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What Does the Bible Say about Conviction?


Elegchó or “convict” means “to expose, convict, reprove” and is used in the original scriptural Greek to mean, “I reprove, rebuke, discipline, [or] I expose, show to be guilty. A conviction in the secular court system is “the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime, especially in a court of law.”


Another meaning given by Merriam-Webster is a “strong belief,” such as the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is one with God and the Holy Spirit, that he died and rose again from the grave, and that he is coming back one day to judge the whole earth.


Conviction and the Law

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).


God established laws so that his people would understand what sin is and also determine how to deal with disputes among one another or with trespasses against God. “God gave the Law to reveal His standard of absolute righteousness to convict us all of our true guilt before Him so that we would see our need for the gospel.”


Stephen J. Cole explained that a lot of people believed they were good enough because of the sins they did not commit or the sacrifices they made, but that was not enough for God, who demanded absolute, unfaltering righteousness, which no one could accomplish.



This is why Christ had to come and pay the price for us — he was the only completely righteous human being to walk the earth.


Discussing Romans 3:19-20, Cole wrote, “We all need to understand and apply this text personally so that we abandon any attempt to justify ourselves.”


God’s laws showed his people that it was impossible to meet his standards of righteousness. Everyone sins, and the law convicted or convinced them of this fact. The only way to understand mercy was to also recognize why one needs mercy in the first place.


David experienced God’s mercy when his life was spared following his murder of Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba. He paid for his sin with the loss of his son instead, which is a piece of gospel foreshadowing, yet David remained king and was not put to death.


He was convicted of his sin, though, as demonstrated by his prayer life. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4).


Conviction and the Gospel

There is another meaning for conviction: a belief held on the basis of evidence — faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Both meanings revolve around evidence, being convinced of something.


Yet, one is a rebuke, and the other is a personal belief, which might even emerge from that rebuke. “Conviction of sin” carries a negative connotation, while conviction-as-faith is hopeful.



It comes from a willingness to examine the ways in which God reveals himself and to believe that the Good News is true.


Conviction, in one sense, can lead to conviction in the other. For example, the Samaritan woman was in a humiliating place where she had to draw water during the hottest time of day.


When Christ visited her, her pride was stripped from her, and she was ready to believe he was the Messiah.


She needed him to be the one they had been waiting for. Jonah ran from God, but the Lord arranged for his wayward prophet to be swallowed by a fish and then rescued so he could be convicted of his sin and also be convinced that God was all-powerful to accomplish anything.


The two meanings come together in Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting” (2 Corinthians 7:9).


Conviction of sin is essential to one’s life-changing belief in Christ as Savior — after all, who wants to approach a bloody cross looking for salvation if he or she is convinced that “being a good person” is enough to get them into heaven or at least not into hell?


Conviction Is Reasonable

Conviction about Christ seems to imply that not believing in him in spite of all the evidence is really a miscarriage of justice and exposes an unreasonable disposition in the unbeliever, hardness, and foolishness.


But God has chosen to make his name famous by any means, using the Christian as a missionary, creating many wonders to inspire awe, and coming down to earth as a man to show people what God is like.



If the rest of the Bible seems like a fantasy story to most people, Christ’s life is convincing. He was consistent in his message, consistent in his love, compassion, and firmness, and he obeyed God to the extent that he gave his life on the cross.


He showed the disciples how to love God and love their neighbors, and they would eventually live by the conviction that Jesus’ way is the only way.


Why would anyone wish to be left out of a family like this, where the head of the household is completely trustworthy? After all, the evidence for the reliability of the gospel is profound. What causes a person to turn away from Jesus?


Many individuals would prefer to see their lives the way that society at large sees them. Being autonomous, doing whatever makes a person happiest, and not hurting anyone is a common vision for Westerners.


But God requires total allegiance to him and no other idols, including personal autonomy. And he demands more than the omission of sin as a test of righteousness; he looks for love, which actively seeks out the poor, the marginalized, and the hurting.


Once one allows gospel truth to penetrate and falls in love with Jesus, Jesus directs and shapes his or her life. Every other former joy pales in comparison to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” said Paul. As far as he was concerned, everything else was “loss” (Philippians 3:8).


He was utterly convicted both of his sins against God and God’s people but also of the “surpassing worth” derived from being Christ’s servant.



A Weight Lifted by Conviction

Although Paul lost his station in Jewish society as one of the foremost Jewish experts, as a Pharisee no less, he no longer esteemed his old life. He thought of the future, of being with Jesus forever in heaven.


He had stopped trying to control his life and was free to follow Jesus, but not as a matter of wishful thinking or drudgery.


This man of erudition was not easily convicted of anything, and that’s why his very life is so convincing — so convicting — as a testimony that Christ really is our Savior.

Courtesy; Candice Lucky.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.


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