Don’t “Lawyer Up” Yet
Warren E. Berkley
There is nothing anywhere in the New Testament that encourages or recommends a relaxed, tolerant posture toward sin. Matthew Henry said: “The gospel, when rightly understood and received, sets the heart against all sin.”
When Christians encounter sin, they should recall the word of the apostle John who said (in the beginning of the first epistle): “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” and “…if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” (1 Jno. 1:9, 2:1).
Applying this passage could take us in the wrong direction, if we rely on a flawed knowledge base. Here’s what I mean. You see the word “Advocate,” and may think of the modern attorney or lawyer. If you take off in that direction and rely on your knowledge of defense attorneys in the news and on TV, you could miss the point of the passage completely.
If you think, “well, I’ve sinned. But I’ve got a good attorney who will get me off. No problem,” you have missed the teaching of John. It is not like being guilty, denying your crime, hiring a powerful, eloquent attorney who can discover and use technicalities and therefore get you off. That’s not it. And to think in those terms (1) grossly demeans the work of Christ on our behalf, (2) diminishes the real offense of sin, (3) takes no account of God, who is light, and (4) seriously impacts any future discipline of your character and spiritual growth.
Jesus, our Advocate with the Father, has no interests in sinners getting away with anything. He is willing, however, to plead the case of the truly penitent. John defines the “truly penitent” in the verses previous to 1 John 2. The truly penitent honestly face the guilt of sin (v.8), confess the sin (v.9) and are committed to walking in the light.
Someone once expressed this to me with these simple words: “I have an advocate, not so I can sin, but in case I do.”
One more thing. There is no automatic plea for a dismissal. Everything John teaches about Jesus’ Advocacy is a benefit offered to the truly penitent. And to discover who is the truly penitent – read everything before 1 Jno. 2:1, and everything after the passage. Let John tell you who enjoys the benefits offered.