The Holy Spirit In The Conviction And Conversion Of The Sinner

By Larry Ray Hafley

I. Introduction:

A. Every conversion to Christ from Pentecost to the present has been effected and consummated as a result of the operation or working of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner.

1. Notice. We do not deny the fact of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the sinner.

2. All aspersions or inferences that we do not believe in the working of the Holy Spirit to convict and convert the sinner are palpably and obviously false! See John 16:8.

B. The issue is not, “Does the Holy Spirit act to convict and convert the sinner?” The question is, “How, or in what manner, does the Holy Spirit exercise His influence upon the sinner?”

1. Does he operate on the sinner, a passive recipient, directly?

2. Does he work on the sinner through means of the word?

C. Our Proposition: The Scriptures teach that in the conviction and conversion of the sinner the Holy Spirit operates only through the word of God.

D. Definition of Propositional Terms:

1. Scriptures – The Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

2. Teach – Convey the idea, instruct, inform.

3. Conviction – “the act of proving, finding or determining to be guilty” (Webster) Cf. Jn. 16:8 and Titus 1:9.

4. Conversion – “a turning from and a turning to” (Vine). Cf. Acts 3:19, 153; 1 Thess. 1:9; Psa. 19:7; Jas. 5:19, 20. Illustrations: Corn is converted to bread, rose petals to perfume, wood to paper.

5. Sinner – unsaved, unforgiven, lost person; as in 1 Tim. 1:15.

6. Holy Spirit – A divine person, separate and distinct from the Father and the Son, yet one with them. See Jn. 14:26.

7. Operates – works, acts, functions.

8. Only – alone, singly, without another.

9. Through – by means of.

10. Word of God – the gospel, the faith, the doctrine of the Lord (Acts 13:7, 8, 12; 1 Thess. 2:2, 4, 13).

II. Discussion:

A. The man, the axe, and the tree; the Holy Spirit, the word, and the sinner.

1. No one denies that a man chops down a tree when he does so by means of an axe.

2. So, it is with the Holy Spirit in the conversion of the sinner (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Psa. 19:7; Rom. 1: 16; 8:2).

3. Old Testament Testimony:

a. Nehemiah 9:20 – The Spirit instructed them. How?

(1) “By thy Spirit in thy prophets” (Neh. 9:30).

(2) “He sent prophets . . . they testified” (2 Chron. 24:19-21).

(3) They mocked the messengers, despised God’s words, misused His prophets (2 Chron. 36:14-16; Dan. 9:10; Jer. 11:10).

(4) This is called resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).

b. What the prophets said, the Holy Spirit said.

(1) 2 Sam. 23:2 – “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”

(2) Acts 1: 16 and Mk. 12:36 – The Lord and the apostle Peter approve and accord David’s claim.

(3) The Hebrew writer:

(a) He quotes from a Psalm of David (Psa. 95:7-11).

(b) He says, “the Holy Ghost saith” (Heb. 3:7).

(c) He says God said “in David” (Heb. 4:7).

4. New Testament Witness

a. The Holy Spirit’s influence is exerted and exercised through the word of the Spirit. This is the declaration of:

(1) Paul – Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 2:7-13; 14:37.

(2) Peter – 1 Pet. 1:10-12.

(3) John – Rev. 1:19; 3:6; 1 Jn. 4:1, 6.

b. In the scheme of redemption, whatever is ascribed to the office or work of the Holy Spirit is also accredited to the gospel, the word of God.

Holy Spirit Work Gospel
1. Jn. 14:26 Teach 2 Tim. 3:16, 17
2. Jn. 16:8 Convict Titus 1:9
3. Jn. 3:5 Begat 1 Pet. 1:23

Jas. 1:18

4. Jn. 6:63 Quicken 1 Cor. 4:15
5. 1 Pet. 1:2


1 Cor. 6:11

Sanctify 2 Thess. 3:13, 14; Jn. 17:17
6. 1 Cor. 6:11


Titus 3:5

1 Cor. 6:11




Jas. 1:21


Acts 11:14

Eph. 5:25, 26

c. Specific New, Testament Statements.

(1) “By the foolishness of preaching” the Spirit given word (1 Cor. 1:18-21; 2:7-13).

(2) Faith comes by hearing the word of the Spirit (Rom. 10:17; Jn. 17:20; cf. Acts 14:1; Jn. 20:30, 31; Acts 15:7).

(3) The Devil knows the Spirit’s word will produce faith and salvation (Lk. 8:11, 12; cf. 1 Thess. 2:16).

d. Specific New Testament Cases.

(1) Jn. 16:8 – The Holy Spirit to convict the world.

(2) But How does He do it?

(a) Acts 2:4, 14, 22, 36-41 – Through words of Spirit.

(b) Preaching the gospel “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Pet. 1: 12), Peter:

(1) Convicted men of murder (Acts 3:13-15).

(2) Urged them repent and turn (Acts 3:19).

(3) Told of forgiveness in Christ (Acts 3:26).

Result. “Many of them which heard the word believed” (Acts 4:4).

Conclusion: The Spirit convicted and converted them through the word (Cf. Jn. 16:8; 17:20).

(c) Acts 7:51 – This audience resisted the Holy Spirit who was trying to convict and convert them.

(1) How did they resist the Holy spirit?

(2) By refusing the word (Acts 16:10; 7:55). they “stopped their ears” (cf. Acts 13:44-46).

(d) Other New Testament cases of conversion all of which were produced by the Spirit through the word (Mt. 28:19, 20; Mk. 1:15, 16; Lk. 24:47).

(1) Samaritans – “Believed preaching” (Acts 8:12).

(2) Treasurer – “Preached Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

(3) Saul – “Shall be told thee” (Acts 9:6).

(4) Cornelius – “Tell thee words” (Acts 11:14).

(5) Lydia – “Attended unto words” (Acts 16:14).

(6) Jailor – “Spake, unto them the word” (Acts 16:32).

(7) Corinthians – “Hearing believed” (Acts 18:8).

(8) Bereans – “Received the word” (Acts 17:11, 12.)

(9) Ephesians – “Trusted after heard” (Eph. 1:13).

B. Objections to the Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit separate and apart from the word of God.

1. It makes God responsible for every lost person. If it takes a direct work of the Spirit to make a man fit or able to obey the gospel, then all who are lost are lost because God did not act.,on them. This makes God a respector of persons and denies that .he desires the salvation of all mankind (Acts 10:34, 35; 2 Pet. 3:9).

2. No person has ever been found who was saved, born again, where the gospel has not gone (cf. Jonah and Rom. 10:14).

3. Direct working of the Spirit never changed a man’s nature.

a. Baalam prophesied by the Spirit, but it did not change his sinful ways (2 Pet. 2:15; Num. 31:16).

b. Saul prophesied by the Spirit of God, but it did not alter his desire to kill David (1 Sam. 19).

4. No New Testament passage commands, exemplifies, or infers that a special working of the Spirit separate and apart from the word was ever necessary to save anyone.

5. It denies the all-sufficiency of the gospel as God’s power unto salvation.

a. Water is God”s power to quench thirst.

b. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

c. If it takes something other than or in addition to the gospel:

(1) The gospel is not sufficient.

(2) The gospel is not the all powerful sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Tim. 4:16).

III. Conclusion:

A. Our proposition is established – the gospel is the means by which the Holy Spirit acts to achieve the conviction and conversion of the sinner.

B. The Spirit’s work through the word sets forth the highest and holiest motives to reconcile sinful men unto his Righteous Redeemer.

1. God commands faith (Heb. 11:6), and He provides a sufficient and perfect revelation to produce it (Rom. 10:17).

2. God demands repentance (Acts 17:30), and He uses the appeal of goodness and the approach of severity to induce it (Rom. 2:4; Acts 24:25; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).

3. God commends baptism (Acts 2:38; 10:48), and He works in forgiving sins when one submits (Col. 2:11-13).

4. God will do His part if you will do yours (Jn. 6:37; Mt. 11:28-39; Heb. 5:8, 9).

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 10, pp. 294-295
May 16, 1985