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THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, June 8, 2003


"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:7-15).


When I was attending two liberal seminaries they taught us something quite different from this. They said that the New Testament was produced by the Disciples. To put it quite bluntly, they said that the Disciples "made up" the New Testament as a way of explaining the life and death of Jesus. They particularly focused on the writings of the Apostle Paul. They told us that Paul invented a new mythology to explain the death of Jesus.

Now it isn't my purpose here tonight to refute them in detail. But you will come in contact with this sort of teaching occasionally in Time magazine, or some other publication that attempts to discredit the New Testament. I am not going to go into detail refuting them. I am simply saying that this sort of rationalism goes against what Jesus said in this passage of Scripture,

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:12-13).

Christ promised the Disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide them "into all truth;" the Holy Spirit would show them what words to write down as they gave us the New Testament. So Christ pre-authenticated the New Testament Scriptures in this passage.

But it is not my purpose to speak on the inspiration and authority of the New Testament tonight. I will speak on that some other time. I intend in this sermon to show you the way the Holy Spirit works, and some of the things that He does, in the lives of people today. And this is one of the richest passages in the Bible on that subject - showing us how the Holy Spirit works - particularly in the conversion of a sinner.

Before I begin, I feel I need to tell you what He does not do. The liberals don't believe that the Holy Spirit does anything. But there is another group which falls into the exact opposite error. They focus almost completely on the Holy Spirit. But they say He does something which He does not do. Notice that Christ very plainly tells us what the Holy Spirit does not do. It's right in the middle of verse thirteen.

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

Now, I must emphasize that because we live in an age where there is a great deal of talk about the Holy Spirit. There are whole channels on television that have preachers constantly talking about the Holy Spirit. I think that this confuses people. There are churches where they talk incessantly about the Holy Spirit. I think this confuses people. They will tell you that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who leads them into all this. They say that the Holy Spirit leads them to preach about Him - hour after hour - on television and in their churches.

I do not hesitate for a moment to say, however sincere they may be, nonetheless, these people are quite wrong. Christ made that perfectly clear in verse thirteen,

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

When people who listen to this "Holy Spirit talk" come to a church like ours, they often wonder why we say so little about the Holy Spirit. My answer to them is quite simple,

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

The Apostle John gave us a very important warning in his first epistle,

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

Then he says,

"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God..." (I John 4:2-3).

You will hear that this verse refers exclusively to the ancient Gnostic heretics, who did not confess that Jesus had come in the flesh. I think that is true - as far as it goes. But those who say this seem to think that I John 4:1-3 have no further use. They think these verses were given to correct the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, but they are of no further use to anyone today. That is not right. John is telling us very pointedly that any spirit that does not confess the Lord Jesus Christ, as its supreme message, is not of God! If they talk about Christ as a Spirit they are not from God. An emphasis on Christ as a "spirit" is often the message of those who dwell on the Holy Spirit. And they fail the test that God gives us in I John 4:1-3. Because Christ is not a spirit! He has a flesh and bone resurrected Body!

When Jesus arose from the dead, He came to the Disciples, and

"They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet" 
      (Luke 24:37-40).

That is the resurrected Christ. And He is the same today as He was then, seated at the right hand of God in Heaven. He is not a spirit. "Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39).

How do I explain it? I don't. I simply declare it - because that is what the Bible teaches! The Apostle Paul called it "a mystery." The resurrection of the human body is something which is beyond our rational minds. It is too great for us to understand. That's why it is called "a mystery" in I Corinthians 15:51.

That brings us back to the text in John 16:13,

"He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13).

When you hear all this preaching about the Holy Spirit, remember Christ told us that the true Holy Spirit is not behind it, or motivating it, at all.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

The spirit of error does not emphasize the humanity of Christ. Christ is interchanged with the Holy Spirit - and He is called a spirit. This is demonic. It is the spirit of error, not the Spirit of truth.

I am just giving this to you as an introduction to my sermon tonight - these two things - that the Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, and that Christ is not a spirit, and not to be confused with the Holy Spirit.

Since the Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, who does He speak of? This is particularly important for you to know if you are not yet saved. If you have not yet been converted, you need to have some knowledge of what the Holy Spirit intends to do in you, to bring about real salvation. So, here I will give you a list of things that the Holy Spirit does in the heart of an unsaved person to bring about his conversion.

I. He convinces you of sin, righteousness and judgment.

Look back at verse eight,

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

The word translated "reprove" is "elenksai," the future tense of "elencho" - which means that this is something the Holy Spirit will do in the future. The word "elencho" itself means,

To expose, to convict, to cross examine for the purpose of convincing or refuting an opponent, especially used of legal proceedings (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1972).

Vine says that it signifies

To convict, confute, refute, usually with the suggestion of putting the convicted person to shame (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1966).

This is the first work of the Holy Spirit. He "reproves" of sin. He exposes and convinces and convicts you of sin. You will argue against Him in your mind. You will use various objections to defend yourself. But, like an attorney, He will refute your arguments until you are put to shame.

Only when a person has no excuses against the Holy Spirit's accusations is he ready to be converted. This can happen very quickly, as with the Penitent Thief, on the cross next to Jesus, who said,

"Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds" (Luke 23:40-41).

Or there can be a longer struggle, as the Holy Spirit convinces you - as with Nicodemus, Luther, Whitefield, Wesley, Bunyan, or Spurgeon. Bunyan was mentally cross-examined and tormented by the Holy Spirit before he came to rest in Christ. You can read about that in his book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.

Some people are so stubborn that it takes an inward thrashing by the Holy Spirit to bring them limply to the Saviour. Dr. Cagan went through inner turmoil for several days. He was unwilling to submit to Christ until all of his inward excuses were taken away and he was convinced of his sin and inner rebellion. Only then did he submit his heart to Christ.

This is one of the purposes of evangelistic preaching, as given in the Scriptures,

"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine"
      (II Timothy 4:1-2).

The word "reprove" there is the same Greek word as "reprove" in John 16:8. It is "elencho." It means "to expose, convict, to cross examine for the purpose of convincing" (Leon Morris, ibid.). Real evangelistic preaching does just that. The preaching exposes your sin and cross examines you, with the purpose of convincing you that you are a sinner, and that you can find no help at all except in Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses such preaching to "reprove" you of sin. One of the main reasons that there is no revival comes from this element being dropped in modern preaching. No reproving? No revival!

The great evangelist George Whitefield often said that people are not converted until they are convinced of their own depravity. When a person is convinced that he is a sinner, and that nothing he can do can help him, then he is ready to submit to Jesus, who is the only cure for sin. So, the first work of the Holy Spirit is to convince and convict you of your sin.

I am glossing over the rest of verses eight and nine by simply saying the Holy Spirit convinces you that the righteousness of Christ must become yours. And the Holy Spirit convinces you of judgment, "That they lay in wickedness, and are exposed to eternal condemnation" as the Devil is condemned (Matthew Poole).

II. He guides you into all truth.

When you are convinced of your sin, of Christ's righteousness, and the coming judgment, the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth. Verse 13 says,

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…" (John 16:13).

This refers to all spiritual truth. "He will lead and direct [you] into the full knowledge of all the doctrines of the Gospel, and all the truth [you] need to know" (J. C. Ryle). A good example of how the Holy Spirit guides lost people into the truth is given in the eighth chapter of Acts. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Philip came to him and

"opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35).

This shows us that the Holy Spirit uses two things to guide a lost sinner into the truth of Christ: first, He uses the Bible, and, second, He uses another qualified Christian to explain and apply the Bible to you.

If you want to be saved, you must listen to the Bible. You must listen to the pastor preach the Bible. You must listen as the Bible is applied to your case.

You will have many false ideas about Jesus, and about salvation. These wrong ideas can only be overcome as you receive the Word of God, and receive instruction from the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will "guide you into all truth" as you submit your heart and mind to what God says in the Bible.

One of our deacons recently told me about a person he was speaking with. This person had many wrong ideas about Christ and salvation. The deacon answered each of his false ideas by giving him Scripture verses on these subjects. It sometimes takes several days to get a person to give up his own false ideas and accept what the Bible says. That's why we ask you questions and listen to your answers. We are not doing that to have an argument with you at all - but only to help you. Dr. R. A. Torrey's Vest Pocket Companion (published now by Sword of the Lord) lists Scripture verses that can be used to answer various problems that lost people have, and wrong ideas they have concerning how to be saved.

But we cannot know what to say to you unless we first ask you questions and then listen to your answers. Then, when we find out that you have an incorrect idea, we try our best to show you what God's Word says on the subject. If you listen carefully, Bible answers will be used by the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all truth."

III. He glorifies Christ.

The third thing I want to emphasize from this passage is that the Holy Spirit always glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at verse fourteen,

"He shall glorify me" (John 16:14).

The Greek word translated "glorify" means "to magnify, extol, praise" (Vine). J. C. Ryle says,

He shall continually teach, and lead, and guide disciples to make much of Christ. Any religious teaching that does not tend to exalt Christ, has a fatal defect about it. It cannot be from the Spirit (Expository Thoughts on the Gospel, Banner of Truth, 1987 reprint, p. 166).

This verse is decisive against all additions and pretended revelations, subsequent to and beside Christ; it being the work of the Spirit to testify to the things of Christ, and not to anything new or beyond him (ibid.).

All true religious knowledge is in Jesus Christ.

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

Whatever else the Holy Spirit does, or whatever kind of guidance He gives, He always points the lost person to Jesus Christ - because only Jesus Christ can save you!

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

All that you need for salvation is found in Christ!

Complete in Thee! no work of mine
May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine,
Thy Blood hath pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.
   ("Complete in Thee" by Aaron R. Wolfe, 1821-1902; 
      refrain by James M. Gray, 1851-1935).

And one other thing. Notice what Jesus said in verses 14 and 15,

"He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:14-15).

"He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." "He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." The Holy Spirit brings glory and honor to Christ by taking what belongs to Christ and making it known to you. The Holy Spirit "connects" you to Christ. You are here on earth - and Christ is up in Heaven. The Holy Spirit is the one who links you together with Christ. He makes Christ known to you.

But it is a fatal mistake for a lost person to be thinking about the Holy Spirit! No - don't do it! Place your thoughts on Christ, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

"He shall glorify me" (John 16:14).

Think about Jesus. Come to Jesus. Believe on Jesus. He is the one who died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He is the one who rose physically from the dead. He is the one who is alive up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who can forgive your sins and wash them away forever with His Blood!

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 16:7-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Complete in Thee" (by Aaron R. Wolfe, 1821-1902;
   refrain by James M. Gray, 1851-1935).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:7-15).

(I John 4:1-3; Luke 24:37-40)

I.   He convinces you of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:8;
Luke 23:40-41; II Timothy 4:1-2.

II.  He guides you into all truth, John 16:13; Acts 8:35.

III. He glorifies Christ, John 16:14; I Corinthians 1:30-31; Acts 4:12;
John 1:29.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."