Jesus commonly referred to his coming crucifixion and resurrection as ‘my hour’, the time of his glorious purpose being fulfilled. Now he talks of ‘their hour’ (16.4 – not just “the time”) which was to come so soon. ‘The world’, the Roman and Jewish leaders, would seem to rule supreme with power over Jesus’ followers. Rejecting Jesus and his followers, people would think that killing Christians was bringing service to God (16.2) and Jewish believers in Jesus and the Father would be thrown out of the synagogue.
In such circumstances it is easy for Christians stumble in their faith, but Jesus warns his disciples of what is to come so that they should not go astray (16.1, 4). In today’s world too in many countries Christians face real weakness as we suffer under non-Christian societies. Even the law seems stacked against us. Jesus’ teaching in these chapters therefore has particular relevance for us today as well as for his first-century followers.
In our last blog we looked at what Jesus taught about the coming Paraclete in John 15. Now in 16.8/9 we learn more about what the Holy Spirit brings to us. Jesus declares that he convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.
Unlike Paul’s letters John’s Gospel does not emphasize justification and redemption from sin, stressing rather that we can come into a living relationship with the Father and know him. Through faith in Jesus and following him we are brought into a new life by the Holy Spirit in which we know the Father. Nevertheless in 16.8 Jesus teaches that the Paraclete will convict the unbelieving world of their sin. Recognition of our sin is essential if we are to relate to a Holy God. Sadly the world refuses to believe in Jesus, so their sin remains. It is in this context that the Holy Spirit continues his work of convicting the world of their sin. It has been said that a large proportion of British psychiatric problems come at least partly from a sense of guilt. Is this the Spirit doing his work of convicting people of sin and thus opening the way towards faith in Jesus?
Whose righteousness is Jesus meaning? Is it the purpose of the Paraclete to convince the world that God’s righteousness is available for them if they believe and trust in Jesus? That is a possibility. It is certainly true that a lost world can find the Lord’s salvation and thus his gift of righteousness through the resurrected and ascended Jesus. What a glorious offer in our times too that our post-truth and morally bankrupt society could find a new holiness! Even economically this would revolutionise our nation. It is said that 6% of the cost of everything in our shops is due to shop-lifting and crime. Revival and therefore a new life of righteousness would solve our economic problems. Why doesn’t our government therefore advocate faith in Jesus and the revolutionising work of the Holy Spirit?!
But it is more probable that Jesus was talking about his own righteousness. There is actually an alternative text in the Greek which says ‘his righteousness’, the righteousness of Jesus himself. The Paraclete will convince the world that Jesus is indeed the righteous Messiah and redeemer.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus does not remain as a dead body in the grave or live on in resurrection life in this world, but is ascended back to his Father. The ascension shows irrefutably that Jesus is indeed not just a great man or a prophet, but was sent by his Father from glory into this world as Messiah, Saviour and Lord. He is shown to be the personification of God’s perfect righteousness.
No longer is the world faced with just the incarnate person of Jesus which must have tempted people to think of him as merely human. As they watched him eating, drinking, walking and sleeping, they may well have thought that he was just an ordinary human being. But now he “goes away”, returns to his Father in glory and they can no longer see and observe him in his human activities (16.10). So, by his ascension Jesus is indeed vindicated to the world in his perfect righteousness.
The Holy Spirit convinces the world that judgement is not just some old Victorian scare tactic in the preaching of ultra-conservative evangelists! God’s judgement is a reality which lies before us all. As the ultimate judge, Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats. What a relief for believing sinners that we are covered by the total righteousness of Jesus and cleansed from our sin through his shed blood!
In John’s Gospel both God’s gift of eternal life and his judgement begin already in this life on earth. So in 3.36 it is stated that”Whoever believes in the Son has (present tense) eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains (present tense) on him”. Likewise the ruler of this world has been, is being and will finally be judged – the Greek perfect passive tense in 16.11 means that the judgement of the ruler of this world has already taken place, but is still effective now.
So God’s judgement has already begun. Although we are now living in days which can be called “their hour” (16.4), actually Satan, the ruler of this world is already under God’s final judgement. The Greek word used for ‘prince’ or ‘ruler’ means one who has authority and power – it is the ‘arch’ that we find in the English words ‘mon-arch‘ or ‘olig-arch‘. The spiritual leader and indeed also the human leaders of this world are already living under God’s judgement. In our society we can see God’s judgement in the sad realities of broken relationships, crime, warfare, slavery, natural disasters, ecological and environmental degradation etc. How we long for such judgement to be replaced by a new faith in Jesus as the Saviour of the world and the source of new resurrection life! We are surely faced here with an urgent call to evangelism and mission.
P.S. A month ago I mentioned Elizabeth’s life story “God can be Trusted”. I too have written my autobiography “Life’s Tapestry” which is also published by Authentic Media. In it I describe my conversion and some of the lessons of faith which the Lord graciously taught me in my early years as a Christian and in later years as a Christian worker in pioneer Muslim situations and in the wonderful Indonesian mass movement. God also had much to teach me through my 24 years full-time work on the staff of All Nations Christian College. The book further describes the very varied experiences of a travelling ministry in conferences and among churches in Britain and in every continent. I hope that many of you will enjoy this.