To some Christians the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem very vital. They believe in the existence of the Spirit, but not the importance. They have been taught the Spirit is the third person of the Godhead, but think of Him different from the Father and the Son.
Some believe the Holy Spirit is an influence. To Jesus He was more than that. He was a guide, a companion, a comforter. The promise which Jesus gave to His disciples, was that the Spirit should be His personal representative to lead into all truth, and that He would convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. “When he, the Spirit of truth is come,” said Jesus, “he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself. But whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” – John 16:13,14.
Note the four predictions regarding the work of the Spirit here made. First, He will guide into all truth. A guide is one who leads and gives directions. There were some things Christ could not tell His disciples while He was on earth, because they were not ready for them. He said to them, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” – John 16:12. The things which they could not thus bear, the Holy Spirit would teach them later. In this way the Spirit would continue the work of Christ after His departure and be His representative.
Second, the Spirit shall “not speak of himself.” “Whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak.” “He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” The Spirit works in close harmony with the Father and the Son. He does not speak of Himself; He does not work independently of the other persons of the Godhead; they all work together. In this the Spirit and Christ are alike. For Christ also did nothing of Himself. “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” – John 5:19,20. “The Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” – John 12:49.
Third, the Spirit “will shew you things to come.” The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Prophecy. When John was shown the future, he was “in the Spirit.” – Revelation 1:10. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” – II Peter 1:21. The prophets searched “what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.”– I Peter 1:11. It is always the Spirit that is active in prophecy.
Fourth, “He shall glorify me.” Christ was about to leave the world. After His departure the Spirit would come. This Spirit would not undo the work Christ had done, or undervalue it. Rather the Spirit would magnify Christ and His work. Thus doing, the Spirit would strengthen and solidify the foundations which Christ had laid.
Although these statements refer to the Spirit in His relation to the disciples, there is another work which the Spirit would perform for the world. “he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” – John 16:8.
Convinces of Sin
The word here used for reprove, is variously translated convince and convict, as indicated in the margin. It is the Spirit that reproves, convinces and convicts of sin.
There is an intellectual conception of sin by which a person may see and acknowledge certain acts as undesirable and reprehensible even while he finds excuse for doing the very things he condemns. Intellectual recognition of sin is not enough. Heart conviction must come to the individual. “Thou art the man,” the conscience must say to the soul. Unless conviction of sin is made personal, it remains only an option. Conviction must be individualized. This is the work of the Spirit. The Word can convict the intellect; the Spirit must convict the heart. Often the Spirit uses the Word with which to convict, but by whatever means the conviction is attained, it is the Spirit that accomplishes the work of bringing it home to the soul.
Conviction of sin is the work of the Spirit. That is why conviction often comes as a result of prayer for the Spirit’s guidance. Some think that the reception of the Spirit always brings joy and happiness. It does so at times, but at other times unhappiness and sorrow come as an answer. If a soul is really in earnest and prays for the Spirit, God will send the Spirit, but He may come as a reprover of sin instead of as a Comforter. God cannot bless as He would, so long as sin is cherished in the heart. He cannot comfort a sinner in his sins. And since only renunciation of sin will bring real happiness, it is necessary that the Lord first send conviction of sin as an answer to prayer.
Some are not prepared for this. They ask for the Spirit, and the result is a deep sense of their own unworthiness and a conviction of sin. Can such be the answer to a prayer for a greater fullness of the Spirit. Yes, very often it is. The first work of the Spirit is to make men feel miserable. Conviction of sin does this. But if men will only be convicted; if they will only follow the dictates of their consciences as guided by the Word; if they will only make right that of which they are convicted, all will be well. As they restore that which they have stolen; as they make confession of sin; as they humble their hearts before God, the Spirit will come to them with approval and blessing. Sweet peace will fill their souls and God's smile of approbation will rest upon them. They have done what the Spirit bade them, and all is well. The same Spirit that convicted them now becomes a comforter.
We are not to think that we do not have the Spirit merely because we do not feel exalted. As has already been noted, the Spirit's first work is to convict of sin, and this conviction is not pleasant. A man under conviction of sin is not happy. How could he be? He feels condemned, discouraged, unhappy. Yet his very condition is brought about by the work of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that has convicted and condemned him in love, he will come out into the light and rejoice over victories gained. But the first work of the Spirit is not designed to make him feel exalted.
Convinces of Righteousness
If a sinner accepts the admonition of the Spirit and follows His advice, the Spirit will do His second work, and convince of righteousness. Righteousness is being right and doing right, and it presupposes a standard of right. To this standard the Spirit will testify. He will make personal application of general principles, and guide a soul in doing right. The Spirit first convicts him of sin, and as he turns from sin to do right, the Spirit approves of the change and convinces him of righteousness. This is His second work.
Righteousness is the opposite of sin. “Sin is transgression of the law.”– I John 3:4. Righteousness, therefore includes the keeping of the law. When the Spirit convinces of righteousness, He also convinces of the law.
There are those who divorce the law and the Spirit, as though the law and the Spirit were antagonistic. This is not true. The two work closely together. The Spirit reproves of sin, but sin is transgression of the law. The Spirit, therefore reproves the transgression of the law. But if He reproves the transgression, He must approve the keeping of the law. This He does, for He convinces of righteousness. Those who claim to have the Spirit would do well to check their lives with the law of God. It might be their salvation.
Convinces of Judgment
The third thing which the Spirit will do is to convince of judgment. Those who do not listen to the voice of the Spirit, and who do not square their lives with the holy precepts of God, will be convinced of judgment. This has reference to the judgment to come, but it also has reference to that inner voice of the conscience that reminds a man when he is going wrong that there is a judgment coming. That voice we sometimes call conscience, but in many cases we might rightly call it the voice of the Spirit speaking judgment to the soul.
Some do not believe in a judgment to come. Not far in the future such will be undeceived, for the day is coming when there will remain “no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.”– Hebrews 10:26,27. If men will now listen to the still small voice, they may escape the judgment later.
From what has been said, it is evident that the work of the Spirit is most important. We need to be convicted of sin. We need to be made aware of righteousness. There must be some voice to speak to us and warn us of the judgment to come. All this is the work of the Spirit. He applies to the individual soul the general principles of the Word. He says to the sinner: “Thou art the man,” It was this Spirit which Christ promised to send when He went away.
It was necessary for Christ to come to this world to give a revelation of the Father. It was also expedient that He give way to the Spirit after He had finished His work. “I tell you the truth,” Christ says, “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.” – John 16:7. In His stead and as His representative He sent the Holy Spirit to carry on the work which He had begun. The importance of the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be overestimated.
The Unpardonable Sin
Of sin against the Holy Spirit, Christ says, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation; because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” – Mark 3:28-30.
Some dear souls are much perplexed over the unpardonable sin and are afraid that they have committed it. Let such take heart, for none who has ever committed this sin is worried over it. The fact that a person is afraid that he has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost is almost sure evidence that he has not committed it.
We have already seen that it is the Holy Spirit that convinces of sin. If a person therefore is conscious of sin, it is proof that the Spirit has not left that person, but is still striving with him and that he therefore has not sinned against the Spirit. When a person has sinned against the Spirit, the Spirit leaves him and he as no more consciousness of sin. Therefore, as long as a person is conscious that he is a sinner, he has not gone beyond the line of mercy.
Sin against the Holy Spirit is not necessarily any particular sin, it is rather a gradual closing of the heart and mind to the call of God, which at last results in such hardening of the spiritual susceptibility that God's voice is heard no more. To illustrate: A young man hears the call of God, perhaps in some meeting on which the Spirit of God is present. He feels inclined to yield and to take his stand for the Lord; but something holds him back. He leaves the meeting an unconverted man, thinking however that there will be another opportunity and that when it comes, he will yield to the influence of the Spirit. He is yet young, he thinks and the next time will be more convenient. Thus time after time he neglects the day of salvation. God still waits. The man has not yet passed beyond the boundary line, there is still hope.
But if the man could analyse his own condition, he would find that something has happened to him. Every time the Spirit calls, the voice seems to be weaker. He can now sit in a meeting and hear the most urgent calls, but they do not affect him as they did formerly. The Spirit calls as loudly as ever, but his spiritual hearing has been dulled and he does not feel inclined to respond. He has heard the call so often that it ceases to affect him. He is nearing the line, soon the last call that he will ever hear will sound but he hears it faintly, and it leaves him untouched. He has passed the line. God has done all for him that can be done. The call continues to sound, but he does not hear. He has sinned against the Holy Ghost. He has sinned away his day of grace.
Every time a person rejects the call of the Spirit, he is not only doing definite harm to his soul, but is grieving the Spirit. To grieve the Spirit is not the same as to sin against the Holy Spirit, but is the first step that will eventually lead to the last. When the Spirit impresses a person to confess his wrong, and he refuses to do so or delays, he grieves the Spirit. It is through the Spirit that the impressions come to confess sins. When the call is unheeded, the Spirit goes away grieved. We are therefore admonished; “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30.
God can reach the heart only through the influence of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. If men reject the call, if they ridicule it, if they attribute it to evil influences, there is nothing else that God can do. If God speaks to men through the Word and men reject the Word, God may send some individual instead. If they reject that individual, God will try some other way. He does not give up easily; but when men at last reject the instrument through which God attempts to seed light, they reject the Spirit of God at the same time.
For that reason it behooves all to see to it that no light which Gods ends, through whatever means He may choose, shall be rejected. Out salvation is to follow the light as God gives it in the Word. There is safety in no other course.
It is not safe to delay doing God's will. When Gods speaks through the Word, when He speaks through the Spirit, we should hasten to obey. We must not grieve the Holy Spirit, and delays grieve Him. As a parent is grieved when a child fails to obey, so God is grieved when we are non-compliant. God want us to be obedient children.
There is danger in believing that there is always time to repent, and that there is no need of deciding promptly. Although ordinarily God calls repeatedly, there are times when men presume too much upon God's mercy.
Ordinarily sin against the Holy Spirit is brought about by the gradual hardening of the heart to the call of God. This hardening may become fatal in small matters as in great. It is not necessary to commit what is called a great sin, to cross the line of God's mercy. The person who has stolen ten cents and refuses to confess his sin and make restoration, is just as surely grieving the Spirit of God as is he who transgresses in greater matters.
This is written to warn those who think that they can grieve the Spirit, reject light, and yet be guiltless. It is also written to encourage those souls who, because of ignorance, are afraid that they might have sinned against the Holy Ghost. Let them know that the very fact they are concerned over the matter is evidence that they have not gone beyond the line. However, let them make sure that they are walking in all the light God sends to them. A man may not have sinned against the Holy Spirit, but this does not guarantee that all will be well for the future. We must continually follow on to know the Lord.
Based on The Faith of Jesus, p. 515-523 by M L Andreason