Question: Does the Holy Spirit convict believers of sin in their lives, or just the world? Does He only show us what is of Christ, or does he also point out to us what is sin in our lives?
John 16:8 (NASB) 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;
Jesus does appear to be talking about the Holy Spirit’s role of convicting unbelievers of sin in the above passage. That much is clear. But what about believers?
Diving deeper into the Greek, we see that the Greek word for “convict” is elegcho which is also translated as reprove, rebuke, refute, show fault with, and expose in other verses of the New Testament. In fact, the King James translates John 16:8 as reprove instead of convict:
John 16:8 (KJV) And when he is come, he will reprove (elegcho) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Concluding that the Holy Spirit convicts or reproves the world of sin, does the Holy Spirit convict or reprove believers of sin in their lives?
Here are other verses in the NT where the same greek word is used as a command to believers, elders, and apostolic workers to address and rebuke/reprove sin in the lives of other believers:
Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault (elegcho) in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 – Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke (elegcho) in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
2 Timothy 4:2 – preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove (elegcho), rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Titus 1:9 – (Elders must be) holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute (elegcho) those who contradict.
Titus 1:13 – This testimony is true. For this reason reprove (elegcho) them severely so that they may be sound in the faith
Titus 2:15 – These things speak and exhort and reprove (elegcho) with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
If believers are to lovingly rebuke/reprove sin in the lives of other believers, surely it is the Holy Spirit in them that is part of that process. The Holy Spirit through Christ and Paul gave the commands to rebuke/reprove the sin, and the Holy Spirit in the believer is doing the rebuking and reproving should be part of the process as well.
But aside from other believers addressing sin in the lives of other believers though the Holy Spirit’s empowering, our God also does this directly to those he loves that are believers. Here are the examples from scripture:
Hebrews 12:5-6 – and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved (elegcho) by Him; For those whom the Lord loves HE disciplines,And HE scourges every son whom HE receives.”
Revelation 3:18-19 – I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove (elegcho) and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
John 3:20-21 – For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (elegcho). But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
What is it that the Lord is reproving and exposing in believers as part of His loving discipline? It is sin in our lives. He is not doing this to condemn us, for we have already been declared righteous through our faith in His eternal forgiveness and cleansing of our sin though His death, burial, and resurrection. But He is sanctifying and conforming us to His image, and disciplining us as sons through the process. Yes, he gives us His perfect word and His life as examples for us to follow and to behold, but he also addresses us when we have sin in our lives. Note: we have been crucified with Christ and are dead to the power of sin, but 1 John makes it clear that sin still crops up in the lives of believers:
1 John 1:6-10
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.