Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (7)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #7: The Only Sin The Holy Spirit Would Ever Convict Is Unbelief!

The concept goes like this: based on John 16:8, the Holy Spirit only convicts the world of one sin, the unbelief in Christ. Once a person is saved and becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit doesn't bring any further conviction of sins in his life!

Again, this runs contrary to all mainstream Rheumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit). Sanctification is progressive transformation and that is what the Holy Spirit does (2 Cor 3:18). The whole of Romans 6-8 challenge us to live a life in the Holy Spirit simply because He is going to bring about this change in us. The Holy Spirit prompts, instructs and disciplines ( Rom. 8:2-4; Gal. 5:16,22-23; Eph. 5:9).

Therefore, is it true that the Holy Spirit only convicts the world of one sin —its unbelief in God? Well, to the seven churches in Revelations 2-3, Jesus exhorts them to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In speaking to the Church of Laodicea, He says,

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and, opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me ... He who lias an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:19-20,22)

Now, these words are directed to the Christians in the church. Even though Jesus loves them, He is going to rebuke and chasten them into repentance through the Holy Spirit (v.22). The word "rebuke" (v. 19) is the same Greek word elegcho as Jn. 16:8's "convict." It is therefore reasonable to say that tire Holy Spirit doesn't just bring conviction to the sinners once at the moment of salvation, but He also brings conviction of sins in our lives that are stubborn, unknown to us or that we have forgotten (Ps. 139:23-24). In mainstream theology, the former is called "the regeneration of the Spirit," the latter is known as "sanctification work of the Spirit."

Again, there are many verses quoted here which were not properly explained in context but first let's deal with the key verse(s) in which Jesus explains what the Holy Spirit does, and contrary to what Rev Kong Hee said, it is not just John 16:8 but rather John 16:8-11:

8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Jesus himself explains that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of 3 things:

1. Sin - because they do not believe in Me ie. Christ (John 16:9).

Take note that Jesus said "sin" and NOT "sins". The Holy Spirit does not convict you of sins ie. sinful acts. You don't need the Holy Spirit for that! Your own conscience will convict you of sins! This is what happens from the moment you are born because you have Adam's DNA which had been forever contaminated by the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

Rom 2:14-15 (NLT) - "Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."

God is not concerned about sins because He has taken care of that; God has forgiven us of ALL our sins through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. God's only concern is for us to appropriate His forgiveness by accepting Christ and therefore the Holy Spirit is needed to convict non-believers of their sin of unbelief in Christ. We do not come to God on our own accord for we are the ones who are lost, not God; God chose us and called us to come to Him through the Holy Spirit.

Rom 8:29-30 (NLT) - "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory."

The Holy Spirit convicts the non-believer of the sin of unbelief in Christ, calling the non-believer to come to God through Christ. After the non-believer becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit convicts him of righteousness ie. God "gave them right standing with himself " which leads us to point 2.

2. Righteousness - because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more (John 16:10)

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going to be resurrected and after that, return to his Father. Jesus' resurrection is proof of our right standing with God for "He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God." (Rom 4:25, NLT)

However, since Jesus was going (or has gone, from our present point of view) back to his Father, Jesus cannot be down here with us as a walking living proof of our righteousness. Hence, the Holy Spirit is sent to convince us of our righteousness, ie. our right standing with God, in Christ "For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." (Rom 8:16, NLT)

3. Judgment - because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:11)

Please read carefully, the Holy Spirit is not convicting us of our own judgment but that of the ruler of this world ie. the devil.
The Holy Spirit is telling us that the devil is already defeated; he has been judged and therefore "overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us" and "nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:36-39, NLT)
In case you still insist that the Holy Spirit is judging us, let's go back a few verses and read what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say in Rom 8:33-34 - "Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us."

Jesus himself explained John 16:8 very clearly through John 16:9-11, and I believe I have also shown you clearly that the Holy Spirit convicts us of "sin" and not "sins", and that the sin referred to John 16:8 is the sin of unbelief in Christ.
(As for the other verses quoted in Rev Kong Hee's writing, I won't be commenting on them as it is too tedious to explain all of them in their proper context. I believe John 16:8-11 are clear verses that explain the role of the Holy Spirit, and it is important not to let obscure or less clear verses rob you of the blessing from the clear verses.)


Kat said...

Hi Stan,
Thanks for exploring QT7 in such detail.It is so important to understand John 16:8 in its context. I think many Christians don't have the correct understanding of the Holy Spirit's role in believers' lives. Thanks for putting up the comic again. This latest one is hilarious!:)))

Stanley Wong said...

Dear grace,
just for u my fren, just for u ;-)

eekpil said...

Thanks for sharing this, Stanley.

Learning how to accurately read and understand John 16:8-11 was a significant breakthrough for me. I used to think that the Holy Spirit was always convicting me of sins and He was always judging me. As a result, I was always afraid of and never felt close to Him.

My relationship with the Holy Spirit was totally revolutionalised when I finally understood that the Holy Spirit:
- convicts the world (not me) of the sin of unbelief in Christ;
- judges the devil (not me); and
- convicts me of my righteousness in Christ.

I pray that the Church will learn to walk with the Holy Spirit more intimately as she learns to read John 16:8-11 more accurately. :)

dazza533 said...

Dear Stan,

thanks for such a lucid exposition of the holy spirit's role in our lives. It's so powerful to see that God works in such a simple and yet profound way. We always try to find a way to make it more than it should be and complicate the beauty of the good news. If it's not too forward of me, may I know where you work and what you cook? I'd love to meet you some time when I'm next in Singapore.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi dazza533,
I'm selling ice desserts at Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre at stall no. 139, the name of my stall is Dessert Tree. Hope to see you soon ;-)

Derrick said...

I don't get how the Spirit's conviction of sins makes you feel less close to God! I think it is an erroneous emotion.

Rather, I rejoice in the chastening work of God and the awakening of ourselves to our sins, since it is evidence of the sanctifying power of the Spirit living in me.

I don't get why some Christians are so afraid of judgment and conviction, when these convictions bring you closer to God's truth and is God's way of perfecting you.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Derrick,

I have explained clearly in my article that the Holy Spirit does not convict Christians of SINS but of RIGHTEOUSNESS.

There are many morally upright people who are non-Christians, so what convicts them? Before you became a Christian, what guided your behaviour? The Holy Spirit? Of course not! It's their/your own conscience! (Rom 2:14-15)

Simon said...

Hi Stanley,

I don't think you have proven by quoting John 16 that the Holy Spirit does not convict Christians of sins. I accept the argument that the Holy Spirit convicts people of the sin of unbelief. But that alone is not sufficient evidence to establish the Holy Spirit WILL NOT convict people of sins other than disbelief. Kong Hee has rightly pointed out that in Rev 2 and 3, the Holy Spirit rebuked the churches of other sins.

For the record, I do not attend CHC nor am I a fan of Kong Hee.


Stanley Wong said...

Hi Simon,

John 16 is a very CLEAR passage of Jesus explaining the role of the Holy Spirit.

However, if you look at the context Rev 2 and 3, it does not clearly explain the role of the Holy Spirit as convicting Christians of sinful actions. The context of Rev 2 and 3 is JESUS, NOT the Holy Spirit (see Rev 1:17), giving a combination of prophecy and SPECIFIC instructions of correction to each of the seven churches.

I do not agree that Rev 2 and 3 prove that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sinful actions.

Simon said...

So you agreed that your argument does not show the Holy Spirit does NOT convict of other sins, it only shows the Holy Spirit DOES convict of the sin of unbelief? :)

Re Rev 2,3, are you then saying that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are two different entities?

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Simon,

In John 16, Jesus explained very clearly the Holy Spirit convicts us of the sin (singular, not plural) of unbelief.

In John 16:8, Jesus says "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:"; Jesus could have easily said "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin AND SINS, and of righteousness, and of judgment:" BUT Jesus did not. Is there any verse which clearly says the Holy Spirit convicts us of SINS?

Yes, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are different, otherwise why would Jesus say the following:

John 14:26 (Amp)
But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.

John 15:26 (Amp)
But when the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who comes (proceeds) from the Father, He [Himself] will testify regarding Me.

John 16:7 (Amp)
However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you].