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The Comfort of Conviction
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)
Do you know anything about Holy Spirit conviction? Holy Spirit conviction is the very first work of God’s grace in sinners. Holy Spirit conviction is as essential to the salvation of our souls as blood atonement. But there are few who know anything about it. When was the last time you heard a preacher preach about Holy Spirit conviction? What do you know about it? Have you experienced it?
On August 13, 1833, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a young, 20 year old preacher in Scotland, wrote these words in his diary, — “Clear conviction of sin is the only true origin of dependence on another’s righteousness, and therefore (strange to say!) of the Christian’s peace of mind and cheerfulness.” That is precisely the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 16. — The Holy Spirit comforts sinners by convincing us of sin.
“To understand God’s Word aright
This grand distinction must be known:
Though all are sinners in God’s sight,
There are but few so in their own.
To such as these our Lord was sent;
They’re only sinners who repent.
What comfort can a Savior bring
To those who never felt their woe?
A sinner is a sacred thing;
The Holy Ghost hath made him so.
New life from Him we must receive,
Before for sin we rightly grieve.
This faithful saying let us own,
Well worthy ‘tis to be believed,
That Christ into the world came down,
That sinners might by Him be saved.
Sinners are high in His esteem,
And sinners highly value Him.”
Sins of Ignorance
In the 4th and 5th chapters of Leviticus the Lord God gave detailed instructions concerning “sins of ignorance.” Six times the Lord told Moses that once any sin of ignorance was made known, atonement must be made by the divinely appointed sacrifice, and once atonement was made the offence would be forgiven. That is exactly the order of things in our experience of God’s saving grace in Christ.
1. Sin must be made known. The sinner must be convinced of his sin.
2. Atonement must be made. The convinced sinner must bring the sacrifice God requires: — Jesus Christ crucified.
3. The sinner convinced of his sin, the sinner for whom atonement has been made, is forgiven of his sin.
That is the comfort of conviction promised by our Savior in John 16:7-11.
The fact is none of us know our sin, except as God the Holy Spirit causes us to know it. None can or will confess his sin, except God the Holy Spirit convince him of his sin. Here are five things involved in the saving operations of God the Holy Spirit.
The Commission of the Spirit
The Lord Jesus says, “I will send Him unto you” (v. 7). — “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). As the Lord Jesus came into the world as our Mediator, with a commission from the Father to redeem and save his elect, so too God the Holy Spirit comes to chosen sinners as our divine Comforter with a commission. He is sent of the Father and sent of the Son to effectually apply the blood of Christ to the redeemed, to effectually apply the salvation Christ obtained with his blood, to sprinkle the blood upon the redeemed. The Spirit of God comes as the Seal of the covenant (Ephesians 1:13-14). He comes with covenant commission to regenerate, call, sanctify, and preserve every chosen, redeemed sinner. His commission is to make sinners new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). His commission is to unite the Redeemer and the redeemed. His commission is to bring us to Christ. The Lord Jesus sends his Spirit to his chosen as David sent Ziba to get Mephibosheth, with a work to do: — “Fetch him!” And when He comes, He fetches the redeemed to the Redeemer.
The Coming of the Spirit
At the appointed time of love, the Lord Jesus sends his Spirit to give life to his redeemed and bring his ransomed “into the bond of the covenant” (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ezekiel 16:6-8; 20:37; 37:1-14; John 3:3-8). — “Ye must be born again!” When God the Holy Spirit comes in omnipotent mercy, the chosen, redeemed sinner is born again, Christ is revealed, and faith is created in the sinner, causing him, by irresistible grace, to come to the Savior. This is what we call the effectual call of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-14). The work of God the Holy Spirit by which he causes chosen, redeemed sinners to trust the Lord Jesus is performed in us by causing us to hear “the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation” (v. 13). That is what our Lord Jesus is talking about in John 16:7-11.
The Conviction of the Spirit
When God the Holy Spirit comes in saving power, he causes the sinner to know his sin, to know the atonement made for his sin, and to know the forgiveness of his sin by Christ Jesus (John 16:7-11). When we are made to know our sin, seeing Christ crucified for us, we confess our sin, the Fountain of cleansing is opened before us, and we are washed and made clean in our consciences before God (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1; 1 John 1:7-10).
The Conquest of the Spirit
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13)
The word translated “guide” is, as Matthew Poole wrote, “a word of great emphasis; it strictly signifieth to be a guide of the way, not only to discover truth as the object of the understanding, but the bowing of the will to the obedience of it.” When God the Holy Spirit saves a sinner, he does so by conquering the rebel, by sweetly forcing us to bow to Christ, who is all Truth, and bow to all the truth revealed in him: the truth about ourselves, the truth about our Savior, and the truth about his salvation.
The Comfort of the Spirit
But how does this conviction work of the Spirit give us comfort. First, this convicting work of the Spirit is the revelation of God’s love in Christ (1 John 4:9-10). Second, this convicting work of the Holy Spirit gives comfort to our souls by shedding abroad the love of God in us, which gives us “good hope through grace” (Romans 5:5-11). Third, Holy Ghost conviction causes us to rest in God’s perfect love, which casts out all fear (1 John 4:16-19).
All hail! Atoning Lamb,
Whose off’ring once for all,
Appointed by the great I AM,
Redeemed us from the fall.
Your efficacious blood,
By pow’r Divine applied,
Makes perfect all the Church of God, —
By free grace sanctified.
No condemnation now,
Against the chosen race,
Perfect, forever, Lord we bow,
And triumph in Your grace.
Here then my soul shall rest,
With Jesus’ blood applied,
Redeemed and perfect, ever blest,
In Him I’m satisfied.
So I will make my boast
In Jesus crucified: —
Perfected with the heav’nly host,
I shall be glorified!