1 John 2:1-2
Our Advocate and Sacrifice
Although we noted yesterday that we all have sinned, and that to deny such is simply to lie in the plainest and most obvious way, John quickly turns to say that his very reason for writing his letter was so that his readers would not sin. This statement would hold true for all of the biblical writers, Old and New Testaments, alike. The call was ever to turn away from sin and to God, to repent, and to live a godly life. In saying this, John is merely summarizing the Law and the Prophets, and the Apostles as well.
But John knows that people do and will sin—even believers. And so he writes, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” By way of aside, and as a matter of Greek grammar, 1:6-2:1 are loaded with “If…then” statements, the meaning of which being that “if this happens, then that will result.” For instance, “If we walk in the light…we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us of all sin.” Or, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In other words, “If this, for certain that.” Well, here we have another such statement from the Apostle stated in 2:1. There is no doubt that if we sin that we have an advocate by the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this case, “advocate” means “one who appears on another’s behalf” and as such is a mediator and intercessor (BAG, 2nd ed., 618). Thus, when Christians sin, Jesus our advocate stands on our behalf before the Father.
Now what gives him the right to do so? Verse two answers this question: “He is the propitiation for our sins.” And how did he come by this? By offering himself unto the Father on our behalf. Our Lord was both the atoning sacrifice whereby our sins were canceled and the propitiation whereby God’s just wrath against our sin was appeased (NICNT, 117-120). These concepts offend modern ears who believe sin is a trifle, if they believe in the reality of sin at all. Such a notion derives from a faulty view of God which sees Him not as holy but as a divine doting old fool or celestial Jeanie in the bottle: “Whatever God does, he does not condemn us for any wrongs we have done; after all, he loves us”—which further shows how little such people understand about love. Scripture teaches that God is holy and just and does not clear the wicked but on the condition which He laid out Himself which John proclaims here: Our sins are forgiven on the basis of the shed blood of the Righteous One—his sacrifice, his propitiation, and now his intercessory work on our behalf before the Father—and all out of real love.