The Advocacy of Christ (1 John 2:1-2)

The Advocacy of Christ (1 John 2:1-2)

I.) Unpacking the Text

In order to unpack these two verses, there are three areas we will cover:

1.) Forgiveness of sins is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and not of works.

2.) The charge placed upon the Christian who is forgiven of their sins in Christ.

3.) The confidence the believer has in Christ when sin is committed.

II.) By Grace through Faith in Christ

There are some who believe the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, without being accompanied by any works, gives people a license to sin. There are several errors in this thinking, but the greatest is failing to understand the work of God in regeneration.

First, when God saves a person, He makes a new one. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” God has removed their heart of stone and given them a heart of flesh.[1] Their desire will not be to abuse the grace of God, but to cherish it.

Second, when God saves a person, He indwells them. Before His being betrayed and handed over to be crucified, Jesus said this to His disciples in John14:16-17,

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14,

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

God describes the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit as this in Ezekiel 36:27, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

When someone has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit they not only have a new heart, but they have the Spirit indwelling them. They will have new found love for the things of God drawing them to be careful to obey His law. They will grow both in their hunger for His righteousness, and in a sensitivity to their sin because their hearts are new, and the Spirit of Christ indwells them.

A Christian is then thrust into a battle with the remaining flesh within, and the world without:

Paul says in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

Romans 8:5-8, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do soand those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

The other serious error in this thinking is its rejection of the Scripture, which is absolutely clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and not of works:

1.) Romans 3:20, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight…”

2.) Romans 4:4-8, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

3.) Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

4.) Galatians 2:16, 21, “A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works ofthe Law no flesh will be justified.”

5.) Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Titus 3:5-7, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

God saves sinners from Himself, by Himself, through Himself, to Himself, and for Himself. Salvation is all by His grace through our faith in the Person and substitutionary work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

III.) The Christian and Sin

So great a salvation does not create a license to sin against God, it creates new creatures with hearts fixed on Him, souls satisfied by Him, minds captivated with Him, and lives lived for Him and His glory. Anyone who wants to abuse the grace of God demonstrates they have not experienced it and are still in need of a new heart.

Remember what Ezekiel said about the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”[2]

What command does God give to those who partake of His grace? Jesus tells those He saves to go and sin no more. To the blind man He healed by the pool of Bethesda in John 5:14, “Do not sin anymore…” To the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Peter 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God.”

Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Ephesians 4:17-24, “17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

1 Peter 1:14-16, “14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Those saved by grace through faith in Christ will strive to live in a manner worthy of the calling by which they have been called.[3] They will consider their bodies as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amount to idolatry.[4]

Positionally we have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and when Christ is revealed in glory, we too will be revealed with Him, just as He is. The Christian is to therefore consider themselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.[5]

Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

IV.) Christ, our Prosecutor and Defender

It is Paul’s final statement here that provides us as believers with confidence before God when we sin. It is the truth of Christ’s love for us, which was demonstrated by Him becoming a Man and giving of Himself to the point of death on the cross; and upon that cross becoming our sin to satisfy the penalty we rightly deserve.[6]

In 1 John 2:1-2, we are not given a command to obey to handle sin in our life. We are given a Person and a work to fix our gaze upon:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is thepropitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

The fact that John calls them “little children” is an indication He is speaking to believers. He is writing to them so they do not sin. He is encouraging new creatures to progress in the holiness of Christ. He is desiring them to not miss the mark of the glory of the God who called them and saved them.

His next statement delivers a fatal blow to the notion of sinless perfection, “And if anyone sins.” The way the Greek is written this could literally be rendered, “And if anyone sins, which you will.”[7]

He is writing these things so believers will not sin, but He wants us to understand that in our striving to live in a manner worthy of our calling we will inevitably sin, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

He calls us to first look at the Person of Christ, who is our righteous Advocate. An advocate in the biblical sense is one who is called to one’s aid to plead another’s cause before a judge.[8] If we consider both what John has just said about biblical confession and what he says here, we walk away with this truth: Christ is both the prosecuting attorney, and the defense attorney of the Christian.

As the prosecutor, Christ exposes all the evidence against the Christian proving them to be guilty of sin before Him. God then draws the Christian to say the same thing He says about their sin. To openly confess sin to God is to agree with Him about the guilty verdict which has been proven without a shadow of a doubt.

John is now drawing us to see that when a Christian sins, they are not only convicted by Christ in a legal sense, but they are defended by Him in a legal sense as well, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus comes to the defense of the Christian, and it is not on the basis of their righteous merit, but His righteousness.

The eternal Son of God humbled Himself by becoming a Man. He was born of a virgin, which means He was born without sin, thus making Him the spotless Lamb of God capable of offering Himself for sin in the place of the guilty.

As a Man, He lived a completely righteous life loving His Father with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving His neighbor as Himself without flaw. He did what we could not, and earned righteousness through the Law. He willingly went to the cross as a righteous Man undeserving of death, yet hung upon it as an unrighteous Person with our sin upon Him.

With our sin upon Him, He Himself became, “the propitiation for our sins.”

Hebrews 2:17 says, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Propitiation in its basic definition means to appease. In the context of the work of Christ on the cross it means to appease, or to satisfy, the wrath of God. God the Father crushed God the Son for the sins of His people. 

Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering…11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities…12 He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”

He became the sin of those who believe, so that they might become the righteousness of God in Him. He takes their sin to satisfy God’s justice, and gives them His righteousness so they may be acceptable to God. Since the payment for sin was satisfied on Christ, God can legally declare a sinner right before Him, not on the basis of their works, but on the fact that their sin was judged on Christ, and His righteousness was credited to their account.

Romans 3:21-26 says, “21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness,because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God saves sinners from Himself, by Himself, through Himself, to Himself, and for Himself. Salvation is all by His grace through our faith in the Person and substitutionary work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

V.) The Actuality of the Atonement

John reminds His believing listeners that if anyone sins, they have an Advocate with the Father who appeased the wrath of God for their sin. He was not only a propitiation for their sins, “but also for those of the whole world.”

It is important we understand that “world” here does not mean every single individual. It is a generic expression which means humanity throughout the whole earth. Christ’s propitiatory work on the cross was made only for those who believed, are believing, will believe on the Christ.

Jesus said in John 10:14-15, “14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

He goes on to say in verses 27-28, “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

There are several theological issues that arise if we believe Christ’s atoning work was made for every single person who has ever lived.

First, we have to logically conclude that everyone will be saved, because all sin would have been judged on Christ.

Now, we rightly understand that universalism is heresy.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “13 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The destruction that the broad road leads to is described in Revelation 20:11-15, and it is a sea of people who are “judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”[9] If Christ atoned for their wicked deeds, why are they being judged for them? Men and women are suffering in hell for the sins supposedly suffered by Christ upon the cross. Sinners for whom He died are still damned. One individual puts it this way if this were true, “Hell is full of people whose sins were paid for by Christ – sin paid for, yet punished forever.”[10]

Some may say, “Well they did not receive the atonement by repentance and faith in Christ, so they now need to die for their own sins.” This thought brings up a second and third issue. The second issue is that it suggests that Christ needlessly suffered under the wrath of His all-knowing Father. God knew who would not believe and be judged for their sins, yet He laid them on His beloved Son and crushed Him anyways? Do we seriously believe that the God Who is love would punish His only Son unnecessarily?

The third issue is that it makes the atonement a potential one, and not an actual atonement for sin. The thought being atonement only becomes an actual one when people repent of their sins and believe in Christ. In other words, Christ did not actually purchase salvation for anyone on the cross; He just made it possible.

Ultimately, it does not guarantee the salvation of any person. It does not guarantee that those for whom Christ died will have the opportunity to hear of Him and respond to Him. It does not in any remove or even lesson the sufferings of the lost.[11] It does not actually atone, because an actual atonement guarantees the salvation of a person. It guarantees that those for whom Christ died will hear of Him and respond to Him. It removes the suffering due to the sinner.

How do we know that an actual atonement for sin was made by Christ on the cross? Christ declared it is finished, and God raised Him from the dead three days later never to die again proving an actual atonement for sin was made. Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

Romans 8:28-39 says, “28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

VI.)   People from Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation

John says this, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is thepropitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

Revelation describes for us the fact that Christ purchased from Himself with His own blood, people “from every tribe tongue and nation.”[12]

In Revelation 7:9-10, John describes all the people God will save out of the great tribulation, and says he saw, “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

The saving work of God in Christ is far greater than we can possibly fathom, but we in Christ can rest assured that when we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who was a propitiation for our sins. Truly there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[13]

Romans 5:8-10, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

1 John 4:10,19, “10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…19 We love Him, because He first loved us.”

[1] Ezekiel 36:26

[2] Ezekiel 36:27

[3] Ephesians 4:1

[4] Colossians 3:5

[5] Romans 6:11

[6] Romans 5:8, Philippians 2:5-8, 2 Corinthians 5:21

[7] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John, John MacArthur; Page 45

[8] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number:

[9] Revelation 20:13

[10] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary:2 Peter & Jude, John MacArthur; Page 74

[11] Sinners in The Hands of a Good God, David Clotfelter; Page 165

[12] Revelation 5:9

[13] Romans 8:1

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