"But if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will convict the world. . ."John 16:7/8
THIS is an important declaration by our Lord to which every sincere Christian will pay particular attention. Its significance is outstandingly exceptional as we may realise from the fact that our Lord introduces His announcement to the disciples by emphasising that He is telling them the truth. That impressive stressing of the truth was remarkable because He was the truth and He spoke nothing but the truth. When He did so, as always, the truth He declared was not an opinion, however sincere, but a categorical exposition of reality in the setting of infinity, eternity and deity. The fact was that the disciples were concerned with the earthly Jesus. They delighted to think of His coming kingdom and in varying ways saw their exalted positions in it. The more however, that our Lord spoke about death, resurrection and His final departure the less they were interested. We cannot blame them for our attitude to the Lord is very similar. Many disciples are quite willing to have an interest in the Lord to be linked on with all their own ideas and plans but when it comes to such matters as are set forth in these chapters of John "None asketh " about the higher glories that are so real to the Lord. We are just not interested because we are too carnal to perceive the inner relationship of the truth of God to the joy and peace of the believer.
THE SPIRIT AND THE BELIEVER
First our Lord has important facts to disclose concerning the relationship of the Spirit to the believer. We cannot mistake the simplicity of His profound word of revelation. Our Lord was undoubtedly speaking of His ascension into heaven assuring them that when He had departed, He would from heaven, send the Holy Spirit unto them His believing disciples. They already had been told that the Spirit was dwelling with them but He was to be in them. This was the Pentecostal blessing which as He was expounding to them in anticipation they did not understand. Their faith in Christ was not merely to be an opinion, a weird idea, a creed, a principle, but was intended to be an experience so wonderful, for the third Person in the Trinity would in actual fact come to them to dwell within each one of them. There is no indication that they would require some human being with special orders, robes or office to act as intermediary. It was enough that He the Ascended Lord should send the Holy Spirit to them. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any evidence that some human being is the essential intermediary by which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Lord in heaven to His disciples on earth.
It is important not only to recognise the free communication of the Holy Spirit to the believer on earth but that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer that constitutes him a new creation. This is the final and conclusive distinction between the believer and the world.
In every true believer as known to the Lord in heaven, the Holy Spirit dwells. The rest of mankind constitute the world. Those present this morning who truly believe must surely be interested in this transcendent blessing from heaven. As surely as they believe that Christ came into the world to save them so surely must they most certainly believe that the Holy Spirit has taken up His abiding place to dwell within them for ever. The man of the world will, of course, not have the least interest in what seems to him abstruse matters. This brings us therefore to
THE SPIRIT AND THE WORLD
The Spirit dwells in the believer but He does not dwell in the world. He dwells in the believer to comfort him, to meet his every need, to be within him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, to flow through him as rivers of living water, but this is not His ministry to the world. Since our Lord is telling the truth we really must pay attention to what He declares. The ministry of the Spirit to the world is not comfort but conviction. There is but one comfort in time and that is the Holy Spirit's ministry in the believer. None else can know comfort in spite of all they do to secure it. Believers have no authority whatsoever to give comfort to the world for it is under judgment; the future of the world is sombre and catastrophic.
The matter is important for none can expect the blessing of God except as our labours correspond with the mission and purpose of the Spirit. We shall labour to our own undoing, we shall grieve the Spirit, we shall expose ourselves to Satanic inertia if we presume to call that Christian service which in fact has no spring in the Holy Spirit. Here the ministry of the Spirit to the world is defined in such a way that no believer can question and set forth in such terms as indicate without the shadow of a doubt that professing Christians stand in peril of chastisement who presume to give false comforts to the world; for it is without Christ, without God and without hope.
Hence the threefold convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit is declared by our Lord. As the Holy Spirit ministers to the believer He also proposes to reach out to the world through believers with a threefold ministry of conviction: "Of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." One may search the New Testament through and through and find no other ministry of the Holy Spirit to the world. Here, then, is the threefold ministry of the Spirit to the world in which the Spirit requires the submission of every believer without exception.
1) THE CONVICTION OF SIN
This is the first issue between the Spirit and the world. Our Lord Who is speaking the truth declares that the supreme issue is sin. Sin is the persistent determined resolve and act by which a person defies the will of God and insists on their own way of life. To achieve conviction the Spirit requires the believer's obedience. The believer has a most important part to discharge. The Spirit of God has been given him not only for comfort but also that he may be a willing instrument for world conviction concerning sin.
The Christian does not always, however, recognise precisely how the Spirit will bring home the conviction of sin to the world. Some indeed think we need not be too eager to talk about sin. Let us get people interested in what is called the Church, let us encourage them to be useful in religious activities, let us make them at home in our midst. All these ideas have, of course, a measure of truth in them, but there is perilous falsehood as well. I have received a letter this week, which declares that the two great evils in the world are ignorance and poverty. One at least of the signatories is a gentleman with a valid ministry in the Name of the Lord which validity he would be quite unable to recognise in my ministry. Nevertheless either he or our Lord is wrong and as our Lord solemnly declares He is speaking the truth I have no doubt this valid ministry has not preserved this gentleman from grievous error. Ignorance and poverty are serious afflictions for mankind but they afflict mankind because men love darkness rather than light, their deeds being evil.
But our Lord as He continues speaking the truth declares that the supreme and decisive indication of the sinner is that he will not believe in Jesus the Ascended Lord Who once died on the Cross for him, a rebel against the will of God. Therefore it is plain to see the mission of the Spirit filled believer. He is to set forth Jesus, the Lord of Glory, bearing our sin in His body on the tree, shedding His blood as the propitiation for our sins and indeed the sins of the whole world. This is the condemnation of the sinner that he will not repent of his sin and believe with all his heart in Jesus as his Saviour. We are not called upon to discuss religion, the inspiration of the Bible, or even to present a man with his duty to what is called the Church.
These matters are not unimportant but when our Lord is speaking the truth He takes us right to its very heart. There is a time to talk about the Bible, religion and the Church but first and foremost and without any possible question it is the duty of every believer who has received the Holy Spirit to speak forth the excellencies of Jesus the Lord of Glory. To so plead with men and women, individually, groups and in public meetings to turn to Jesus, and to repent of their sin and to submit themselves in faith and obedience to the will of God in Christ.
And our Lord declares in speaking the truth that as the believer so sets forth Jesus to the sinner, so the Holy Spirit will search out the hidden depths of the sinner. As he listens, He will convict him of his sinful unbelief in Jesus and will give him no rest as he faces the supreme fact of his existence that being without Christ as his Saviour he is verily guilty before God in unbelief, and is utterly undone.
2) CONVICTION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The Lord, still speaking the truth, declares that the parallel issue in the world is righteousness. This is what the world professes to desire. The world calls it justice. The world would certainly like justice between nations as to their respective frontiers. It may possibly be desirous of justice between peoples so that poverty could be abolished from the earth. In this country we congratulate ourselves in the righteousness of the courts of law.
But all these are less than secondary. The frontiers of nations will be determined by the Lord when He comes from heaven and commences by determining the precise boundaries of the land for His elect people Israel. The idea of such a thing is ludicrous of course, to the world and yet so it will be.
Self-righteousness is a characteristic of the world. Every sinner tries to persuade himself that he is righteous or at least he is sufficiently righteous to get past God in the day of judgment if indeed there be a God and there is such an impossible thing as Divine judgment. Every man's ways are right in his own eyes. Hence the sinner here this morning, bent on his own designs, will be adopting all possible measures to persuade himself that what he has done, is doing or proposing to do, is right. He summons all his moral powers in the endeavour to convince himself he is right. lf he only knew it, all that is his condemnation.
The Scriptures make it quite plain: " There is none righteous, no not one." That being so we must all at some time in our lives go down on our knees and cry out to God that He may have mercy on us sinners. There is no exception and if any person here this morning has not so been on his knees, he should know that the sooner he keeps that engagement with God the better for his position before God and the true illumination of his own mind.
But let us listen to our Lord as He continues to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. " Righteousness because I go to My Father and ye see Me no more." Righteousness is not the laws of any land, it is not a code of ethics, it has nothing to do with etiquette. Righteousness is a living reality exhibited in the Person of Jesus as He humbled Himself before God and then before man, took upon Himself the form of servant, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Thence He descended into Hades to break the power of death and finally ascended as a Man into heaven exalted in the will and purpose of God to omnipotence. He is the one Righteous Man to whom the believer is to bear testimony. If any person here this morning has lived such a life before God as Jesus, then in God's sight he is righteous. But verily we have all come short of the glory of God, that glory revealed in the perfect obedience of Jesus. As the Spirit filled disciple sets forth the Lord Jesus in His obedience, the Spirit of God will take his words and smite the conscience of the sinner with the conviction of his utter failure to fulfil the will of God.
And when the sinner thus repents and turns to Jesus, the Lord from heaven will give him, the sinner, the priceless gift of the Spirit Who maintains in every believer the true life of holiness, even the eternal life of Jesus the Obedient Man in heaven. Righteousness ever afterward is not the product of the human but of the Divine demonstrating His marvellous power in the life of the one time sinner and rebel.
3) CONVICTION OF JUDGMENT
The third step in world conviction is no less peculiar and distinctive. The world lieth in the evil one but it refuses to believe in such a being. Deluded by its own righteousness it is deceived into believing that world affairs begin and end in the sphere of the human. But our Lord is speaking the truth and all who call themselves disciples must needs believe Him. On His supreme authority as One indubitably speaking the truth, He discloses the existence of a being whom he describes as the prince of this world. It is therefore impossible for any person to be a disciple who denies the existence of the prince of this world. If from some dizzy height of intellectual magnificence some so called Christian should declare there is no prince of this world, that our Lord was mistaken, then indeed we can have no part or lot with such an individual. Our Lord is not declaring what He sincerely believes, He is declaring what He indisputably knows!
This is the judgment: The prince of the cosmos has been judged. He was judged before the foundation of the world, He was condemned in the Garden of Eden, He is to be cast into the lake of fire. In the meantime as every sinner turns from his sin and receives new life in Jesus, he may prove expermentally his power by the Indwelling Spirit to overcome the subtleties of Satan and of sin. He finds in Christ pardon from sin, deliverance from the love of sin, release from the power of sin and in such a marvellous experience he knows for himself that Satan has been judged. He waits for the day when Satan shall be cast down and his power forever broken.
All this became abundantly clear to Paul as he wrestled with principalities and powers in the heavenlies and knew the devices of the evil one. How he praised God that he was no longer a helpless tool of Satan but an armoured child of God withstanding the power of evil in the world. Her was certain and sure of victory day by day in his own experience and of the coming victory of the Lamb and all who follow Him over every power of evil. Therefore
4) THE SIMPLE CONCLUSION
of all the truth so disclosed by our Lord is to be drawn by every believer.
Each one without a single exception is to be a missionary to the world, to speak
forth the glories of Jesus and to be yielded to the Indwelling Spirit that the
little world in which we move may be evangelised with the truth of Jesus, Saviour
and Lord. And remember He is speaking the truth!
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