There's a very interesting discussion going on over at Mark Heath's website; "Word and Spirit". Interestingly enough he has pulled a verse up for examination that until last October caused me enormous guilt problems and then at "Glory and Grace" in Hong Kong, I saw it in a new light and then caused me wonderful joy! The verse is John 16:8-11;
"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged".
So at my home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable - when things were taking a slightly sour cessationist downturn, this verse was regularly used to brow-beat the people of God into showing that the Holy Spirit is given mainly to "CONVICT"! Not to do fun, exciting things like distribute spiritual gifts. And the dangerous mix of Old and New Covenant law and grace was then subtly applied to suggest that if we were not humbly desperately feeling bad about our sin then the Holy Spirit was not really and truly at work within us. Seriously. I have an old church magazine in my possession where the editorial said that the gift of tongues is a SELFISH gift (well if it's selfish to want to build yourself up in the faith by talking in tongues and following the example of the apostle Paul - then gimme more!)
Anyway - so as I said I never really liked this verse until I heard Rob Rufus preach and expound it in his sermon on the Holy Spirit, the Sunday after "Glory and Grace" on the 28th October. He showed that while part of the role of the Holy Spirit is to show the world that they are sinners and need a Saviour - the part of His role towards us is to actually show us and convict us that we ARE righteous and that we HAVE the imputed righteousness of God! Rob asked the question - if we have received "all the fullness of Christ", why would the Holy Spirit come and point out gaps where we need to add works to Christ's finished work? That would suggest that the Cross was somehow defective - and it got us in but hasn't finished us off. And that is blasphemous.
So with that mixed history with this verse I was interested to read Mark's post; "Convicted of Righteousness" and see that he too has been visiting commentaries and examining what this verse means. Typically of Mark's careful scholarship and love of reading he examines commentaries which was helpful - only I was disappointed with Don Carson's usually honest examination of the text. Apparantly Carson thought that the verse had something to do with; "the Spirit is simply continuing an important aspect of the ministry of Jesus, confronting and challenging religious hypocrisy". Hmm ... not convinced!
I left an inital comment mainly because I have been reading Jonathan Edwards "Notes on Scripture" - my new Christmas present! - and was excited to see how similar some of Jonathan Edwards conclusions on law and grace are to Rob Rufus's. So I left a comment with a quote of Edwards I found on Galatians 5:18 that I posted a few days ago. My good friend Julie left a concise and helpful comment too saying;
"Keeping that in mind the interpretation you bring up would make no sense, but that the job of the Holy Spirit is to convince believers of their righteousness in Jesus would be very consistent with the rest of Scripture in the New Covenant".
This is important - it's not so much a case of finding the writer or teacher that best supports your view but examining the explanation that is most consistent with the New Covenant! Julie also had a vital comment on how we view sin in New Covenant life;
"I think you have given a rather old covenant definition of sin, thinking it is primarily bad behaviour. New covenenant definition of sin is unbelief (which could lead to bad behaviour), concerning what we believe about God and how righteousness is obtained".
Last night I was continuing to read Jonathan Edwards and was thrilled to find his exact comment on the verse in question and Edwards wrote this;
"On John 16:8-11;
And when the Comforter has come, He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgement. He shall convict the world of sin as men must be convinced of their guilt in order to receive Christ. That is the reason that sin and guilt lie upon them because they believe not on Christ and their rejecting Christ above all things enhances their guilt".
(Here it is:)
“Of righteousness” - that is He will convict them of the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness of the way of REMOVING guilt by Him. Christ finished His work as priest, or what He did for the removing of guilt by His ascending into heaven, His entering into the holiest of all with His own blood to make intercession for us and thereby GAVE EVIDENCE TO THE WORLD THAT WHAT HE HAD DONE WAS ENOUGH”.
That is such good news! Evidence has been given to the world by the fact that Jesus Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father and poured out the Holy Spirit that what He has done is ENOUGH! The Cross of Jesus Christ is entirely 100% sufficient! There is not a gap left to be filled by "our works". Our works can do NOTHING! Our acts achieve NOTHING with the Father! God is only ever and always interested in the perfect righteousness of His Son! Only that - ONLY that will give us bold access to the Father! So yes in a sense my former church was partially right. The Holy Spirit isn't just about tongues and prophecy. His key work is to come into us as a Spirit of sonship and give us assurance that we are accepted in the beloved and He will convict us when doubt and fear set in that we are sons and that Christ's righteousness is accepted - God the just is satisfied!
Okay - I am getting excitable and shouting. Deep breaths! ...