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

In the Upper Room, as Jesus continued teaching about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Let’s talk about what Jesus meant when He said the Holy Spirit would “reprove” the world of sin.

The word “reprove” is the Greek word elegcho. It means to expose, to convict, or to cross-examine for the purpose of conviction — as in convicting a lawbreaker in a court of law. The Holy Spirit will begin to deal with the heart of an unbeliever, and by the time He is finished, that lost, sinful soul will feel exposed and convicted. As the Holy Spirit enables that person to hear the Word of God for the first time, the razor-sharp sword of the Word will penetrate his soul until he feels as if he has been cross-examined on a witness stand. Finally, the court will be adjourned, the verdict announced, and he will know on the inside that he is guilty of sin.

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This is precisely what a sinner feels when the Holy Spirit convicts him of sin. It is amazing how long a sinner can live without conviction or godly sorrow for his behavior — how long he can be nearly numb to any sense of wrongness regarding his sinful actions. The Bible says that sin has made unbelievers to be hardhearted, spiritually blind, and past feeling (see Ephesians 4:18,19). But those factors change instantly when the Holy Spirit touches the human soul and exposes its sinful condition. Exposed, naked, confronted — that is exactly what a sinner feels when the Holy Spirit wakes him up to his true spiritual condition.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict sinners of their lost condition. The whole world stands guilty before God (see Romans 3:19), but the lost don’t realize they are guilty until that moment when the Holy Spirit reveals it to them.

Jesus stated, “No man can come unto me, except the Father…draw him” (John 6:44). This drawing of a person’s heart to Jesus is done through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminded us of this when He said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin” (John 16:8). Without the work of the Holy Spirit to expose our sinful condition, we would still remain in darkness today, eternally lost and without God.

It is amazing to me that a person can be in sin, and even understand that he is in sin, yet nonetheless fail to grasp the real eternal consequences of what that means. He can even be in a church service where he hears about sin and acknowledges that the sermon is true and that he’s a sinner — yet leave that service and continue living the same lifestyle he did before he got there.

But something happens when the Holy Spirit begins to work in that person’s soul. He lovingly cross-examines that person, until finally He brings him to a place of confrontation. It is at this point that invisible scales fall from the person’s eyes, and he truly sees for the first time that he is in sin. This is something that can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit. When He convicts of sin, the sinner absolutely knows that he is a sinner.

Once the Holy Spirit has lovingly brought that person to the place where he finally sees it for himself, the person has a choice: Will he stay in sin, or will he repent and turn toward God? Helping that person reach this point of decision that has such eternal consequences is the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s convicting ministry in his life.

It is frustrating to share Christ with family and friends and to feel as if you are “hitting a brick wall.” You share, talk, and plead with them to receive Christ, yet it seems they just can’t hear what you are saying. Even though they may acknowledge they are sinners, they may not seem to be too deeply disturbed by the implications of this fact. They just press on as though they were numb to or ignorant of the spiritual deadness in their lives.

But the Bible clearly teaches that a lost person is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Don’t forget that dead people don’t feel anything. Spiritually dead people especially don’t feel the conviction of sin. It requires a special, supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to rouse the human consciousness to realize its sinful condition.

How can you make a dead man see? How can you cause a dead man to feel? How can you convince a dead man that he needs to change? Thank God for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit! Only through the convicting power of God’s Spirit can a spiritually dead man be awakened and beckoned to Christ.

Friend, it was the Holy Spirit’s call that touched your soul, awakened you to your sinfulness, and beckoned you to Christ. Once you were brought to this place of undeniable conviction and you recognized that you were a sinner, the Spirit invited you to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord. At that divine moment, your soul heard the Holy Spirit say, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14). And in that next moment, you were born again!

What a miracle it was when God raised our spirits from spiritual death to spiritual life. In fact, there is no greater miracle! The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is part of the foundational work that He does in our lives, but it’s certainly not the last! Tomorrow we’ll look at His work to “convince” us of our God-given righteousness. Don’t miss it!


eavenly Father, I know Jesus Christ today because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. I remember when You first awakened me to my sin — a realization that had never gripped me before. But when I saw my spiritual condition, I really understood that I was lost and needed to be saved. Thank You for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and for bringing me to a place where I could be saved. I could have never arrived there on my own, so today I want to say thank You! And I trust You to complete that work in the lives of those for whom I pray to come to a saving knowledge of You.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!



I confess that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of my family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances to bring them to a place where they really see and understand their lost condition and need for salvation. Jesus Christ died for them, and He sent the Holy Spirit to draw them to Jesus. If the Holy Spirit prompts me to testify to them, I will do so, for the Holy Spirit knows how to touch each and every heart. I declare that they will finally hear, understand, and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!



  1. Can you remember when you were first struck by the reality of personal sin and separation from God? Where were you, and what situation produced that awareness?
  2. When you awakened to your need to turn from darkness to the light, how long did it take before you turned to Jesus in repentance to receive Him as your Savior and Lord?
  3. What unsaved individuals are on your prayer list right now? Can you think of someone who was praying for you before you came to Christ?