When the Comforter comes, Jesus says, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.
It’s simply beautiful how Jesus puts it. The Comforter will convict the world of sin because they do not believe in me, Jesus says. First Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter or the Helper, and then He says this Comforter will convict the world of sin. You see the irony here. If you were to make a list of the things that comfort you, I don’t think this would be on it, that the third person of the Holy Trinity convicts the world of sin. But it should be. We need to learn to think this way. Because it’s how Jesus thinks. It’s how His Spirit thinks. We do actually sing this way, all the time. And since today is Cantate Sunday, that means Sing Sunday, let’s pay attention to what we sing. The great Easter hymn, “Awake my heart with gladness” sings against the world:
The world against me rages,
Its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wages,
Its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free,
No trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play,
And night is bright as day
The world against us rages. And the Holy Spirit convicts it of sin, because it doesn’t believe in Jesus. The world has just declared Church nonessential. That’s raging insanity. In the face of a pandemic, when people are terrified of death, it is sheer madness to keep people from the One who conquered death. Mere men with suits on decree that the one thing really needful is not needful at all. They rage against us and try to convince us to take care of our bodies while fasting from the One who gave us our bodies and redeemed these bodies from death. And the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of emptiness and vanity and madness. And he proves it too. This word “convict” is a court term. You should imagine the Holy Spirit as an advocate in court, arguing against the world with the irrefutable proofs of the Bible which He inspired. Look at this, world. Look! God became a man. The heavens opened and the angels of God sang the new song with joy. And this God in human flesh, who lived your miserable life on this earth, who suffered and died by the eternal decree of His Father, who rose from the dead, He is Lord, and He will not bow to man’s decrees. This didn’t happen in secret. It wasn’t hidden from sight. Hundreds saw it. God worked His salvation openly. You have no leg to stand on.
Sin is vanity. Unbelief is total emptiness and hopelessness. What is the world fighting for? Life? Why? What’s the point? So people can live an extra few months or years? Then what? Listen to what the Psalmist sings of this meaninglessness, “Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; He is like the beasts that perish. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; Death shall feed on them.” This is all to say, life without Jesus is pointless. It’s all vanity, being born we die, the ancients said.
And so the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, because they don’t believe in Jesus. And we see the Holy Spirit win. We see Him expose the world that rages against us. And we see that He does this to comfort us, to convince us that to believe on Jesus is the only way. So we can join the psalmist and say, I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
And even better, we experience the Holy Spirit convict us of sin, because our flesh agrees with the world and puts its trust in this vain world instead of in Jesus. Why else would I fear death? Why else would I get my back up and protect my own pride and fight over useless things? Why else would I become anxious and worried about life and take out my angst on others? Because my flesh doesn’t believe or care that Jesus rose from the dead. So convict the sin in me, the sin of unbelief, O blessed Comforter. Convince me again that my Jesus has died for me and risen and sits at the right hand of God, that it is sheer madness to doubt my Lord Jesus and sheer joy and truth and beauty to put my trust in Him who cannot fail me. Lord I believe, help thou, my unbelief. Drown it and condemn it in me, and lead me in the way of righteousness for your name’s sake.
It’s precisely because the Comforter convicts the world of not believing in Jesus that he can convince us who believe in Jesus of our righteousness. The world and our flesh are foolish not to believe in Jesus. Because Jesus is God in human flesh. The Holy Spirit’s book, the Bible, convinces us of this with historical precision with eye witness testimony. Our Jesus did live and die and rise again. He will come to judge the living and the dead. He is the Lord. And because this is true, because it happened, the Holy Spirit now convinces us that our sins are gone forever. This is what it means when Jesus says, “the Holy Spirit will convince the world concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer.” Martin Luther puts it beautifully: “The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness, that is, he convinces the world and he will demonstrate it with irrefutable arguments that through my going away, that is, through my suffering, death, and resurrection, true righteousness has been secured for believers.”
This is a righteousness and innocence that cannot fail because it is Jesus’ righteousness, and He has not lived and died in vain. Who is there to condemn? It is Christ who died and is risen and sits at the right hand of God and is even now interceding for us. The righteousness we own and possess is not the insecure righteousness of obeying a few religious rules, not the tainted righteousness we can see and feel and show to others so they can point to us and say- look at that holiness! What a good person! No, the righteousness we have, the innocence we possess, is hidden from our sight, because our righteousness is Christ Himself, who has gone from the cross to His Father in heaven. And this is why it is secure and sure, because if it depended on me, I would have surely ruined it all. But it isn’t. It’s Jesus’ righteousness, His innocence. And it will never fail me. This is what the Holy Spirit gives. Jesus says it, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” What does Jesus have? He has innocence, He has the eternal joy of knowing His Father’s love, He has the everlasting inheritance of peace and love and fellowship with all the faithful, He has His Father declare, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit takes of what is Jesus’ and gives it to us. If it’s Christ’s it’s ours. If he has died to sin, so have we. If he has risen to everlasting life, so will we. If He is God’s Son, we are His children. We are baptized. We eat and drink the body and blood of our Lord. This is the comfort of the Comforter. Your salvation is secure, it is perfect, because it doesn’t depend on you, it depends on your Lord Jesus, and He is secure, He is perfect. As Luther once said, ‘There is no quality in my heart at all, call it either faith or hope or love, but instead of these I place Christ Himself before me and say, “There is my righteousness.”
There is therefore now no condemnation, no judgment for those who are in Christ Jesus. The judgment has fallen on the ruler of this world, the devil. He cannot accuse us. If our sin was on Jesus, it is not on us. And so just as we sing against the world, we sing against the devil, “Now hell its prince the devil of all their power are shorn. Now I am safe from evil. And sin I laugh to scorn. Grim death with all his might cannot my soul affright. It is a powerless form, howe’er it rave and storm.”
This is the new song. Sing unto the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm, have gotten him the victory. The marvelous thing is not only that He has done it, that He has by his cross won our salvation, our righteousness, and our victory over the devil, it is that He has risen and he lives to proclaim it, that He has sent His Spirit, He has sought us out and given us the truth of His Word, convinced us of our sin, saved us from the unbelief of this foolish world, washed us clean in our Baptism, fed us with our Lord’s body and blood, and given us the inheritance of eternal life. Amen.
Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.