“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. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1-6)
We would all love to be sinless, I’m sure. But unfortunately, in this life, that is not possible. What is possible, though, is to have total confidence that when we do sin, the eternal penalty for sin is no longer held against us, because Christ has stood in our place.
The apostle John is an old man now as he writes to the Church. His heart is tender towards them. He calls them his children because he was once where they are now, but has come to know the sureness and security of life walking in the light of Christ. He writes now out of compassion for God’s people and a longing to see them walk in their victory as blood-bought saints.
What will it take to convince the Church, today, that the blood of Jesus truly does cover our sin? Men and women, myself included, often still struggle with condemnation. We try to do better, to sin less and to walk in the commands of Christ. But we fail time and time again. In the moments of our failures, when we feel the weakest and frailest, this is when we must trust in Christ, our advocate.
The Apostle John’s great hope for you and me is that we do not have to sin. It’s a desire he shares with the Holy Spirit who inspired him. But so that we do not live in a false hope of perfectionism, he says, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Is the “if” really necessary here? It’s a lot better than saying, “You’re all a bunch of mess-ups.” He’s speaking with a compassionate heart as he points us to Christ in Heaven.
The presence of Jesus at the right hand of our Father is a never-stopping plea. He does not constantly speak up or give false hope that the Father might overlook our sin. His very presence assures us that those who trust in His death, burial and resurrection will never be condemned. The Father was so pleased with the sacrifice made on Calvary’s cross that He now looks upon us with forgiveness instead of wrath. Should every man on earth look to Christ this moment for salvation would there be enough grace? The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ has satisfied the judgment of God for those who believe. But not all have believed. And to make it clear that this is not a blanket statement that the whole world gets to go to heaven, he tells us that just saying you know him does not mean you actually do.
John Calvin said that “No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.”
Believe and be saved. Believe and be justified. Believe and be forgiven. The one whose faith is in Christ can enjoy the benefits of Christ as an advocate; a constant hope that because of Him, God is pleased in and by them.
True belief obeys and follows with confidence. When we fail we are not condemned and cast aside, but deeply loved. God loves the world but does not love everyone the same way. The world can know that God is love, but only the redeemed child of God has the love of God perfected within him. And with this, our profession of faith is carried to the Father by Christ the Son. Every prayer, every plea for mercy, every cry for help is perfected through Christ our advocate, our hope. Let us rejoice that we know him, and with the profession of faith, stand with confidence in Christ alone.