Over the past week or so I have been involved in a conversation related to Halloween. One of the participants said this, “There are various reasons for not participating, as stated, and we all need to choose, with our spouses, to follow those convictions that GOD has placed in us. I cannot generate a conviction in myself, neither can I force someone else to feel those things about which I am convicted.”
This comment in particular made me think, where do our convictions come from? Do they all come from God? Is it possible they come form other places as well? Today’s post will be dealing with what scripture tells us about our convictions, tomorrow’s post will deal with what our convictions mean to us and others.
According to Scripture:
In the NASB New Testament the word “convict” and “convicted” occurs four times total (twice each) and is the Greek word ἐλέγχω (elegcho). The word “conviction” occurs three times as three seperate words, “yourself” – σεαυτοῦ (seautou), “full assurance” – πληροφορία (plerophoria), and “conviction” – ἐλέγχω (elegcho).
1. ἐλέγχω (elegcho) occurs in the New Testament 17 times. According to BDAG there are four possible definitions this word can encompass:
1. to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth
2. to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince
3. to express strong disapproval of someone’s action, reprove, correct
4. to penalize for wrongdoing, punish, discipline
We are only going to deal with the five verses where it is translated as “convict,” “convicted,” and “conviction”:
John 16:8-9 – “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;”
Given the context it appears that Jesus is someone who gives us convictions – specifically convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment – for not believing in him.
Jude 1:14-15 – “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'”
This scripture explains again that conviction comes from Jesus.
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 – “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”
Here we see that an unbeliever is convicted by believers because of how they are using the gifts God has given them. There seems to be a common theme here that this sort of conviction leads unbelievers/ungodly to repentance.
James 2:9 – “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
This seems to be dealing more with being convicted as guilty according to legal standards. Not necessarily something that brings someone to repentance.
Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
This verse is less about who is doing the convicting and more about what the conviction actually is.
2. πληροφορία (plerophoria) only occurs four times in the New Testament. According to BDAG it only has one main definition: state of complete certainty, full assurance, certainty. Three out of four of the times it has been translated as “full assurance.” One time it has been translated as “full conviction.”
1 Thessalonians 1:5 – for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
The translators here seemed to get the idea that their living out the gospel was based on their “full conviction.” I think it could easily be translated as “full assurance.”
3. σεαυτοῦ (seautou) occurs in the New Testament 43 times. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the word “conviction.” The word σεαυτοῦ (seautou) is actually “your own” or “yourself.”
Romans 14:22 – The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
As I said, “conviction” doesn’t actually exist in this verse. It is probably better translated as “The faith which you have, have as your own before God.” The ESV reads, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” I’m not sure the ESV is much better, because I don’t think this verse it telling us to keep our faith between ourselves and God – since we are encouraged to share our faith. But the point is we shouldn’t be forcing people to believe what we believe.
This small study shows us a few facts about convictions. First, Jesus gives us some convictions. He convicts the ungodly of sin, so that they might repent and turn to him. Second, there is also a legal aspect of our convictions. This conviction is the realization that we have not fulfilled all of the law. Third, it appears that a conviction is the believe in something without knowing or seeing it. Coming from scripture it seems that all three of these things are linked with faith in Jesus.
Tomorrow we will look at the English word “conviction” and different observations from the Christian community and the world.