were imputed to Him. If we don't understand that as the foundation for forgiveness then we can never understand what real forgiveness is in human relationships.

The third issue that the Holy Spirit makes clear in a witnessing situation is John 16:11 NASB "and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." The fist thing people think of when they hear the word "judgment" is the great white throne judgment. That is not what this passage is talking about. The focus here on judgment is not great white throne. That is not the issue at salvation, and the issue at salvation is a different judgment, the judgment that occurred on the cross: "the ruler of this world has been judged." This is a perfect active indicative which means the completion of an event in past time with results that go on forever. It is from the verb krino [krinw] which means to judge or to condemn and Satan has been judged and condemned by Jesus Christ's death on the cross. So the issue when we focus on judgment in the gospel is not the great white throne judgment, it is the judgment on the cross. Colossians 2:14 NASB "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. [15] When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." So Satan and all of the fallen angels have been disarmed, i.e. the actual defeat is at the cross and that is the basis for their judgment. So what we see is up to the time of the cross Satan's task was to prevent it; his jib since the cross is to blind our minds to it. He is out there trying to blind the minds of the world to the truth of the gospel but he has to deal with the fact that the Holy Spirit is going to make the gospel clear to everyone, according to these verses in John 16.  

John 16:12 NASB "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear {them} now." In other words, you don't have the capacity to understand and comprehend everything yet because you don't have the Holy Spirit. The word "bear" in v. 12 is bastazo [bastazw], present active infinitive. It has various meanings. It means something heavy that is being moved from one place to another, the implication of being heavy. Secondly, it means to carry something that is burdensome, the idea of a weighty responsibility. Third, it means to bear something in mind, to consider it, to understand and comprehend it. Fourth, it means to continue to bear up under unusually trying circumstances and difficulties. John uses this word here because all of these are true. First of all, the apostles are to carry the gospel throughout the whole world. Secondly, it is a weighty responsibility but they are given a Helper to aid them in the task. Third, they are not able to comprehend it all because they don't have the Holy Spirit. . [13] But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." This begins with the phrase hotan de [o(tan de] which means this is between the now when the Holy Spirit hasn't come and the then when the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost. Then, "He, the Spirit of truth, comes," where we have ekeinos [e)keinoj] which indicates His personality, plus the aorist active subjunctive of erchomai [e)rxomai] which indicates the potential of when He comes. ekeinos is a 3rd masculine singular pronoun which relates to a neuter noun, pneuma [pneuma]. In Greek grammar a pronoun has to agree in gender with the noun it refers to. So if you have a neuter noun, pneuma, and a pronoun, the pronoun has to be in the neuter form. If there is a shift and that pronoun is in the masculine form then that emphasises the fact that the Holy Spirit is not an "it" but a "He" and a person and has all of the aspects of personality, not just some force from God. Then we are told "He will guide you into all the truth," and this is the 3rd singular future active indicative of hodegeo [o(dhgew] which means to lead or to guide, and usually it means to guide someone in acquiring information. Another word that is used is ago [a)gw] (not in this passage) and it also means to lead or to guide but to lead or to guide somebody in developing something new. So the emphasis here is to understand what is there and not to innovate. They are going to be instructed basically in every category of doctrine. The bets translation would be: But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will instruct you in every category of doctrine." That doesn't mean suddenly becoming omniscient! It doesn't mean having a mystical encounter with the Holy Spirit and there will be automatic ability to correctly interpret Scripture. It has the idea that there is a body of knowledge there and he is going to illuminate us to understand that. It is progressive, it takes place over time.

John 16:14 NASB "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose {it} to you." In other words, He will take the things the Lord has been teaching and make it clear to them. Here he changes the verb from hodegeo to anaggello [a)naggellw] which is a future active indicative form here—He will do this, not right now but when He comes—and it means to provide information with the implication of something that has considerable detail. Notice: the role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son, not to glorify Himself. Whenever the Holy Spirit is the focus of something, when people are focusing on the Holy Spirit, you know there is a problem because the Holy Spirit doesn't draw attention to Himself, the Holy Spirit brings attention to Jesus Christ: He is the focal point, not the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:15 NASB "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose {it} to you." The focal point is Jesus Christ. Notice how Christ and Christology is the essence of much application in the New Testament. E.g. Romans 15:7 NASB "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God…. [18] For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed." So Paul clearly puts the focus on Jesus Christ.

We need to be teaching a profound and deep Christology in the church. For example, Christology is at the heart of how to handle suffering and adversity and the divine solution.  2 Corinthians 1:5 NASB "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." He is the focal point of preaching, 2 Corinthians 4:5 NASB "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake." Christ is the basis for understanding grace and understanding how to handle problems. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me'." It is the basis for forgiveness, Ephesians 4:32 NASB "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." If you don't understand Christ you can't understand forgiveness, you can't understand love: "Walk in love just as Christ also loved you." Ephesians 5:25 NASB "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."