THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Lord Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jn 16.8). This is something that we ought to bear in mind when we desire to be a witness for Christ. I notice three things that John records that the Lord Jesus said of the Spirit of God when in the Upper Room Ministry: He will indwell us (14.17), He will guide us (16.13), He will convict the world (16.8). We will consider the third of these and note that there are also three things of which He "will reprove the world".
It does seem scriptural, that, when we wish to swing a conversation round to spiritual things, what we introduce are the things that the Spirit of God specifically uses to convict; sin, righteousness, or judgment. So I suggest that these are the subjects that we ought to bring before the minds of the people in order to allow the Holy Spirit of God to work. We will, therefore, consider: sin, "because they believe not on me" (Jn 16.9); righteousness, "because I go to my Father" (Jn 16.10); judgment, "because the prince of this world is judged". Notice how the focus changes each time. First it is "what they have done", then it is "what Christ has done", after which it is "what God has done". Notice also that there are great consequences each time that perhaps many have not considered.
Sin - They believe not on me
There are great consequences because of this unbelief of which the Holy Spirit would convict men and women. That would be a good subject to introduce into a conversation: to cause those to whom we speak to think on the seriousness of unbelief and its eternal consequences.
Righteousness - I go to my Father
Here we see the righteousness of His life and of the resurrection and glorification of Christ after what men did to him in rejecting Him and crucifying Him. Based on His perfect life and testimony, His sin atoning death at which He prayed for His executors, and His death for the sins of those who nailed Him to the tree, it was only right that God should show His delight in His Son by raising Him from the dead and setting him at His own right hand. By so doing He declared Him to be both Lord and Christ. What great consequences there are for those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Judgment - The Prince of this world is judged
So not only have we what men have done and what Christ has done, but also there is the subject of judgment. Men do not like to think of that but they will have to face it, for the Spirit of God uses that subject to convict men. By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. This is what Paul brought before the Athenians on Mars Hill: "God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17.30-31). Note also that when Paul spoke before Felix "of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come" (Acts 24.25), Felix trembled.
Presenting the Word
As we further consider the subjects that the Holy Spirit would use to convict the world, consider those three facts. He will reprove the world:
Of sin. What is sin? Where is it defined? In the Word of God!
Of righteousness. What is righteousness? Where is it defined? In the Word of God!
Of judgment. What is judgment? Where is it defined? In the Word of God!
God has clearly defined these matters in His Word. Because of this, men and women seek to lighten the weight of them, and even try to erase them. But God has defined them in relation to Himself. They are His own standards and we are held accountable because of them. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to convict mankind of the truth of God.
John 17.14 - I have given them thy word
John 17.8 - I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me
Here we have the last words of the Lord Jesus as He lifts His voice to the Father and commits His disciples to God. How significant are His words in v.14: "I have given them thy word". It seems as if this was something that was precious to the Father, important for the disciples and something that His soul took great delight in knowing that it was sowing, into their hearts, that which would last forever.
In light of this we could have no greater goal before us when seeking to witness to others than to swing the conversation to a point where we can present the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. Following that, we commit the sowing of that precious seed to God in prayer as we have followed His example: "I have given them thy word". What a privilege, an honour, it is to do what the Lord Jesus did. He gave the Word of God to others and then commended them to God. The Spirit of God will then do his strange work: using the word of God He will convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
We often confess that we cannot even raise an anxious thought, and again, "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps 127.1). However, when we leave the word of God with someone, we are leaving that which the Spirit of God will use to bring about those anxious thoughts. We sometimes hear one say, "I did not have enough time; all I could do was to leave a little verse". A little verse? We can do no greater than that! We cannot convict, or raise an interest in the heart of a sinner but that "little verse" is a hammer that "breaketh the rock in pieces" (Jer 23.29), "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4.12). To be continued.