The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

Romans 8:1 says, ?There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.? This scripture is a wonderful, freeing, life-giving promise for all Christians. But it raises the question:

What is the difference between condemnation, which is wrong, and conviction of sin, which is good?

Here are a few differences that I hope you find helpful:

Condemnation is either from Satan or our sinful hearts. Conviction is a gift from the Holy Spirit.

Condemnation causes us to turn away from God in fear, dread, and shame. Conviction causes us to come to God and freshly place our faith in the perfect life and death of Christ.

Condemnation causes us to wallow in despair and self-pity. Conviction leads to God-centered hope.

Condemnation leads us to believe that we’ll never change. Conviction gives us hope that, even though we sinned, God is still at work in us.

Condemnation is inward, self-focused, and always dwelling on the fact that I have sinned. Conviction is outward, God-focused, and always dwelling on the fact that I have sinned against God.

Condemnation sees God as an angry judge who could strike at any moment. Conviction sees God as a loving Father who disciplines his children.

Condemnation can actually cause us to forget repentance because we are so inwardly focused. Conviction leads to quick (but not hasty) repentance.

Condemnation feels like a black, oppressive cloud. Conviction feels like a sweet, though often very painful, interaction with the Lord.

Condemnation is useless and sinful. Conviction is fruitful and pleasing to the Lord.

What else would you add to this list?

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I’m married to Jen, and I have three kids. I know a lot about Star Wars, and I live in a van down by the river. I’ve also written a number of books, which people seem to like.


  1. Bob M says

    Thanks. This is clarifying.

    (Althought it's similar to your #4), I would add: Condemnation paralyzes faith for change. Conviction bears the fruit of faith for change.

  2. lisa says

    Thanks, Stephen, for writing this to balance what you wrote yesterday and to clarify the difference. I have heard someone refer to the "sweet sting of conviction," and I think that's a good way to put it. We were discussing this in caregroup a bit last night. I certainly don't have it all sewn up yet, but am praying that God will teach me to be aware of my sins to just the right degree — not enough that I am living in modbid introspection (which is self-centered), but enough that I remember who I was and what God saved me from (Eph. 2) so that I am constantly aware of, focused on, and amazed by HIS marvelous grace (which is cross-centered). And that when the conviction comes, I will run TO him and not in the other direction.

  3. says

    Condemnation encourages us to clean up our act so that God will accept our cry for forgiveness. Conviction reminds us that we already ARE forgiven–and not only that, but rejoiced over. So our repentance is just running back to daddy crying "I'm sorry! Help me stay with you!"

  4. Katie says


    Condemnation leads to heartless legalism or further rebellion.

    Conviction leads to joyful obedience.

    I sat in a church for years where the preaching was what I believe was intended to be convicting, but in the end it was just condemnation. Because the focus was always on me and what I was doing and not on Christ and what he did. In my heart I always wanted to please God and walk closer with him but I didn't understand that the only way to do that was to focus on Him and not myself. And so my frustrated efforts to please Him only lead me further away.

    Now I'm walking closer with him than ever, because I'm keeping my eyes on the Gospel. And most of the things I am convicted of come from the Holy Spirit through out the week, not just on Sunday. Because the more I love God and his Gospel, the more I am aware of and detest my sin.

  5. Heather says

    Thanks Stephen, that is so clarifying and helpful!

    Along the same lines as the second before last one you had, I think that condemnation just makes you feel, well, crappy. Conviction, on the other hand, makes you feel grateful as a recipient of grace.

  6. Chris says

    Condemnation keeps us in bondage to our sin. Conviction is a pathway God uses to ultimately free us from our sin.

  7. says

    Stephen thank you for this info as I have been confused with the two. I love reading your posts and I am just catching up with those I have missed God Bless.

  8. Rebecca says

    So if you think God hates you that would be condemnation. If you know God is compassionate and full of unfailing love who disciplines those he loves your on the right track. :-)

    Just had a new thought….I don't think God could ever hate me because I am His daughter. Never thought that before.

  9. says

    Condemnation is Law-driven and always produces death (2 Cor 3:6:11).

    Conviction is Spirit-empowered and produces life and sanctification (Rom 8:13).

  10. D.L. says

    The Bible's Portrait of Condemnation:
    Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth….26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions……. 27b receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. …32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
    (They glory in their shame — — no conviction!)

  11. D.L. says

    Contrasted with the Bible's Portrait of Conviction:
    Romans 7:14 "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. …..18 For **I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.*** 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
    21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. ****22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, ****23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
    25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

    Conviction is something that only comes to the regenerate and it is an awesome blessing, so long as the believer repents and turns to Christ!

  12. HimiH says

    believers and unbelievers alike often get these two wrong, if not for H>S> reminders, from time to time.


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