Updated: May 12, 2022
For many Christians the Holy Spirit of Jesus is viewed as a negative force that immediately brings conviction of faults, failures and sin. It seems that to washed, justified and sanctified believers Christ in them is constantly reinforcing the guilt of their failings and faults.
I would like to address a very common misconception that is made about the Holy Spirit and particularly regarding the use of the word "conviction". I realize that this blog post could represent some controversy for a lot of people. I do wish for the reader to hear me out, study their Bible and seek to know the truth rather than to cling to "what you have always heard."
First, allow me to put forth the fact that the word "convict" in any form only appears once in the King James Version. It is used in John 8:9 "And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
As we can see the word "convict" doesn't occur in the Bible at all except for one time and it is not in reference in any way to the Holy Spirit. It is regarding the consciences of those who were about to murder a woman they caught in adultery. These people felt justified in their actions because of their self-righteous attitude concerning the law and Jesus reminded them that the one without sin may cast the first stone. Of course, they all left one by one and no-one was hurt that day. In fact, forgiveness was given by the one there who had the right to execute judgment. That's how Jesus is to those who trust Him.
Second, let us examine the word "convict". Conviction is when the accused is found guilty of committing a crime and there is judgment sought against him. Here is the Webster's 1828 Dictionary definition on this particular word.
CONVICT, verb transitive - "To determine the truth of a charge against one; to prove or find guilty of a crime charged; to determine or decide to be guilty, as by the verdict of a jury, by confession, or other legal decision. The jury convicted the prisoner of felony."
Imagine a person in an orange jumpsuit getting ready to approach the judgment bench for the final verdict and then being pronounced undeniably guilty.
Why, therefore, would God's Spirit treat those who are perfectly justified by the Son of God with judgment and condemnation? In fact, this sounds a lot like what God's Son did for us on the cross! He was found guilty so that we could be free.
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2:2 KJV
The word proptiation there means "satisfaction". It is saying that Jesus' once for all sacrifice was more than satisfying to God on our behalf. There is nothing greater to cover our sin than what Jesus accomplished on the cross. We find the Holy Spirit making a declaration concerning our sin in The New Covenant.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. - Hebrews 10:15-18 KJV
The Bible is very clear, The Holy Spirit is not keeping a record of your sins. So remind me again how He would condemn you over something He has promised to forget? He has forgiven them and forgotten them. However, this does not mean that He doesn't care about your choices and how they affect you (This will be covered in a different blog post).
So, who does The Holy Spirit serve reminders of sin to? The scripture below will more than likely give us a pretty firm idea of where most Christians get the idea that the Spirit is condemning or convicting them of their sin.
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; - John 16:7-9 KJV
Did you catch that? He reproves the world of their sin because they do not believe! That is talking about non-believers! We have taken an action that the Holy Spirit takes towards unbelievers and made it into a major catch-phrase for Christianity.
Some might call this semantics, but I do not believe that is what it is. When we begin to understand that God is no longer putting the condemnation of our sin over our heads then we can begin to realize the depths of grace!
You may be asking now, so then what does the Holy Spirit do for us? Great things! Positive things! He counsels us! He comforts us! He advocates for us! He prays for us! He is our helper! He is on our side, and if God be for us who can be against us!?
He may guide you away from sin but He certainly is not reminding you of how guilty you are. That was cared for by Jesus. Friend, rest in the power of The Gospel on your behalf.
Conviction and condemnation go hand in hand, and dear believer you are anything but convicted or condemned!
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:18 KJV