The Work Of The Holy Spirit
In Conviction and Conversion
Conviction and conversion are so interrelated that an individual will never be converted until he is convicted. One is convicted when he realizes he is guilty of sin [whether as an alien sinner or an erring Christian], and one is converted when he turns from sin to God. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would reprove, or convict, the world of sin (John 16:8). John tells us that one is convicted by his own conscience. (John 8:9). Actually, the Holy Spirit operates upon the conscience in order to bring about conviction. But how does the Holy Spirit operate on the conscience? Does He operate directly or indirectly?
Some believe and teach not only that He does, but also that He must operate directly (without means) upon those whom He wishes to convict, and that apart from a direct operation no alien sinner would ever be convicted. However, in the book of Acts (which has been called the "Book of Conversions") it can be seen that in the first century the Holy Spirit convicted people indirectly through the instrumentality (means) of the revealed word. In the Old Testament "the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas" when He inspired David to write, "Let his habitation be desolate and let no man dwell therein: and, His bishopric let another take" (Acts 1:16,20; Ps. 69:25; 109:8). Just so, the Holy Spirit later spoke indirectly to the masses through the preaching of the apostles and other inspired men. Let us notice a few examples from the book of Acts.
In chapter two, the apostles "were
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the
Spirit gave them utterance" (4). When the
crowd had gathered, "every
man heard them speak in his own language" (6), and Peter
began to preach, saying, "Ye men
The direct operation theory begins with the premise that sinners are so totally depraved that they are unable to save themselves, even when told what to do to be saved. But these people were exhorted "with many other words" to save themselves (40). "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized" (41). Therefore, they were able to save themselves apart from a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon them, by meeting the conditions given them indirectly through Peter's preaching.
In chapter eight, "Philip
went down to the city of
In the same chapter, Philip (being instructed by an angel and by the Spirit) came into contact with an Ethiopian eunuch, "and preached unto him Jesus. And they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (26-36) While the Holy Spirit spoke directly to Philip, He spoke indirectly to the eunuch through the writing of Isaiah and the preaching of Philip. The eunuch understood Philip, was convicted of his sins, and desired baptism, which is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).
In chapter nine, Jesus told Saul of
Tarsus, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee
what thou must do" (6). And
Saul "was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor
drink" after arriving in
In chapter ten, where we do have a case of direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon alien sinners, it was neither to convict nor to convert them. Rather, it was to convince Peter and the others that uncircumcised Gentiles had a right to be baptized, "for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" (v 46,48). They had been told, "Peter shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (11:14).
Whenever the Holy Spirit operated on alien sinners in conviction and conversion, it was through means of the revealed word. In every case the number of conversions was directly proportionate to the number of people reached by the preaching. Why should it be any different today? We no longer have inspired men, but we do have the inspired word that convicted men and women in the first century. And it will convict, even when preached by uninspired men. The power is not in the men, but in the word (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
"One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability
to distinguish need from greed."
"When you flee from temptation,
don't leave a forwarding address."
"Religion is no different from other things. The less you
invest in it, the poorer the quality of it."
"When children get on the wrong track,
it's time to use the switch."
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