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The Matter of Conviction

On the eve of his death for the sins of humanity, the Lord Jesus spent time with his disciples explaining what life would be like for them after he died, arose from the dead and ascended to the Father's right hand. Central to his instruction was the sending of “another Comforter” (Holy Spirit), who had been WITH them during his ministry but would afterward live IN them. In John 16:7-11, Jesus taught:

”Nevertheless I tell you the truth; 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. 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.”

One the many roles the Spirit of God performs is that of 'conviction' where a world of lost sinners is concerned. The word reprove (16:8) is ἐλέγχω (elegchō), “to convict, convince, confute, refute.” It includes the ideas of (1) rebuke with a view to correction, and (2) shame in the one reproved when called to account for his fault. It is used 18 times in the NT. John the Baptist “reproved” Herod the tetrarch for his sexual sin and other evils (Luke 3:19). Jesus said practitioners of evil will not come to the light lest their deeds should be “reproved” (John 3:20). The scribes and Pharisees who brought to Jesus a woman taken in adultery were “convicted” in their consciences after Jesus challenged her accusers to cast the first stone (John 8:9). Jesus left them speechless and ashamed because none of them were without sin. 

To get a sense of the Spirit's convicting work, picture a court room in which the prosecutor is making his case before judge and jury. The evidence of guilt is so overwhelming the defendant abruptly rises to his feet, and says to the judge: “Your honor, I’d like to dismiss my entire defense team, plead 'Guilty' to ALL charges against me and cast myself upon the mercy of the court.” 

When the Spirit of God brings conviction of sin to bear upon the heart of a lost sinner, there is a similar situation with a divine twist. In the divine Courtroom, the Spirit is the Prosecutor, Jesus the Judge and the chief indictment against the sinner the sin of unbelief. At the moment conviction takes its intended effect, the sinner says: “Lord, I have no defense left! I’m ‘Guilty’ as charged! But I understand YOU have borne ALL my guilt, paid for ALL my sins, and that YOU will impute YOUR righteousness to ME as a free gift if I simply receive by faith the Court's REMEDY for my sins, especially the sin of unbelief!” 

In response to the sinner's 'Guilty' plea, the Judge issues this pronouncement: “Because you're trusting me as the remedy (satisfaction) for your sins, I not only ACQUIT you of all charges, but IMPUTE to you my very own righteousness. The defendant is now a FREE man!” 

In the matter of salvation, much has been said about the ‘Age of Accountability’ where faith is concerned. But isn’t the REAL issue the ‘Age of Convictability’? The Spirit convicted me of unbelief at age twelve. As a result, I knelt by my bedside, pled guilty and received by faith the Court’s remedy in Jesus. But how many testimonies have you heard of children much younger than twelve believing in Jesus after being convicted of unbelief? 

The only thing ANY sinner needs to understand, without regard for age, is that (1) sin, especially the sin of unbelief, stands between him and a Holy God, (2) Jesus died and rose again to satisfy all the demands of divine justice for those sins, and (3) a simple child-like trust in Jesus is sufficient to save them from their sins and give them eternal life. The believing sinner, without regard for age, will have an entire lifetime to discover ALL that God has done for them in Christ Jesus and develop Christ-like character. This is the journey of discipleship—a journey that begins with conviction in the divine Courtroom and a casting of oneself upon the mercy of the Court. 

The issue is not whether any individual is ACCOUNTABLE, but whether they are CONVICTABLE. And if a child is convictable, he or she is both accountable and savable in the sight of God!


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