The conviction of sin has, for hundreds of years, been a very important part of the day-to-day life of believers. It might come as a shock to you, therefore, to find out that the Bible has no record of a believer at any point being convicted of sin. There are only two verses that strongly allude to the conviction of sin (John 8:7, Acts 2:37) and two that outright mention it (John 16:8-11, Jude 1:15), however all four verses refer to those who do not believe in Jesus.
I’d like to propose something to you.
The Holy Spirit will never convict you (a believer) of your sins!
Just to clarify, when I say never I mean never.
What is conviction?
Before we go on, I would like to briefly look at the meaning of the word translated here as “convict.” This word is the Greek word elegchō and is translated 5 times as convict, 5 times as reprove, and 4 times as convince in the NT. Its root word is elegchōs which means, “to bring to light.” Our word in the English language “convict” actually comes from the Latin word “convincere” which literally means “to convince.”
Today we hear the word “convict” and we think of a convict who has been convicted guilty and is sentenced to jail or something. The truth is though that even in the legal world you are convicted innocent. In today’s culture we might only really use the word convict in a negative sense but that is not what it means in the English language, it really does just mean to be convinced of something.
My purpose in saying all this is not to give you a Greek or English lesson, rather it’s to show you that we don’t need to have a negative connotation every time we hear the word “convict.” We can be convicted and not have done anything wrong. You should be convicted that you are reading my blog, to be convicted is to be brought into an absolute certainty of something.
What does the Bible say?
So now we know what convict means, lets look at the Bible.
I want to use the scripture most commonly cited as the proof that God wants to convict you and me of our sins. In it Jesus is explaining the Holy Spirit’s role to mankind and says:
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
This is one of the most abused verses in the Bible, constantly quoted as grounds for God wanting to convict you of your sinful nature and constant screw-ups. The whole New Testament itself testifies contrary to that. However, lets just read the next three verses.
of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
That’s interesting isn’t it? Jesus went on to describe who exactly in the world He was going to convict and what they would find themselves convicted of. He states in verse nine that He would convict those who do not believe in Him of their sin. (As a side note the word there denotes “sin nature” not individual sins! It refers to the personification of sin not the actions of sin.)
How many of you would say you don’t believe in Jesus? I thought so, that means He’s not convicting you of your sin.
And it gets better, not only will the Holy Spirit never convict you of your sins, He actually convicts you of your righteousness! Verse ten outlines who will be convicted of their righteousness – believers, followers of Jesus.
So the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of their sinful nature and convinces believers of their new righteous nature, that they are new creations AND convicts Satan of his judgment (V11).
But God spoke to me!
I’m not out to discredit your experience, but what I am wanting to say here is that we do need to filter our experiences with what is very clearly outlined in the scripture. If the scripture states that God is in the business of convicting us of our righteousness and not our sin we need to figure out why our experience is of us being convicted of our sin.
What I have found most true in my life is that I am misinterpreting what God is saying and His intentions.
Have you ever tried to say something nice to someone to encourage them and they have taken it the completely opposite way? Maybe you told them that they look great and have lost a lot of weight only for them to think you are commenting on the fact that they are fat.
We’ve all experienced people taking what we clearly say and completely misinterpreting it on some level at some point in life. Why does this happen?
It’s quite simple really, this happens because of one of two reasons. Either the person is not confident in and of themselves, or they do not trust that you are really saying what you are saying, they do not trust you as a person. Can you see where I’m going with this?
The truth is that you are the righteousness of Christ. You are righteous! That’s why God is so happy to convict(convince) you of this fact. However if you don’t believe it and truly think that you are sinful you are very likely to misinterpret what He’s saying.
Imagine I get angry at a loved one and God starts to convince me of my righteousness. “Phil, you are full of peace and joy… you can be so much greater than what you are settling for right now”, He might say. If I don’t really believe I’m righteous and that I’m a flithy rotten sinner what am I going to hear? I’m going to hear condemnation and conviction of sin. I’m going to read between the lines of what was actually said and hear “Phil, I’m disappointed in you, you got angry and you are supposed to be peaceful and full of joy. You messed up!”
Can you see how easy this could be to misinterpret what God is saying?
Not only that but lets be honest, we all have an incomplete view of who God is. We are all growing, some of us have come further than others but we all have a long way to go. So what if we are in a place where we don’t fully believe that God is loving and fully for us as a person. What if we still think that He is disappointed and will distance Himself from us when we sin? What if we think it’s His nature to get angry with us and require that we clean up our mess to come back to Him?
Do you think it’s possible we might mishear His words of affirmation as He convicts us of our righteousness?
My friend, God is so for you and I really hope that this has been helpful for you and might have opened your eyes to who God is to a whole new level. Not only that but who you are to a whole new level too! You are the righteousness of Christ and He is so pleased with who you are!
Here is a short video on this very topic I made a few weeks ago that might be helpful too :)
How has your journey looked in this area? How has this truth set you free? What are you convicted of?