1 John 2:1-2. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
One thing I’m sure you’ve figured out by now is that your union with Christ does not make you perfectly sinless. The Beloved Apostle doesn’t want us to keep sinning, and when we are in Christ, we no longer want to keep sinning either. But John also knows that we will sin. And when (not if) we do, our union with Christ has us more than covered.
Imagine if John only wrote the first part of 2:1 – I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. The end. Imagine if the message of Christianity was simply “don’t sin anymore.” How crushing would that be?
So how do you deal with your sin? Your active, ongoing sinning? Do you see your sin as an ever mounting debt that you owe God? A debt that, at this point in your life, just shames and embarrasses you?
Have you ever seen one of those movies where someone owes the mafia boss money? What happens next? Usually there’s a scene where the mobsters come to collect the money, there’s begging and pleading, excuses are made, denial occurs, and then someone’s thumbs get broken or worse. Is that how you see God?
Or maybe you see yourself constantly in a cosmic courtroom. God the judge is there. Satan the prosecuting attorney is there. And there you stand all alone to defend yourself with excuses, or plea-bargains, or by testifying against others who are worse than you, or just plain begging for mercy again and again.
But what if there is no debt to pay off with God? What if there are no more court appearances for you and for me?
What if our union with Christ unites us to his propitiating sacrifice? Propitiation? It’s a rare but powerful word. It means to be satisfied. Greek scholars debate whether the idea behind this word is the satisfaction of our sin debt (we have been changed), or the satisfaction of God’s wrath toward our sin (God has been changed)? Is John saying that our sins are forgiven, or that God no longer has to punish our sins? Um…YES! It’s both. To summarize the late, great New Testament scholar John Stott, “There can be no forgiveness without the satisfying of God’s righteous wrath.”
Later in this epistle John will twice declare that God is love. And nowhere is God’s love more fully expressed than in his relationship toward our sin. Our sin? Yes, our sin. First in his anger toward sin we find great love. Only a loving God would hate the very thing that is destroying those he loves. But second, his great love is displayed in his propitiation of our sin by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. Only a God who is madly in love with us would give his own life to pay off, once and for all time, our debt of sin. No more broken thumbs. No more shame and embarrassment before God. No more plea-bargains or pleading for the court’s mercy. Propitiation has come. The ram has been provided in the bush. And his name is Jesus. And you are eternally covered by his blood.
But that’s not all! Based on his propitiating sacrifice, Jesus is also your eternal advocate in heaven. Your parakletos. The one who speaks in your defense. This is the fellowship with Christ that we wrote about yesterday. Jesus, having felt the agony of our temptation, but having never sinned, brings his legal defense to the Father for us each and every time we sin. And we once again remain righteous. Not on the basis of our pleading, or our bargaining, or our spiritual efforts at cleansing, but based solely on his own righteousness – Jesus Christ the righteous.
Christian, in your sinning Jesus has never once left you alone to defend yourself with your pitiful excuses. In your addiction, your people-pleasing, your temper tantrums, your passive-aggressiveness, your lust, your resentment, as the Accuser stands ready to throw you under the legal bus, your friend and lawyer, Jesus the righteous, stands ready to throw your accuser into Hell. He stands before God each time you sin, never late, never unprepared, and never defeated. He’s never lost a case, and he’s never had to plea bargain for you either. All glory be to Christ!
“To live is Christ” means that when we sin we have a propitiation and a parakletos. We have an advocate whose blood speaks a better word for us. Better than all our excuses and all our broken promises. We have a union with Christ’s own righteousness that drives us deeper and deeper into our Father’s arms of love. Especially when we fail him.
How do you deal with your sin?
You in Christ
God’s not mad at you. Do you believe this?
Christ in you
How might you train your heart to hear Christ’s defense rather than your own?
Playlist: Christ Our Advocate
It is so good to be reminded that we can’t atone for our sins but Jesus the Anointed One advocates for us and his blood cleanses us from sin. Hallelujah!