by Mike Ratliff
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 8:33-34 ESV)
The “Emergent” or “New Evangelism” gospel is one that claims that the sound doctrines of orthodoxy which teach us about the atonement, advocacy, and propitiation of Christ for the sake of His sheep are unnecessary “add-ons“ to Christ Jesus and, in fact, simply get in the way of truly knowing and emulating Him. If that is so then why did the God-inspired writers of the New Testament give these sound doctrines to us in such great and clear detail? These are not “doctrines” of demons. These are not “doctrines” made up by men. No, these are the doctrines given to us by God Himself that reveals God to us, gives us the truth about our own sinfulness and spiritual bankruptcy outside of His grace, and the superiority of Christ our Saviour, our Advocate, Our propitiation, our Redeemer.
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)
1 Τεκνία μου, ταῦτα γράφω ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε. καὶ ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον· (1 John 2:1 NA28)
John begins this passage addressing his readers as τεκνία μου or literally, “sons of mine.” He saw all who would come to be spiritually nourished by this teaching as his little or beloved children. We see this same address throughout 1 John (2:12, 2:28; 3:7; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21). What do we learn from this? It is that even though we are saved by grace and are new creations who have been washed by regeneration and have the Holy Spirit indwelling within, we are like small children spiritually who are being taught by God himself through the imparting of His Word. John tells us that one of the reasons he is writing this epistle (letter) is that (ἵνα) you should not (μὴ) sin (ἁμάρτητε). John is not telling us that by learning what he is teaching it will enable us to be free from the reality of sin. No, we still need to come to the throne of grace and confess our sins daily (1 John 1:9). However, what he is teaching us is that we are not powerless against it. Simply confessing our sins does not give us license to sin. No, instead we are called to work with God to mortify or kill or conquer it through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:12-14; Romans 8:12,13; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Titus 2:11,12; 1 Peter 1:13-16). We see the reality of our sin in the next part of this passage and the fact sinning does not cause God to revoke the advocacy of Christ on our behalf, but that we do have an advocate (παράκλητον) to intercede on our behalf to the Father. This word, παράκλητον, refers to one who is an intercessor or comforter or helper. It is used by the Greek writers of a legal advisor, pleader, proxy, or advocate. He is one who comes forward on behalf of and representative of another. Our Lord Jesus (Ἰησοῦν) Christ (Χριστὸν) the righteous (δίκαιον) is the Christian’s substitutionary, intercessory advocate.
“If any man sin, we have an advocate.” Yes, though we sin, we have Him still. John does not say, “If any man sin he has forfeited his advocate,” but “we have an advocate,” sinners though we are. All the sin that a believer ever did, or can be allowed to commit, cannot destroy his interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, as his advocate. The name here given to our Lord is suggestive. “Jesus.” Ah! then He is an advocate such as we need, for Jesus is the name of one whose business and delight it is to save. “They shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” His sweetest name implies His success. Next, it is “Jesus Christ”-(Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν), the anointed. This shows His authority to plead. The Christ has a right to plead, for He is the Father’s own appointed advocate and elected priest. If He were of our choosing He might fail, but if God hath laid help upon one that is mighty, we may safely lay our trouble where God has laid His help. He is Christ, and therefore authorized; He is Christ, and therefore qualified, for the anointing has fully fitted Him for His work. He can plead so as to move the heart of God and prevail. What words of tenderness, what sentences of persuasion will the anointed use when He stands up to plead for me! One more letter of His name remains, “Jesus Christ the righteous.” This is not only His character BUT His plea. It is His character, and if the Righteous One be my advocate, then my cause is good, or He would not have espoused it. It is His plea, for He meets the charge of unrighteousness against me by the plea that He is righteous. He declares Himself my substitute and puts His obedience to my account. My soul, thou hast a friend well fitted to be thine advocate, He cannot but succeed; leave thyself entirely in His hands. – C.H. Spurgeon adapted from his Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for October 4th.
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)
2 καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου
(1 John 2:2 NA28)
The Lord Jesus is (ἐστιν) the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for our sins. What does this mean? First notice that our Lord Jesus Christ is not simply “a” propitiation for our sins, but the only one we have. This noun may have a personal object, the sinner, or an impersonal object, our sins. In this usage, ἱλασμός indicates not only the benefit of our reconciliation with God, but the manner whereby we are made His friends. Jesus Christ is the one who propitiates and offers Himself as the propitiation. He is both the sacrifice and the High Priest sacrificing Himself on our behalf (John 1:29; John 1:36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6,8). He is the propitiation for all true Christians, but not unbelievers so what does this mean that he is propitiation for the sins of the whole world? This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. He actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe. There are many passages like this in the New Testament, however, since much of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, they could not have been paid for by Christ (Matthew 7:13-14). These passages must be understood to refer to mankind in general. Christ’s death on the cross provided a brief, temporal propitiation fo the whole world, but He actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe. Yes, Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because He is God, but the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11; John 10:15; John 17:9; John 17:20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Romans 8:37; Ephesians 5:25). What we must understand is that pardon through belief in the Gospel is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who are effectually called and because of that, they believe (1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:14; John 5:24). All of this to say emphatically, there is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the propitiation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:3-6 ESV)
3 Καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν. 4 ὁ λέγων ὅτι ἔγνωκα αὐτὸν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν, ψεύστης ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν· 5 ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ τετελείωται, ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν. 6 ὁ λέγων ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν ὀφείλει καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν καὶ αὐτὸς [οὕτως] περιπατεῖν. (1 John 2:3-6 NA28)
Assurance of salvation is possible. The epistle of 1 John gives numerous means of self-diagnosis (1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:2). This test is ethical. The genuine Christian is a new creation, regenerated by God, which means the believer will have a changed life and keep the Lord’s commandments. Here is v3 as a direct, word for word translation into English, “And by this we know that we have known him– if the commandments of his we keep” The word used here translated as keep, τηρῶμεν, simply means, in this context, “to observe commands.” In other words, the genuine believers lives his or her life in obedience to Christ. They abide in Him, They take up their crosses and follow Him. They love the brethren. They forgive those who attack them. They stand firm on the firm foundation which He established, et cetera. They are not perfect, but they work with the Holy Spirit in their sanctification to live within the sufficiency of God’s grace regardless of how severe the thorns in the flesh. As they mature in Christ more and more they will walk more an more according to the way in which He walked.
Let us rejoice that our Lord Jesus is our redemption, our propitiation, our advocate, and our Saviour. For those who are truly in Him, He is their all.
Soli Deo Gloria!