The Pleading of the Holy Spirit

The Pleading of the Holy Spirit

October 23rd, 1988 @ 10:50 AM

John 16:7-11

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 16:7-11

10-23-88    10:50 a.m.




Welcome to our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Pleading of the Holy Spirit.  The sermon is an exposition of the middle verses in the sixteenth chapter of the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John [John 16].  In our preaching through this Holy of Holies, the sublime words of our Savior to His disciples just before He was arrested, accosted, tried, condemned, crucified, buried [John 18:1-19:42], these are the words that He said, John 16:7:


I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Paraclete will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.  

And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 

Of sin, because they believe not on Me;

Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more;  

Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged . . .  

When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: He shall not speak of Himself; He will speak of Me . . .

He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.

[John 16:7-14]


The Spirit of God.  

How do you place in verbiage, in language, the almighty, omnipotent God who cannot be held, encompassed in heaven and in earth?  Much less, how do you describe in language the Spirit of God?  In the Old Testament, the word to describe Him is ruach [Genesis 1:2].  The exact counterpart of a word in the New Testament is pneuma, in our English language, breath.  In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord speaks of that ruach, that pneuma; He uses the word “wind “[John 3:8].  I presume, from the imagery of its great power, a tornado is just wind.  The great power that controls a speeding train is air, air brakes.  

I read of a man who ran a quarry, a granite quarry.  And he said, “I can lift a square mile of solid granite, ten feet thick as easily,” and he picked up a piece of paper, “as easily as I can move this paper, lift this paper.”  He said, “I can lift that enormous weight of granite.”  And they said, “How?”  And he said, “With air, compressed air.”  Yet you could put your hand through it.  A dove can fly through it.  Like gravity; they tell me that the power that holds this earth in orbit is equal to a solid steel beam, three thousand miles in diameter, yet I can wave my hand through it; the power that pulls everything earthward, like this Bible dropping to the pulpit stand.  

How do you describe the presence of God, the Holy Spirit in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19] and in our midst? [1 Corinthians 3:16].  He is called here, in this beginning verse that we read, He is called the paraklētos, translated here “Comforter” [John 16:7].  Para is alongside, kaleō is to call.  So a paraclete is, “the one who is alongside.”  Such as our Lord, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, as those two disciples on the way to Emmaus walked together, suddenly there appeared a third, a Stranger walking by their sides [Luke 24:13-15].  The Holy Spirit is described as that Somebody who is by our sides [John 16:7].  He is a fellow Pilgrim, a paraclete, sometimes called an “Advocate” or an “Intercessor” or a “Pleader” or a “Helper,” the Holy Spirit of God [John 16:7].  

And in this next verse, our Lord says, “When He is come, He will elegchō,” translated here, “reprove the world of sin, righteous, and judgment,” elegchō, “reprove, convict” [John 16:8].  I do not know a better illustration of the use of the word than Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 14 [1 Corinthians 14].  In the middle of the chapter he says, “If you all speak in an unknown tongue, and an unbeliever comes in and listens to you, he will think you are mad!  But, if you prophēteuō,prophēmi, if you speak out for Christ, if you testify to the greatness and goodness and glory of God, then that stranger who is lost will elegchō,  he will be convicted, he will be convinced, and he will fall down before the Lord and acknowledge Jesus as Savior” [1 Corinthians 14:23-25].  

That’s the word here.  And the inspired writer says the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God,” when He comes” [John 16:8], and the fulfillment, of course, was at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4].  And He is with us today and with us forever; He will take us to heaven.  He regenerates us.  “He will elegchō,” He will convince us of sin, “because they believe not on Me.  Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and I am not here in the flesh with you; and of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” [John 16:8-11].  Those are remarkable words from our Lord: He will convince us of sin, because they believe not on Me” [John 16:9].  The mother of all sin is the repudiation of God, a refusal to accept Christ our Lord [Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29].  

Why address ourselves to this sin, and the condemnation to that transgression, and the amelioration of this iniquity, when the problem is in the bloodstream of the heart?  Patch it up here, mend it there, try to change it yonder, but it breaks out again and again.  You see our trouble and our problem lies in the soul; it lies in the heart.  

I’ll never in this earth forget the first time I ever heard the word “penicillin.”  In the church that I pastored there was a precious little girl, a darling child, in the family that all of us loved in our dear congregation.  And the child had an infection in the bloodstream.  It would break out here, and after they had ministered to her it would break out there.  And in this last instance, the infection broke out on the inside of her body; lying there dying.  And that’s the first time I heard the word “penicillin.”  There was a physician in the hospital who said, “There has been discovered a drug, an antibiotic, penicillin.  If we could just have penicillin, we’d heal this child, the bloodstream, infected.”  We made appeal to the surgeon general in Washington, D.C.  And out of the beginning of that drug, he took a little vial and mailed it to us; ministered it to that sweet little girl.  She lived, whole and well, recovered completely.  

That’s a picture of us: the problem in human life is in the heart.  It’s in the soul; it’s in the bloodstream.  And to address ourselves to this sin and that iniquity and this transgression, what we need is a new wholeness.  We need a new birth.  We need a new life.  And that is given to us aboundingly and abundantly in Jesus our Lord.  When we have Him, we are a new somebody.  All of the beautiful virtues that follow after come when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  

If a man is a Christian banker and a devout humble disciple of Jesus, you don’t have to worry about his being a thief.  If a man is dedicated to God, no matter where he is, in education, in politics, in medicine, in corporate life, in business, anywhere in the world, if he’s a humble, sweet, devout follower of Jesus, you can trust him to the end of the way.  

“Of sin, because they believe not on Me” [John 16:9].  This is why God calls the rejection of Christ “the unpardonable sin.”  There is neither forgiveness in this world or in the world to come [Matthew 12:31-32].  That’s a remarkable word from God.  Every sin that you can name has been committed by the saints of the Lord.  You can categorize them.  

  • Noah got drunk; God forgave him [Genesis 9:21]
  • Abraham was a liar in Egypt, lying about his wife; God forgave him [Genesis 12:11-19; 20:1-2, 13]
  • Moses was a murderer; God forgave him [Exodus 2:12]
  • David tried to cover over his adultery [2 Samuel 11:1-4] with a transgression that was more vile than the first sin—murdered the man; God forgave him [2 Samuel 11:12-17]
  • Jonah was disobedient; God forgave him [Jonah 1:1-3]
  • Simon Peter swore, saying, “I never heard Him, do not know Him”; God forgave him [Matthew 26:69-74]. 
  • Saul, Paul was a persecutor, haling the saints of God to prison and to death [Acts 8:3, 9:1-2];  God forgave him. 
  • There is no sin in the category that God does not forgive, except this one:  there is no recourse, there is no appeal when a man refuses the overtures of grace in Christ Jesus [Matthew 12:31-32]


That’s the way we’re saved: “He that hath the Son hath the life” [1 John 5:12].  That is because of His grace and goodness, paying the price for our sin [Ephesians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:18-19].  And that’s why we’re eternally lost when we repudiate the testimony and the love of God.  “He that hath not the Son hath not life, but the wrath, the judgment of God, abides upon him” [1 John 5:12; John 3:36].  

How is a man saved?  By his good works?  The rich young ruler, when the Lord said to him, “Do these things, and name the commandments, do these things and thou shalt be saved.”  And the young man replied, “All of these have I kept from my youth up.  What lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:16-20].  No man, however good or fine or noble he is, will ever have the assurance in his heart that I’ve been good enough.  There’s always a lack in our goodness, our good works. 

How can a man be saved?  Maybe in the sorrow of his sin, maybe in the repentance of his sin.  Judas Iscariot, metamelomai—not metanoeō—metamelomai, Judas Iscariot was sorry.  “I have betrayed innocent blood,” and in his deep regret, hanged himself, committed suicide [Matthew 27:4-5].  Not even in sorrow or regret for sin; it’s in the confession, “Lord, Lord, I come to Thee with my soul and my heart and my life and my lack.  I come to Thee, Lord.  You save me.  You save me” [Romans 10:9-10].  And the Lord never fails, never has, never will [Romans 10:11-13].  He didn’t with me.  He won’t with you.  

He is a wonderful Savior.  He forgives our sins [1 John 1:9].  He alone can do it [Acts 4:12].  He writes our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life; He alone can do it [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27, 22:19].  He opens for us the gates of heaven.  He alone can do it [John 14:2-3; Acts 7:54-56].  We bring our poor lost souls to Jesus and ask Him to save us; He does it [Romans 10:9-13].  

Elegchō, the Holy Spirit will reprove, will convict of sin, of righteousness, “because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more” [John 16:8-10].  When the Lord was here, in the days of His flesh, He showed us how to do, where to go.  The example in Him was perfect.  If our Lord were here today in the flesh, every decision you would ever make, every choice you would ever choose, all would be perfect in Him.  Just take it to the Lord Jesus.  He would show us the righteousness of God, how to do, how to speak, how to choose, the way to go.  But our Lord is not here in the flesh.  He is not by our side in body and bone to tell us how to do and to show us how to go.  

Well, what do we do?  How do we know?  The Holy Spirit of God is here to teach us and to show us, because our Lord is in heaven with the Father [John 16:7-15].  Isn’t that a marvelous assurance?  I am never ever to think that I can’t find an answer to the problems that I face in my life.  Every decision that is to be made, the Holy Spirit is here to help us.  Every way that I ought to choose, the Holy Spirit is by my side to guide me [John 16:13-15] and to walk alongside God in heaven, what a wonder, the Spirit of the Lord; taking the place of our Savior in the flesh, to be our Friend, our Companion, our fellow Pilgrim, our paraklētos, the “one alongside.”

Did you know the most multitudinously printed of all the books in the world outside of the Bible is a book about that?  Sheldon’s In His Steps, or, What Would Jesus Do?  The Holy Spirit taking the place of our Lord, and when we lay any decision before Him, He answers from God: “This is the way; walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21].  This is the choice to be made.  That’s why the rejection of the Holy Spirit is such a tragedy in human life.  The apostle Paul, in Ephesians chapter [four], said, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” [Ephesians 4:30].  To turn aside from His Word and His direction brings unspeakable sorrow to the human soul.  

Do you remember the story of Saul, king of Israel, disobeying the word of God? [1 Samuel 15:1-35].  Do you remember in the sixteenth chapter of 1 Samuel?  The Spirit of the Lord left him.  The Spirit of God departed from him, and an evil spirit . . . troubled him [1 Samuel 16:14]. O God, what a tragedy!  What a tragedy.  Do you remember the story in the fifth chapter of the Book of Acts?  Ananias and Sapphira come before the church, the house, the people of God.  And Simon Peter says to them, “You have lied to the Holy Spirit of God.”  And the Holy Spirit withdrew His hand and sustaining strength.  And the two, without breath, without God’s breath, fell in collapsing death before the congregation of the Lord [Acts 5:1-10].  It’s a tragedy!  The story of the Flood is just that.  In the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the third verse, the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” [Genesis 6:3].  When I again, and again, and again turn aside from the direction and appeal of the Holy Spirit in my heart, there’s nothing for me to face but the darkness of despair and disaster.  

May I, before we turn aside from this second word here of the reproving, the convicting of the Holy Spirit of righteousness, of righteousness [John 16:8], may I turn to an avowal, an affirmation, that is everlastingly true?  A man is absolutely invincible, he is invincible when he listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit and gives his life in obedience to it.  

“Oh, preacher, think of the sorrow and think of the trouble, and think of the hurt and persecution and tears—think of that—that comes to those saints of God.”  You wait a minute!  The story’s not done in the tears and in the sorrow and in the despair and in the hurt; the story’s not done.  Our Lord was arraigned.  He was condemned.  They nailed Him to a cross and He died! [Matthew 26:57-27:50].  The Book of Romans, the great theological treatise in the Bible, the Book of Romans begins like this, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was pointed out,” horizō, horizon, “He was designated in power as the Savior of the world by the Holy Spirit, in being raised from the dead” [Romans 1:4].  He is invincible!  And whatever the trial or the trouble, whatever the sorrow or the tears, whatever disappointment or despair, whatever, the Holy Spirit brings us to a glorious, infinitely precious, invincible triumph and victory.  That’s God’s Spirit working with us, and every decision we make in our lives, you will never fail listening to His voice and following His direction.  

There’s one other here.  Not only of sin, because we do not believe in Jesus, not only of righteousness, because we do not follow the word of the Spirit, “of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” [John 16:11].  Satan and his kingdom are already doomed.  It is a dominion of darkness and despair [Revelation 16:10].  Satan is already judged [Matthew 25:41; John 16:11]; it’s a lost cause.  And if I join my life with him, I am lost with him, condemned with him, judged with him.  

I’m sure some of you have been in this exact place: I stood one time at the bunker where Hitler committed suicide.  And at that very spot I stood where, in keeping with the word to one of his henchmen, his body was laid on the ground and doused in gasoline and burned with fire, I stood there.  And I had just been through Germany.  This I’m speaking of is a few months after the close of the Second World War.  And as I stood there at that bunker where Hitler committed suicide, I passed in mind’s review, that great nation that had been utterly destroyed in following that man, “der Fϋhrer,” the leader.  

For example, standing in Hamburg, the second great city in Germany, from horizon to horizon there was not a building standing, not one.  So through all of those great cities the destruction indescribable: eighteen million men destroyed in that awful conflict, conflagration, confrontation, all because following him, following him, following Hitler.  

That is a picture of the whole lost world.  Satan is already judged [John 16:11].  His kingdom and domain are already sentenced.  And when I join myself to him, I stand in that same condemnation, under that same sentence.  

Our Lord, in the Book of [Luke 10:18] says, “I saw Satan as lightning, fallen” fallen, fallen, already fallen.  In one of those awesome revelations of Jesus, in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, it closes with this: these who have turned aside from God are cast into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41], not for us.  God never intended one of His people to be cast into everlasting ruin and damnation and fire and hell.  It was never the purpose of God that we, that we should find our eternity in such a lost, and tragic, suffering, everlasting condition.  God never purposed that. 

It’s when I choose.  It’s when I choose; I choose not to follow Christ, but Satan; not the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of the world.  And the judgment that falls upon him, falls upon me.  I am lost.  I am lost.  

May I bring this down to us?  There was an affluent couple, worldly people, a couple of the world.  No time for God, no time for the church, no time for Jesus, their lives were enmeshed in the world.  They had one little boy, a little boy.  And in one of those tragedies that overwhelms so many, the little lad was sick unto death.  All the doctors, and all of the hospital care, and all that human genius and science could do, couldn’t preserve the life of the little lad.  He was dying.  

And the little fellow, seeing, sensing, facing the inevitability of the darkness of death, said in pity to his father and mother, he said, “Daddy and Mama, when I die, don’t take me to that dark cemetery and leave me there alone.  Please, Daddy and Mama, bury me by the door here.  Bury me by the door, so I can be close to you.”  

When I read that, I thought, “Great God in heaven!”  What is the end of those who build their hope and life in this world, this world?  How much sweeter, dearer had it been, had daddy and mother taught the little lad, “Son, God has a better place even than our home, and a more precious fellowship than even with Daddy and Mother.  Son, God has a home in heaven for those who believe in him [John 14:2-3].  And you’re going there to wait for us.  And someday, we’ll all be together with Jesus in glory.”  That’s why the tragedy of those who live in this world alone is unspeakable, indescribable.  And that’s why the preciousness of the promises of Jesus are so dear.  We shall certainly die.  We shall certainly leave behind everything we have in this life and in this world.  Isn’t it better to be rich toward God? [Luke 12:19-21].  Our treasures are in heaven [Matthew 6:19-20].  Our home is with Jesus, not here.  It is there [John 14:2-3].  And all in a gift of the love and grace of our Lord Jesus, who wrote in the passage that you just read: 


The Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him that heareth say, Come.  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, ho thelōn, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  

He which testifies these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly. 

[Revelation 22:17, 20] 


O God, that all of us could reply, “Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20].  If I know my heart and if I know my soul, I’m ready.  Any day, any time, come, blessed Jesus.  May we pray?

Our Lord, what a glorious gospel You have committed into our hands; one of hope, one of salvation, one of a better tomorrow, one of heaven, one filled with a happiness, and joy, and glory, and grace of Christ Jesus our Lord.  Precious Savior, we pray that all in divine presence shall find this day that everlasting assurance in their own souls.  If I were to die today, I’d just go to be with the Lord Jesus.  I’d be going home without fear, without trepidation, just that better place God has prepared for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].  Lord, number us in that number.  Put our names in that Book of Life [Revelation 3:5, 20:12, 15, 21:27], any day, any time, we’re ready, Lord, as God shall speak the spiritual call.  So bless the appeal and without loss of one, may all in divine presence this day say, “Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me.”  In His wonderful name, amen.

In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord, come, and welcome [Romans 10:8-13].  A family you, joining in the fellowship of this dear church, come, and welcome [Hebrews 10:24-25].  A one somebody you, answering the call of God in your heart, come, and welcome.  There’s time and to spare as we sing our song, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of the people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand.”  May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell



I.          Introduction

A.  Language can hardly
describe the Spirit of God

      1.  Ruach, pneuma
– “breath, wind”

      2.  Parakletos
– the one who is called alongside (Luke 24:15)

      3.  Elegcho
– “reprove, convict” (1 Corinthians 14:24)

II.         Sin – the rejection of Christ

A.  The mother of all

      1.  Problem is in
the bloodstream of the heart

B.  Only unpardonable

      1.  All others

      2.  What saves a
man? (1 John 5:12, John 3:18, 36, Acts 16:3)

a. Good works? (Luke 18:20-22)

b. Regret? (Matthew 27:3-5)

c. Belief, acceptance (John 20:28)

III.        Righteousness – the representative of

A. “Go to the Father” (John 16:13, Isaiah 30:21)

B.  A
terrible thing to crush His leadership (Ephesians
4:30, 1 Samuel 16:14, Acts 5:3, Genesis 6:3)

C.  When
following His leadership, we are invincible (Romans

IV.       Judgment – the tragedy of the lost cause

A.  Prince of this world
already judged (John 16:11)

B.  The doom of Satan
sure, certain (Luke 10:18, Matthew 13:41, 25:41)

C.  The pleading of the
Holy Spirit (Revelation
22:17, 20)