We saw in a previous post that some Christians don’t believe the Holy Spirit convicts believers of sin. One author says that such a “ministry” of the Spirit would contradict God’s assurance of our salvation and His declaration that He has forgotten our transgressions. His article can be read here.
Here are some thoughts that come to me in response:
1. First of all, I hope the Holy Spirit doesn’t look like the man in the picture with the angry look and his finger pointing in my face!
2. Second, what about texts that teach that we can grieve the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:30)? When I grieve another person, the first step in restoring our relationship is my apologizing to that person. This assumes that I feel convicted about what I have done or said.
3. Does this writer believe that Christians no longer need to repent of any sins? It appears to me that I John is partially written to remind believers that they have to constantly deal with sin in their lives, confess their sins (not for salvation, but for cleansing and power), and move on in God’s gracious forgiveness. I certainly agree with the writer that “God is not keeping score of our sins” in the sense of an angry Judge, but will we not have to give an account of how we lived our lives at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10)? To say that there is absolutely no judgment for Christians is not true Scripturally.
4. Doesn’t our everyday experience show us that we feel badly when we have mistreated our spouse, been unkind to a neighbor, lusted in our hearts, wasted our time, etc.? Where does that feeling bad come from if not the Spirit of God? Is it only our conscience? But who directs and molds our consciences?
5. I agree that some Christians can live in “constant conviction of wrongdoing.” But that’s where repentance and confession come in. The Spirit of God moves us to acknowledge our sin, turn away from our sin, and then live in the freedom and forgiveness we are offered as children of the King. To say that Christians don’t need the convicting work of the Spirit of God once they are in God’s family implies either that our sins don’t matter to a holy God or that we no longer sin.
6. Is it possible that the texts about the Spirit’s work of conviction are purposely given to show His work in evangelism and missions, rather than the on-going Christian life? An argument from silence — that there are no explicit passages about His convicting ministry to the believer — is not a very strong argument.
7. Is the Spirit’s ministry to the believer only a positive one, reminding us of our Sonship, comforting our hearts, leading and gifting us in our service? On the human level, isn’t there a place for confrontation, appeal, repentance, confession, restoration?
Some who are persuaded of this man’s view — that the Spirit does not convict believers of their sins — might say, “So, there is therefore not only no more condemnation, but also no more conviction?” Is this how we live normal life? What would happen to a marriage if there were no longer any apologies, repentance, regret, all leading to a change of behavior?
It might be fair to say that the convicting work of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer is more an assumption than an explicit teaching of the Word of God. But it seems to be a reasonable assumption: Do we not assume that He works with us, showing us what needs to change in our lives, making us more like the Son?
1. Has the Spirit of God convicted you of a sin recently? Why or why not?
2. The term “Comforter” used of the Holy Spirit by the Lord Jesus in John chapter 14-16 can involve the idea of loving confrontation. Sometimes the last thing I need is comfort. How about you?