This is a really long post. When I started this I did not know the fullness of what the Holy Spirit was going to reveal. Please take your time with this and please read until the end. This amazed me on so many levels…I pray it will do the same for you.
Let me just start with the two definitions of conviction and condemnation from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Law: 1: the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law
2a : the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth
b : the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth
3a : a strong persuasion or belief
b : the state of being convinced
1: to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil usually after weighing evidence and without reservation <a policy widely condemned as racist>
2a : to pronounce guilty : convict
b : sentence, doom <condemn a prisoner to die>
3: to adjudge unfit for use or consumption <condemn an old apartment building>
4: to declare convertible to public use under the right of eminent domain
Okay, to say the least, I am not an English major. Yet, I am hoping to convey what a transitive verb is. A transitive verb is an action verb that needs an object to receive that action. This is different from an intransitive verb that does not need an object to receive the action.
I have had the most difficult time with conviction and condemnation. Which is which and how do I know if I am convicted or condemned?!?!??? I had narrowed it down to condemn is not of love and convict is of love. I had also had it explained to me that convict is to help you while condemn is not. I really could not get a clear answer for my question regarding condemn and convict. It seemed to me that they were one and the same. There really wasn’t a difference anyone could explain except one came from love and the other from the enemy.
This was also one of the words the Lord had asked me to define and I was frustrated with this one because I couldn’t.
Now let’s make it very clear that Jesus took all of our condemnation on the Cross. By ‘all’ I mean my drawer of sin was completely cleaned out from beginning to end. Note that convict is part of the definition of condemn. To pronounce someone guilty. Remember it is a transitive verb and needs an object or person to receive that action. So, when I have sinned (remember there is one word “sin” used for all three words in the New Testament see Horizontal and Vertical for more information) the condemnation comes. I, myself, will feel guilty about doing something wrong or evil because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; so now we all have the knowledge of good and evil. So I hear my my own flesh and the enemy cry out GUILTY! I am the object that is receiving the condemnation. Christian people then tend to go the route of asking God to forgive them and for me at least I still would feel guilty even after I apologized. It is important to understand condemn is a transitive verb and it needs an object to receive the action. I realized I have gone about this all wrong for years because I did not understand the meaning of the words. Since the word condemn is a transitive verb someone must take the condemnation from me. Which of course is Jesus on the Cross two thousand years ago. What I proclaim is that I am in Christ and those in Christ are righteous (2 Cor 5:21). The action that Christ performed on the Cross has taken all of my guilt for all time and I am simply need to acknowledge this fact (the truth) to both my soul and the enemy. I understand and acknowledge that in and of myself I can never make the amends for what I have done, ever. I no longer feel guilty and if I do I continue to proclaim who I am in Christ. I am acting in faith and trust for what God has already done. The action now has the perfect object Jesus Christ which took all my condemnation on Himself on the Cross. (Romans 7:25-8:2) Jesus loves us and as we start from there we understand that He desired to do this for us. God loves us so much that He desired to plan this before the foundation of the world. The Holy Spirit is the seal of this promise. (Ephesians 1:13 and 2 Cor 1:21-22).
What I believe is that condemnation and conviction become one and the same for many in the Body of Christ because of wrong teaching. These words have actually become interchangeable instead of two different meanings. I see conviction being taught like we are still condemned and condemnation has been taken care of fully by Christ as I wrote above. So, what is conviction?
How I understood or perceived conviction, in the past, started with a wrong mindset or perception of God. My perception began with the idea of punishment not discipline. Let me explain. Because I saw God through the lense of legalism then my perception of Him was completely off. My core belief was that if I didn’t do something right or if I did something wrong God was out to punish me….then later I had learned God was “love” so I knew God wasn’t out to punish me yet somehow I had opened the door to the enemy to be “allowed” to do something to me and until I apologized (what I had thought was repentance: see Correcting Perspective to better understand true repentance), to God I would not have any power/authority in Christ to tell the enemy–“no more”. This is not biblical at all. It is not biblically correct for those of us under the New Covenant. This is mixture of Old and New Covenant thinking. Let me explain further….
According to Merriam-Webster, conviction is the act of convincing someone of error or compelling them to tell the truth. In the New American Standard Bible (NASB) convict is found eight times in the New Testament. The Greek word for convict is elexgo and means: properly, to convince with solid compelling evidence, especially to expose (prove wrong, connect).
Where I want to start is to look at the Holy Spirit and conviction. Remember, I was taught that the Holy Spirit would convict me and then I needed to repent otherwise I had opened a door to the enemy and the enemy had access to my life….or another way of seeing this is that God was mad at me because I had sinned, even if this was yelling at my kids or my husband or a friend and until I repented then I had opened a door for the enemy to run amuck in my life. When I learned what repentance really meant then of course the next word on my list was conviction.In John 16:6-7, Jesus is living His last few moments with His disciples sharing with them that He would be leaving and explaining the importance of Him leaving. One of those important things Jesus shares is the fact, if He doesn’t leave the Helper can’t come. The Greek word here is the Paraclete=the Helper, Friend, Advocate—the Holy Spirit who is always close beside. He is actually so close He comes to live inside all believers in Jesus the Christ. We need to see God for Who He is but we also need to see the Holy Spirit as Who He is. When we see God correctly we are then able to see the Holy Spirit correctly. After the Cross, the first thing Jesus did when He showed Himself to His disciples in the upper room was to breath on them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Right after Jesus explains to His disciples that He needed to leave so He could send the Helper, He then goes on to explain part of why He needed to send the Holy Spirit. This is the only time in scripture where you will find the Holy Spirit and conviction used:
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” John 16:8-15 NASB
I want to note that the Holy Spirit is here to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement. I have also bolded and underlined what the Holy Spirit is to do for the believer in Christ. I have written a little about this same verse in What is Your Focus On. Today though I want to go a little further. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit being sent to His believers and He breathed on those same believers and said recieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit went into these believers and does the same today. It is important to know this because one of the first reasons Jesus gave to His disciples regarding sending the Holy Spirit was to convict the world. There are two other scriptures that also reference the Holy Spirit convicting the world. In 1 Corinthians 14:24 Paul speaks about the believer prophesying (gift of the Holy Spirit) and unbelievers are convicted. Also in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 it says,“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”. The power of the Holy Spirit working in and through men and women convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. It is important to note it is the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKING IN AND THROUGH BELIEVERS THAT CONVICTS THE WORLD of sin because they do not believe in Jesus; of righteousness because Jesus went to the Father and we no longer see Him but we need to understand He is seen through us because we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus; and judgement because the ruler of the world has been judged and we stand as believers as a mark to that very fact, “IT IS FINISHED”.
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth, disclose to us what is to come, and all things that the Father has are His and He gives them to us through the Holy Spirit.
As believers we need to understand that the working of the Holy Spirit comes from a place of rest promised to us to work from the inside out. Making eternal changes when we come to understand we have received a free gift of righteousness in Christ through the Cross we have received the Helper that continues to teach=discipline us. Teaching is not punishment it is a learning process. What we believe is so important and how we view God is so important.
God, the Father; Jesus, His Son; and the Holy Spirit, the Helper/Friend, have set it up for a win-win for everyone that simply believes in Who Jesus Christ is.
I want to leave you with this story: There once was a woman who has caught in the middle of adultery by the religious leaders. This begs the questions…how did they know she was committing adultery??…did they follow her?? And it certainly takes two for this tango to happen….where was the man??? So imagine, she is found in the very act and is taken and thrown at Jesus’ feet. The religious leaders are accusing her of the wrong she has done in front of Jesus and wanting Him to stone her according to the law. Jesus does an amazing thing….He states, he who has no sin cast the first stone. Each man there knows he has sinned, knows by the law that they will need a Passover lamb to cover their sin and they must walk away. Jesus then looks at the woman and asks is there anyone left to condemn you? There is no one…then Jesus says neither do I condemn you go and sin no more. See Jesus came to the world not to condemn it, but that through Him the world would be saved (John 3:17). I think, as believers, we say conviction but what we are really doing is condemning ourselves which in turn leads us to condemn the world. We are supposed to be be convicting the world or teaching, compelling, showing them the truth. When we rest in Jesus the Holy Spirit does His work in and through us so that the world will know Who Jesus is. Today I believe there are still religious leaders among us. I have been one of those, and it is all because I did not know God like He knows me. I didn’t understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. Now I do. So, like Jesus I do what is in front of me. I convict the world by realizing that Jesus took my condemnation, cleansed me of my sin, yes I am sin free…do I still transgress..yes..but Jesus died for all my sin…so I walk first knowing who I am in Christ and when condemnation rises, because I transgressed, I proclaim who I am in Christ because my sin free (righteousness) does not come from me but from my Savior. He does not condemn me so He says go and sin no more. And He will say that each time. He loves me and loves this world. It is time for the world to see the real Jesus through His Holy Spirit which dwells in His people, His Beloved.