This is not the traditional Palm Sunday message. Today’s message is not specifically about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but it is every bit about Christ our advocate and perfect sacrifice. As I was studying this, I was thinking about how the Lord directs everything, even the preaching of this message before Easter. I normally would not necessarily go to 1 John 2 for a Palm Sunday message, but I’m hoping today that we can glean much truth from John. So let’s go back to 1 John, and I’m going to begin reading in chapter 1, verse 1.
1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins,we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 1:1-10, 2:1-2)
We have covered chapter 1 and learned much truth from John regarding Christ. I have summarized some of the main points here from the first four messages I preached to put things into context for today’s message. We first learned that John is writing from personal experience so that we would know that he is writing with great authority. We learned that Jesus Christ has always existed, from the very beginning. John reminded us of our first encounter with Jesus Christ and the gospel He preached. God uses the very senses He created in us to prove that He was physically very real. Jesus Christ absolutely proved who He is – God incarnate in human flesh. With all the convictive assurance that John and the apostles had of Jesus’ presence in this world, we can confidently be assured that Jesus Christ has revealed who He is – the Word of Life.
One of the reasons John wrote this epistle was to proclaim the gospel. However, the proclamation of the Word of Life is not an end in itself; its immediate purpose is fellowship and the ultimate purpose is joy. We found the proclamation of the gospel is stated in terms not of salvation but of fellowship. Yet properly understood, this is the meaning of salvation, including reconciliation to God in Christ, holiness of life, and incorporation into the church. Thus, the foundation of all fellowship is our relationship with God. Technically, no Christian is at any time out of fellowship with God since the relationship between the believer and God is permanent and is totally dependent on God.
“The Word of Life,” which starts John’s Gospel, can be condensed into a single great affirmation: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. Light represents the truth of God, as embodied in His Word. The light and life of God are inherently connected to and characterized by truth. The effect of the light is not only to make people see, but to enable them to walk – having right conduct, not just clear vision. Light is also self-revealing, thus God’s light reveals the darkness of my heart, and the sin in my life. God’s light cleanses us and heals us from the impurities of sin. Since “God is light,” it follows that a Christian cannot truly claim communion with Him while living in the darkness. False teachers and professors claim to have fellowship with God; however, that claim is meaningless if they are walking in the darkness. The issue is whether you are walking the walk, not whether you are talking the talk.
To profess one thing and live in contradiction to it is to “lie” and “not practice the truth.” Therefore, we not only contradict the truth in our words, we also deny it by our inconsistent lives. John is saying, “If you are a child of God, and you sin, you have not lost your salvation. But you have lost the joy of fellowship and communion with God.” We are to continually repent and ask Christ’s forgiveness for our sin so that our joy will be made complete. If we confess our sins, acknowledge before God that we are sinners not only by nature but also by practice, God will both forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Believers are forgiven of all sin, confessed and unconfessed. No one will enter heaven with a list of unconfessed sins still hanging over his head, because the finished work of Jesus Christ completely covers all the sins of those who believe. God is faithful to forgive because He has promised to do so, and righteous because His Son died for our sins. Anyone, even a professed believer, seeking to cover up their sin, is in the depths of spiritual darkness and deception, and blasphemes God.
Now that was the “Readers’ Digest” version of four messages. If there was anything you missed, or you thought, “Wow, was that in 1 John?” I would encourage you to go back and listen to those messages because John continues to build on those truths throughout 1 John. But for today’s message we’re going to start in 1 John 2.
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
John ends chapter 1 with several tests regarding salvation. These tests focused on those who have a saving faith, have embraced God’s free gift of forgiveness, and are continuous confessors of their sin. Therefore, confession of sin is a certainty in the lives of believers because of God’s regenerating and sanctifying work in their hearts. We should be eager to confess our sins since we have been justified, made righteous, by the sacrifice of Christ. Here in the first two verses of chapter 2, John highlights God’s provision that He alone has made for the Christians who have sinned.
John begins with an affirmation of his love for the readers and then quickly moves to encourage them not to sin, but then just as quickly highlights the fact that they will. So John emphasizes our need to not sin but acknowledges that we will. This might seem confusing at first, but hopefully we will provide some clarity. What is imperative that we understand is that John is balancing the need to be neither too tolerant nor too intolerant toward the sin a believer commits. If we are too tolerant, it might seem like we are encouraging a believer to sin by overly stressing God’s provision for forgiving our sins. If we are too severe, it might seem like we are removing the possibility that a Christian does sin, or that we think God will refuse him forgiveness or restoration when the believer does sin. John specifically refutes both of these extreme positions.
Certainly the New Testament confirms that Christians are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6, 12–14) because God made the provision for us to die to sin. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” So, there is no doubt that God has provided the means for us to no longer be enslaved to sin. In contrast, the law made no provision for allowing us to die to sin. However, the law did provide us God’s standard to live by. The law demands just and righteous living of all of us. But the law can only condemn and judge us; it cannot save us. So another one of John’s purposes for writing this letter is to discourage us from sinning. John has already referenced the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ back in 1 John 1:7 and the forgiveness of God in 1 John 1:9. John is not attempting to mitigate the seriousness and gravity of sin, instead, he is emphasizing the provision that God has already made for our sins. John is highlighting the advocacy and perfect sacrifice of Christ in these two verses. He is highlighting a crucial aspect of the gospel – how God has made provision for hell-bound sinners through simple faith in Jesus Christ, and to bring us into the family of God. Now that is exciting! As I was studying this week I told the other elder and elder candidates, “I’m really going to have to hold back.” Because when I’m teaching in Sunday school, people come to my door and say, “Shh!” It’s hard for me not to get excited about what Christ has done for us. God created emotions in us, and I’m not saying to get crazy, but my heart leaps with joy when I think about what He’s done for us. But you know what? That wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough to save us from hell and give us life eternally with God in heaven. Oh no, God said that wasn’t enough. He’s made us heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ! Praise God for His amazing love, mercy, and grace. It is unimaginable to me that God has placed such a great emphasis on our relationship with Him when I personally look into my own heart and see my own sinfulness. Thank God for His amazing provision! With all of that introduction, let’s take a closer look at these two verses and see what John has to tell us.
John begins with the introduction, “My little children,” or “My dear children,” depending on your translation, which suggests that John is older, or more mature, and that he has an affectionate, tender relationship with his readers. John loves his readers and his desire for them to not sin comes across in his tender designation, “my little children.” After all, John was probably the one who preached the gospel to them when they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That alone created a special bond. John must have had a close, even fatherly relationship with them, for he continues to use this expression six more times in 1 John. Can’t we understand John’s passion here? Parents, can’t we understand John’s love for those he led to Christ, just as we want the very best for our children? John continues by giving us one of the purposes why he is writing this letter. John is encouraging his little children – and us – to not sin. John was writing these things to encourage the readers and us today to live a consistently holy life. He knew that all believers had been regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we have been delivered from habitual sin to live without being enslaved to sin. Paul gives us the same encouragement and exhortation regarding our ability to not sin.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18)
Although we must continually acknowledge and confess sin, as highlighted in 1 John 1:9, we are certainly not powerless against sin. We have the Holy Spirit living within us giving us the power to conquer sin; therefore, we have a responsibility to confess sin – not a license to sin. Obviously, apart from the Holy Spirit, we are powerless to defeat sin. Paul once again gives us the same encouragement.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13)
John is reminding all of us that God has provided the Holy Spirit to combat our sinful nature, and that we should be seeking to live a holy and blameless life. He is encouraging his little children and us to be faithful, diligent, obedient confessors of sin and to live righteously. 1 Peter 1:14-16 states, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
John moves quickly from “so that you may not sin,” to the phrase “And if anyone sins,” which is so amazingly significant to all of us because God has graciously made provision for our restoration when we sin. It clearly points out John’s conviction regarding acts of sin which are possible in the Christian. John is specifically highlighting that a single sinful act is very real within the believer as compared to a habitual sinful lifestyle which is impossible for a true follower of Jesus Christ. 1 John 3:8-9 states, “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
John makes it very clear that the word “if” in this phrase, “And if anyone sins,” could be translated “when” or “it will happen,” for there is no doubt that we as believers in Jesus Christ sin, but we are not to be living a life of habitual sinfulness. We have been justified and saved by God’s marvelous grace but we are not without sin.
The most common New Testament word for sin literally means to “miss the mark.” We know that God’s perfect holiness is the standard required of us. Exodus 15:11 states, “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” When the Lord spoke to Moses in Leviticus 19:2 He said, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” So we know that God’s standard is holiness and we have “missed the mark.”
We also know it is impossible for any of us to attain perfect holiness while we’re breathing here on earth, although it must be possible to seek holiness since God has commanded us to “be holy as He is holy.” However, there is no doubt we have all missed the supreme benchmark set by God, based on Paul’s writings in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” And prior to this, Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that we have sinned. We know we are guilty of missing the mark. If you cannot admit that you have sinned before an almighty, holy, and perfect God, your heart has so deceived you. John’s statements back in 1 John 1:8 and 10 about our sinful tendencies are not to encourage us to sin, but to put us on guard against sinning.
Just for clarification, there is no doubt that John is referring in this passage to true believers when he is talking about sin. We can look back at 1 John 1:8 and 10, and see that the pronoun “we” is referencing “My little children.” So John is talking to us as believers in Christ. Now the most exciting news you could ever hear as a sinner saved by grace, “we have an Advocate with the Father.” That’s right, we are guilty of sin yet God has provided us an Advocate to plead our case. How much more gracious and loving is God? Infinite. If you are here today and that doesn’t move you, you must be emotionally, physically, or spiritually dead. Check your pulse. That should get your attention. He loved us to send Christ to die on the cross, He loved us enough to have an advocate with the Father because we can’t even be in the holy presence of God.
John knew that all readers of this letter, including us, have sinned, and that none of us are perfect. Therefore, he knew that all of us would need to be encouraged and reminded that we have the ultimate advocate working our behalf. I said “ultimate advocate” because only one advocate will be able to successfully plead our case before Almighty God.
Talking about advocates, how many of you have a favorite law show you watch? There are dozens and dozens of shows and movies created to highlight the struggle between advocate and accuser. These types of shows captivate our minds. These shows are so popular that you can even watch them twenty-four hours a day if you have cable. It’s not just TV though, people get infatuated and mesmerized by real-life trials. All of this drama and hype swirls around whether the person is guilty or innocent, and if guilty, just how much punishment should the guilty receive to obtain “justice.”
As many of you know I work in the legal field, and John is using these terms that mean something to me. And the fact that all of this intrigue surrounds our judicial system, I want to compare man’s judicial system to God’s holy and perfect judicial system.
As many of you know, man’s judicial system comprises several main characters. First we have the judge who moderates the trials and ensures rules are followed and in some cases makes the judgment of guilt or innocence. There is the prosecutor or accuser who has brought the charges against the defendant, the defendant who has been charged with breaking the law, and the defense attorney who is the advocate for the defendant. There may also be a jury of peers to help determine guilt or innocence and even establish the appropriate sentencing. A jury is not required in a bench trial where the judge determines guilt/innocence and sentencing. Those are the main characters, but you also need to understand there are two major phases of a trial: the guilt or innocence phase, and if guilt is determined, then there is a sentencing phase.
So how does our earthly judicial system compare to God’s heavenly one? I think we first need to understand the gravity of what we are talking about. The law of man in reality is so minimal and insignificant compared to God’s law. Therefore the earthly judicial system pales in comparison in both scope and severity, because there are eternal ramifications involved in spiritual justice. God’s judicial system is infinitely more significant and dwarfs any and all earthly trials.
So who are the main characters in God’s judicial system? There is the judge, God the Father. Genesis 18:25 says that He is a “righteous Judge and the righteous and wicked are treated alike.” Hebrews 12:23 says that He is the judge of all. He is the only judge who has the authority and power to judge us rightly. God is the supreme judge of the universe who is judging all people according to the absolute perfection of His holy law. We definitely need to understand the gravity of who God is and that He possesses the supremacy to condemn every sinner who ever lived to eternal hell. As such, Christ gives us all a very sobering warning in Matthew 10:28,: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Hopefully that gives us a better perspective of God as the supreme, righteous judge who has all authority. If you have already fallen asleep, I hope that wakes you up.
Satan is the prosecutor, the accuser, and every person who ever lived is on trial. Zechariah 3:1 says that Satan is standing beside Joshua before the angel of the Lord to accuse him. In Job 1:9-11 Satan is accusing Job; “Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” That’s quite an accusation. Satan doesn’t stop there though, he on to accuse Job later in chapter 2:4-5, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” We know how that ends up. Can you imagine Satan standing before God right now accusing you, or me? That got my attention this week. Satan is accusing all of us of missing the mark. The charge or accusation that Satan highlights is against all man-kind for their failure to meet the standard set by God Himself. We are the accused! If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I hope that at least gets your attention! 1 Peter 5:8 highlights that Satan is “your adversary, the devil, [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan is accusing all of us before God, the Judge.
As this bench trial begins, there is no jury. God the holy and righteous judge immediately passes a verdict of guilty upon mankind for their sins from His heavenly bench. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). That means we have missed the mark because “there is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-10). We have broken God’s holy law and been found guilty of the whole law (James 2:10). The guilt or innocence phase of our trial ends with a sure and just decision of guilt before a holy and righteous judge. God’s justice is swift and sure, for we have sinned against Him.
As we enter the sentencing stage of the trial, Satan now pleads for a sentence of death for it is what we deserve. Revelation 12:10 says that Satan prosecutes believers night and day before the Father. The wage we have earned for our sin is death according to Romans 6:23. God’s just sentence to be handed down is eternal punishment in hell, “for the wages of sin is death.” When we sin, we earn what sin pays: death.
Satan is relishing in the victory of a guilty verdict upon each of us. Now he is boldly seeking the eternal death penalty for he knows that is what we deserve, and what he’s going to receive. He desires to have as much company in eternal Hell as possible and he loathes people who accept God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
However, there is one more very special person in the divine courtroom – our defense attorney, our advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. An advocate is “one that pleads the cause of another.” Jesus Christ is our ultimate advocate, but we’re going to find out He is much, much more. God has appointed His own Son to represent us before Himself. Jesus Christ is the most unique advocate in all of eternity. Christ pleads our cause against our accuser and to the judge, God our Father.
Jesus acknowledges that death is required and is therefore the only just sentence for the verdict of sin. He does not plead our innocence or offer any extenuating circumstances, but rather simply acknowledges our guilt. This approach might seem odd, but don’t forget what John 6:39 says. He will not lose anything, not our case or anything else. But Jesus is more than the ultimate advocate! Paul declares in Romans 8:33-34, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Jesus pleads to the Father with love for our acquittal and release based on His work on the cross.
As a reminder, we all need to understand that Jesus has a limited client list. He only represents those who confess their sin and guilt in total dependence upon Him as Savior and Lord, as highlighted in Matthew 25:31–46. Therefore, not everyone has the ultimate advocate pleading their case before a holy, perfect and just God.
As the sentencing portion of the trial is coming to an end, believers should not fear God’s divine justice because God has made provision through Jesus Christ the righteous. Jesus Christ is the perfect advocate for many reasons including the fact that God, His Father, is the judge, and because the Father and Son are always in perfect unity and harmony as part of the Trinity. This unity and harmony are exemplified when Jesus was praying in the garden in Matthew 26:39. Scripture says that Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Believers should not fear because Jesus Christ the righteous also completely understands our frail humanity. He left heaven to become the fully human Son of Man and was tempted in all things are we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:14–15). Therefore Christ understands us better than we understand ourselves, and that we could never meet God’s standard of righteousness on our own.
The result of the divine verdict is that believers, “having been justified [declared righteous] by faith … are now found to be guiltless before God through the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:28; 5:1). Jesus Christ the Righteous became the “justifier of the one who has faith in [Him]” (Romans 3:26). Jesus pleads to the Father with love for our acquittal and release based on His righteousness.
Since we have been justified by faith, eternal life is fully guaranteed (John 3:16; 5:24), but the consequences of our sin, our restoration, and future usefulness are all matters where Jesus intercedes on our behalf before God. Therefore, Jesus Christ the Righteous is uniquely and specifically suited as our ultimate Advocate. As some of you may recall, back in 1 John 1:9, John proclaimed that God “is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John builds on this truth by explaining that God can do so because His Son is both our ultimate Advocate and perfect sacrifice. He is the propitiation for our sins. John describes our righteous advocate as our atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The word propitiation means “appeasement” or “satisfaction.” Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross satisfied the punishment of God’s justice, thus “appeasing” God’s holy wrath against all believers’ sins. John Calvin explains propitiation in this manner: “Christ’s intercession is the continual application of his death to our salvation.” John Stott explains propitiation like this: “It is an appeasement of the wrath of God by the love of God through the gift of God.” Think about it: Jesus Christ could never make His case for all believers as their divine advocate if He were not also their propitiation. He was the only one who could have removed all our guilt and condemnation by completely taking God’s wrath upon Himself.
An excellent, although incomplete, illustration of propitiation can be found in the Old Testament sacrificial system. Within the Holy of Holies sat the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of God’s Law. Hovering above the Ark was the Shekinah glory of God. The one thing separating God’s Law from within the Ark from God’s glory above the Ark was the lid that covered the Ark; known as the mercy seat. The mercy seat is where the priests would sprinkle the blood from the sacrifices for the atonement of Israel’s sins, which was to represent later Christ’s sacrifice. We know that these animal offerings did not appease God’s wrath, because Israel continued offering burnt offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings over and over. So now Christ pleads to the Father with love for our acquittal and release based on His work on the cross as a propitiation for our sin.
Christ’s propitiation for our sins is not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. The phrase, “but also for those of the whole world” is not referring to every single individual, but is referencing mankind in general. Jesus Christ is the ultimate advocate and propitiation only for those who repent, ask forgiveness of their sins, and believe on Him as Lord and Savior. More specifically, only the elect will be represented.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:5-14)
There are many Scriptures that talk about Christ dying for the world. John 1:29 – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” 1 Timothy 2:6 – “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
From other Scripture we know that most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ. Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
Christ’s propitiation is offered for the sins of the whole world but will only be enjoyed by those who accept Him as Lord and Savior. Therefore the earlier passages which speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general, to humanity in a generic sense. Thus there is no unlimited atonement for the sins of all mankind, but instead a limited atonement for those who believe.
There are many Scriptures that clarify that there is atonement for only those who believe. John 10:11, 15 says that Jesus died for the sheep, not the goats. John 17:9 highlights where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world. Ephesians 5:25-27 states that the church was purchased by Christ, not all people. Isaiah 53:12 is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where He would bear the sins of many, not all.
So in summary, John was writing to help us avoid sin, to help us seek after God, for us to seek holy, righteous living. However, we need to realize that if a person wants to live in darkness they could pervert John’s teaching into a license for sin; “I am forgiven, so I can sin.” This is truly a perversion of the God’s truth and this person is not a true believer.
God’s provision for the sinning Christian is found in Jesus Christ for He alone possesses unique qualifications: 1) He is righteous, 2) His propitiatory death is acceptable to God, and 3) He is our heavenly Advocate. Each of these qualifications is mutually dependent on the other. John Stott puts it this way, “He could not be our advocate in heaven today if he had not died to be the propitiation for our sins; and his propitiation would not have been effectively sufficient had His life and character not been Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
The grace obtained through the advocacy of Christ can be traced back to His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross. No one can add anything to this perfectly completed and eternally finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He has done all that is required to meet our greatest need: salvation from God’s wrath and eternal life with Him. Though Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross intrinsically has infinite value, His death was specifically planned to completely satisfy God’s divine justice only on behalf of those who would believe on Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus’ propitiation through His death for our sins is one of the critical doctrines of the Christian faith and is at the very core of God’s redemptive plan. Jesus Christ is our ultimate advocate and perfect sacrifice.
So, what are we going to do with the truths we have learned today? After all, John has given us vital instruction on how divine justice relates to divine love and ultimately to salvation by faith. Will these truths affect the way we worship? Will we change the way we live each day?
Christ’s shed blood is completely sufficient! Therefore we need to live boldly, with full confidence in Him as we walk in the light. We are to be growing toward holiness through the process of progressive sanctification. As we are growing and changing we are to confess and not hide our sins. We need to acknowledge them before the Lord and ask His forgiveness.
We need to know that once a believer has been justified by God our Father and judge, we have entered the family of God and become sons and daughters of the Father. If we sin we don’t need re-justification from God. We are still a child of God, but we do need His forgiveness. We have been justified once for all and we can be assured of the advocacy of Jesus Christ the Righteous.
God’s entire plan of redemption is based on His predetermined “love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He determined to love unrighteous, worthless, rotten sinners just like me. “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4–7). Christ’s example should be manifested in our lives that we should be moved to love even the most difficult people.
Lastly, we should openly and honestly confess and repent of our sins before Jesus Christ the Righteous.
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)