And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:…
I. OF SIN — "in that they believe not on Me."
1. The world's conduct towards Christ is the decisive proof of its sinfulness. His Cross manifests, as nothing else, what "the bad element in human nature" is capable of. So it must needs be. When the Holy One comes into a world of sinners they must either renounce their sins or contradict Him. And if He endures their contradiction they must hate Him; and if He still braves their hatred it is but another step to slay Him. "If I had not come they had not had sin," &c. In conflict with the light darkness is known for darkness indeed.
2. Therefore, the gist of the Spirit's charge lies simply in this: that the world does not believe in Christ. All the rest, the insolence and outrage, &c., was nothing more than the logical outcome of unbelief. Here is the root of the matter. For the rest Christ could say, "Father, forgive them," &c.
3. On this point the Paraclete has to convince the world. The rejection of Jesus was virtually the act of the race. Herod, &c., were not fiends but men. We can understand them because we are so much like them. All the vices that culminated in the Crucifixion are those of every generation, nay, of ourselves.
4. The present world thinks that it would have acted differently. Let it not be too sure: "Your fathers killed the prophets," &c., and so the ungodly world may be garnishing the sepulchre of Him whom it treats as a dead Christ, in so far as it does not believe in Him.
5. Just as all good works are at the bottom acts of faith, so every kind of evil doing runs up into unbelief. The first sin began here, "Hath God said?" And so the ripened form of human sin reproduces naturally the seed from which it sprang. And this is the condemnation of the whole world: "They have not believed Me."
6. One day this conviction of sin will have penetrated to the world's very heart. It will "look on Him whom it has pierced and mourn," as it confesses that it has not yet believed on Him.
II. OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. In the thought of sin, man is the central subject, as himself sinful; in the thought of righteousness, Christ as alone righteous.
1. The personal righteousness of Christ was at stake in the controversy between Himself and the world, and everything depended on clearing that first of all. Only as it appreciated that could the world understand righteousness. Of this the world is now convinced. But Christ could not have waited for this vindication, which without other proof would never have been brought about. And besides, the Father was concerned to vindicate Himself and the Son of His good pleasure by some immediate and unanswerable demonstration. This was seen in His going to the Father. So He says, "If ye loved Me ye would rejoice," &c. — because He would be glorified and the world put to shame, convinced of His righteousness, convicted of its sin.
2. By the death of Christ the case as between Him and the world was transferred to the final court of appeal, "After death, judgment." His accusers had said, "This Man is a sinner," and by crucifying Him they invited the Divine judgment. And thither with His dying breath He made His own appeal, "Into Thy hands I commit My spirit." Those appeals were answered, and in three days Jesus lived again, and in due time went where He was before; and all the angels worshipped Him, and the Father set Him at His own right hand where every word He said is justified, every claim He made established, and where heaven and earth combine to adore Him as "Jesus Christ the Righteous."
3. And if righteous, then Divine. It is no discrepancy that the Evangelist should report the officer as saying, "This Man was righteous," and "He was Son of God." Every one knew that this was the capital charge against Him; and, indeed, if He was a righteous man He was Son of God; if He was not Son of God, He was not even a righteous Man. Therefore He was "declared Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead," and His righteousness is not simply that of the righteous man, but a manifestation of that of the "righteous Father" whom the world had not known, but of which it had to be convinced.
4. And if tie is righteous, then the great ideal has been realized, the hunger after righteousness may be assuaged; for righteousness has appeared in concrete human form. There is hope of righteousness for the sinful world. "He died the just for the unjust," &c. "He goes to the Father, and so we have an Advocate with the Father," &c. Well may we then, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
III. OF JUDGMENT. "Because the prince," &c. The death of Christ caused a judgment to be passed on Satan, which he and his kingdom felt to be a virtual overthrow. Christ saw again and again behind all human forces another antagonist guiltier and mightier. He who knew what was in man recognized lurking behind Judas, Peter, the Pharisees, &c., him whom He thrice called the prince of this world. It was his "works" that He came to destroy, and His "death-fearing" subjects He meant to deliver. And the "strong man armed" knows who it is that has entered his domain. Calvary is to be the decisive battle-field. He was allowed to reach the height of his apostasy in his lying temptation, and failing that, in his murder of the Incarnate Son, and from this height he fell instantly, utterly, as lightning from heaven. He is judged, has failed, is doomed. Henceforth he waits with fearful expectation till the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God, &c. Slowly, yet surely, this sentence is taking effect. After dispossession comes punishment. What else meant the terror of demons at the voice of Christ, and the dreadful words (Matthew 25:41) re-echoed in the Apocalypse (John 20:10)? He is judged already, but the day shall declare that judgment. But, alas! he is not the only subject. The judgment that fell upon him cannot but strike those who choose "their part" with him (Revelation 21:8).
(Geo. G. Findlay, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
WEB: When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment;