The night before Jesus went to the cross He met with His disciples and one of the last things He taught them about before He went to the cross was about the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to pray to the Father and that “another Helper” (literally “one just like Him”) would come to abide with them forever. Jesus said:
· John 14:16-17 – “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus used two prepositions in the above passage to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit with people. The Holy Spirit is “with” a person prior to conversion communicating God’s “truth” and persuading them of their need of salvation. The Holy Spirit comes “in” a person when they accept Jesus as Savior by faith and are born again. The Spirit comes “in” a person to regenerate them with eternal life.
Before we can examine the three works of the Spirit in the life of the believer, we need to consider the work of the Spirit in the unbeliever. The Spirit begins the work of salvation in the unbeliever by convicting the unbeliever of their need of salvation. Once saved, the Spirit begins the sanctifying process.
The Spirit’s Work in the Unbeliever – The Spirit “with” you
The first work of the Spirit in the unbeliever and the world is that of a Restrainer. The Spirit works through the church to restrain evil in the world so that the world is not totally overcome with evil. This is supported by the following verses:
- 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 – “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”
“He who now restrains” is s reference to the Holy Spirit and His work in the world. The Holy Spirit creates an environment where evil is checked enough to allow a person to exert free will to make a decision regarding salvation.
The second work of the Spirit in regards to the unbeliever is that of Convictor. The Spirit convicts the unbeliever of their need of a Savior. Jesus defined this work of the Spirit with the following words:
John 16:8-11 - “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;10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judge.”
The Holy Spirit “convicts.” The word “convict” is translated from the Greek term elegcho meaning, “to confute, admonish; convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.” The idea conveyed is to “expose; refute, show one’s fault, [and] . . . convincing of that fault.” We find the sense of this term in the following verses:
- John 3:20 - “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
- Ephesians 5:11 – “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
- 1 Timothy 5:20 – “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
- James 2:9 – “but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
- Jude 14-15 – “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,15 “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
- Revelation - “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
What is it that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of or exposes? The Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved world of three things.
First, “of sin because they do not believe in Me.” Jesus paid the penalty (death) for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2); the sin that dams to hell is rejecting the Spirit’s plea to accept Jesus as Savior (Mt. – also called the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). A persons’ eternal destiny is determined by whether or not they believe in Jesus. This is what the Spirit convicts the world of.
Second, “of righteousness because I go to My Father.” Jesus died for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead. His resurrection indicates God was satisfied with His sacrifice for sin. Jesus then ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God demonstrating that He is the standard and only acceptable means by which a person can enter heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:11-18; 1 Peter 3:22). The Spirit convicts the world that works are inadequate to make one righteous and gain access to heaven because the standard of righteousness is Jesus, nothing less will be acceptable. Nicodemas was a very religious man but Jesus said he needed to be born again (John 3). The Holy Spirit exposes the futility of trying to do religious works to make oneself acceptable before God.
Third, “of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit convicts the world that the god of this world, Satan was judged on the cross of Christ (Colossians -17). The hold of Satan on the unbeliever can be broken when a person accepts Jesus as Savior because when Jesus comes into a heart He is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).
That is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever. Have you experienced this in your life? If so, how have you responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life? I pray you have turned from your sins, trusted in Jesus as your Savior and Lord and received God’s offer of forgiveness for your sins. That offer from God is by grace; it’s a gift to be received. When you receive this gift the Holy Spirit will give you spiritual life. That leads us to the next part of this study. What does the Holy Spirit do in the life of a believer? We’ll answer that question in part two of The Work of the Holy Spirit with Unbelievers and in and upon Believers.