A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Thursday April 30, 2020
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.
John begins chapter 2 by saying “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” Naturally, after a statement like that, all sorts of questions begin to fill our minds. Is John suggesting or implying that Christians must no longer sin at all? If so, what happens if a Christian does sin after confessing their sin? Are they now condemned forever?
Understanding the entangling nature of sin and its far-reaching effects on the world can at times be overwhelming. We can turn to Augustine to find helpful categories for the purposes of allowing us to better understand the four-fold nature of man. In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were created by God as good and innocent creatures. In this initial state, they had the ability to choose to sin, but they also had the ability to choose not to sin. As both the literal and representative heads of the human race, Adam and Eve chose sin. After their fateful and fatal choice, the nature of humanity was irrevocably changed from having a choice in the matter to simply not being able not to sin. Try as they might, in this unregenerate fallen state, mankind is unable to choose anything but sin; there is no escape. The Bible describes this as slavery to sin, enemies of God, children of the devil, and even spiritual death. Not only is human nature fallen and sinful, but each individual has also contributed with their own personal sin. There is no one righteous: not in nature, not in action.
But God did not abandon humanity in this miserable estate. God, being rich in mercy, out of an abundance of love, intervened in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. For those who have accepted the gift of the Son, who have trusted and believed in His name, He has permanently transformed their nature and given them the right to become children of God. Now, in this regenerate state, after accepting Jesus, Christians are once more able not to sin. This does not mean that they are, or ever will be, able to completely eradicate sin or become perfect, but just that as a result of their faith they are no longer held in total bondage by sin. Like Adam and Eve, they have the ability to choose not to sin, but the difference between the first parents and the believer is that the eternal consequences of the believer’s sin has already been credited to Jesus. Nothing can plunge a Christian back into the fallen state. Finally, only in the glorified state, in the presence of the righteous and holy God, will the Christian be completely free from the grip of sin, and will no longer be able to sin at all. In glory, there will be no more crying and no more tears, no more pain, and no more suffering. Sin and all of its horrible effects will be just a distant memory.
So John is not saying that a Christian can not sin, but that a Christian now has the ability once again not to sin. Christians can and will experience growth in their faith, progressing from “little children” to maturation, and although in that process they will become more like God, they will never be fully free from the lingering effects of sin. He solidifies this by saying, if a believer does sin, they can be confident because they have an advocate— the Greek word is “paraclete”— with the Father. What is an advocate? Someone who represents the interests of others, and who pleads on their behalf before a judge. Who is the advocate? Jesus Christ the righteous. John uses this word “paraclete” 4 other times, all in his gospel, and each time in reference to the The Holy Spirit. It can mean helper, advocate, or comforter. Jesus is our helper and our advocate pleading with the Father on our behalf. What does he plead? Forgiveness based on His blood.
Imagine that you find yourself before God in judgement, and since He is God, He knows everything about every person in the world all the time. Like Santa, He sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. Not only that, He also knows everything you have ever said, done, thought, looked at, texted, messaged— all of it. There, next to the throne is a screen, and on that screen your entire life —all of your actions, words, and thoughts —will be on full display. Based on the contents of your life, God will determine your ultimate fate. As you cower in fear awaiting the inevitable verdict that will surely condemn you to an eternity of misery beyond your worst nightmares, rather than your life, the life and death of Jesus is displayed instead. Jesus then says to the Father, “this one is mine.” This is what it means to have Jesus advocate for you. In the most unfair trade in history, Jesus takes not just your sin and punishment, but that belonging to all who believe in the whole world, and they are credited with His perfect righteousness; they receive His inheritance. Not only does He make that trade gladly, but He then confirms it to the Father: we belong to Him.
That is just a small glimpse of what John means when he says that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the world. He has satisfied forever the price owed as the result of our sin. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through Him.” Even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father declaring again and again, “This one is mine.”
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the perfect Advocate and Mediator. Remind us again that left on our own, we are dead in our sins, but also help us to remember that You did not leave us on our own. Even while we were dead in our sins, walking in darkness as Your enemies, You made the way. Help us to recognize that many around us remain in this state, unable to ransom themselves. Open our eyes to those we can share this great message of life and hope with even today. That many more sons and daughters would be added to Your kingdom. We pray in the name of our righteous Advocate, Amen.