No sinner can be saved apart from the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can convict the sinner of his sins and convince him of his need of the Savior. In spite of this scriptural truth, many a present-day saint attempts to convince the unconvicted to be converted. As a result, many present-day pews are filled with converts convinced by us rather than convicted by the Spirit.
In John 16:7, Jesus says, “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.” The “Comforter” Jesus promises in this passage is the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used in this passage for “Comforter” means “Counselor.” In Christ’s day, this word was used of legal assistants who presented, pleaded and proved cases in court.
According to Jesus, it was “expedient” (absolutely necessary) for Him to “go away” so that the “Counselor” would come and the whole world would be put on trial. What is the crime for which the world is being tried? It is the hideous crime of crucifying Christ. Christ was not nailed to the tree by Pontius Pilate, the Jewish Sanhedrin, or the Roman Centurion. Christ was nailed to the tree by the sins of the world, including your sins and mine.
The defendants in the case against this fallen world are all of its inhabitants. The witnesses in the case are Christians; remember, Jesus promised that we would be His witnesses once the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8). The judge is Christ, to whom the Father has committed all judgment (John 5:22). And the prosecuting attorney or “Counselor” is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has come to convict this Christ-rejecting world of its crime against God.
Although we can witness for Christ, it is only the Holy Spirit who can prove to men God’s case against them. No matter how good the witnesses are, it is only the closing argument of the Holy Spirit that can convict the accused of their guilt and convince them to throw themselves on the mercy of the court.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus prohibited His disciples from witnessing to His identity prior to Pentecost (Matthew 16:20)? Have you ever wondered why, after having given His disciples the Great Commission, Jesus told them to do nothing, but to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promised Spirit to come (Acts 1:4)? Are these things not explained by the fact that Jesus knew His disciples’ witness would prove to be of no avail without the accompanying closing argument of the Holy Spirit? Until the Spirit came, there was no hope of sinners being convicted.
Neither our witness to the lost nor our prayers for them will prove effectual apart from the Holy Spirit’s conviction of them. Therefore, let us pray for the Spirit to convict the lost for whom we are burdened and to always add to our witness His airtight closing argument. Otherwise, there is no hope of our lost loved ones and friends ever confessing their sins and receiving Christ’s pardon.