Jul 21, 2010

John 16:8, 10 - William Styles

John 16:8, 10. “And when He is come He will convict (not “convince” or “reprove”) the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go away to my Father; concerning judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged.” These words are ordinarily regarded as descriptive of the saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the elect, in which He convinces of sin, reveals the necessity of the righteousness of Jesus, and impresses the certainty and solemnity of future judgment upon the heart. By some, however, this time-honoured exposition is considered to rest on insufficient grounds.

For 1.—The specific force of the word “world” is overlooked, which is here evidently antithetical to the “you” of verses 7, 13, 14. “He shall convict the world of sin,” while “He shall guide you into all truth,” etc. The construction is similar to John 14:19, and the verse refers to the world in opposition to the church. And,

2. The word translated “reprove” means to convict, or to prove guilty. Its force is not to reduce to penitence on account of sin, but rather to demonstrate a person’s sin, to make evident on what grounds he should be judged to have sinned. Compare John 8:46, “Which of you convicts me concerning sin,” i.e., which of you is prepared to prove that I am a sinner.

3. The words sin, righteousness, and judgment have to be most materially accommodated, in order to extort from them the meaning contended for. The verse is ordinarily quoted “sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come.” This is clearly an error, for the “judgment” referred to is that which has been passed upon “the Prince of this world.” The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the failure of Satan’s crowning act of rebellion in leading the world to crucify God’s Son.

4. The force of the word “howbeit,” or, but, by which verse 13 is introduced, and which evidently marks a contrast between the conduct of the Spirit toward the world and in the church is overlooked.

5. If this interpretation is received, the words teach that the lack of spiritual faith is sin, which is not true.

It is, therefore, needful to see for a new exposition, in harmony with the rest of revealed truth.

It is submitted that the words teach that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and His conduct then and since, demonstrate the sin of the Jewish world in not having received Jesus as the Messiah. His presence in the church is a standing witness to the fact that Christ was what He claimed to be—that the judgment of Heaven is in His favour, and against the Prince of this world—that His cause was righteous, and that those who rejected Him, and procured His death, sinned most foully. Every expression in the words under consideration accommodates itself naturally to this exposition.

If, moreover, a more extended view of the word “world” be pleaded for—the same view is not untenable. The ground virtually taken by the world in relation to Jesus is that it does not require such a Saviour. It ignores the testimony of the death of incarnate God as a sacrifice for sin, because it does not want anything of the kind. The Jews treated Christ as an obnoxious intruder, and the world regards Him still much in the same light, and treats Him with apathy or animosity. In thus acting the world sins, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is a perpetual demonstration of its guilt and folly, in ignoring the mission and work of Christ.

All men ought to believe in Jesus Christ—not that He is their Saviour, and that He died for them, that is a widely different matter—but they ought to receive His testimony concerning Himself, and own Him as God’s Son, and the universal Lord. It should not be overlooked that every person who is acquainted with the New Testament—the recorded testimony of the Holy Spirit to the risen Saviour—sins in not owning His claims, and in denying His divine and royal rights. God, by raising Him from the dead has powerfully demonstrated that He is His Son (Rom. 1:4). All, therefore, that do not thus acknowledge Him are guilty, and the presence and testimony of the Holy Spirit convict them of the wickedness of their skeptical refusal to call Jesus Lord. A modern Unitarian is more blameworthy than were Seneca or Pliny. It will be observed that there is a material difference between the unbelief here referred to, and the absence of spiritual faith in Christ.

Yet another view is proposed, and it must be noted that it is propounded by one who builds with the utmost tenacity what is advanced on page 104. It is thus expressed, “Our consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit should not be restricted to His saving and sanctifying operations in the hearts of the elect. Like the goodness of God (Matt. 5:45) and the mediation of Jesus (page 81), the work of the Spirit has a universal aspect. While He guides the saints into all truth (John 16:13), He will convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (verse 8). Thus He will so influence the consciences of the lost at the last great day, that they will be brought to admit the justice of their condemnation, and honestly assent to the righteousness of their punishment. By His agency, every mouth will be stopped, and all the world be brought in guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19)—Charles Hill.

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