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The Advocate - 1John 2:1

Jesus Christ is not our heavenly defense attorney. We are indefensible. He does not plead our case before the Bar. He pleads His own case in our stead.

1 John 1:8, 10, 2:1; 2 Peter 2:22; Romans 8:31-34; 1 Peter 1:3-5

Feb 09, 2014 12:00 PM


NOTE: There is no audio recording of this message.

On the evening of Sunday, August 20th, 1989, two brothers, Lyle and Erik, ages 18 and 21, entered their plush home in Beverly Hills.  Each was armed with a shotgun.  They walked into the den where their parents were reclined on a couch watching a movie.  There they proceeded to murder their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, shooting them both multiple times, pausing at one point to reload.  After disposing of the weapons, they called the police with delirious screams and shouts, pretending to have found their parents murdered by the mob.

At first, the brothers were not among the many suspects being investigated.  However, in the following four months, the two young men bought new cars, expensive hotel rooms, and Rolex watches totaling over one million dollars, all of which was from the estate of their wealthy deceased parents.

Suspicions were raised, evidence began to accumulate, and eventually the police took them into custody.  Thus began six years of deliberations through two trials that finally led to the conviction of both Menendez brothers.  They were mercifully sentenced to two successive life terms without the possibility of parole.  Under California law, they could have been sentenced to death by lethal injection.

The first trial ended in a hung jury.  Members of the jury could not decide if Lyle and Erik were motivated by greed, or if they were simply reacting uncontrollably as victims of what their defense lawyers presented as years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse which would mean they were not responsible for their actions.  Due to the skill of the lawyers their lives were spared.  The defense team succeeded in causing the jury to doubt what was clear evidence of their guilt.  So a mistrial was declared.

But in spite of hiring the best lawyers money could buy, a second jury found the brothers guilty of two counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  Virtually no one was disappointed with that verdict.  These two spoiled, unremorseful, rich, sociopaths got less than they deserved, but enough to satisfy most that justice was finally served.

The trial was televised because of the intense interest shown in the case by the general public.  We don’t like it when people break the law and get away with it.  Especially when they commit heinous crimes for which they are surely guilty, and show no shame or regret.  Think O. J. Simpson.  Think Scott Peterson.  Think Jodi Arias who murdered her ex-boyfriend and spent 2 million tax payer dollars, unsuccessfully, to prove her innocence, and it’s not over yet.  Think Susan Smith who intentionally drowned her two children so her boyfriend would be more inclined to marry her.

We don’t like it when people intentionally break the law and try to get away with it.  We want to believe the cops are the good guys.  We want them to successfully track down the bad guys.  We want justice.  We want to be assured that crime indeed does not pay.  Especially for those people whose guilt is obvious to all, but who believe that with enough time and enough money and enough manipulation and lies, they can avoid the punishment they deserve.

Beloved, if any one of us were arraigned and brought before the court of Heaven for every infraction of God’s Law of which we are guilty, we would spend what would seem like eternity before the bar just listening to the charges.  If every sin--things we’ve said, things we’ve done, things we haven’t done which we should have done, and the sins of our thoughts--if all those sins were recounted to us by a holy God who has kept an infallible record of them all--we would be in complete despair before the first dozen infractions were read to us.

If we had all the money in the world--if we were to hire the absolute best defense lawyers to plead our innocence--if they were the most eloquent and most knowledgeable and most persuasive men and women the world had ever known--if they had millions of witnesses, each one of which could testify to our outstanding character and virtue and benevolence and goodness--it would be a complete and utter waste of money, time, and breath to try to convince God that we had not broken His law, or we did not deserve the maximum sentence of death forever in Hell for our sins against Him.

To stand before the Judge of all the earth as a guilty sinner, one who has spent his entire life in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, desiring only to satisfy the natural lusts of the human heart, having little or no regard for the inevitable day when he would have to give an account to a holy God for every idle word he ever spoke--for that man to stand before God based upon his own merits is the very definition of hopelessness.

What law have we not broken?  What sins have we not committed?  Where have we not trespassed?  What commands have we not left undone?  And John has just finished saying he knows, and we all know we sin:

1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

We’re not deceived about our own condition.  We do sin.  We are guilty.  We are not inherently different from anyone else in this regard.  All have sinned.  All are guilty.  So what hope do we have before this God who is light and in whom there is no darkness at all?

The song says we should count our blessings and name them one by one.  Maybe we should start by counting our sins, naming them one by one, and thank God we have what John refers to in 1John 2:1 as our Advocate.  Look at the text with me:

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. (1John 2:1 ESV)

John said in chapter 1 that even though we sin, if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just, or in other words, God is justified in forgiving us of our sin because the blood of His own Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  So that should settle it.  There is our answer.  There is the hope we search for.  But there is more.  We have more than a Savior in Jesus Christ.  Notice our text once again:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.

There is a group considered to be within the Christian camp whom we refer to as Antinomians.  These are people who believe wholeheartedly in the phrase, “Once saved, always saved”.  They generally take that to mean once my sins have been forgiven through the death of the Lord Jesus, then if I sin again, or if I live a lifestyle of complete debauchery, I need not be concerned about my salvation.  In their understanding of the Scriptures, obedience to God has no bearing on a person’s salvation.  Their favorite verse which they massacre in order to justify this aberrant belief is, “We’re not under law, but grace.”  I.e. as Christians, we do not need to be obedient to God’s law because it is not obedience that saves us, but grace.

That is very bad theology, brethren.  It caters to those who know enough Bible to understand the need for salvation, but who also want to love the world and live for the world.  They are guilty of wanting the proverbial cake while eating it.  They want salvation and sin.  This is nearly identical to the teachings of the Gnostics we spoke of last week: As long as your spirit is right with God, it doesn’t matter what you do with your physical body.  The Antinomians would say, “as long as God has declared you righteous by imputing Christ’s righteousness to you, you need never worry about obedience to God’s Law.

John says here that it most certainly does matter what you do and how you live: I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. This letter is for the purpose of encouraging holiness and godliness and obedience to Christ.  It is for the purpose of discouraging lawlessness.  It has already been made clear by John that those Christians who believe they can have fellowship with God while walking in the darkness of sin, are not really Christians at all.

This is another reason why for many years there was great controversy over what was described as “Lordship Salvation”.  The antinomian, easy-believism camp which largely consisted of Dispensationalists taught for decades that a person could “accept Jesus Christ as Savior without making Him the Lord of their life”.  Being saved without becoming a disciple of Christ was considered normal.  But one could be exceptionally devout and make Jesus Lord and decide to follow Him and obey Him.  But that was not necessary for salvation.

That is completely contrary to John’s theology, Paul’s theology, and Jesus’ theology and the theology of the entire Bible.  And it causes me to wonder about the salvation of a number of people whom I personally know who have taught this kind of theology for many years.

Beloved, please understand this one thing.  Neither the Christian nor the non-Christian EVER has the freedom to sin.  If unbelievers do not have permission from God to sin, then how much more so do Christians NOT have permission to sin against their God and Savior and King.  It is true that we do sin.  But if we somehow had permission from God to do so, could it actually be called sin?  Is not sin the violation of God’s Law?  And does God ever violate His own Law by giving men permission to break it?

[22] What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22 ESV)

The Law of God remains in effect.  That is why John says, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. On the one hand, we have indeed been declared innocent of all the charges against us.  We have been saved by the grace of God through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sakes.  But this should never be considered a reason for sinning even more!  Shall we continue in sin so that God’s grace might be even more abundant?  So that God may look even more gracious than He has already been?  Are you serious?  God forbid!!  Do Not Sin!

But sadly, we do sin.  Not because of the grace of God, but in spite of the grace of God toward us.  Still!  We continue to sin.  Are we completely hopeless?  Even as believers, can we not stop sinning?  The answer is, no.  Not entirely.  Even though we’ve been declared perfectly holy in God’s sight, and even tho the Holy Spirit is resident in us as believers, all of the New Testament writers exhort us not to sin.  And that brings us to the rest of the verse we are considering today:

[2:1] 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. (1 John 2:1 ESV)

This is a court scene and there are four entities present: 1) you--or me--the guilty sinner, i.e. the law breaker 2) Jesus, the sinner’s Advocate 3) God the Judge whose Law has been violated, and 4) the Adversary, the perpetual Accuser of the brethren, Satan.

John paints this picture for us for one reason: To encourage us!  To encourage the Christian who feels the guilt and the weight of his sinfulness.  Do not sin!  But if you do, if you listen too long to the temptations that seem to endlessly whisper in your ear, if in a faithless moment, you sin against God--Beloved, all is not lost.  Certainly, your salvation is not lost.  Take courage, because even though you have transgressed, there is One who stands before God Almighty as your powerful Advocate, a voice to God on your behalf--One who speaks with the Judge of Heaven for your sake.  As evil as sin is, and as sinful as you may be, do not be afraid to confess your sin and trust Jesus Christ the Righteous as your Advocate.

Part of the reason for John’s encouragement here is because the sins of the godly have a peculiarly powerful effect.  They are not like the sins of unbelievers.  The sins of the saved are particularly hurtful to the loving God who has saved us from those very sins we commit.  But these sins we commit powerfully effect us.  The sins of saints are particularly discouraging and disheartening and damning.

When I was an unbeliever, I easily ignored my sinfulness.  I didn’t care about pleasing God or being good.  I loved my sin.  I was a slave to sin, and gladly so.  It was not until the Spirit of God began to convict and convince me of my wickedness that I began to become sensitive towards it.

Now that I am a Christian, and even more so now that I have been a Christian for decades, when I willfully sin against the God I have come to know and love, that sin is exceptionally disheartening.  It causes us to wonder why we claim to be Christians at all.  We feel like the hypocrites that we are.  Then, to make matters even worse, we also suffer the accusations of the one who tempted us to sin in the first place: “How can you call yourself a Christian?”  And we struggle to disagree.  “Yes, I have sinned.  Yes, I am guilty.  No, I am not deserving of the least of God’s blessings.  How could He possibly ever allow me into His Heaven?”

That’s a good question.  And that is why John writes this precious verse, this wonderful sentence here for us.  Because we have all been at the point where we’ve questioned our own salvation due to our own inexcusable sinfulness.  This is the very reason why many Christians believe we can actually lose our salvation, and I’ve been tempted to believe that myself.

Until I read the Scriptures.  This passage right here should cause us to know just how impossible it is for a true believer in Christ to lose the gift of eternal life.

According to John, Christians who sin have an Advocate in Jesus Christ.  But notice he did not say we have a Defense Attorney.  The two are not the same.  As our Advocate, the Lord Jesus does not stand before God  to convince Him we are not guilty.  We are guilty!  We have broken the Law!  We do deserve to be punished!  And that is the mystery of all of this! Satan is right!  His accusations against us are deserved!  God knows we have sinned.  Christ knows we have sinned.  We know we have sinned.  The Devil knows we have sinned!  So there is nothing to defend!  There is no way to escape or deny the charges against us.

And to make matters worse, John refers to Jesus as Jesus Christ the Righteous! How can Jesus, being righteous and knowing our guilt, legitimately defend us before a righteous, all-knowing God?

He doesn’t.  Jesus does not defend us.  On the contrary, He pleads His own work for us. He speaks to God on our behalf, for our sakes, based upon His own work and upon God’s own purposes in saving us!  He pleads Himself as our Substitute.  He pleads Himself as the acceptable sacrifice for us.  He pleads Himself to the Father as His beloved Son.  He pleads God’s own electing of us to salvation.  Jesus does not defend us.  There is no defense to be had.  Rather, He is our Advocate.

But also, He is our Advocate to God.  And boy, does He have His work cut out for Him.  Because God is not in a hurry to forgive us.  You know, don’t you, that God the Father is pretty much merciless.  He is only interested in justice.  So for Jesus to persuade the Father not to kill us immediately--well, you’ve heard of Mission: Impossible, right?

Look with me at Romans 8.

[31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [33] Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[?] (Romans 8:31-34 ESV)

Is God against us?  The One who sent His Son to die for us?  Is Jesus Christ against us?  The One who died and rose from the dead for us?  So then, if the Father, and the Son and, we should add, the Holy Spirit aren’t against us, who is against us?

Well, I can think of three: 1) Satan.  Satan is the Accuser.  That seems to be his job.  So we know he is always against us.  2) Other people against whom I have sinned.  And there could be many of them against me, accusing me to God.  3) Finally, my own conscience.  My conscience is probably the most powerful of the three.

I’ve heard many people speak of not being able to forgive themselves.  That is a genuine problem, although many people seem to use it as a ploy to get sympathy.  But as Christians, our consciences do sometimes condemn us.  There are times when our genuine and deserved feelings of guilt can be overwhelming.  How could I have done this awful thing?!  Why should I expect God to forgive me yet again, and especially for this?

But what does the Scripture say?  If God is FOR us, if Christ is FOR us, -- then what difference does it make if Satan, and the entire population of my hometown (and more specifically my high school classmates), AND my conscience condemn me?  Because in the end, I don’t answer to either Satan or any man, or my conscience.  I answer to God!  At the end of the day, I must give an account of myself to my God!

Jehovah sits at the bar and metes out justice according to His Law.  And before that bar stands His Son.  His Son stands there as my Advocate!  His RIGHTEOUS Son, in whom the Father is well pleased, is my representative before the Supreme Court of the Universe to speak on my behalf as one who, even as a believer in Jesus Christ, still sins.

Beloved, if we did not still sin after salvation, we would have no need of an Advocate.  Had we lived sinless lives ever since the moment Christ saved us, this verse would not be here.  John would not have written these words.  It is precisely because we do sin as Christians that John encourages our hearts by reminding us that none other than Christ Himself is an Advocate for us.  We are safe.  Our eternal lives are not threatened.  We are not in danger of being held accountable and punished for our sinfulness because Jesus is there to remind the Father of their work in securing our eternal life.

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [5] who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

I’m sure God knows we are being guarded by His power through faith.  I’m sure God knows that.  I’m sure God recalls that He caused us to be born again.  I’m confident God has not forgotten about the imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance He Himself is keeping in Heaven for us.  But for some inexplicable reason, God the Father has also given the Lord Jesus, His righteous Son, the work of being our perpetual Advocate to speak to Him for our sakes, especially when we as His children, sin yet again against Him.  This is like some kind of built in, heavenly redundancy.

What must we do in order to stop being God’s redeemed people?  We would need to overpower the love of God, and negate the work of Christ, and stop the love of Christ, and render useless the power of His shed blood.  We would need to undo the work of His Spirit in regenerating us and raising us from the spiritual death we were in.

We would have to be more powerful than God.  We would have to be more persuasive than Jesus Christ, the righteous.  We would have to undo everything God has already done for us.  We would have to convince Him to break every promise He has made to us.  We would have to fire our Advocate, evict the Holy Spirit, and make God a liar.  And all of our accusers who stand against us would win.

Beloved, I just don’t see that happening.  Do you?

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.

(1 John 2:1 ESV)


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