Read John 16:8-9. What crucial work does the Holy Spirit do for us, and why is this so important?
Jesus has called the Holy Spirit the paraclete, a word rich in meaning and that conveys the idea of helper, advocate, and comforter.
The Holy Spirit does not enter into this important work of conviction as the accuser of the brethren or as our prosecutor. He is not sent by Jesus to condemn us but, rather, to help us see our need of grace.
Only a comforter will be received as a helper. It is a great tragedy that Christians, however well-intentioned, often approach sinners with an accusing spirit rather than a helping one. If we go around pointing out sin in the lives of other people, then we do something that Jesus has not called us to do. After all who are we to point out sin in others when we are hardly sinless ourselves?
We are His witnesses, not His prosecutors. We are called to be witnesses of His redemptive power, not to condemn others for their wrongs. In trying to convict other people of their sins, we assume a work that is not ours; it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Comforter—not us—who shall “convince” (John 16:8, RSV) the world of what sin really is. People who have not committed their lives to Jesus often have no real sense of what sin truly is, and just how destructive it can be.
The idea here is not that the Spirit will list specific erroneous acts. Instead, He goes to the fundamental sin of all: unbelief in Jesus Christ (John 16:9). Our deepest misery and alienation does not consist in our moral imperfection, but in our estrangement from God and our refusal to accept the One whom God has sent for the purpose of rescuing us from this condition.
The fundamental problem of all sin is that we do not believe in Jesus and, thus, reject the only One who can save us from our sin and guilt. This is the sin that puts self at the center of things and refuses to believe the Word of God. Only the Holy Spirit can open our hearts and minds to our great need of repentance and of the Redemption that is found through Christ’s death in our behalf.