This is obviously a highly sensitive subject, but a very important one. Your answer to this question will influence your view of God and your relationship with Him immensely. For some reason, many teachers of the Bible have taught that when Christians sin, the Holy Spirit will convict them of their wrongdoing, giving them the chance to repent and over time they will learn to sin less. This goes against so many scriptures it’s just not funny. There is actually not even one scripture that says the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of sin. One comes very close but it is often taken out of context.
John 16:7-8 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (NKJV)
At first glance you might read this verse and come also come to think that the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of sin. I mean, it says it right there, “He will convict the world of sin…” The first rule of Bible interpretation is to read scripture in context. The context of this passage is Jesus talking to His disciples about what is going to happen at the cross and after the cross. The whole conversation is recorded over about 4 successive chapters from John 14 to John 17. Jesus said something just a few verses earlier that will give John 16:8 some context.
John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (NKJV)
Jesus just explained to His disciples that once born again, a person is no longer considered to be a part of the world. This is because we are then considered to be citizens of heaven, reborn as new creations, the sons of God. So if a Christian is not part of the world, and the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, that would mean Christians are not included as the focus of John 16:8. The second support for this is found in the very next verse. At the end of verse 8 we find a colon, “:”, which means the next part is going to explain the preceding part.
John 16:8-9 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; (NKJV)
The conviction of sin is because “they do not believe.” If person is a Christian, it is because they believe. If they believe, there is no need to convict them that they don’t believe. That would be both stupid and redundant. Do you see where I am going with this? Not believing is the only sin unbelievers are convicted of too, not every wrong thing they do. In John 16:8 the word sin is used as a noun and not a verb. That means the sin a person is convicted of is the state of unbelief, not the action of breaking a law. Christians who believe are called believers, meaning them people who are in a state of belief in Jesus. Since we believe in Him, we are not being convicted of not believing in Him. Fourthly, the conviction-of-Christians-teaching contradicts a few basic scriptures:
John 3:17-18 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NKJV)
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (NKJV)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. There is also no condemnation in Christ. To condemn means one person judges another person guilty of wrongdoing or bad behavior. Since Jesus was clearly not sent to do this, why would His Spirit do it? Easy, He wouldn’t. For there to be no condemnation in Christ, there also needs to be no conviction of wrongdoing. If there were conviction of wrongdoing in Christ, it would mean there would also be condemnation in Christ.
Rom 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. (NKJV)
2 Cor 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them (NKJV)
Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. (NKJV)
These are just a few of the scriptures that tell us God is not keeping score of our sins and that He actually in His almighty power has made Himself forget our lawless transgressions. If God is not keeping score and doesn’t remember our wrong doings, the Holy Spirit would be acting in rebellion against God by convicting us of sin. Lastly, if faith is the only thing that pleases God, how does He expect us to have any morsel of faith if the guilt and condemnation from constant conviction of wrongdoing and missing the mark is robbing us of any shred of confidence we have to believe? Your capacity to believe is directly related to your ability to realize God is not judging you, but that He has judged Jesus in your place. God decided to treat Jesus the way you deserved to be treated, and to now treat you the way Jesus deserves to be treated. That is the basic definition of undeserved favour and unearned grace.
So in closing, the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict you of sin. It is the devil who is trying to get you to doubt the goodness of God. The next time you hear that conviction whispering in your ear, tell it to shut up because you are the righteousness of God in Christ and thank Him for Jesus’ sacrifice!
God is always AWESOME!