We’ve meditated on what the Holy Spirit will “convict” the world about, about sin, righteousness, and judgment, but there’s something that doesn’t quite fit our preconceived ideas, and that’s what it means that the Holy Spirit’s work is to “prove someone wrong about something.”
A Greek lexical aid defines the word translated as “convict” as: “to state that someone has done wrong, with the implication that there is adequate proof of such wrongdoing.” (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 435). New York: United Bible Societies.)
The idea that the Holy Spirit “proves someone wrong about something” goes against the modern idea that spirituality is not about “who’s right or who’s wrong,” that such ideas linger from an older, bygone era. What sort of era?
Well, for example, a certain sort of mystical feminist will tell you that this bygone era was one defined by “patriarchalism,” in which the very modes of thinking were male biased. What were these modes? Slicing, dicing, categorizing, establishing right and wrong, linear thinking, logic, rationality. Meanwhile, what will our dawning new feministic era bring us? Intuition, feeling, thinking outside of the box, mysticism. The new “spirituality” will not be about proving someone wrong about something, but about finding the divine in every thought.
The Holy Spirit, however, has always been a divider, a separater, a slicer and dicer. We see this when He first imposed order on the chaos and void. How? By separating light from darkness, earth from sea, and up from down. By separating bird from fish, animal from animal, man from the earth, and male from female. The Holy Spirit…the Holy Spirit, is a far cry from the spirit of this world and the spirituality of this world.
And critical for understanding this week’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit also brought language into existence with His slicing and dicing. A “cat” or “dog” means nothing until there are actually two separate beings, separated by materialistic differences, which in fact are a “cat” and “dog.” In a sense, the Holy Spirit “proves” that one thing is a cat and the other a dog, simply by separating the two things in the first place.
It’s language by which the Holy Spirit “declares” what Christ has done by sitting at God’s right hand, for He will “take what is mine and declare it to you.” It is this declaring, this designating through the authority and power of the Word, that reveals what sin is, what righteousness is, and what judgment is.
So, the idea that “proving the world wrong about something” is spiritual should not beguile us. In a different era, debate, arguing, rationalism, and proving right or wrong about something were part of the world view established by earnest faith in transcendental, universal, and objective truths. Only in a world without such truths can debate and argumentation be seen as mundane or unspiritual.
But here’s the interesting question for this week’s Gospel. How does the Holy Spirit prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment? The world thinks sin is breaking some code, righteousness is keeping that code, and judgment is discerning between the two.
Especially today, where the Church is condemned for its “judgmentalism” and intolerance, how is the Holy Spirit proving His case that the Church is actually where sin, righteousness, and judgment are seen totally different than the way the world sees such things?
First off, the idea that the world is “non-judgmental” is a lie. Consider this, the world has been given an incredible power of omniscience and omnipresence through the internet. When the world finds a poor soul who has breached its standards, is it merciful? Of course not. Such people are shamed, sometimes to suicide, or their careers are destroyed.
Personally, I’d entrust my future to a congregation of Christians rather than to the internet. Christians are habituated in forgiveness because that is the Holy Spirit’s work, what He’s proving the world wrong about. Christians make societies nicer places; that’s simply a fact. So enough of this bunk about the world being “non-judgmental” and “tolerant.” They’ve been given the power of God regarding omniscience and omnipresence. We’ve seen what this has resulted in. I’ll take God and His congregation any day over this.
Second, the world’s understanding of sin is proven to be completely wrong. They may not call it sin, but goodness, call it whatever you want, it’s certainly oppressive. The world’s way is all about what you lack, what you need to improve, where you fall short. Again, they may not call it sin, but what do you call it? Over and over again, from Jordan Peterson to the women’s magazines, we’re constantly confronted with where we fall short. And yet, no programs of “self salvation” ever, ever work. Over and over gain, we’re promised programs to fix our “sins.”
The Holy Spirit has been proven correct. Sin is not believing in Jesus. Looked at the Christian movement from a birds eye view, who can deny that where Christianity has gone, things improve morally for the population? Slavery is condemned, women’s rights are advanced, human dignity is respected. Take away Christianity, and society will revert to caste thinking, slavery, abuse of women, and the loss of human dignity.
We are at a special moment in history to see this unfold. Our culture has decided to reject Christianity, thinking we can be moralistic and uphold all those Christian understandings of the human person without actual Christian dogma. They’re wrong, and this will bear out. There is a dark human nature that will surface once Christianity’s influence wains.
The Holy Spirit will be proved correct about sin. It’s not about missing some standard, but about not believing in Jesus.
And third, about righteousness? Much of the same could be said. Righteousness for the Christian, by the Holy Spirit’s declaration, is sitting at God’s right hand, and our being gathered into that reality. Righteousness in the world is virtue signaling. Again, I’ll place money betting on a congregation’s good will and charity, rooted in a reality arising from their focus on a righteousness outside of themselves, sitting at God’s right hand. The world’s righteousness is all self-induced, and amounts to nothing more than virtue-signaling.
There’s a reason Christians and the Christian footprint on the globe happens to also be the place where charity giving is greater, human rights are more cherished, just war ideas prevail, women’s rights are even a thing, infanticide is condemned, the poor are not deemed lower, and even criminals are believed to be able to be redeemed. It’s because of Christianity. It’s because of our view of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit has been proven absolutely correct about these things.