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. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 Jno. 2:1-2, English Standard Version.
John is writing to Christians, designated here with the affectionate address, “my little children.” Here he states one of his purposes in writing: “so that you may not sin.”
Stop and think about this statement. Christ imparted the Holy Spirit to certain men (Jno. 16:13). These men were guided to write truth. One purpose was (and is), that this truth (in the New Testament) might be embraced and applied to lead people away from sin.
As we read the Bible and absorb the message of Christ in the New Testament, our sincere application of that message preserves us from sin. So John wrote with this in mind: “…that you may not sin.”
Almost immediately, we respond: But I’m not perfect. What if I do sin?
Keep reading: “…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This divine advocate who is with the Father in heaven is not like a criminal defense attorney who is paid to get the best possible deal for his guilty client. (What defense attorney will die for the client?)
Jesus gave His life “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” This is no ordinary lawyer.
When I sin, I can take my sins, repent of them and know that I am forgiven. Remember from chapter one? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, we have an Advocate.
My aim should be to not sin. But if I do, I have an Advocate.
“In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” (Gen. 12:3; 22:18).
With these words spoken to Abraham, God set in place a promise that would stay alive long after it was first spoken. God would oversee the work of fulfilling this promise through the nation formed from Abraham, the law He gave through Moses, the changing fortunes of the nation, the work of the prophets and the brief ministry of John the Baptist. After the fullness of the time came, Paul wrote to the Galatian churches and said: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hands on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Gal. 3:13,14).
As a result of God’s work, bringing the promise to practical reality in Christ, those in Christ find themselves partakers together in one body. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Gal. 3:26-29).
“This passage is designed to show that one’s standing before God is not determined by nationality, social position, or sex. One stands acceptable before God on the grounds of the blood of the Jesus Christ and on the conditions that he has faith in Christ, has repented of his sins, and has been baptized into Christ,” (Mike Willis, Truth Commentaries, Galatians, p#170).
Fellowship, therefore, should never be extended or withheld, based on status among men (bond or free), gender (male or female) or racial (Jew or Gentile). There is no suggestion in this that the distinctions or differences have no meaning; that they completely disappear. The point at hand is, they have no meaning in separating us from each other in Christ. We are “partakers together in one body,” enjoying equality in Him and empowered to accept and respect one another unconstrained by the common walls of separation.
At no other place, in no other way, in no other relationship, can people with previous diversity find valid unity (fellowship with God, then fellowship with others who partake in the same). The “mystery of Christ” unveils this blessing that God first spoke to Abraham, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,” (Eph. 3:6). The promise God made to Abraham became the offering of the gospel to all men, that in Christ they might meet God and meet each other as joint-heirs.
From this we must learn, no condition of salvation should be imposed that God hasn’t given. And no test of fellowship should be enforced, expect the faithful application of God’s standard, His Word. Fellowship must never be denied or withdrawn based on race, status or gender.
Fellowship with people of previous and present diversity is a blessing, to be acknowledged and appreciated. Fellowship with people of previous and present diversity should become a part of our rich functioning together in Christ, doing His will and joining together preaching Him to all. This is not about Jews acting like Gentiles or Gentiles acting like Jews (see Gal. 2:11-19). This is about all who are in Christ acting like Christ, and thus being partakers together in one body.
“This distinction meant much in pre-Christian ages. The Jews were God’s peculiar people, blessed with great privileges and prepared for great destinies. The Greeks, representing the Gentile world, stood apart from the Jews — ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise’ (Ephesians 2:12). But Jew and Greek stand on exactly the same footing in the kingdom of God, possessed of equal privilege, equally sons of God, and equally heirs of God. Christ broke down the middle wall of partition that severed them for ages, and made them one commonwealth.” (Pulpit Commentary, Homiletics, Gal. 3). Someone called this, “the death of the tribal spirit.” When Jews and Gentiles obeyed the gospel, they figuratively walked over “the middle wall of separation” and stepped into Christ, there to become partakers in one body.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit,” (1 Cor. 12:12,13).
May we put aside any attitudes, habits, traditions, teachings or reactions that fail to take to heart the unity of obedient believers in Christ. Enjoying the same privileges, having the same obligations and sharing the same destiny, as long as we serve the same Master.
In order to be a Christian, with persuasive power and reverence, you must personally come to terms with your pilgrim status. This earth is not our permanent home. (In fact, this earth is not anyone’s permanent home, see 2 Pet. 3:10-13). Nobody will live on the earth forever because the earth will not last forever. Peter puts it simply:
“…both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up!”
I bring this up because if we don’t get this, we cannot effectively learn or apply the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. We must not just play with the idea intellectually, we must personally embrace it. We are pilgrims.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation,” (1 Pet. 2:11,12).
You cannot consistently abstain from fleshly lusts until you recognize your pilgrim status. You cannot participate in the defeat of those things that war against the soul, if you are holding to this earth as your home. You cannot wholeheartedly engage in honorable conduct “among the Gentiles,” until your attachment to this world is put in true perspective. You cannot lead people to glorify God in the day of visitation, while living in denial of your pilgrim status.
As Christians, we are more related to heaven than earth. If we don’t get that, we cannot get the rest of it right. May our confession be: “I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me,” (Psa. 119:19).
“Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”
Everything in the first chapter of Hebrews leads to this conclusion, in chapter two, verse one. God spoke in times past, but now God speaks by His Son, who is superior to prophets and angels. What were the readers of this epistle to do with that truth? And, what are Christians today to do with this central truth of the gospel, the superiority of Jesus Christ?
We ought to pay more attention to the gospel of Christ! Give the more earnest heed (one translation says). If we don’t pay attention to Jesus and His message, we can drift away from Him and His message.
And, to add another serious aspect to this – if those who violated the old covenant faced consequences, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” It was declared, confirmed by signs and miracles – as a fully attested message from God to man.
It is important to agree with the proposition of Hebrews chapter one, the superiority of Jesus Christ. But mere intellectual agreement isn’t sufficient without pay such close attention to Christ and His message – we respond obediently, so that we do not neglect such a great salvation.
Give heed. Pay attention. God seeks our response to Jesus Christ, who has inherited a name far more excellent than angels.
“They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.”
These are the opening words of a hit-piece against the Bible and those who believe it. These words are taken from a recent issue of Newsweek that puts on stage an article by Kurt Eichenwald. [Source Below]
When unbelievers attack Christians and the Bible, this is a typical tactic – to paint this crude caricature and present it with the implication – this is the way all Christians behave. It immediately shows the critic is unfamiliar with real Christians.
I don’t wave my Bible at passersby. Brethren I know don’t scream condemnations at homosexuals. I’ve never known one Christian to fall down in worship toward a granite monument. Most of this is unrecognizable to members of the Lord’s church. (Some of this may be connected to the Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas. But they do not represent most believers in the Bible.)
And I want you to observe carefully – the author of the Newsweek article is not really attacking the Bible here; he and Newsweek is attacking the people who believe the Bible. They seek to prejudice readers against the people who believe the Bible. If they can prejudice his readers against the people associated with the Book, I suppose they think it will be easier to dismiss the Book itself.
One thing we can do, let our light shine through words and deeds that do not confirm the caricature.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 Jno. 1:5-10, English Standard Version
This passage should remind us of the relationship between who God is and how His people are to live. Since “God is light,” our response to Him ought to be that we “walk in the light.” By living this way, “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” It is simple enough a concept. God is light, so we should walk in the light, reflecting the character of our Father. Doing so brings blessings to us, now and eternally.
This can be read another way, leading to the same conclusion. Ask yourself, “do I want cleansing and fellowship with God?” If you desire these, because of Jesus’ death, you can have them, but only if you walk in the light.
As we walk in the light (which includes penitent confessions of sin, implied in this context, see verses 8 & 9), we enjoy fellowship with God. However, denials of sin do two things: (1) make God a liar, and (2) show that His Word is not in us.
If we walk in darkness – that is, live in sin – it doesn’t matter what we say about our relationship with God:We lie and do not practice the truth.
I should come away from this paragraph with one clear intention: I’m going to walk in the light of God’s Word, for God is light. By doing this, by living this way, I’ll be cleansed and enjoy fellowship with God. The rest of first John describes what it means to walk in the light.
Everyone has a history. I have a history. You have a history.The things contained in that history may not be as wonderful and pretty as we expected early on in our lives. Our expectations of pleasing God were shattered with failed attempts to say no to the world. We have a tendency to carry around the ugly undesirable parts of our history with us like a boulder on a chain connected to our leg that we locked and threw away the key for. We walk in shame, and intense labor, because of the things we’ve done, or the people we’ve been, or the people we’ve hurt.
An inescapable part of our reality is this very clear understanding of who we are now and who we have been leading up to this point. God created our minds to be in a constant state of reconciliation. Even though we’ve turned away from the sins of our past, the now unfolding history being changed, we still hold on to these feelings of regret and anguish? It’s penetrating at times when we reflect back on our past. We labor on and toil in life and these things sometimes haunt us. We see an old picture or drive through an old town and it takes us back to a time when we were not our best most desirable human and certainly not the most pleasing to God. The good news is that there is a perfect way to resolve this problem
Jeremiah 31:34 New International Version (NIV)
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Matthew 11:28-29 New International Version (NIV)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Psalm 103:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
The amazing thing about Christ is that when His sacrifice was complete the key to unlocking the boulder of our past and the hammer to crush it was set on our front doorstep. We only have to reach out and take it in the way in which God’s son manifest in His life through the words in the New Testament. The burdens of life can only become lighter if we share them with someone strong enough to carry them and strong enough to “ERASE” them from our history; releasing us from the bonds of this world to help us rise up into the greatest, most desirable human in the eyes of God. Jesus perfect history allows our personal human history to be cleaned, to be cleared, to be revised in good standing with God. That’s really good news for all!