Does the Holy Spirit Convict Believers of Sin?

When I hear believers say that the Holy Spirit is convicting them of their sins, I want to say, “Wait—you’re telling me that the Holy Spirit is declaring you guilty for your sins and sentencing you to punishment?” That of course is what the word convict means. Is the Spirit convicting believers of something Jesus has taken away?

There’s only one verse around this idea of the Holy Spirit and conviction. It is found in John 16. In context, Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit and what He will come to do when Jesus leaves. Notice in this passage who the Holy Spirit convicts and what it concerns:

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:8‑11)

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. “Convict” here means to declare guilty or to expose. The Holy Spirit is convicting the world of their sin of unbelief, so they can see their need for belief in Jesus (16:9). The Holy Spirit is convicting the world of their righteousness, which is filthy rags in comparison to God’s righteousness. And the Holy Spirit is convicting the world of their wrong judgment of who Christ is. On the cross, the world thought they were judging Christ, but Satan—the “ruler of this world”—was being judged.[i]

The Holy Spirit is not convicting believers of sin, because we’re not convicts. Jesus was convicted for our sin. The punishment was death. He died. Now we no longer have to pay the wages for our sin or be convicted for them. God will not convict us for something He already convicted at the cross.

Believers are not convicts. And God isn’t treating us like guilty criminals. Jesus became our sin and guilt, so that we could become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We no longer stand guilty or condemned because Jesus became our sin. The Spirit is not convicting us of what Jesus has taken away. He is not making us feel guilt or shame over our sins. Instead, He’s reminding you of all Jesus did to take away your guilt and shame.

Scripture says the Holy Spirit is teaching us all things (John 14:26), testifying about Christ (John 15:26), and guiding us into all truth (John 16:13)—not convicting us for something Jesus already dealt with.

Put simply, the Holy Spirit is teaching you the truth about your forgiveness. He’s testifying about the Savior who took away your sin. And He’s leading you into the truth that always sets you free!

In addition, the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to us that God remembers our sins no more:

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying… I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. (Hebrews 10:15‑17)

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all agree that the cross worked, and you are totally forgiven!

Yes, the Holy Spirit can correct you. The Holy Spirit is grieved when we sin. Further, our new heart is grieved when we sin. But there’s a big difference between correction and conviction.

The Holy Spirit is not convicting you, but comforting you. He’s not putting you on trial for each sin. He’s reminding you that you’re forgiven of all sin. The Holy Spirit is not making us feel dirty. He’s reminding us that we’re clean.

So next time you get those thoughts, know that they’re not coming from God. He is constantly showing you that you’re clean, close to Him, and forgiven.

This comfort also means training. God is able to teach us and train us through everything we go through so that in the future we can trust Him. He’s always disciplining us. He isn’t punishing us for our past, nor is His discipline a reaction to our sin. Since He loves us, He’s always teaching us.

Remember, there will never be condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). And we are always under the loving discipline of our heavenly Father. We can trust His discipline because He is good, and He is for us.

[i] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 538). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Eerdmans), 538.

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