Conviction versus condemnation

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What is the difference between conviction and condemnation?  Bible scholar Ron Rhodes says it’s critical for us to understand why the difference between the two is like night and day.

“A conviction is something that the Holy Spirit would do in your life. Whereas condemnation would be something that the unholy spirit would do in your life.”

Essentially, conviction is good and is from the Holy Spirit. However, condemnation is negative and always from Satan.

What is conviction? 

“Scripture says that the Holy Spirit can work in your life in such a way that you end up having a godly sorrow for whatever sin you’ve been engaged in. That godly sorrow can cause you to repent and turn back to the Lord.”

This kind of sorrow is good because if we respond appropriately, it can lead us to repentance and right relationship with God and with others.

“The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds as to what Scripture means. When we sin, one of the things that the Holy Spirit does is it reminds us of the specific passages of the Scripture that we just a violated, so that we know that we have sinned. We know that God wants us to return back to Him.”

How is conviction different than condemnation?

“It’s not a sense of darkness. It’s not a sense of unbearable shame, those things come from the unholy spirit, Satan.”

Scripture refers to Satan as the accuser of the brethren. He tries to accuse and condemn us for our sin.

“Satan likes to accuse you before God, and he also likes to accuse your conscience. He likes to remind you of your sin, he likes to remind you that you’ve committed yourself to God and yet you have just failed God miserably.”

Satan wants us to wallow in our sin as a result of his condemnation.

“He wants you to wallow in sorrow because he knows that if he can defeat you emotionally; your light basically goes out in terms of shining as a witness for Christ. He likes to get Christians down. So that sense of condemnation, that’s not God working in your heart. However, that sense of conviction and godly sorrow when you’ve sinned, that is God working in your heart.”

Ron shares the best way we can distinguish God’s conviction from Satan’s condemnation.

“If you have turned back to the Lord and confessed to this sin and that sense of condemnation remains, the devil is working on you.”


Dr. Ron Rhodes received his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating with honors. He is currently the president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, an apologetics organization located in Texas.

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