1 John: Christianity in Black and White, Part IV :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 John 2:1-11: Jesus Christ Our Advocate

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought also to walk just as He walked.

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word you have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him, and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:1-11, NKJV).

John’s letter is both pastoral and pointed. He does not mince words about righteous living and the necessity of living an obedient life. He continues his teaching centering on the Lord Jesus and the true state of a person who claims to follow Him. Verses 1 and 2 describe the person of Jesus Christ as our Advocate. He is our defense attorney and comes before the Father, interceding on our behalf. He pleads and prays for us so that the Father is pleased. Advocacy is found in both testaments. When we read passages such as Isaiah 53:12, we see that one of the roles of what Isaiah refers to as “the Suffering Servant” is that of intercession for us as sinners deserving wrath and condemnation for our rebellion and outright hatred of God, which could not be changed unless there is Divine intervention on behalf of our dead souls.

All throughout Scripture, the LORD makes it plain that there is no way in our own strength that we can atone for ourselves. We can’t, in our unregenerate state.

I have referred to these passages of Scripture in past writings, but it bears repeating. Just read Romans 1:18-32 and 3:10-18, where the apostle Paul gives us a true and honest evaluation of our lives without the intercession of God to change us. Salvation is God’s plan to rescue us from our own trappings of wickedness, and it is He that initiates the process whereby if we sin, we are not left to our own devices, but to rely on the interceding work of Christ on our behalf. It is Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to live a righteous life, but it means that we must submit to His direction and terms. To do otherwise shows that we don’t trust Him. It’s as simple as that, and does not need deep theological inquiry to come up with an alternative answer.

Not only is our Lord Jesus an advocate for us when we stumble into sin, but He is also there to support the weak believer. Luke 22:32 tells us that Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith may not waver as Satan had asked the Lord to be given the ability to “sift him like wheat,” to weaken his faith so much that he would become useless for any future work for the LORD. The gospels record Peter’s denial of Christ three times; and also make note that when this event occurred, Peter ran off and began heartfelt weeping and despair over what he did.

When John wrote the final words of his gospel, he included the restoration and reconciliation of Peter by our LORD while on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We see the fruit and result of this encounter when Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), preaches a message that cuts to the heart of the listeners, resulting in 3,000 repentant Jews who had their eyes opened and became followers of Christ thereafter. This goes to show that the real proof of a Spirit-guided life is the ability to be used by Jesus Christ to give a spiritual beggar real food from the One who is called the Bread of Life.

We see Jesus fulfilling His role as advocate even when going through the horrid period of suffering on the cross for the remission of our sins. In Luke 23:34, our LORD prays out loud to the Father by asking Him to forgive those who are murdering Him, because in their hatred and revulsion for Him, they are actually a part of the redemption drama by unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.

The Roman soldiers who had numerous criminals put to death, along with the crowd as a whole ridiculing Him, are objects of God’s compassion and ability to forgive even this horrendous act. Here’s something to consider in that the Creator of the Universe (Colossians 1:18; John 1:1-4, Genesis 1) is deliberately allowing Himself to be killed by His own creation so He can redeem them for sins such as this and other acts of evil ( John 15:13; Romans 8:35-39; 2 Corinthians 5:14, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16). It is a shame on our part to cast this thought and action aside so we can revel in our own thoughts and deeds, using our Lord Jesus as “fire insurance” and Someone to go to when things don’t go our way and we think we can ask God to get us out of our situation, only to drop Him when everything again seems to go our own way.

John devotes much of his Gospel (Chapters 13-17) to the teaching and preparation of our Lord for the act of redemption that had been planned even before the creation of the universe. Three and one-half years of companionship and learning by His disciples would soon be coming to a conclusion. At what would be the final Passover in terms of the necessity to sacrifice an animal for the remission of sins, the Lord told His friends that He would soon be leaving them, but they wouldn’t be alone in the sense of a lack of God’s presence. Jesus began to teach them about the person and work of what John names “The Comforter” or whom we refer to as the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-15). The presence of the Holy Spirit is another means by which Christ serves as our Advocate. It is the Spirit that convicts, teaches, warns, and edifies as to how we are to live our lives as Jesus’ followers.

Essentially, if we don’t want to fall into sin and error in our walk with God, it is the Spirit that tells us that we need to listen to God’s direction and counsel in Scripture and to seek Him in prayer at every opportunity (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If you want to know what to do and you don’t know how to put it into words, it is the Spirit who intercedes for you (Romans 8:26).

Why do we think we have to go at it alone, especially if the LORD says that He will be with us (Hebrews 13:5)? We’ve got so much more of an advantage than the world can ever possess in terms of trust and faith (Proverbs 3:5-6). It is the Spirit who gives us comfort in those times where it seems that everything is in a state of confusion. He gives us the “level head,” so to speak, to overcome whatever situation the world, the flesh, and the devil can throw at us (James 4:7).

The Lord Jesus, in His High Priestly prayer (John 17), intercedes for those who will be a part of His body here on Earth that will take upon itself the task of telling the world about His saving grace and act of redemption on behalf of us. Let this thought sink in for a moment. The Lord is praying for people in the realm of his time, but also for future generations that will come to know Him as Lord and Savior, making up the true church of genuine believers that will be His witnesses until that day where He will establish the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21, 22).

After completing the work He was predestined to accomplish, He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11) and is now performing the duties of the perfect High Priest, interceding to the Father on behalf of us (Hebrews 7:25). This shows that we are known to Him personally and intimately. We are not a “group,” but individuals who have the blessed opportunity and gift of coming to Him with anything at any time.

As we see the events of prophecy becoming more clear and unmistakable, we who are the true remnant of believers need to cling to Him more than ever, because there could come a day where we will be given the opportunity to confess Him before rulers and principalities, with the result being the possible loss of our lives, only to reap the benefits of heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23).

Not only is our Lord Jesus the Advocate for us, but His mission of redemption satisfied the demands of the perfect, sinless, innocent sacrifice for the sins of the elect that God the Father required for us to have a true and lasting relationship with Him, gaining reconciliation that could not be done by any action or word on our behalf due to our sin nature.

There is a term used by theologians and Bible scholars (and maybe by your pastor) to describe the act of salvation, and that is propitiation. It means that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins pleased the Father and made the entire process of salvation possible. The act of redemption done for us by the Lord Jesus was satisfactory, and nothing else needed to be done.

Still, you have people who think that they need to do something of their own to gain peace with God, and that certain tasks, works, ceremonies, diets, abstentions, or other factors finish the job. What these people are insinuating is that Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior, needed our help to get the job done so we can keep being saved. That is pure nonsense. Paul addressed this “works”-based belief in the letter to the Galatians, and he did not mince words concerning this blatant and blasphemous error.

With the rest of these verses, John is really addressing the necessity of seeing discipleship and devotion to Jesus Christ in terms of absolute and unconditional surrender to His will and direction without question or suggestion. Everything we do and say in this world needs to be done in the light of Scripture and the example of our LORD, who has shown us what a life totally dedicated to the will and plan of God is all about. In no way does this imply that we are to be mind-numb and devoid of thought or rationality, but it does show us that we are to have the mind of Christ and our thoughts need to be in alignment with His, which makes sense because He created our minds, as well as everything else, and He has the final word in everything.

Every particle of this universe is under His command and direction, with nothing out of place or allowed to operate at random without objectives specifically oriented by Him. Those who are rebellious (namely us) and believe that what they say and do will not come to light are sadly mistaken. All will be brought to light and exposed (Numbers 32:23; Ezekiel 18:4; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Luke 12:2; Revelation 6:16; Isaiah 47:10).

Here is where I believe that the atheist mindset originates. A professed atheist really does not base his beliefs on the lack of supporting evidence, but upon the idea of convenience and wishful thinking that tells him or her that they won’t be held accountable for their wrongdoings. They don’t want to have to answer to someone more powerful than they are, according to their self-imposed intellect and personal philosophy. Let me illustrate by using an atheist’s own words.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell, who lived for nearly a hundred years, dying in the early 1970’s, authored a book explaining his unbelief, entitled Why I Am Not a Christian. It was an exercise in attempting to put a foundation upon skepticism and criticize the elements of the faith, or so it seemed. When asked by a reporter about why he was an unbeliever, he is to have said that a belief in God would interfere with his sexual preferences. He was a noted adulterer and attempted to seduce the daughter of one of his hosts.

Another atheist that people like to quote is Frederick Nietzsche, the German philosopher of the 19th century who proclaimed that “God is dead,” with many readers of his works getting in line behind him. It should be noted that he ended his life in an insane asylum. Atheistic philosophies such as socialism, communism, Nazism, and fascism murdered more than 100 million people in the last century. That’s an inconvenient truth that a lot of people now would like to see covered up.

Now I need to get off of my soapbox and get back to the issues brought up by the apostle. In analyzing verses 3-11, John states that we have a duty as recipients of Christ’s advocacy. There has to be a change in how you approach God, namely that you can’t claim to know Him and then ignore or neglect His commandments. This is a call for the reading and application of Scripture in the life of a believer. You can’t know what to obey if you don’t know the standards. We have a pandemic in this country, and I dare say around the world, of biblical ignorance – a lot of it being deliberate – which fans the flames of skepticism and the reason that many young people drift away from the faith once they are away from home and their respective church. Let this serve as a warning.

If your idea of worship and Christian growth is measured by feelings, emotions, experiences, alleged signs and wonders, strange behavior dismissed as “moves of the Spirit,” or music that seems to go on and on in the name of “worship,” and there is little teaching or even use of the Scriptures in the services, is it any wonder we’re in the shape we’re in as a faith? This kind of behavior and expression disguised as a “new move of God” is nothing more than a blight on the face of true biblical Christianity and is a source of ridicule and scorn by the watching world.

What is true devotion to God?

John tells us that if someone keeps God’s words, that person has a true and authentic relationship with Him, and that manner of walk ensures that we are relying on the LORD to perfect us. Now, we will never be perfect in this life, despite our best efforts. The teaching in some circles about “sinless perfection” is simply not true. The best of believers will have bad days, or lose their temper, or say something that is not right, or get angry over something that is trivial, and the list could go on.

This is the point that John is emphasizing in these verses. Because Jesus Christ is our Advocate, He forgives us and cleanses us from our sins when we come to Him with a repentant heart. Our Sovereign God holds no grudges when sins are forgiven, and He doesn’t bring them up in conversations. So, why should we? We are to walk in the light of God’s love and direction constantly through reading and applying His Word to our daily lives, which will always overshadow and conquer the darkness by which the world, the flesh, and the devil try to allure us.

In this day where every type of thought is allowable except absolute truth, the Christian cannot allow the forces of this world system to cause us to be critical of one sin while turning an eye away from something similar. The Christian should not be wishy-washy, but stand firm on his convictions as founded in the Word.

In our next study, we shall look at the advice John gives to his fellow elders. Stay tuned.