Text: 1 John 1:6-2:2
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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 (2:1-2).
Displeasing Our Heavenly Father
In 1 John, the apostle John tells us how we can know if we are authentic Christians (i.e., have eternal life) or not. Throughout the letter, John gives three tests of Christian authenticity: the moral test (obedience to God), the social test (love of others), and the doctrinal test (correct belief about Jesus). But people don’t only ask, “Am I really a Christian?” They also wonder, “Will I remain a Christian (i.e., continue to possess eternal life)?”
Recently, there was a story about a grandfather disowning his daughter for disowning her son. In my opinion, both the grandfather and the mother acted wrongly. Children sometimes cause their parents great disappointment, but that doesn’t give parents a right to disown their children.
How does my sin affect my relationship with God? If God is my Father and I am his child, will my disobedience ever cause God to disown me?
In 1:5, John states that “God is light.” “Light” is a metaphor for God’s moral perfection (holiness). God hates sin. (John defines sin as “lawlessness” in 3:4.) But John also says that “God is love” (4:8).
What We Must Not Do When We Sin
In 1:6-2:2, John tells us what we must not do when we sin.
1. We must never deny our sin.
Often when a parent asks a child if he has done something wrong (e.g., stole a cookie from the cookie jar), the child will deny his sin (even if the evidence is all over his face). Sometimes the denial of the sin is worse than the sin itself.
In 1:6-10, John probably has in mind a group of people who claimed to have been sinless since coming to know God (possibly the people mentioned in 2:19). These people claimed to “have fellowship with [God]” while walking in darkness (1:6). They said they “ha[d] no sin” (v. 8). And they said they “ha[d] not sinned” (v. 10). John says that these people were liars (“lie,” 1:6; “deceive ourselves,” v. 8; “make [God] a liar” v. 10). (The word “if” is found six times in 1:6-2:1—once in each verse.)
In contrast to these people who denied their sin, John says that God’s children “walk in the light” (v. 7). Colin Kruse writes that “walking in the light” (cf. John 3:19-21) involves a “willingness to be open towards God” (The Letters of John, 63). We can’t be forgiven unless we “confess our sins” (1:9). God forgives all confessed sin (“cleanses us from all sin,” 1:7; “cleanses us from all unrighteousness,” 1:9). “Cleanses” is in the present tense, which means the forgiveness is an ongoing activity.
2. We must never diminish the seriousness of our sin.
If God will forgive all my sin, does my sin really matter? Yes, every sin is an insult against the blood of Jesus. We should never be content in our disobedience. (If we are content in our disobedience, do we really have the Holy Spirit within us?) John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1). So often we downplay the holiness of God and our sinfulness (cf. Isa. 6:1-7).
3. We must never despair when we sin.
When we do sin, Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (2:1), and he is “the propitiation for our sins” (2:2). In paganism, a “propitiation” was a sacrifice that appeased the wrath of a god. Christian propitiation is different. God is the one who provides the propitiation. Later, John writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10).
An “advocate” is someone who speaks on behalf of an accused person. (The Greek word for “advocate” is parakletos. The word is used as a title for the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel.) Our advocate is described as “the righteous one” (2:1). Jesus, the righteous One, “now stands in the presence of the Father to speak on behalf of those who have not acted righteously” (Kruse, 73).
We don’t despair when we sin because all of God’s anger against our sin was directed toward Jesus when he died for us. Now whenever we sin, Jesus can say, “I suffered for that sin.”
A Child of God by Grace
If we don’t think it’s right for a human parent to disown his or her child, why would we think that God would ever disown one of his children?
We become God’s children by grace, and we remain God’s children by grace. We enter into God’s family through faith in Christ. This means our confidence is based on what Christ has done for us, not on what we do for God.
No, God will never disown one of his children.
Does this mean that our obedience to God is unimportant? No. God’s grace affects our motivation for obedience. Our motivation for obedience to God should be love, not fear.