John Aloisi - The Paraclete's Ministry of Conviction - Another Look at John 16.8-11 | Gospel Of John | Salvation

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JETS 47/1 (March 2004) 55-69
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   JETS   47/1 (March 2004) 55-69 THE PARACLETE'S MINISTRY OF CONVICTION: ANOTHER LOOK AT JOHN 16:8-11 JOHN ALOISI* Who among us has not heard a person described as being under conviction ? 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 communicate 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 * John Aloisi is assistant librarian at Detroit Baptist Seminary, 4801 Allen Road, Allen Park, MI  48101. 1  Among the evangelical systematic theologies, Lewis Sperry Chafer offers the longest discussion of conviction  (Systematic Theology  [8 vols.; Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948] 3.210-24). Erickson's treatment of the subject in five lines is much more typical (Millard J. Erickson,  Chris-tian Theology  [2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998] 275-76). 2  Brown writes: Commentators have not found the detailed exposition of 8-11 easy. Augustine avoided the passage as very difficult; Thomas Aquinas cited opinions but gave none of his own; Maldonatus found it among the most obscure in the Gospel (Raymond E. Brown,  The Gospel  According to John  [2 vols.; AB; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966] 2.711). Leaney describes this passage as notoriously difficult (A. R. C. Leaney, The Johannine Paraclete and the Qumran Scrolls, in  John and Qumran  [ed. James H. Charlesworth; London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1972] 44). 3  It would be nearly impossible to confirm Lutkemeyer's claim that there is no text in Scripture concerning which there are more different interpretations. However, his statement suggests the difficulties which face the interpreter of this passage (Lawrence J. Lutkemeyer, The Role of the Paraclete [Jn. 16:7-15],  CBQ  8 [1946] 220). 4  D. A. Carson provides an excellent summary of the major interpretations of John  16:8-11.  He explains six views and then offers his own understanding of the passage ( The Function of the Paraclete in John  16:7-11,  JBL  98 [1979] 547-66).  56  JOURNAL  OF THE  EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY  Although alternate interpretations  will  be mentioned, this  essay   will  not attempt  to present and evaluate every   suggested  interpretation of John 16:8󰀭11. 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 un-derstanding of John 16:8󰀭11 seems the most accurate. 5  However, a  slightly modified form of his interpretation  will  be proposed and defended. I. INTERPRETING JOHN  16:8󰀭11 On  the night of his betrayal, Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room  to eat a final meal with them and to  give  them instructions about what  was to come. Jesus announced that he soon would be leaving them and that, in  his absence, the disciples would bear the brunt of the world's hatred against him. Jesus warned his disciples that they would be persecuted with- out  mercy and that people would  kill  them in an effort to please God (16:2). In  light of the disciples' responsibility to testify about Christ in the face of strong opposition, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to aid them. Part of the Holy Spirit's  assisting  ministry would involve a work of convicting the  world. The words of Christ in John 16:8󰀭11 explain the Holy Spirit's ministry of conviction. As part of Jesus' final instructions to his disciples, these words were meant to reassure the disciples that they would not be left to  carry out their responsibilities in their own power. Christ's teaching, as it is recorded by John, forms the  basis  for understanding the Holy Spirit's convicting ministry. Christ's promise recorded in John 16:8󰀭11 is the fourth of   five  Paraclete sayings  which John records. 6  In the third Paraclete passage, which imme-diately precedes John 16, Jesus identifies the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth. He  declares that the Spirit  will  testify about Christ even as the disciples must bear testimony about him (15:26󰀭27). The fourth Paraclete  saying  ex-plains the Holy Spirit's work of testifying to the world about Jesus. This tes- tifying  ministry of the Holy Spirit  involves  what John identifies as ελέγχω. 1.  Meaning of   ελέγχω.  Outside of the NT, ελέγχω has a broad semantic range. 7  A number of studies have attempted to unravel the essential mean󰀭 5  In  addition  to the article  mentioned  above, D. A.  Carson  has explained his  interpretation  of John  16:8󰀭11 in several  other   works  (The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Ex- position of John 14󰀭17   [Grand  Rapids:  Baker, 1980] 138󰀭48;  The  Gospel   According to John [PNTC;  Grand  Rapids:  Eerdmans,  1991] 534󰀭39). 6  The  other   Paraclete  sayings are  found  in  John  14:15󰀭17, 26; 15:26󰀭27; and 16:12󰀭15. In the NT,  the  term Paraclete  is used only in  John's  writings. For helpful discussions on the back- ground  and  meaning  of   this  term  see  Kenneth Grayston,   The  Meaning  of   PARAKLËTOS,  JSNT 13 (1981) 67-82; Revi J. Mathews, The Spirit-Paraclete in the Testament of Jesus According to Saint John's Gospel (Ph.D. diss., Fordham University, 1992) 2-16; and Raymond E. Brown, The Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel,  NTS   13 (1967) 113-32. 7  George R. Beasley-Murray,  John  (2d ed.; WBC; Nashville: Nelson, 1999) 280. Büchsel notes that in extrabiblical literature usage of this term is very complicated  ( ελέγχω,  TDNT   2.473).  THE  PARACLETE'S MINISTRY OF CONVICTION 57 ing of this term based on its  usage  in secular literature. 8  However, such studies have done little to further understanding of what this term  signifies in  the NT. Outside the  NT,  ελέγχω is clearly used in  ways  in which it is not used in the NT, and NT  usage  is more directly connected to the meaning of ελέγχω in the OT  than  it is to secular usage. 9 In  the Lxx, ελέγχω is generally used to translate the hiphil of   ΠΤ   ( to re- buke, prove, correct, or convict ). 10  By far the most common meaning of ελέγχω in  the OT is to rebuke a person about a wrong committed or an action being contemplated. 11  In Gen 31:42, Jacob states that God rebuked Laban for treating him poorly. The idea is that Laban had done something wrong, and God  pointed it out and reproved him for it. In Lev 19:17, the Israelites are instructed to rebuke their neighbor when he sins rather   than  harboring ha- tred  in their hearts and sharing in their neighbor's guilt by letting him con- tinue  in sin.  Again,  the thought  involves  confronting a person about sin. Implied in this is the act of exhorting the sinner to repent. Throughout the  book of Proverbs, ελέγχω is used to communicate the idea of rebuking or cor-recting a person with the goal of changing his behavior. A   wise  person  will listen to correction and  grow wiser   (Prov 9:8; 19:25). But a fool  will  despise the  one who reproves him (Prov 9:7󰀭8). As  will  be seen later, the idea of re- buking another person or showing another person his sin for the purpose of repentance  is the most common meaning of ελέγχω not only in the  LXX   but also in the NT. The  verb  ελέγχω is sometimes used in the  LXX   to convey the thought of making a decision or a judgment about something. 12  After   Rachel stole some of her father's household idols, Laban pursued Jacob and his entou-rage to recapture his stolen property. In the ensuing confrontation, Jacob challenged Laban to present the evidence and let their relatives  judge  be-tween them (Gen 31:37). Here ελέγχω  signifies  the idea of making a deci-sion to decide a dispute. This meaning is also seen in Mie 4:3 where the prophet  foresees an eschatological day when the  LORD  will  judge  between people and settle disputes for nations (cf. Isa 2:4; ll:3󰀭4). 13  Although seen 8  Link reports that έλεγχω is  first  found in  Homer,  where it  signifies  the idea of insulting a per-son or treating a person with contempt Plato and Aristotle employ this term to indicate a logical exposition of facts for the purpose of refuting an opponent Philo  uses  it to refer to an inner cor- rection  which people receive in their consciences (H G Link, Guilt,  NIDNTT   2 140) See also C  Κ Barrett,  The  Gospel   According   to St   John  (2d ed , Philadelphia Westminster, 1978) 486 9  Although use of the term is quite varied in secular literature, Buchsel states that its use in the  NT is more restricted ( έλεγχω,  TDNT   2 474) The  LXX   translators' understanding of έλεγχω  was primarily shaped by secular use of the term NT writers  were  also influenced by how the  word was commonly used in their day Yet, it seems that they   were  significantly influenced by how έλεγχω was used in the  LXX 10   Guilt,  NIDNTT   2 140,  TD',  HALOT   2 410,   Π3\  BDB  406󰀭7  The OT  passages  mentioned in  this section are all places where the Hebrew  WD *  is translated έλεγχω in the  LXX 11  David states that God rebuked  kings  for Israel's  sake  (1 Chr 16 21) This seems to indicate that  by rebuking the pagan rulers God prevented them from attacking Israel See Robert A Pyne, The  Role of the Holy Spirit in Conversion,  BSac  150 (1993) 206 12  J Lust, E Eynikel, and Κ Hauspie, comp  ,  A  Greek English  Lexicon of the  Septuagmt   (2  vols  , Stuttgart Deutsche  Bibelgesellschaft,  1992󰀭96)  1 144, έλεγχω, LS  J  531 13  Pyne, Role of the Holy Spirit 206  58  JOURNAL OF THE  EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY several times in the  LXX,  the decision󰀭making sense of the term is not found in  the NT.  A   less  common use of ελέγχω appears in Job 13:3. Having heard his com-panions' assessment of his condition, Job declares that he is prepared to ar-gue his case with  God.  He  says  that he  will  defend himself before God's face (13:15). Job foolishly claims that he is able to present convincing evidence and enter into debate with his Creator. The concept of arguing one's own case is not directly connected to ελέγχω as it is found in the NT.  Another rare use of ελέγχω  involves  the idea of   issuing  a formal charge against a person or accusing a person as in a court of law. In Hos 4:4, the Is-raelites are warned against bringing charges against each other. This gen-eral sense of accusing another person of wrongdoing may   possibly   be seen in a few NT uses of ελέγχω, including one with several key similarities to John 16:8. 14  With this background, it  will  be helpful to  survey   the use of ελέγχω in the NT.  Pyne correctly notes: For the most part, the use of ελέγχω in the New Testament is similar to its use in the Old. 15  However, while the usage is sim-ilar, there are several differences between how the word is used in the two testaments.  A few times in the  NT,  ελέγχω is used to communicate the idea of expos-ing sin. 16  Paul states that believers should not be involved with sinful deeds  but rather they should expose them (Eph 5:11, 13). The apostle John writes that  those who do  evil  things hate the light because they do not want their deeds to be exposed (John 3:20). This use of ελέγχω to speak of exposing or  bringing to light wicked deeds is  well  attested in extrabiblical literature. 17 Sometimes the term is used to convey the thought of discipline or pun-ishment. The writer of Hebrews encourages those who are God's children not to  spurn the Lord's discipline. God rebukes his children in love, and such discipline is a  sign  that one is a child of God (Heb 12:5). In a letter to the church  of Laodicea, the risen Christ had John record a similar thought. In that  letter, John explains that Christ rebukes and disciplines those whom he  loves  (Rev 3:19). Here ελέγχω is used to convey the idea of correction  which is meant to bring about a change. This concept of disciplining is com-parable to a nuance which ελέγχω occasionally bears in the  LXX.  18  Another use of ελέγχω includes the concept of expressing strong disap-proval of someone's actions or reproving another person for his conduct. 19 Jesus directed his disciples to rebuke other believers privately with the goal of repentance. If private rebuke does not lead to repentance, then the  issue 14  In  John  8:46, Jesus asks the Jews if anyone is able to convict him of sin. This use of ελέγχω may   simply mean to accuse him of sin, but it is more likely   that  the main idea in this question is  whether   anyone can present convincing evidence  that  he has sinned and can call him to  repentance. 15  Pyne, Role of the Holy Spirit 207. 16  The term ελέγχω is not used with this meaning in the  LXX. 17   ελέγχω, BDAG 315. 18  In Job 5:17, Eliphaz admonishes Job with a similar statement about the blessedness of the man  who receives  God's  correction (ελέγχω). He exhorts Job not to despise the discipline of the  Almighty. 19   ελέγχω, BDAG 315.
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