DAY 3 OF PENTECOST NOVENA, 2020
MARY MOTHER OF GOOD COUNSEL CATHOLIC CHURCH, AIRPORT WEST AREA, ACCRA
TOPIC: THE HOLY SPIRIT TO CONVICT THE WORLD CONCERNING SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUDGMENT
KEY TEXT: JOHN 16:7-11
At the Last Supper, our Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the work He would do (see John 14 – 16). Six weeks thereafter, on the day of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, He reassured His disciples: ‘you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Then, ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended in a spectacular way to empower the disciples of Jesus.
On this third day of our Pentecost Novena, our message focuses on three aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit:
- to convict the world concerning sin
- to convince the world of righteousness
- to convince the world of judgment
- Definition of terms: a) Convict and b) World
- The Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin
- The Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning righteousness
- The Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning judgment
- DEFINITION OF TERMS
The Greek word, ‘elenchein’, is translated by various English words: convict, convince, prove, reprove, etc. Here are some Bible translations of the word:
- New King James Version uses ‘convict’
- King James Version uses ‘reprove’
- Revised Standard Version uses ‘convince’
- New Revised Standard Version uses ‘prove’
In fact, no one English word translates the Greek word adequately (Barclay, 192). The Greek word can mean a) ‘to bring something to light’, i.e., to expose something; and b) ‘convict of’ (JBC, 977; Barclay, 192). Actually, in Greek, the word is used for the cross-examination of a witness, or a person on trial, or an opponent in an argument. Firstly, in the context of trials, the word has always this idea of cross-examining a person until he/she sees his/her errors and admits them. Secondly, in the context of arguments, it is the word used to acknowledge that one is convinced of the position of his/her opponent. In short, it has both the meaning of being convicted of one’s errors and being convinced about something (Barclay, 192).
It means those who did not or have not accepted Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of mankind.
It includes the Jewish High Priest, Chief priests, Pharisees and others who, in the days of Jesus, did not accept Him.
Today, the world includes all those who do not accept Jesus and His message of salvation and/or persecute His followers.
- THE HOLY SPIRIT TO CONVICT THE WORLD CONCERNING SIN
The Jewish High Priest, Chief priests and Pharisees who planned for the arrest, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus did not believe that they were sinning. Rather, they believed that they were serving God against whom Jesus was blaspheming (cf. Matt. 26:65).
However, they were entirely wrong. How do we know that they were wrong? We know this, because the Holy Spirit has cross-examined the conscience of the world and declared it guilty for not believing in the Son of God (cf. John 16:9) and for killing the most innocent One (Barclay, 192-3).
Thus, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Peter preached on the Pentecost Day saying that the Jewish religious leadership and their followers were guilty (Acts 2:22-24,37-40). His preaching on this matter is even clearer on the day he and St. John healed the lame beggar in the name of Jesus at Solomon’s Portico. This is what St. Peter told the crowd:
13 “…The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified His servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release Him. …
17“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers…. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out….” (Acts 3:13, 17-19).
In this way, the Holy Spirit convicted the world of sin.
But the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting the world did not end there. Even today the Holy Spirit is in the business of pricking our conscience whenever we sin. He then encourages us to repent. Whenever, therefore, we repent, we are actually responding to the merciful promptings of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, whenever we become conscious of our sins but refuse to repent and confess, we act against the Holy Spirit; and that is detrimental to our salvation (cf. Matt. 12:30-32).
- THE HOLY SPIRIT TO CONVICT THE WORLD CONCERNING RIGHTEOUSNESS
As mentioned already, the Greek word translated as ‘convict’ could also be translated as ‘convince’. In this section, it is better to use the word ‘convince’. Thus, Jesus told His disciples: ‘the Holy Spirit will convince the world … of righteousness, because I go to my Father’ (John 16:8,10). The righteousness here is in reference to Jesus.
Righteousness has its root in the word ‘right’. Righteousness in this context means the one who is considered to be right, or to be without sin, in the sight of God.
On their part, Jewish High Priest, Chief Priests and Pharisees saw themselves to be righteous while they adjudged Jesus to be a criminal who had to be crucified. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit, who comes to cross-examine the conscience of the world, convinces us that Jesus is rather the righteous One (Barclay, 193).
Once again, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Peter preached on the Pentecost Day saying that God has declared Jesus righteous, instead of the Jewish religious leadership (Acts 2:32-36). His preaching on this matter is even clearer on the day he and St. John healed the lame beggar in the name of Jesus at Solomon’s Portico. This is what St. Peter told the crowd:
13 ”The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:13-15).
That is, the Holy Spirit convinces us that because Jesus is the righteous Son of God, His sacrificial death pleased His Father, and that His resurrection shows that the Father is well pleased. The righteousness of Jesus is further demonstrated by His ascension and sitting at the righteous Father’s right hand in heaven, where the angels serve Him (Heb. 1:3; 8:1; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22). So, Jesus is righteous; and those self-righteous leaders who thought that they had the authority to condemn Him were rather unrighteous.
Consequently, the Holy Spirit convinces us that if we wish to be made righteous by God the Father, we have to believe in Jesus, the righteous Redeemer, whose precious blood cleanses us of our sins.
- THE HOLY SPIRIT TO CONVICT THE WORLD CONCERNING JUDGMENT
Here too, the Greek word is better translated as ‘convince’ instead of ‘convict’. So, the verse should read: ‘The Holy Spirit will convince the world …concerning judgment’ (John 16:8). Now, the Holy Spirit, in exposing to us what sin is and by convincing us about righteousness, makes clear to us that there will be judgment. In other words, the Spirit takes away our ignorance about sin and enlightens us about righteousness, and thereby alerts us that there is consequence for choosing to remain in sin (cf. Acts 2:37-41; 3:17-19).
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit also gives us the grace to choose the path of righteousness, so that the Lord’s judgment will be in our favour. Let us, therefore, make use of His grace to lead lives pleasing to God.
Beloved, Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit. The work of Holy Spirit is limitless. Today, however, we have looked at only three aspects of His work. The Holy Spirit:
- convicts us concerning sin
- convinces us of righteousness in Christ
- convinces us that there will be judgment and those who stand on the side of Jesus Christ by living with His grace will be saved.
Finally, therefore, I pray that we will renew our commitment to make use of the abundant grace of God. Amen!
William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of St. John, vol. 2 (Bangalore: Theological Publications, 1999).
Jerome Biblical Commentary (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1990); abbreviated as JBC.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis