A sense of guilt and shame leading to repentance. The words “convict” and “conviction” do not appear in the King James Version. The word “convince” (KJV) comes closest to expressing the meaning of “conviction.”
The Hebrew word yakah expresses the idea of conviction. It means “to argue with,” “to prove,” “to correct.” God may be the subject and persons the object (Job 22:4) or a person may be the subject who convicts another person (Ezekiel 3:26).
The Greek term meaning “convict” is elegxo. It means “to convict” “to refute,” “to confute,” usually with the suggestion of shame of the person convicted. Young ministers like Timothy and Titus had the responsibility of “convicting” (rebuking, refuting) those under their charge (1 Timothy 5:20;
2 Timothy 4:2;
Titus 2:15). John the Baptist “convicted” Herod Antipas because of his illicit marriage to Herodias, his brother's wife (Luke 3:19). No one could convict Jesus of sin (John 8:46).
John 16:8-11 is a classic passage on conviction. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts, and the (inhabited) world is the object of conviction. A study of this passage yields the following results. First, conviction for sin is the result of the Holy Spirit awakening humanity to a sense of guilt and condemnation because of sin and unbelief. Second, more than mental conviction is intended. The total person is involved. This can lead to action based on a sense of conviction. Third, the conviction results in hope, not despair. Once individuals are made aware of their estranged relationship with God, they are challenged and encouraged to mend that relationship. The conviction not only implies the exposure of sin (despair) but also a call to repentance (hope). See Sin; Forgiveness; Repentance.