“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8)
The word “He” in this verse is important for a couple of reasons:
First, it emphasizes the Personhood of the Holy Spirit. He is not an “it”; some impersonal “force” as Gandhi taught. Rather “He” is a Person, the 3rd Person of the Triune Godhead. Thus He relates personally to God the Father and God the Son as we see evidenced in this chapter; He can be “grieved”, as Paul asserts in Ephesians 4, etc. “He” is a Person.
And the “He” here is also significant because it reminds us that the conviction of sin in a person’s life is HIS job, not ours. “HE … will convict the world of sin …”. We can preach; we can teach; we can admonish — but our role is limited. Only “HE” can actually “convict … concerning sin.” And that conviction makes all the difference.
When Hudson Taylor was on mission in China in the late 1800’s, he wrote of the following experience:
“An old man found us, I know not how, and followed me to our boat. I asked him in and inquired his name.
‘My name in Dzing,’ he replied. ‘But the question which distresses me, and to which I can find no answer, is — What am I to do with my sins? Our scholars tell us that there is no future state, but I find it hard to believe them … Oh, sire, I lie on my bed and think. I sit alone in the daytime and think. I think and think and think again, but I cannot tell what is to be done about my sins. I am seventy-two years of age. I cannot expect to finish another decade. “Today knows not tomorrow’s lot,” as the saying is. Can you tell me what to do with my sins?’” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, p. 198)
This kind of conviction of sin can only be the work of the Holy Spirit; and there is no substitute for it. John 16:8 is a good reminder to us: we can’t convict people of sin. Only “He” can. So do your part — and pray — and leave the conviction to Him. “He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin …”.