The Holy Spirit Ministry
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.
John 16:5-7 (NLT)
The disciples had asked Jesus this very question just moments before (John 14:5), and their reaction in John 16:17-18 shows that they still didn’t understand what Jesus was saying to them. They must have at least understood that Jesus was speaking of leaving them, and that’s why sorrow had filled their hearts (John 16:6).
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 (John 13:33), and Peter had asked Him where He was going (John 13:36). However, Peter’s question revealed more concern about himself than about the Lord 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 returns to the Father.
The major reason, of course, is that the Holy Spirit might come to empower the church for life and witness. Also, the ascended Saviour 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.
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.
Sometimes we hear people pray, “Lord, 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.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16:8 (KJV)
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 Christians, but it is the Christians who are passing judgment on the world as they witness to Jesus Christ! 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.
It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to reprove of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is not our ministry. We are simply witnesses (John 15:27 and Acts 1:8). Witnesses are not the judge or the jury. They simply testify of what they have seen or what has happened to them.
In their zeal, some people have gone beyond the witness stage and tried themselves to bring people under conviction. This is assuming a job that belongs to the Holy Spirit alone. This not only frustrates the witness, but it also drives many people away from God.
We make a very poor Holy Spirit; therefore, we should stick to our job of being witnesses and let the Holy Spirit do His.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of one particular sin, the sin of unbelief.
The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.
John 16:9 (NLT)
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 (John 3:18-21), 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.
It is always an evil heart of unbelief that makes us depart from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). Our actions are not the real problem; they are just the results and symptoms of our evil hearts of unbelief. That is what the Holy Spirit convicts us of. People don’t go to hell for their individual actions. The sins of the whole world have already been paid for (1 John 2:2). Individual sins are not the issue. The sin that sends people to hell is rejection of Jesus, and that is what the Holy Spirit convicts them of.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t convict believers that they are going to hell for the rejection of Jesus. That is not the case. All of their sins are paid for, past, present, and even future sins. But the Holy Spirit will convict believers about their trust or lack of trust in Jesus. That’s what it is all about: relationship.
If believers commit adultery, the Holy Spirit will speak to them about their lack of relationship with the Lord.
Why aren’t they satisfied with Jesus and the mate He has given them?
That’s exactly what the Lord spoke to David. Christians who are having problems with drink or drugs are actually having problems with trusting in Jesus. They are using some substance to cope instead of turning to Jesus. The underlying issue to all individual sins, for believers or nonbelievers, is not believing or trusting in Jesus.
Our acts of sin are just the manifestations of the single inward heart condition of unbelief. Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit wasn’t the real sin. It was the fact that they weren’t trusting God anymore. They believed a talking snake more than their heavenly Father who had only treated them well (Genesis 3:1-6).
The temptation Satan really offered Jesus wasn’t to turn the stone into bread; it was to doubt what the heavenly Father had just said about Him (Matthew 3:17). That’s why Satan said, “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3 and 6). The Father said in an audible voice that Jesus was His Son (Matthew 3:17).
Would Jesus trust the Father’s word or do something to prove to Satan He was the Son of God?
The sin that the Holy Spirit is reproving the world of is the sin of not believing on Jesus. All other acts of sin stem from this one problem. That’s the sin that will send people to hell, not their individual acts. All the sins of the world have been paid for (1 John 2:2) except the sin of rejecting Jesus (John 3:18).
The Spirit also convicts the sinner of righteousness, not unrighteousness.
The righteousness of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God.
Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.
John 16:10 (NLT)
Most people read this in a way that really means the Holy Spirit reproves us of unrighteousness, but that is not what it says. The Holy Spirit convicts us that we are righteous through the new birth.
How many times have we seen people stand in church and say how the Holy Spirit has shown them how unrighteous they are?
But people should be sharing how the Lord has convicted them that they are the righteousness of God in Christ. That’s normal Christianity.
So, it’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict us that we are righteous through Jesus. Not many people receive that ministry, because religious tradition and doctrines have made the Word of God (and this positive ministry of the Holy Spirit) of none effect (Mark 7:13).
The world would not receive the Son of God (John 1:10), so He has returned to the Father. When He was here on earth, Men accused Him of being:
- a blasphemer,
- a lawbreaker,
- a deceiver, and
- even a demoniac.
The Spirit of God reveals the Saviour in the Word and in this way glorifies Him (John 16:13-14). The Spirit also reveals Christ 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.
The Spirit also convicts the lost sinner of judgment.
Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
This is not saying that the Holy Spirit tells us we will be judged if we don’t repent. It is speaking of the Holy Spirit showing us that Satan has been judged. The devil is the one who is judged, not us. We are the ones with the authority, not the devil. The Holy Spirit will remind us of that to encourage us. Praise the Lord!
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 (John 12:31). 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.
When a lost sinner 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 Christ; and he will realize that he is under condemnation because he belongs to the world and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3). The only person who can rescue him from such a horrible situation is Jesus Christ, 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.
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 Christ.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
It is to my advantage that Jesus has gone on to heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father. Because He has gone, the Holy Spirit, my Comforter, Counselor and strength, has come to me.
He is ever with me in close fellowship, revealing to me all that I need to know.
It is He who has revealed to me my deliverance from sin and right standing in the eyes of God.
He gives me a direct revelation of Satan’s defeat and a full understanding of my rights, privileges, and authority in Jesus.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name!