8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Verses 8-11 show how the Holy Spirit would enable the apostles to witness for Jesus and justify or vindicate His supernatural credentials before the world (Jn 15:26, 27). They would also have an Advocate at their side through persecution (v. 7). In the passage before us, the Spirit would not only be their defender but enable them to prosecute their message.
The following verses reveal the threefold role of the Holy Spirit:
-He would indict those who reject Christ as Savior
-He would convince people of the standard for acceptance before God
-He would condemn Satan’s belief system
Verse 8 is a summary of verses 9-11.
8 And when He has come,
Jesus was about to leave the apostles alone to minister in the world. However, they would have divine resource whereby they could effectually minister. When the Holy Spirit came, He would do three important things. All three concern the world, not believers. They relate to what the Holy Spirit does in the sphere of the conscience, the state, and the attitude of the world toward God and His claims.
He will convict [convince] the world [unregenerate mankind]
The Greek word “convict” occurs 18 times in the New Testament (Mt 18:15; Lu 3:19; Jn 3:20; 8:46; 16:8; 1 Co 14:24; Eph 5:11, 13; 1 Ti 5:20; 2 Ti 4:2; Ti 1:9, 13; 2:15; He 12:5; Jas 2:9; Jude 15, 22; Re 3:19). The word carries ideas of to illumine, convict, refute, confute. Each case shows the need to respond to God’s plan in some way. The Holy Spirit will bring truth to light to every person on earth. Truth will impose shame and fault to the individual. This will call people to account and respond to what is genuine, real, and of God. It essentially deals with what one believes. However, this word does not imply conversion of the guilty party.
The Greek word for “convict” also carries the idea to convince by proof (Jn 3:20; 8:46). The Holy Spirit brings the world to a legal verdict and pronounces a judicial verdict whereby the guilty are defined for their belief or unbelief. The polemical message of the apostles was to be delivered supernaturally by the Spirit. He is the divine detective who demonstrates divine truth to the guilty person. He shows them their unavoidable guilt and utter helplessness before God without Jesus.
We need to understand that conviction does not simply show sin as sinful. Moses revealed that. The singular point of the world’s guilt is that they do not “believe” on Jesus. The Spirit’s role is to validate the credentials of Christ. Another nuance of the word “convict” is the act of convincing, not only condemnation. Conviction is not the same as conversion. However, conviction is necessary for conversion to happen. Conviction exposes facts and the truth. The Holy Spirit will bring the world to the point whereby they fully understand that the issue of belief in Christ is the only way of salvation.
The level of understanding that the Spirit brings is not developed here, but everyone will come to awareness of their need to believe in Christ, even if they have never heard His name. However, the idea of to convince does not imply that the Holy Spirit will drive a person to believe. The idea is more to demonstrate or set for the case that something is true. The Holy Spirit produces compelling evidence, although most will reject it as true. It is His job to expose truth to the unbeliever. Whether people believe this exposure is not indicated here. Either case is in view. Some will believe, but others will reject what they hear.
It is the Holy Spirit’s task to apply the credentials of Christ to the world.
It is the role of the Holy Spirit to supernaturally touch every soul with the message of the gospel. We see an example of this in Acts 2:36,37. In Acts 2:7 Peter made the pronouncement that the Spirit would descend upon “all flesh”—everyone. After his sermon, the crowd was “cut to the heart” or came under conviction about the gospel (1 Co 14:24,25). The Spirit is Jesus’ Advocate to the world.
Apart from the conviction of the Spirit, fallen humanity cannot believe. No one can come to a point of conversion without admission of the guilt of violating an absolutely holy God. The Holy Spirit’s role is to bring to light the truth that is in Jesus. The idea is not only to procure a conviction before a judge but to bring the individual to conviction or belief about something. The individual is indeed guilty of sin, but he may not come to grips with it. He needs to see the peril he is in as he stands before God. Only God’s grace and mercy can save him. Without the Spirit supernaturally taking the initiative of convincing the world of its sin, there would be no way for people to come to Christ.