What Is Holy Spirit Conviction?
"When he is come,he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." This is the errand upon which the Spirit of God has been sent into the world. This is the work of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter of God's elect. He is the Spirit of Truth. He reveals and teaches to chosen men and women the truth of God.Apart from the illumination of the Spirit no one can know the truth. He is the Spirit of Reproof. By the preaching of the gospel the Spirit of God speaks to the hearts of his people to rebuke, reprimand and reprove them for their sin and unbelief. And he is the Spirit of Conviction.By the preaching of the gospel he effect- ually convinces God's elect of their sin, Christ's righteousness and of God's judgment of sin by Christ.
The word that is translated here "reprove," and in the margin "convince," is a legal term. It speaks of the work of a jury in a court of law. When a man is charged with a crime, upon hearing the testimony of others and weighing the evidence, if the jury sees that the man is beyond any reasonable doubt guilty, being convinced by the evidence given, they find the man guilty and he is convicted. Feelings may enter into their emotions. But feelings must not enter into their judgment. You see, feelings have nothing to do with conviction. Conviction is the result of unanswerable arguments and irrefutable evidence.
When God the Holy Spirit comes upon a sinner in saving grace and power,he convicts him,by the unanswer- able, irrefutable Word of God, of sin, righteousness and judgment. This conviction is the sovereign prerogative of God the Holy Spirit. He accomplishes it by almighty, irresistible grace. Man may open the Word and preach it. But only the Spirit of God can effectually open the heart, apply the Word and convict the sinner.
When our savior says, "He will reprove the world," he is not suggesting that every person in the world will be the objects of the Spirit's work. That would make his work a failure, for all are not convinced. Our Lord's meaning is that the Holy Spirit will effectually and savingly convict his elect throughout all the world, Gentiles as well as Jews, some of every age,some in every nation. He will savingly convict every elect, redeemed sinner by the irresistible power of his grace.