When I go, I will send the Helper to you. When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:7–11
Bottom line up front: By paying attention to the work of discernment the Holy Spirit performs in Jesus’ absence, we disciples can be joyfully confident in our faith as we encounter a world that doesn’t love the Lord.
In Jesus’ language the term “world” indicates those people who do not rejoice in the God who created and sustains them, who rebel against his rule in their lives, and who refuse to recognize that their stance is wrong and that they are, therefore, subject to his wrath. When Jesus was here the world hated him, because he testified that its deeds were evil. The world’s hatred of Jesus extends to those of us who love God and walk in the light in the presence of God.
For those who are not of the world, for those who do not recoil from the presence of our Creator; for those who have seen by means of Jesus’ teaching and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the error of our ways; for those who look to Jesus for the knowledge of what is really valuable and helpful; for those who are trusting him to make it right for the Father to forgive us so we won’t experience his wrath; for these people, the animosity of the “world” and the persuasive power of what they so cunningly offer as truth would appear to be overpowering if Jesus would not continue to stand with us, ready to teach and guide us in the best way to live.
Because Jesus would leave shortly after the resurrection he promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples with a job to do that specifically entails giving aid to them; aid that is much like the help he had been providing them. It is to our advantage, our benefit, that Jesus sent the Helper to them, and continues to send him to us. He comes to disciples to give us an edge; he does not come to the world. His job is to “convict” the world, that is “to expose about the world its error concerning something.” His work of conviction is to help us disciples today, just as Jesus helped his followers while he was in the flesh.
When we encounter challenges to our faith and need our souls restored, the Holy Spirit works as the judge in our souls, pronouncing the Christian’s understanding of reality right and the world’s wrong. He shows us the world’s error and restores our confidence in the truth that gives us hope. The World’s view of sin is not related to Jesus. But not trusting Jesus to mediate God’s grace to us is the essence of sin. The World doesn’t think righteousness has anything to do with how God views our relationship with him. But Jesus’ being in God’s presence proves he was correct about how to be right in God’s eyes. The World thinks judgement will never come. However, it has already begun. When people in the World make claims that disquiet our hearts, the Paraclete not only exposes their error, but also keeps guiding us into all the truth, restoring our confidence in Jesus and our joy in his glory.
As we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate as recipients of the benefits Jesus offered to the original disciples. The Spirit works in our hearts to open our eyes concerning, and makes us appreciate, the glories of the truth revealed in Scripture. As we walk in the light and talk about the light this glorious truth sheds on our path, all the erroneous ideas of the people who live around us are exposed. We may even become a means by which the Spirit opens their hearts to respond with delight to the God to whom we bear witness. So, we must saturate ourselves in what is revealed in Scripture, and we must pray that the Helper will cause us to delight in and welcome and live by the truth about the God we find there. Then we can live confidently and joyfully in the midst of animosity, because just as Jesus did not leave the first disciples alone, he has not left us alone either.