At the Göttingen International Church’s weekly Bible study tonight, we began by reading this portion of John 16, with verses 9 and 10 sticking out to me in particular.
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness,because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
In my past readings of John, this passage has never stuck out to me before – I’ve never dwelt on these words, really. But immediately as we read them tonight, the verses popped off the page; immediately, my mind was racing about what the verses meant, or could mean. And I became excited for what would be a great Bible study.
So here I’d like to share with anyone interested some of the thoughts, ideas, elaborations, and conclusions we came to this wonderful evening, in hopes that you may learn something, be blessed by it, or be encouraged in your own right to spend more time with the Scriptures then to simply read over them.
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
-We are currently talking most about the Holy Spirit, who he is and how he functions. (Note: The Spirit, who is given many names, from counselor and helper to advocate, is not a force or a thing but a person, equal in deity to Christ and is as much God as Christ is.) When we concluded with chapter 15 last week, we talked about how the Spirit testifies about the truth of the Gospel to us, and then the Gospel testifies to the truth of the Gospel through us to others. Similarly, here a man can not truly be convicted about his sins except by the Spirit.
-We also clarified a few weeks ago that the term “the world”, although it would be understood by Jesus’ Jewish audience as referring to the Gentiles, really refers most comprehensively to any person, group, system, or force that advocates sin.
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
-The Greek word for sin doesn’t refer necessarily to doing evil, as we often use it; instead, it literally means “missing the mark.” So here, Jesus is pretty clearly defining that not believing in him is missing God’s mark. Any goodness, any righteousness is still missing God’s mark without faith.
-The necessity of faith has always been present – Abram was credited with righteousness through faith, and every Israelite that was ever saved was not saved because of perfect adherence to the law (as the Pharisees aimed for) but they were saved because of their faith in God. The 634~ Jewish laws were not meant to make people think, “Yeah, I can totally do that.” They were meant to show how high God’s standards are, and to show us that we need God’s mercy and grace in light of our unrighteousness.
-Furthering this, the Holy Spirit need convict the world of no sin other than disbelief. Gentiles do not need to be presented with the Law as were the Israelites, as the Holy Spirit now does the job of convicting of sin. However, that does not mean rules can never be brought up during evangelistic conversations. I refer to Ray Comfort, who (if I remember correctly) teaches an evangelism style of 90% law, 10% grace. In a world where most people who believe in heaven think they’ll be able to get in through the merit of “not being too bad of a person” or “not sinning very often,” Ray will kindly show people that their one lie makes them a liar, their anger problem makes them a murderer, their lusting makes them an adulterer, etc. And once someone understands how they cannot measure up to a true standard of goodness, then the Good News is presented.
-However, what must be remembered (even in Ray Comfort’s case) is that only the Spirit can convict people of their sin. Even if you do a job of “convincing,” that’s not good enough. It’s still God as the Holy Spirit coming in to convict a person and then save them and renew them.
-One of the biggest possible dangers we fall into here is described in 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul tells us to not try enforce Christian laws onto non-believers. We should not be expecting Christian behavior from non-Christians, and to do so is working against the goals of grace. So if we are talking to others about laws and righteousness, we must do it from a perspective of humility, seeing ourselves as a worse sinner than anyone. Paul can also be our example here, in that even though he was most likely a highly sanctified and godly man, he viewed himself as the chief of all sinners – this comes from the fact that he knew his own sins better than he could know anyone else’s. Think about it – even if you witness someone performing the most “vile” of sins, isn’t it true that this cannot compare with the multitude of sins that you’ve witnessed yourself commit throughout your entire life? We should always be humble, recognizing that our righteousness is not our own and that we are forever in constant need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;
-I already touched on righteousness a little bit, in the fact that we are credited with Christ’s righteousness through faith, and righteousness can never come from our own doing. But we spent a lot of tonight also listing off different reasons for the second part of this verse: why Jesus had to leave.
-For the Gospel to be mobilized around the world, the Spirit empowers people to go out with Christ’s power, whereas if Christ were still on earth, the religion would naturally revolve around being near Jesus and making pilgrimages to Jesus. This is not the type of religion Jesus wanted to create.
-If we could see Jesus face to face and follow him around, then our righteousness would be based around imitating Christ, instead of our righteousness being founded in our faith in Christ.
-In John 20:29, where Thomas doesn’t believe in the resurrection until he touches Christ, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Thus it takes more faith for Christians to believe in a Messiah that they cannot see. If we had a 2000-year old man who was not affected by death and was still performing miracles walking on the earth today, it would take 0 faith to believe in him. Even during Jesus’ time, it took more faith to believe in the unseen Christ than the seen Christ, and what takes brings more faith gives God greater glory.
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
-If the “ruler of the world” is understood to be Satan the Accuser, then because of Christ, Satan has been judged. This could mean multiple things.
-First off, it’s most likely the fulfillment of the prophecy from Genesis 3, where God told Satan that the offspring would crush his head and he would bite man’s heel. This of course comes to its real fulfillment on the Cross. Someone else brought up (and I don’t know the reference to this) that when Jesus died, Satan was thrown out of heaven and no longer had the place to make accusations against us to God.
-Noting that our lives today are considered a spiritual war, not a physical one, the truth of this verse places us in a position of victory – we are fighting battles in a war that has already been won.
-A lawyer in the study mentioned that their is a span of time between a criminal being given the judgment of a sentence and that sentence actually being executed. Theoretically, then, this age we now live in is the in-between, where Satan has been given his sentence but his sentences has not yet gone into affect. Meanwhile, he and his demons scour the earth, using mostly their greatest tool against us – lies.
-Also, if “ruler of this world” is taken as a reference regular human kings and such, then I would say that this verse is a comfort to the disciples, who just a few paragraphs ago were told that they would most likely be persecuted for their faith. There’s a huge irony to Jesus, in that the Jews were expecting their Messiah to be a military king, where in reality the Messiah’s followers are following a poor nobody. So this statement from Jesus could also be a comfort that no matter what the kings and rulers do, they are also not freed from Christ’s judgement; no one is.