Does It Bring Conviction?
In 1973, Karl Menninger, a leading psychiatrist of the 20th century, wrote a book titled “Whatever Became of Sin?” Menninger says psychological harm has been caused by our modern societal and personal denial of the concept of sin and the consequent redefining sin with terminology such as making a mistake or resulting from a person’s hereditary background or environment.
God’s standards for right and wrong have not changed. He will never call us into something sinful. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, the responsibility to obey the truth of Scripture and the necessity to respond to the message of the gospel.
Christ was crucified and resurrected for our salvation. (32–36)
Pentecost, the 50th day after Passover, marked the end of the grain harvest. On the Day of Pentecost after the crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus into heaven, Peter proclaimed that God poured out the Holy Spirit as evidenced by what Peter’s listeners witnessed and heard. The Holy Spirit and the gospel message produced a spiritual harvest. The factual details of the gospel demand a response. No individual can be neutral toward Christ. Peter ended his sermon with the claim that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord and Messiah.
The work of Christ calls for a response from us. (37–38)
Christ’s incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and exaltation demand a response from human beings. Peter identified the proper response in the command to repent and be baptized. Some denominations mistakenly assume that Peter’s words affirm the necessity of baptism for salvation. Repent is a plural command. My Southern translation is “Y’all repent.” The command to be baptized is a singular command addressed to everyone who repents. Peter proclaimed everyone should repent, and each individual who does repent needs to be baptized. Therefore, baptism does not result in salvation. Baptism is the first step of obedience for an individual who has repented.
The right response to God’s conviction leads to salvation and obedience. (39–41)
Often people feel sorry for what they have done, and they confess their sin. Holy Spirit conviction is more than feeling sorrow for our actions. Holy Spirit conviction is turning from our sins. Jesus taught a threefold ministry of the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding sin, righteousness and judgment in John 16:8–11.
First, the Spirit convicts about the sin of unbelief (John 16:9). While the Spirit convicts an individual of other sins, the primary sin is unbelief in Jesus. Second, the Spirit convicts an individual of righteousness. God requires righteousness (a right standard). Jesus met the right standard; therefore, Jesus went to the Father. Third, the Spirit will convict the world of a past judgment: “The ruler of this world [Satan] has been judged” (John 16:11). Satan is already a defeated and judged foe.
What did Jesus mean by the past tense verb “has been judged”? How can Satan be judged if his activities can be discerned in the daily news? In John 16:11, the verb “judged” describes the continuing results of a past judgment. Satan has been judged, is being judged presently and will be judged in the future. In the meantime, the message of the Bible is that Christ-followers are to live victorious lives of obedience.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida