“Concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:9) If salvation were possible by the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:21), therefore one of the Spirit’s roles is to convict the world of the sinfulness of sin, that apart from Christ there is no Saviour, that the world has sold itself into slavery by attempting to be justified by its works. The Epistle to Galatia is especially pertinent in understanding this point. If a law were given that could bring life, then righteousness would be by the law. Since the law imprisons all who are under it and is impossible to keep except by God, it is demonstrated that the main purpose of the law is to lead men to Christ (cf. Galatians 3:1-29). The main point of the Epistle to Galatia, that the foolishness of trusting in ones own deeds derives from a failure to recognize his saving work, is summed up by Christ with one statement in John 16:9, “because they do not believe in me.”
“Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” (John 16:10) Jesus Christ is the measure of perfection, of whom the Author of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) While Christ was on Earth, he was the standard of righteousness; he could be expected to judge rightly, act rightly, and point all glory to his Father. Merely seeing Jesus Christ respond rightly to all situations exposed sins. John described him as a light,
The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
Once this light returned to the Father, conviction was necessary to shine the light into men’s hearts, which would become one role of the Holy Spirit.
“Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11) Once men are convinced that sin is wrongdoing, that they are hopeless in their transgression, and that righteousness is the example of goodness which none can attain but God, then one thing is left to see; an assurance of a coming judgment. In Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is demonstrated God’s hatred of sin and his acceptance of Christ’s atonement. A God who would not spare his own sin-imputed Son will certainly not overlook transgression; sinners must see that they stand condemned before the consuming fire of an offended God. Christ had said in John 12:31 of the impending judgment, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” This was proved in Christ’s defeat of death, that the ruler of this world, revealed elsewhere in scripture to be Satan, was tried and found lacking in his power to defeat the plans and purposes of God.
If a person, convicted by their sins as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, will look away from this world and look unto Christ they will be saved (cf. John 3:13-18).
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me