1 John 2:1-5
I’m doing a study through 1 John with my men’s group, so I’m posting insights from it here. Maybe it will make a nice little resource going forward.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. 1 John 2:1
John has just finished saying that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) We are tempted to say, if we just have sin no matter what, and all we need do is confess and He forgives us, then what’s the difference? Let’s just sin all the more! It’s the old question from Romans 6:1. John wants to make it clear, that the aim of his writing, and the aim of Christ’s mercy towards us, is the elimination of sin. Sin is the enemy of love and God wants everything we do to emanate from love. Make no mistake: sandwiched between all of these verses about sin and forgiveness and Advocates is the aim to eliminate sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1
The word “advocate” is the greek word “Paraclete”, which is the same word used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. It means to come alongside and assist. The Holy Spirit apparently has come to us to help us directly, and the Son similarly advocates for us with the Father directly in heaven.
He says, “if anyone does sin”. He says basically, when you sin, and you do, you will find mercy with Christ. I write this towards the end that you will not sin. Being that you either confess your sin or lie, you have sin no matter what, whether I or you or your mother or even God likes it or not. So, we must not be shocked that we sin. Let’s also be clear about this: there is no distinction made here between “willful” sin and “unwillful” sin. An unintentional transgression is called a mistake. An intentional transgression is called a sin. He is not making a distinction in the slightest; all sin finds advocacy. It is sin, intentional wrongdoing, the worst case scenario, that finds its way into this particular scene.
Now, let’s unpack the scenario a bit. What we have here is a courtroom scenario. We have an advocate, and a judge, and by inference, an accuser. There is at least an accusation, which is likely to stick. Here is a person who has sinned, an accusation has been brought forward, and there is a question about what to do. The threat of some kind of condemnation or punishment is hanging over us, and the decision is actually quite out of our hands. However, we have an advocate. One thing the advocate says, according to Hebrews 4:15, is that there is a place for sympathy for our weaknesses, that the temptations we face are genuinely difficult. This is part of His advocacy.
However, another part of His advocacy is His righteousness. He is not simply any advocate, He is Jesus Christ the righteous. He has the Father’s ear in a special way. He is part of the “in” crowd. It isn’t fair. His arguments get more weight. The accuser can only bring forward truth: this person is guilty, here is the evidence. But he brings it forward as an outsider, as one accusing, not only me, but accusing the judge. “If you are God,” he says, “You cannot let this go. There must be justice! You say you love, but look how this person has violated love! How can you let this go?” Jesus Christ the righteous says, “you must begin, not with falsehood, but with compassion and sympathy. There are reasons for this.”
However, this differs from a normal courtroom. This is the scene which occurs when we DO sin. There is no question of innocence. There is the certainty of guilt. Our advocate is not trying to put forward a false idea of our innocence. He agrees: we are guilty. So, what is His play?
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
Our advocate does not stop at saying that it is hard being human, so God should just let it go. He doesn’t say this at all! In fact, he does something far more shocking – He offers to bear the penalty. The real question is, should the judge let that stand? Can someone else stand in for the punishment and consequences of my actions?
Unbelievably, this is not God’s decision. Go with me here. Paul says in Romans 3:25 that this propitiation is a gift, to be received by faith. Jesus makes the offer, not to God, but to us! Will you receive this propitiation, or will you bear the brunt of your own defense?
And, this is how He is the propitiation for our sins, and for the whole world! How can this be? He makes the offer to all, but not all are willing to receive it. God is willing to let this stand, but not all sinners are willing to let another stand in for their sin.
(more to come!)
Do you think that confession of individual sin is necessary for forgiveness?
No, not at all. I think experientially, it helps a lot to confess the sin that we are cognizant of, but we recognize that even our righteousness is filthy rags. We are forgiven everything, it isn’t our confession that secures our forgiveness but His propitiation, His blood shed for us, that secures it. We simply recognize that experientially piece by piece as we walk through our days. This doesn’t mean that there is no value in confessing our sins, but He does not become unfaithful or unrighteous in withholding forgiveness if we don’t confess good enough or timely enough, that is crazy. As we walk and perhaps come up against manifestation of our sin, we can again go boldly to the throne of grace, where our forgiveness is already abundantly secured forever, and have it applied to this specific situation which afflicts us now. We receive grace and mercy to help now, because there is always mercy and grace to help.
I think the real insight here is that His mercy, His forgiveness, is not just a forever thing or a pie in the sky thing, it is also (perhaps more profoundly) an immediate here and now thing. We have more trouble believing in forgiveness in the here and now, it is easier to believe it as some future principle. The thing is, it is always now for us.
That’s what my heart told me but I couldn’t put it into words.