7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Have you ever been wrong? How did you know that you were wrong? Did someone point out your error, or upon reflection you discovered your own error? Admitting that we are wrong is not an easy thing to do. The three key factors necessary for such an admission are honesty, open mindedness, and willingness. If we were honest we probably have to admit that in most cases our wrongs need to be brought to our attention. After we have been made aware of them we either open our minds to the possibility that we were in error or refuse to consider such a possibility exists. Even if we discover that we have made a mistake we still must be willing to openly acknowledge our error.
This is on a personal level, but what about on a much larger scale? What about if a group, organization, or entire country was wrong? How could we get them to see and admit their error?
In John 16 verses 7 to 15, Jesus offers His disciples some additional information on the work of the Holy Spirit. In this particular passage, Jesus explains that one of the major roles and functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world. The word convict is used here to mean prosecute, judge, and/or prove wrong. Jesus uses a legal term to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Essentially, The Holy Spirit will act as a prosecutor or prosecuting attorney. In a court of law, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to present evidence against the accused.
The two obvious questions are, who are the accused and what are they charged with? According to Jesus the accused is the world. Jesus is specifically speaking of those individuals who are alienated from God and hostile to the cause of Christ. And what is their charge? They are wrong about Christ. Jesus points out that they are wrong on three counts, sin, righteousness, and judgment. These three counts serve as the bases for the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
Jesus offers a more fulsome explanation of the charges against the world. In the area of sin, the world is guilty of unbelief. The world does not believe in Jesus because it has not seen Him and therefore, it rejects the very notion of His existence. In the area of righteousness, the world is guilty of living in opposition to God. The world is filled with objections to the gospel message. Three of the more prevalent objections of our time come from the modernist, the postmodernist, and the pluralist. The Modernist declared that Christianity is not a true religion on the basis that the Bible is not a divinely inspired book, but the product of human beings. The Postmodernist propose that no group should attempt to convert others because there is no such thing as ultimate truth. The Pluralist stated that no ideology can possess absolute truth and all religions are more or less equal. Based on these three views the world has concluded that it can live without Jesus. Whereas, Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ the world celebrates His death and believes the world is better off with Him dead. In the area of Judgment, the world is guilty of perpetrating and perpetuating open hostility against God. Since there is no Christ and people are encouraged to live for self, the world has been overtaken by corruption and people are totally depraved as they go about seeking to satisfy their desires and cravings.
These are the findings for Christ the evidence He has amassed against the world and given to the Holy Spirit to pursue prosecution and conviction. In a court of law conviction usually results in paying the price for the crime that has been committed. In this case the purpose of conviction is to bring about correction that leads to restoring or repairing relationship with God. A natural extension of conviction is confession. A conviction is won by the presentation of evidence that proves the guilt of the guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The evidence is so weighty, airtight, and overwhelming that there can be no defense. The accused is then left to stew while they are shackled by the burden of their guilt. All of this is designed to do two things: a) coerce a confession – admit to wrongdoing; b) prompt repentance – a heartfelt desire to change.
Based on the evidence that has been presented we can agree that the world is wrong about Jesus and they must be made aware of how wrong they are. But how can the world be made aware of their wrongs if they reject the Holy Spirit? Enter, the church. According to Christ, the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the church will make the world aware of its wrongdoing. The Holy Spirit works through the church to prove the world wrong about Jesus by proclaiming and sharing the truth as it is revealed to the church.
However, before we start going around telling people they are wrong perhaps we need to examine the last instructions Jesus gave to His disciples prior to returning to the Father. As we turn our attention to Jesus’ words to His disciples in the Book of Acts a distinction must be made between the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would live in believers. This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit indwells a believer He takes up residence on the inside of the believer and lives and resides their forever. In this passage in Acts 1, Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personal experience of the fullness of the Holy Spirit that may take place at the moment of conversion, or at a later time. This experience lifts a believer to a higher level of spiritual experience. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is essential for Christian life and ministry.
Jesus points out that the purpose for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is so that God can bestow spiritual power on an individual through the Holy Spirit. The result of this power is three-fold:
1) It is Transforming – through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a believer is sanctified. The process of sanctification is the process of daily dying to self and leading to living a purer Christ-like life and growing deeper in our devotion with God
2) It Equips – through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit believers are prepared for ministry and Christian service. The believer begins to realize, develop and exercise the spiritual gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit.
3) It is Empowering – As believers engage in ministry the realization sets in that they cannot accomplish anything a part from or without the power of the Holy Spirit, and only in the power of the Holy Spirit can a believer carryout their ministry.
There was an old Welsh preacher who was scheduled to speak at a convention. Around the time all of the people had gathered the organizers of the event sent a housekeeper up to his room to tell him it was time for him to come. The housekeeper went and came back alone, the organizers asked her what happened. She said that when she went to the room she heard the preacher talking to someone and she did not want to disturb him. The organizers told her to go back to the room and tell the preacher to come now. She went back to the room and came back again alone. They again asked her what happened and she said he was still talking to someone and she did not want to disturb him. They said this is totally unacceptable. They went to the room and just as they were about to knock on the door they heard from inside the room the old Welsh preacher say, “I will not go and preach to these people, if you will not go with me.” The organizers said to themselves we better wait until he comes.
The fundamental lesson that Jesus taught in this passage centered on the priority of the Holy Spirit in Christian ministry. Jesus did so by presenting the power of the Holy Spirit in terms of cause and effect. Jesus told them that when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them they would become His witnesses. Effective witness can only occur where the Spirit is and where the Spirit is, effective witness will always follow in word, deed, and quality of living.
The connection between John 16 the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and Acts 1 the power of the Holy Spirit is found in the command Jesus gave His disciples in Acts 1:8. Jesus instructed them to be His witnesses. A witness is someone who shares and proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ in word, deed, and quality of living. Jesus also instructed them to become missionaries. A missionary is someone who takes the Good News of Jesus Christ where it is not or where it is needed most. William Temple said, “The Christian church is the one organization that exists purely for the benefit of non-members.”
In calling the disciples to wait on the Holy Spirit and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is able to convict the world of its wrongdoing operating in and through believers as they witness and engage in Christian mission work. Jesus was also teaching that it is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that a believer is able to witness and engage in Christian mission work.