THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
The Scripture teaches that God is the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25], and that God has delegated the authority to judge to Jesus Christ [John 5:22], who, when he returns, comes as judge [Jude 14-15]. The Scripture also teaches us that the Holy Spirit is involved in judgment:
Genesis 6:3: In a context where wickedness saturated the earth [6:5] God said ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever …’ where ‘contend’ translates the Hebrew ‘deen’ which means to rule, specifically to rule in terms of judgment, and the execution of judgment. Hence the KJV translated this word ‘strive’. Here we see that it is the Spirit of God who confronts humans with the reality of their sin and its consequent judgment. We also learn from this verse that this striving of the Spirit of to bring us to repentance will not continue forever. There is therefore an urgency to repent now, immediately, in response to the Spirit’s conviction. There comes a time when God says ‘Enough is enough. It is time for the judgment to fall.’
2Thessalonians 2:7: This verse speaks of ‘the one who now holds it back’ – that is, the One who, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, was holding back ‘the secret power of lawlessness’ and ‘the lawless one’ [v8]. Various conservative biblical scholars have identified this ‘one’ who restrained evil as the Holy Spirit. If this interpretation is correct, then we have here a reference similar to that in Genesis 6:3, teaching us that the Holy Spirit is actively impressing people with the wrongness of sin, and, therefore, restraining evil. A time will come when the Holy Spirit ceases to confront man with his judgment, conviction and condemnation, and, therefore, ceases to thus restrain the evil done by man.
When the Holy Spirit of God ceases to act in this role of Judge, when he ceases to expose our sin and convict us of our sin, it is then that we see his most terrible judgment of all: that he leaves us alone in our sin and its consequences; he leaves us alone to face the final judgment. (Compare Romans 1:18 – 32.)
John 16:7-11: this convicting role of the Spirit is also taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus said:
‘…I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, … and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.’
Here we see that the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world is exactly the opposite of his action in the believer:
On the one hand, to the believer, he is the ‘Counsellor’ – the legal helper who befriends us and, by teaching us of Christ, assists and encourages us to rest in our acquittal from all guilt by the substitutionary, sin-bearing death of Christ. The Holy Spirit is, in this way, our legal defence. Similarly, as Paul teaches in Romans 8:16 the Holy Spirit testifies that we are God’s children, that is, that we are no longer the objects of God’s wrath and judgment. See also Galatians 4:6.
On the other hand, to ‘the world’, [and this is one of the few places where the Holy Spirit’s specific activity towards the unbeliever is clearly mentioned], the Holy Spirit has the role of the legal prosecutor. He convicts the world of guilt from three perspectives: from the perspective of sin; from the perspective of righteousness; and from the perspective of judgment.
Guilt ‘…in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me’:
Those who believe in Christ never again bear the guilt of their sin: Christ bore it for us; it was nailed to his cross, and he took the full penalty there [Colossians 2:14; 1Peter 2:24]. Those who do not believe in Christ still carry the guilt of their sin [John 8:24]. They stand ‘guilty’ in the presence of God so long as they do not believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit exposes and identifies this guilt. Indeed, unless the Holy Spirit convicts them of this guilt in respect to the core sin of unbelief, they will never come to genuine faith and repentance.
Guilt ‘… in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer’
Those who believe in Christ never again have to bear the guilt of their own legal disqualification [lack of righteousness] in the presence of God: they have been clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ [Romans 3:21-24; Philippians 3:7-0]. The return of Christ to the Father, after his death and resurrection, affirms his perfect righteousness, and exposes the sheer inadequacy of all human attempts to secure their own righteousness. By Christ’s righteousness all of our righteousness is exposed as filthy rags. It is the Holy Spirit alone who convinces/convicts the world that by its own ‘righteousness’ it can only be declared ‘guilty’, never ‘acquitted’, and thus drives them to accept the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.
Guilt ‘… in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world stands condemned.’
Those who believe in Christ never have to bear the just judgment of God: in Christ they have been removed forever from the realm of condemnation [John 5:24; 8:1]. The Holy Spirit convicts the world that it is guilty, and therefore under the judgment of God. This is evident in the defeat of Satan in and by the cross of Christ, by which all of Satan’s lies and deceptions are exposed. God is proved to be God, and Satan and his agenda stand condemned by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The world, which aligns with Satan, is also thus condemned. This truth is made known to the world by the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17: These verses contain a possible additional reference associating the Holy Spirit and judgment. John states that when Jesus comes he will baptize ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’. Fire is commonly a reference to judgment. That judgment is in John’s mind here is indicated by his next words: ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ It is obviously Jesus who executes this judgment, but the way he does it is by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. We must also note the perspective of cleansing which is associated with this judgment, and potentially included in the meaning of these verses by the fact that they are speaking of baptism. See also Isaiah 4:4, where cleansing, judgment, the Spirit and fire are all mentioned.
© Rosemary Bardsley 2024