What’s the difference between Conviction and Condemnation?

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

The simple answer is that God convicts but our conscience condemns us. By defining both these terms we can gain a greater understanding.

To convict, means “to impress with a sense of guilt, to convince of error or sinfulness” but in contrast, to condemn is, “to express judgment or strong disapproval, with impending judgment after sentencing.”

Few Christians realize it’s their own conscience that condemns them most of the time. Our conscience which is part of the soul (mind, will and emotions) was negatively impacted by the fall of man. Unfortunately, Satan has a habit of jumping on the bandwagon, making things a whole lot worse for us, if condemnation is left unchecked. This is why we must guard our mind and remain in fellowship with God, even if we slip up from time to time. Consider 1st John 3:21 in the Amplified Version, “And, beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us [if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us], we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God.”

Keep a clear conscience

It’s our conscience which condemns us when we fail morally, and as a result, we lose confidence toward God. I want you to know that because the sin issue has been dealt with by our ‘once and for all sacrifice,‘ Jesus Christ (Heb 10:1-14), God is not condemning you! If you’ve messed up and you feel knocked down, God is ready to pick you up off the mat. Your conscience will often tell you, ‘You’re not ‘worthy’’ to get up as you’ve let God down, but this is a lie! We are made righteous by the blood of Christ, not by what we ‘do’ or ‘don’t do.’ Satan is the one trying to knock saints down, getting them to yield to temptation and stay down. God wants you up off the mat as soon as possible!

Another believer bites the dust, but will he get up off the mat?

A believer who fully comprehends God’s love will never be defeated! God always wants you to get up off the mat, no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down. We often feel condemned, when we stumble by ‘walking after the flesh,’ (Rom 8:1). This is easily remedied by getting right with God at the first opportunity. But if we’re not careful Satan can take advantage of us by piling on even more guilt. It can become a cycle that’s hard to get out of.  We must discern ‘why’ we feel the way we do, ‘who’ is speaking to us, and the ‘tone’ used. Discerning the still small voice of God is crucial to your success as a Christian and with practice, you will be able to discern His voice all the more.

Learn to discern the ‘tone’

God’s Word convicts us of our sinful ways and leads sinners to repentance. We feel convicted for the wrong we’ve done, realizing we need to change our ways, in accordance with scripture. This is called ‘godly sorrow’ which leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:10).

However, Satan’s tone in sharp contrast, condemns us to the point of despair, offering no solution for our condition, other than futile religious works to appease our guilt. His nature is accusatory. In fact Satan, means ‘accuser.’

The Holy Spirit is constantly working in the earth to bring people to the point of conviction in order to get them saved. This conviction leads to repentance only if the sinner humbly acknowledges his sinful condition. God forces no one into His kingdom; we must all enter willingly. Let’s look at John 16:7-11 (AMP):

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; It is expedient (beneficial) for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me.

The Holy Spirit’s job is to ‘reprove’ the world of sin because Christ died for the world (John 3:16). Now that Jesus has completed His task of redemption and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Heb 7:25), the Holy Spirit interacts with humanity to reprove man of sinfulness and point him toward Christ.

Indeed, there is only one sin that sends us to Hell and that is the sin of unbelief. It’s the sin of not believing upon the Son of God (John 3:18) which leads to eternal damnation.   

The Holy Spirit has many roles – He is Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener and Standby. He also convicts us of sin.

Holy Spirit has many roles

In addition to conviction, Holy Spirit has many other roles. His nature is multi-faceted. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever” Jn 14:26-27 (AMP).

The loving, all powerful, all seeing and all-knowing Holy Spirit is the comforter who convicts the sinner, yet He also convicts Christians, if they’ve willfully sinned. He is an ever-present helper who abides with us, strengthening, encouraging and interceding for us along life’s journey. His main aim is for us to be conformed to the image of Christ which is a lifetime pursuit.

Are you on the same side as ‘the accuser’?

Let us now review the Hebrew and Greek words for Satan. The Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) means to ‘oppose, obstruct, or accuse.’ The Greek term (σατάν, satan) literally means “adversary.” He brings railing accusations against the saints of God, day and night before the throne (Job 1). Evil and perverse by nature, Satan is not ‘all powerful,’ ‘all seeing’ or ‘all-knowing’ as some claim. He’s merely a fallen angel (cherub) and limited in his capacity on this earth.

If you’re in the habit of accusing people, you’re doing the devil’s work because slander is his job description! He needs co-operation from humanity to wreak havoc as man was originally granted dominion and authority in the earth by God. Any authority Satan possesses today has been stolen off the back of man, as Satan has no intrinsic authority. He relies on ignorance and deception as his two greatest weapons. To those in Christ, he’s a defeated foe, posing as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).

In truth, Jesus has already knocked his teeth out! But Satan is only ‘whipped’ for those who know their authority in Christ…do you? It’s your responsibility to find out the full extent of your godly inheritance and the Epistles reveal this. (Click here to find out more).

The easiest way to discern whether Holy Spirit or Satan is trying to influence you is to ask, ‘how’ it’s being said. Compare what you hear with scripture. Holy Spirit will use words to build you up, encourage, comfort and strengthen you. He will speak like a gentleman. Don’t get me wrong, God will rebuke or convict in a loving manner, but He won’t use an accusatory tone or a sarcastic snip. He is truthful, patient, kind and caring. God never contradicts His own word otherwise He’d be a hypocrite.

Know how the enemy speaks to you

Satan and his demonic cohorts will use phrases like, “you shouldn’t have done that”, “you’ll never get out of this”, “no-one likes you”, “why don’t you just quit this life” etc. His tone is condemning to say the least. Or if that’s not working, he might switch gears on you by stating his accusations in the first person. For example, you might hear yourself saying, “I can’t believe I did that“, “I am so stupid”, “I’ll never be able to pay the rent”, “I never seem to keep friends”, “I can’t succeed at anything” etc. His conversation is a direct expression of his identity as the ‘father of lies’ (Jn 8:44). Satan is a usurper whose agenda is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10)

Jesus came to bring abundant life and plays no part in condemning people. Be careful what you hear and take to heart (Mk 4:24).

If you ignore the “you’s”, Satan may start changing his tactics and move on to the “I’s”. The question is, will you cooperate with him and agree with his lies or not? If you do, oppression will take a foothold because Satan seeks agreement to gain influence in your life. Demonic oppression starts with a foothold and ends with a stronghold. Satan can do nothing without your cooperation. So stop cooperating!

A stronghold is equivalent to the culmination of many footholds which have been acquired without resistance. It’s imperative that you delineate between the still small voice of conviction and the accusatory tone which condemns. The former is from God, the latter is from Satan.

I recommend you speak God’s word over your life and remind yourself often of the bountiful inheritance Christ bestowed to you. Be mindful of conviction but tell the condemner to take a hike! Now is the time for God to do mighty things in your life and you must now choose to break agreement with Satan’s lies by meditating on God’s word!

Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, click here to find out more…

Author- Carl G.M. Joseph


David Seal, “Satan,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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