“And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged (John 16:8-11).
In these words we have the moral history of the entire world – Sin, Redemption through the Blood of Christ, and the ultimate defeat of Satan. In the Old Testament we find the dispensation of the Father, that is, God for men. In the Gospels we see the dispensation of the Son, that is, God with men. From the Day of Pentecost onwards we have the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, that is, God in men. God’s great ideal has always been to have His presence abiding within men.
The negative work of the Holy Spirit
The members of the Trinity have the highest interest in our salvation. The Father conceived the plan, the Son carried it out, and the Holy Spirit applies it. The Holy Spirit does this in three areas:
a) Reprove the world of sin
The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of the awful reality of his sin. At the root of all sin is unbelief, or the rejection of Jesus Christ as Saviour. Therefore the answer to all the world’s problems is Christ, and it is He whom the Holy Spirit sets forth as the true Messiah. This may not be society’s remedy for its social ills, but it is God’s. All sin is coming “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Liberals and do-gooders rename sin as “misdirection,” a “lack of education,” or “disease,” but in doing so they try to put the problem beyond the reach of both the power of the Blood and of the Spirit. The Scribes and Pharisees of today are guilty of sin in its wickedest form. The remedy for sin is faith in Christ. To the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31). It was for this very reason the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to die on the cross … “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The Holy Spirit points a miserable, sin-bedaubed world to the only one who can cleanse them from evil.
b) And of righteousness
The Holy Spirit imparts righteousness to the one who exercises faith in Christ Jesus. All are born the sons of Adam and inherit his sin nature, but Christians are reborn through the power of the Spirit, thus they become the children of God. Jesus ascended to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could be sent. When the Holy Spirit was poured out He made men holy through the efficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. He brought believers into a life of righteousness. This righteousness is not a veneer, instead it is a true righteousness of the heart. He enables us to walk “in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75). He guides us to live in holiness and righteousness.
c) And of judgement
This is the judgement that has already come. Satan is a defeated foe, clinging to the last vestures of his dying strength. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) because “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). We have one within us who is altogether almighty. Jesus said that He had “Beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” adding “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:18-19). The moment Satan rebelled, judgement upon him was passed. He has been conquered by Christ, and He gives His church victory over him. The Holy Spirit teaches us that we are no longer under the dominion of the devil.
What will it take to change the hearts and lives of those we come into contact with each day? What is needed is just a few men and women, who are filled with the Spirit, to reach out in faith and obedience. The same Holy Spirit that convicted us of sin, righteousness, and judgement can do so with other sinners too.