“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “This passage is important because it explicitly says the Holy Spirit will be working on the WORLD (which is a group larger than just those who eventually become believers). And this work of the Spirit is tied to salvation and leading people to Christ. If Calvinism were true, then the Spirit’s work described here would only be towards the preselected elect. But that is not what the text says. This work of the Spirit is aimed at ‘the world.’ This passage also goes very well with John 3:16.”
Steven Hitchcock: “Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says that He will come and convict the world, not just the elect.” (Recanting Calvinism, p.129)
Steven Hitchcock: “The Holy Spirit convicts the world for its sin so long as they do not believe in Jesus. By this we can be certain that all men are convicted by their sins, for only those in Christ are the ones with true peace.” (Recanting Calvinism, p.129)
This also shows that God operates on the un-regenerate heart, and with salvific intent. Calvinists imagine God only drawing those who are pre-regenerated, which is clearly shown not to be the case.
Question: Does this mean the whole world, or just the world “of the elect,” as some Calvinists may presume?
Answer: Martin Luther writes: “Again, the Spirit asserts to such purpose that He breaks in upon the whole world and convinces it of sin (cf. John 16:8), as if challenging it to battle.” (The Bondage of the Will, p.67, emphasis mine)
Question: What would be the point of convicting the “whole world” if only a few are given the grace to repent, believe and be saved?
Answer: Calvinism seems to make God out to be mocking the world. Does God convict the world, only to frustrate it? What would be the point of convicting the world of its sin, if not for influencing it to repent?
Question: Is it possible that this conviction can lead someone to repent?
Answer: If so, then you have the power of the living and active, faith producing Gospel, plus the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Together, it gives the unregenerate natural-man, the ability to repent, believe and be saved.
John Calvin: “It should be noted that Christ is not here speaking about secret revelations, but about the power of the Spirit, which appears in the external teaching of the Gospel and in human speech. How can someone’s voice penetrate minds, take root there, and eventually produce fruit, making hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and renewing the people themselves, unless the Spirit of Christ makes the Word alive? Otherwise it would be a dead letter and an empty sound, as Paul so beautifully teaches in 2 Corinthians 3:6, where he boasts of being a minister of the Spirit in that God worked powerfully in his teaching. Therefore, the meaning is that since the apostles had been given the Spirit, they would be given a heavenly and divine power by which the would exercise jurisdiction over the whole world. This is ascribed to the Spirit rather than to themselves, because they will have no power of their own but will only be ministers and instruments; the Spirit alone will preside over them.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.372-373, emphasis mine)
According to Calvin, in the face of the all-consuming Law of Total Depravity, the Gospel is a mere “dead letter.” In response to Calvin’s question of, “How can someone’s voice penetrate minds,” the answer is that when the Gospel is preached, whereas the lost may hear with their ears, man’s voice, within their heart, they feel Jesus knocking. That’s the power of the Gospel. It is not man’s testimony. It’s God’s testimony, and the Holy Spirit convicts the world through this Gospel message.
John Calvin: “We now understand how the Spirit was to ‘convict’ the world through the apostles. It was because God revealed his judgment in the Gospel, by which their consciences were struck and they began to see what was wrong with them and how gracious God is. What Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:24 will shed no little light on this passage: ‘If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all.’ There Paul is speaking particularly about one kind of conviction -- that is, when the Lord leads his elect to repentance by the Gospel. But this clearly shows how God’s Spirit, through the sound of a human voice, leads people who were previously unused to his yoke to acknowledge and submit to his rule.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.373, emphasis mine)
Whereas Jesus said that He had come to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), Calvin teaches that Christ had come to seek and to save that which was elect.
John Calvin: “But the Word of God penetrates to the innermost corners of the mind, and, by bringing light, so to speak, dispels the darkness, and drives out that deadly lethargy. Therefore that is the way in which unbelievers are reproved, because, as soon as they realize that it is God they have to deal with, they are seriously perturbed, and really frightened. In the same way they are judged, because, while they were previously surrounded by darkness, and then had no idea of their wretchedness and shameful lives, now they are brought into the light, and compelled to bear witness against themselves.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, p.299, emphasis mine)
Fear is a powerful thing. So when applied by the Holy Spirit, is it powerful enough to overcome a man's depravity? Consider Acts 26:25-29: “But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.’ Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’” Did the convicting power of the Gospel, through which the Holy Spirit operates, bring Agrippa to the point where he could repent? If so, then the Calvinist doctrine of Total Inability flops.
John Calvin: “I myself feel it would be simpler and therefore more appropriate were we to say, that it is not given to unbelievers who are perishing, whose minds Satan has blinded to keep them from seeing the light shining in it. And it will suit better to keep them from seeing the light shining in it. And it will suit better still if this sentence is linked up with the prophecy of Isaiah (28.II); because there the prophet is speaking about unbelievers, in whose case prophecy is futile and unproductive.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, p.299, emphasis mine)
“Futile and unproductive.” It’s just one more way that Calvin describes the power of the Gospel.
Calvinists presume that the reason why certain Christians are not Calvinists is because it has not be “revealed” to them. However, the gospel is not something that is apprehended in an intellectual manner, but rather, an emotional matter, since the gospel operates at the level of the human conscience: The Holy Spirit convicts.