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The Holy Spirit convicts me. I miss God’s goal for my life (aka sin) and the Holy Spirit of God shows me the error of my way. I must listen to God. God talks to my heart through His Holy Spirit. This is essential to me as I learn about the Way of Jesus. I also learn of what it means to be in right standing with God and God’s judgement.

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning missing God’s goal (aka sin) and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. | John 16:8–11 (NASB)

Here are some key ideas:

  1. For three years, Jesus had been with them to protect them from attack; but now He was about to leave them. He had told them this earlier in the evening, and Peter had asked Him where He was going. However, Peter’s question revealed more concern about himself than about the Master Jesus! Also, his question centered on the immediate, not the ultimate. It was necessary for Jesus to explain why it was important for them that He return to the Father.
  2. The major reason, of course, is that the Holy Spirit might come to empower the church for life and witness. Also, the ascended Savior would be able to intercede for His people at the heavenly throne of grace. With all of their faults, the disciples dearly loved their Master; and it was difficult for them to grasp these new truths.
  3. It is important to note that the Spirit comes to the church and not to the world. This means that He works in and through the church. The Holy Spirit does not minister in a vacuum. Just as the Son of God had to have a body in order to do His work on earth, so the Spirit of God needs a body to accomplish His ministries; and that body is the church. Our bodies are His tools and temples, and He wants to use us to glorify Christ and to witness to a lost world.
  4. Sometimes we hear people pray, “Master, send Your Spirit to speak to the lost! May the Spirit go from heart to heart.” Such praying is no doubt sincere, but is it biblical? The Spirit does not “float” in some ghostly way up and down the rows of a church building, seeking to win the lost. The Holy Spirit works through the people in whom He lives. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, He empowered Peter to preach; and the preaching of the Word brought conviction to those who heard.
  5. The key word here is reprove. It is a legal word that means “to bring to light, to expose, to refute, to convict and convince.” It could be translated “pronounce the verdict.” The world may think that it is judging disciples, but it is the disciples who are passing judgment on the world as they witness to Jesus the Messiah! Believers are the witnesses, the Holy Spirit is the “prosecuting attorney,” and the unsaved are the guilty prisoners. However, the purpose of this indictment is not to condemn but to bring salvation.
  6. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of one particular sin, the sin of unbelief. The law of God and the conscience of man will convict the sinner of his sins (plural) specifically; but it is the work of the Spirit, through the witness of the believers, to expose the unbelief of the lost world. After all, it is unbelief that condemns the lost sinner, not the committing of individual sins. A person could “clean up his life” and quit his or her bad habits and still be lost and go to hell.
  7. The Spirit also convicts the sinner of righteousness, not unrighteousness. Whose righteousness? The righteousness of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. The world would not receive the Son of God, so He has returned to the Father. When He was here on earth, He was accused by men of being a blasphemer, a lawbreaker, a deceiver, and even a demoniac. The Spirit of God reveals the Savior in the Word and in this way glorifies Him. The Spirit also reveals the Messiah in the lives of believers. The world cannot receive or see the Spirit of God, but they can see what He does as they watch the lives of dedicated believers.
  8. The Spirit convicts the lost sinner of judgment. Do not confuse this statement with Acts 24:25 (“of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come”). Jesus was referring to His judgment of Satan that was affected by His death on the cross. Satan is the prince of this world, but he is a defeated prince. Satan has already been judged and the verdict announced. All that must take place is the executing of the sentence, and that will occur when Jesus returns.
  9. When someone who misses God’s goal is truly under conviction, he will see the folly and evil of unbelief; he will confess that he does not measure up to the righteousness of the Messiah; and he will realize that he is under condemnation because he belongs to the world and the devil. The only person who can rescue him from such a horrible situation is Jesus, the Son of God. There can be no conversion without conviction, and there can be no conviction apart from the Spirit of God using the Word of God and the witness of the child of God.
  10. Witnessing is a great privilege, but it is also a serious responsibility. It is a matter of life or death! How we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us to the right persons, give us the right words, and enable us patiently to glorify Jesus the Messiah.

Here are the key scriptures:

  • John 16:8–11 (NASB) — “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
  • Ephesians 4:30 —Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • Acts 5:3 —But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?
  • Acts 5:9 —Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Master to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”
  • Ephesians 4:1 —Therefore I, the prisoner of the Master, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
  • Ephesians 4:28 —He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.


Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 361–362). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.