The Lord had just informed His disciples that He was going back to His Father in heaven and in the passage we will be considering He prepares them for His absence by promising them that the Holy Spirit would come to help them. Let’s look at this verse by verse using the New American Standard Bible.

Verse 7: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” I’m quite sure the disciples found it hard to believe that the coming of the Spirit would be “to their advantage,” for they loved the Lord Jesus and He had taught them and kept them safe every day for over three years. What they would come to learn is that the “Helper” would be able to teach them even more than what they had learned from the lips of the Lord Jesus, for Jesus goes on to say in verse 13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Not only that, but He would give them power and courage that they had never experienced before, which was demonstrated on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came and gave them the ability to witness for Christ without fear of what men would do to them.

Verse 8: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” This verse is usually interpreted to mean that the Spirit will convict individual sinners of their sinfulness, of the righteousness that God offers them in Christ, and of the coming judgment for those who reject Christ. While these things are certainly true, we believe the context is teaching us something else, as we will now see as we look at verses 9-11.

Verse 9: “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Notice, the “sin” that is being spoken of here is NOT an individual’s personal “sins,” but the world’s “sin” of not believing on Christ. In John 1:10 we read, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and THE WORLD DID NOT KNOW HIM.” The world should have known that He was the Lord of Glory and their Creator, for He demonstrated who He was by a life of sinless perfection and by numerous miracles. Yet they rejected Him as Isaiah the prophet foretold that they would in Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (NKJV). The greatest sin is the failure to believe in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is in the world to convict it of their sin of unbelief.

Verse 10: “Of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” We had just noted that the Lord Jesus lived a life of sinless perfection before men. Every word He said and every deed He did was in obedience to His heavenly Father, thus He was truly a RIGHTEOUS Man. Yet the world refused to believe that and ultimately they condemned Him as an UNRIGHTEOUS man. They accused Him of blasphemy and had Him crucified because He claimed to be the Son of God. But God, in righteousness, raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to His right hand. In His Resurrection and Ascension He has been “Vindicated as God’s righteous Servant.” The Holy Spirit is here to convict the world of this truth.

Verse 11: “Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Because the world is guilty of rejecting Jesus Christ, they are on their way to judgment. In John 12:31-32 the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” On the cross the world and Satan (the ruler of this world) were condemned, yet their sentence won’t be carried out until Christ returns to execute judgment upon them. The Holy Spirit is in the world to convict the world that they will be judged along with their ruler in the coming Day of Judgment. (248.7) (DO)