“It is my conviction…”

Several years ago as a rigidly fundamental, independent, King James Only Baptist, I flew like a banner my convictions. What are convictions?

Back then, I understood convictions to be right beliefs arrived at not necessarily by the studying of Scriptures but by the work of the Holy Spirit on my heart and mine. It was my conviction that women ought not wear pants, that any English Bible other than the King James Version was corrupt, that contemporary Christian music was corrupt, and so on. But because I understood these beliefs to be derived directly from the Holy Spirit, I felt I could not deny them; after all, why would the Holy Spirit lead me to a wrong belief?

When these were beliefs were challenged, I very often couldn’t go straight to the Word of God to formulate a defense, and I certainly couldn’t say “the Spirit led me to it” because that is entirely unverifiable from other points of view. And so any source which seemed to support my convictions were fair game. For example, rock musicians’ claims about rock music were used to say Christian rock was corrupt; now, rock musicians aren’t infallible nor are they a rule for faith and practice, but because what they said supported my beliefs, I would happily quote them. After all, the Bible is remarkably silent on the matter of music styles.

But, what is a conviction, biblically speaking? After all, if we are to test all things by the Word of God, it seems that the concept of “Spirit-directed” convictions ought to be put to the test. When you factor in the attitude that if the Spirit led me to the conclusion, every one else must be sinning if they haven’t come to the same conclusion (after all, there’s only one Spirit, and they must be ignoring Him), the concept of extrabiblical convictions becomes dangerous. One’s own personal beliefs become a standard of judgment, where that distinction rightfully belongs only to the Bible.

The word “convict” in Scripture comes from the Greek word elegchoÌ„, which according to Strong’s means “to confute, admonish: – convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.”

So right away, I see a problem with Christians’ use of the word “conviction.” The word, biblically speaking, does not speak of a strong belief but rather a refutation of error! And we can see this in action in the various places elegchoÌ„ is used. I will share those verses with you, from the New King James Version, emphasizing the word translated from elegchoÌ„. There are seventeen such passages, so please bear with me.

  • “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear,” 1 Timothy 5:20.
  • “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke [the Cretans] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth,” Titus 1:13,14.
  • “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you,” Titus 2:15.
  • “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent,” Revelation 3:19.
  • “And when [the Helper] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged,” John 16:7-11.
  • “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them,” Ephesians 5:11.
  • “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching,” 2 Timothy 4:2.
  • “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed,” John 3:19,20.
  • “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light,” Ephesians 5:13.
  • “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all,” 1 Corinthians 14:24.
  • “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors,” James 2:8,9.
  • “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst,” John 8:9.
  • “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict,” Titus 1:7-9.
  • “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” John 8:46.
  • “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother,” Matthew 18:15.
  • “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives,'” Hebrews 12:5,6.

Call me crazy, but being convicted does not sound like something I’d want to have happen to me! Just as a judge convicts (finds guilty) the accused of their crime, so is biblical conviction a judgment of guilt which calls for repentance!

In other words, if the Lord is convicting you of something, it means you are guilty of something. Your convictions aren’t your beliefs; they are your transgressions, your guiltiness.

So what ought we call the so-called convictions listed earlier? What are beliefs that mandate a woman to not wear pants, or for Christians to not watch television, or other such things? I’m going to call them simply preferences. They may be preferences arrived at from following biblical principles (all things may be lawful to us, but all things are not convenient), but because they are the product of human reasoning, they must be held in a secondary regard to actual revelation contained within the Bible.

And we must be extremely careful not to judge others according to our own preferences. Likewise, we ought to be sensitive to our brethren around us. You might think it is okay to eat meat, listen to Christian rock, or various other things and are fully convinced of those things in your own mind, but if a brother who is weak in the faith stumbles at the eating of meat or certain styles of music or whatever else, the burden is on your to accommodate your brother!

I firmly believe that we ought to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within us, but I do not believe He will give us additional revelation at a personal level regarding what we should and should not do. He has already declared the Scriptures sufficient to make us perfect and furnished for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

4 thoughts on ““It is my conviction…””

  1. You begin speaking of convictions, as in strongly held beliefs, and then you jump to

    “The word “convictâ€? in Scripture comes from the Greek word elegchoÌ„, which according to Strong’s means ‘to confute, admonish: – convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.'”

    Which is a completely different meaning of the word.

    “So right away, I see a problem with Christians’ use of the word “conviction.â€? The word, biblically speaking, does not speak of a strong belief but rather a refutation of error!”

    But the word “conviction” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Maybe in a translation?? An appearence of “convict” does not constitute an appearence of “conviction”.

  2. “Convictions” in this context — and I probably should have been clearer — come from Christians believing “the Holy Spirit convicted” them of certain things. The conviction of the Holy Spirit can be found in the Bible, and so I was merely pointing out that there is a difference between beliefs or preferences and what is actually the Holy Spirit’s convicting of someone, and that this difference is more than superficial.

    Regardless of what one’s convictions (strong beliefs) are, if it is the Holy Spirit who is convicting you, then you are in the wrong about something. The conviction of the Spirit is a declaration of fault, and presumably the conviction goes away when the fault is gone. Biblically, of course, that brings to mind the concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and of course, grace.

  3. Reading your words makes me cringe at things I am sure I hold to simply because I feel strongly about them.

    Thanks for the reminder to firmly root our beliefs in Scripture.

  4. Hmm…I understand what you’re saying, but I think that when people use the word “conviction” they more mean something you would die defending.

    For instance, it is my conviction that Christ died on the cross for my sins and rose again three days later.

    When it is something you would not die defending, I agree, it’s simply a preference.

    For instance, it is my preference that Christians listen to Christian music. And I admit, I do get a little upset when I hear that a Christian is not listening to Christian music.

    Hopefully that makes sense.

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