The Paraclete’s Ministry Of Conviction: Another Look at John 16:8–11 -- By: John Aloisi

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:1 (Mar 2004)
Article: The Paraclete’s Ministry Of Conviction: Another Look at John 16:8–11
Author: John Aloisi

The Paraclete’s Ministry Of Conviction: Another Look at John 16:8–11

John Aloisi

[John Aloisi is assistant librarian at Detroit Baptist Seminary, 4801 Allen Road, Allen Park, MI 48101.]

Who among us has not heard a person described as “being under conviction”? Occasionally sermons are said to be full of conviction, and sometimes they are even said to be lacking in conviction. Christians often recount their experience of feeling convicted of their sin prior to conversion. The word “conviction” is used quite commonly to refer to a work performed by the Holy Spirit, and presumably people employ the term intending to communicate a theological concept. Yet as one examines scholarly literature, works dealing with the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction are sparse. Many of the major systematic theologies avoid the topic altogether; others deal with it in only a paragraph or two.1 One looks in vain for a scholarly volume on the subject. Part of the reason for this omission is the fact that there is little biblical material to work with that is directly related to conviction.

The key passage concerning the Holy Spirit’s convicting ministry is John 16:8–11. Unfortunately, this section is fraught with interpretive challenges to the point that nearly all commentators preface their discussion of John 16:8–11 with a disclaimer about the difficulties involved in interpreting the passage.2 John’s short summary of Christ’s teaching about conviction has given rise to a wide variety of interpretations.3 At least seven major views have been proposed, and slightly nuanced forms of these interpretations can be found in some of the more recent commentaries.4

Although alternate interpretations will be mentioned, this essay will not attempt to present and evaluate every suggested interpretation of John 16:811. Instead, this writer will focus on properly exegeting the passage and seeking to determine what it teaches about the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction. This information will also be considered in light of a few other biblical passages and theological issues. Of the major views, Carson’s understands of John 16:8–11 seems the most accurate.5 However, a ...

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