Saturday, December 17, 2011

First John Chapter Two, Part One

2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous
In the case that any of John’s readers might have misunderstood what he meant a verse prior, the apostle re-states one of the purposes for his letter. He desires that none who assume the name Christian sin. John reminds us of the person of Christ and the importance of our walk with Him as it affects our witness in daily life, and he places that importance as an argument to refrain from sin. John gives the concession that saints will, sooner or later, sin; therefore he writes to the saint who has trespassed that we have an advocate in Heaven: Jesus Christ the righteous.

Again John refutes the notion that once a person is born again by faith in Jesus Christ that they cannot sin. A Christian receives the imputed righteousness of Jesus our Savior, and in the sense of being judged for our sins (aka being sentenced to Hell) a saint has passed from death to life, John 5:24. We cannot be tried for sins (past, present or future) that Christ died to pay for already. The Father punished sin in Christ when He struck the Son on Calvary’s cross; it is double jeopardy to exact payment from our Sin Bearer, and then to exact it from one whose faith is placed in Christ. Rest assured, Jesus our Lord died for our sins and sufficiently bore the payment such sin demanded, Hebrews 1:3; 1st Peter 2:24.

A Christian may still commit sin, however; otherwise it was pointless for John to write that saints should pray for sinning and erring brethren, 1st John 5:16; see also James 5:19-20. Sinning as a saint bears the consequences of severed fellowship, grieving God’s Holy Spirit who dwells in us, loss of reward in Heaven, and God’s disciplining hand, perhaps even to death, 1st Corinthians 11:30-32; 1st John 5:17; James 5:20; Hebrews 12:7-8. A sinning Christian may approach God through Christ again and be cleansed from their sins. Whether it is one sin committed in a moment of weakness, or a habit of sin indulged against the Spirit’s warning and admonition, a saint can find restored fellowship and vigor when we turn to the Lord.

John ascribes the title of “advocate” to our Savior in this verse. The Greek term is “parakletos” and can mean “counselor, intercessor or helper.” Oxford defines the word as “a person who pleads a cause on someone else’s behalf.” In other words, Jesus is our heavenly attorney, so to speak. Jesus our Lord pleads the perfection of His atoning blood and vicarious sacrifice, with which the Father was well pleased, Isaiah 53:10-11. As Jesus our Lord pleads on behalf of His saints in Heaven, the Holy Spirit within us pleads on our behalf on earth, Romans 8:26.

We must honestly pause and contemplate why John would inform us about Christ being the sinning saint’s advocate before the Father. His purpose was to comfort those who, through weakness or deliberation, fell back into sin’s snare. We all do from time to time. John is comforting us that all is not lost; even if we are admonished by our God and disciplined as Ananias and Saphira were we shall not be lost with the unbelieving world, Acts 5:1-11; 1st Corinthians 11:32.

John does not want Christians to pursue sin like a vocation; this is entirely the opposite of his desire for us in our lives. But for those who stumble he stoops to comfort, in hopes perhaps that the reminder of their Savior’s hallowed place in Heaven would compel them to forsake their sinful choices and return to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls. If we take John’s writing as a coherent whole, we can assert that the apostle was a teacher of what many mock as the “once saved always saved” fallacy. It only stands to reason. If salvation is a free gift of God’s grace then you received it not because of what you are, but because of what you aren’t: namely good enough to merit such a gift. It is equally fallacious to twist Scripture and teach that by grace one receives eternal life, but said life can be forfeit through wanton conduct. Then it is not really eternal life, because if it were it would never end once acquired. Likewise it shifts the responsibility for this gift’s promise (eternal life) into the hands of fallible men who wait to see if they will eventually prove faithful enough (i.e. worthy or meritorious) to keep eternal life. The glory goes not to the sustaining power of an all-sufficient God (El-Shaddai) but to the perhaps well-intentioned efforts of man. A careful study of John’s epistle reveals nothing of this nature, as we shall see as we press on.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post, Ian.

    As Jesus said "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh." Our actions demonstrate our attitudes and beliefs. Corrupt actions indicate a heart not yielded to God, but it is not the actions that cause the person to go into hell. Those who believe the actions send one to Hell, despite all their claims to the contrary are still to some degree bound to idea we can save ourselves.


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