What is the difference between condemnation and conviction? I have seen a tremendous amount of confusion within the body of Christ on this question. This misunderstanding can have dangerous implications for believers when it comes to repentance of sin, mortification of sin and freedom from sin.
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul references what Christ absorbed through His life, death and resurrection. We, as believers, are no longer under the penalty of death and are reconciled to God because of Christ’s atoning work.
Christ bore our sins so that we might have life (1 Pet. 2:24), and it pleased the Lord to crush Him (Isa. 53:5-10). We have a great hope and assurance because the fatalistic nature of the flesh no longer determines us. Grace is extended to the elect through the condemnation put on Christ.
In knowing this reality, we tend to resent the Spirit’s convicting of sin because we wrongly mistake it for condemnation. The enemy, who comes to kill, steal and destroy, bends and contorts the truth to bring about shame, hiding and a resistance to repentance in our lives.
This is unfortunate because, while condemnation has been absorbed by Christ, conviction leads us toward life and intimacy with the Father. It is a gift from the Lord, shedding light on the dark places of our hearts where sin remains and beckoning us to respond in repentance.
Yet how do we discern between the loving, graceful conviction of the Holy Spirit and the contorted, deceitful distortions of condemnation from the enemy and our flesh?
Here are some ways to distinguish between the two:
- Conviction might taste bitter to the tongue, but is sweet to the soul. God leads us toward life in Him even if it stings (Ps. 30:5).
- Condemnation includes a stench of death and hopelessness (Rom. 8:2).
- Conviction, though pointed at times, lightens the heart and soul of a person (Rom. 2:4).
- Condemnation is overbearing and heavy upon the soul. It crushes because hope released from that burden falls square on the shoulders of something or someone other than the atoning work of Christ (Rom. 5:9).
- In conviction, God’s love is seen very clearly. This means it is utterly inspired by love.
- Condemnation turns everything inward toward self. So, rather than looking to the Lord for covering, provision and redemption, we look to self early and often in our shame and self-pity.
Those in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit to lead us into more and more holiness. Conviction is one of God’s sweetest gifts to His children. Rest in His grace and walk in His glorious light! Through conviction by the Holy Spirit, God both saves and sanctifies His children.