8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
What does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit “convicts us concerning judgment?” Let me outline for you three ways that this type of conviction is experienced by the Spirit-filled Christian.
Let’s start by defining our terms, and also by asking a basic question. First, a “conviction concerning judgment” is the maturing belief that the ruler of this world has been judged. Now the question, “Why do we need this type of conviction?” Also a follow-up question would be, “Why aren’t the convictions concerning “sin” and “righteousness” enough?”
So, why do we need to be convicted about Satan’s judgment in the Cross of Jesus Christ? One reason is to spur us to Gospel proclamation. Satan and all those that follow him (all those he rules) are condemned. Why? Let me quote our Lord. “Whoever believes in him (the Son) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18). We are to declare to all mankind the free offer of God in the Gospel to forgive our sins, cleanse our consciences, and restore us to fellowship with Him if we will but surrender to (humble oneself in faith) Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords without condition. The way of salvation has been made and a time has been fixed for the judgment of all by Jesus Christ the righteous. As the Psalmist writes and the author of Hebrews later quotes,
“For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Hebrews 3:8-11)
Being convicted that God has opened a door of salvation and that those who spurn such grace will endure judgment is part of what creates the missionary impulse in the Church. How can we say that we love if we are silent about the eternal danger that awaits all those that follow the Enemy. The Holy Spirit convicts and reminds us that we cannot be silent for judgment as been determined.
Secondly, this conviction is necessary because we live in a fallen world and we ourselves have much remaining corruption within us. Our situation and context means we are sometimes confused and disoriented by what we see. Why do some act so wickedly and yet seem to be celebrated. Often the most famous and adored are the most wealthy and transparently corrupt. Christians feel, in this life, like homeless vagabonds that are always in a fight for their very soul. Struggling for righteousness and keeping ones integrity often come at a cost in the real world. Then, there is just the vexing nature of being called to be more than you are. Being called to be like Jesus is a tall order, but it is our call… it is our true vocation. In fact, we will be like Him, it is a settled matter. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29) This isgood news and a high calling. One we must press on toward, like Paul, straining forward, forgetting what is behind, laying everything else aside so that we might attain to it. (Philippians 3:8-10)
But there are moments when the confusion of living as a sinning saint in a fallen world shake us to the core. And it often revolves around what I alluded to earlier. Why do the wicked prosper when the Bible says that they won’t. This is a riddle that puzzled King David. In Psalm 73 he talks about his wearisome experience with this difficult truth, but also where he found the answer.
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.” (Psalm 73:1-4)
His feet “nearly slipped” because he couldn’t understand why the wicked so often seemed to prosper in this life. What was the answer? What happened to make him understand that they didn’t actually prosper?
“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalm 73:16-17)
What did he see in the sanctuary? Sacrifice. Death. He saw that the wages of sin are death, and that unless another take our place we are without hope. The arrogant are not prospering. They will not take their wealth with them, nor will they escape giving account for the works they have done. No one escapes except those that come to Christ.
Let me also briefly provide a third way that we experience the “conviction concerning judgment.” Rather, let me point out how this conviction affects our overall sanctification. You see it is one thing to know what is wrong (conviction concerning sin) and what is right (conviction concerning righteousness), and another thing altogether to find the power do it. You and I will not do it until and unless we come to believe that Satan’s power has been broken… that he has been judged. The Holy Spirit presses this point with the other two convictions, and they TOGETHER bring about sanctification in the Saint. The first two convictions make up what we call being “led by the Spirit,” and the third, as it matures alongside the other two, results in us beginning to “walk in the Holy Spirit.” Seeing Satan as judged is the first step toward believing that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than him, or as John would write, “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4b)