Fulfilling the Promise
Dr. Arthur Miskin
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” — John 16:8
One of the chief beauties of the Scriptures is that they contain the wonderful promises of God, which, in times of difficulty, serve as an anchor and comfort for God’s beleaguered children. What greater comfort can there be than to stand on the sure foundation of God’s Word and not on the vain and fickle pretensions of men? At times, however, the remnants of indwelling unbelief, fueled by the devil, rise up within as a torrent and cause us to question the goodness of God and whether these precious promises really apply to us personally. Thankfully, the Word also contains the fulfillment of many of God’s promises, which prove to us that His promises can be trusted and that His Word is indeed true.
John 16:8 gives one of Jesus’ great Pentecostal promises, foretelling the coming of the Comforter — the Holy Spirit — and the reproving or convicting work that He will accomplish in the hearts of men. Later on, in the book of Acts, we have an example of how this promise was actually fulfilled. In His convicting work, the first thing the Holy Spirit will convict men of is the sin of unbelief. The world doesn’t need to be convicted of the reality of sin; sin abounds on all sides so that even the unbeliever has to acknowledge its pervasive presence. Men need to be convicted of the particular sin of not believing in Jesus and how offensive this is in God’s sight. He has given His Son and man refuses to believe in Him.
The Comforter also will convict men of the righteousness of Christ. With clarity, they will come to see that Christ is who He said He was: the righteous Son of God. He was no impostor, or the mere son of a carpenter, but “was [indeed] a righteous man,” as the Roman centurion was suddenly brought to confess (Luke 23:47). This was further proven by the fact that God raised Him from the dead. The resurrection of our Lord is unassailable proof that He was and is the sinless Son of God. Had He but one sin, the grave would have triumphed over Him; He would have died for His own sin and we would be yet in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).
Lastly, the Holy Spirit will also convict the world of the judgment of the evil one. Through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, men will no longer be blinded by Satan to eternal realities such as heaven, hell, and the judgment to come — things which at present they hold in derision. Instead, eternity, as it were, goes open like the unfolding of a curtain and the truth of a future judgment becomes real, no longer something to be scorned but treated with reverent fear. Through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, men also come to see that Satan stands condemned at the cross. Our Lord died on the tree so that “through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:15). No longer is the child of God held captive by the fear of death; with the eye of faith, he sees the judgment of death itself. Even more, when Christ was raised from the dead, He was raised to a place high above all principalities and powers, to rule forever over His vanquished foe who stands judged and condemned (Col. 2:15).
These words of Christ, then, contain the sure promise. Scripture also reveals to us the manner in which this promise was fulfilled. After Peter had preached his Pentecost sermon, we read that those who heard it “were pricked to the heart,” or, more literally, stabbed or convicted in their hearts (Acts 2:37). The word conviction carries with it the notion of guilt and condemnation. With their own hearts condemning them in the sight of God, the sentence of death weighed heavily upon them causing them anxiously to cry out to be saved from their woeful predicament. What was it that Peter said that brought this on? He accused them of the foul murder of the Messiah: “Him…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (v. 23). Lastly, Peter affirms the lordship of Jesus Christ over all the forces of evil when, quoting David’s words in Psalm 110, he says, “Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool” (vv. 34, 35), death as the last enemy having been vanquished. When confronted with these truths, those murderous Jerusalem sinners, with the blood of Christ still fresh on their hands, were brought low by the shame of their guilt and they cried out for salvation. Are we any less guilty than they? Not at all, because it is also our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. If your guilt for what your sin did to Christ does not move you to conviction, nothing will.
In a short period of time, the promise of Christ finds fulfillment in Jerusalem itself. This proves the faithfulness of God in bringing to pass what He has promised. This Holy Spirit wrought Pentecostal conviction, however, was not only the fulfillment of the promise. In bold capital letters, it spells out to us what it means to become a Christian, because He continues to this day to work in the fashion as has been described. This is what experiential Christianity is all about. When the church ceases any longer to emphasize the need for such Spirit-wrought conviction as part of true Christian experience, it will, as we see in our day, result in an insipid and shallow Christianity. This, in turn, produces a superficial, even spurious, Christian.