1 John 2:1, 2
My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father…
My little children, these things write I unto you, etc. Very tender and eminently Johannean is the opening of this paragraph. "My little children." The appellation suggests:
1. The spiritual paternity of the apostle. St. Paul addressed the same words to those Galatian Christians whom he had spiritually begotten (Galatians 4:19). He referred with great tenderness and force to the same relationship in writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15). Probably many of those to whom St. John was writing were his spiritual children.
2. The spiritual affection of the apostle. The use of the diminutive indicates this.
3. The spiritual authority of the apostle. His fatherly relation to them, his tender affection for them, and his venerable age combine to invest his words with authority. Our text teaches -
I. THAT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST DISCOURAGES SIN. "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not." The "these things" are the statements made in chapter 1 John 1:6-10. The fact that sin exists even in the Christian is there affirmed, and gracious provision for the forgiveness of sin and for the sanctification of the believer is set forth. And now, in order that no one by reason of these things should look upon sin as inevitable, or regard it with tolerance, or fail to battle against it, St. John writes, "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not." St. Paul guards against the same misuse of the provisions of the rich grace of God thus: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" (Romans 6:1, 2). That the provisions of Divine grace for the pardon of sin afford no encouragement to its commission is proved by:
1. The object of Christ's mediatorial work. To "save his people from their sins." "He appeared to, put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14).
2. The cost of Christ's mediatorial work. The great price at which pardon and salvation were rendered possible should powerfully deter from the practice of sin. "God spared not his own Son," etc.; "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,... but with the precious blood of Christ," etc. Since redemption from sin is so expensive a process, sin must be not a trifling, but a terrible evil.
3. The influence of Christ's mediatorial work. The love of God manifested in our Lord and Saviour is fitted to awaken our love to him. Love to God springs up in the heart of every one who truly believes in Jesus Christ; and love to God is the mightiest and most resolute antagonist of sin.
II. THAT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST RECOGNIZES THE LIABILITY OF EVEN GOOD MEN TO SIN. "And if any man sin." This liability arises from:
1. Our exposure to temptation. Sometimes we are confronted by our "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion." But more frequently are we in danger by reason of "the wiles of the devil." "Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light," that he may deceive souls and lead them into sin. We are also assailed by temptations in human society - temptations which are plausible and appear harmless, but which are full of peril to us.
2. The infirmity of our moral nature. There is that in us which is ready to respond to temptation. Thus temptations which appeal to our sensual appetites sometimes prove too strong for our spiritual principles, the sensual in us not being in complete subjection to the spiritual. Temptations which promise present pleasure or profit, but involve the risk of some of our most precious interests in the future, are sometimes successful because of defective spiritual perception or of moral weakness. This liability to sin is confirmed
(1) by the history of good men, e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, David, Peter;
(2) by our own experience.
III. THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST ANNOUNCES GRACIOUS PROVISION TO MEET THE LIABILITY OF GOOD MEN TO SIN. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father," etc.
1. Jesus Christ is our Representative with the Father. "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." The word translated "advocate" means one who is called to our side; then a Comforter, Helper, Advocate. "Representative" is a word which, perhaps, expresses the meaning here. Jesus Christ "appears before the face of God for us." He stands by us with his face directed towards the face of God the Father, obtaining for us the forgiveness and favour, the stimulus and strength which we need. As Professor Lias puts it, "We have One who stands by us παρά, yet looks toward πρὸς the Father, and who, one with us and with him, can enable us to do all things through his all-powerful aid." And he is "righteous." In this he is unlike us. We are unrighteous, and therefore unfit to appear before the face of God. But he, being perfectly righteous, is fitted to appear before God on our behalf.
2. Jesus Christ is also the Propitiation for our sins. "And he is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." The primary meaning of "propitiation" was that which appeases or turns away the wrath of the gods from men. But we must take heed that we do not rashly apply the ideas of heathenism as to its gods, to the only living and true, the holy and gracious God. So much has been said and written concerning the propitiation, which seems to us to have no warrant in the sacred Scriptures, and much that has not been honourable to the holy and ever-blessed God and Father, that it is with diffidence that we venture upon any remarks concerning it. The New Testament does not give us any explanation of the propitiation; it presents us with no theory or scheme concerning it; it simply states it as a great fact in the Divine way of salvation. And it would have been well if the example of the sacred writers in this respect had been more generally followed. Here is the declaration of St. Paul: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness," etc. (Romans 3:24-26). Jesus Christ himself is said to be the Propitiation for our sins. No particular portion of his life or work, his sufferings or death, is specified in our text as constituting the propitiation. Christ, in the whole of his mediatorial ministry - life and work, sufferings and death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession - is our Propitiation. We venture to make two observations.
(1) The propitiation was not anything offered to God to render him willing to bless and save us. If proof of this were required, we have it in chapter 1 John 4:10: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." God did not provide the propitiation to propitiate himself. Our Saviour is the Gift of the Father's love to us, not the Procurer of that love for us. It is nowhere said in the Scriptures that Christ reconciled God to man. Such reconciliation was never needed. The great Father was always disposed to bless and save man.
(2) The propitiation was designed to remove obstructions to the free flowing forth of the mercy of God to man. Here was an obstruction: man had broken the holy Law of God, had set it at naught, and was still doing so. But man cannot be pardoned while he stands in such an attitude and relation to Law. Love itself demands that Law shall be obeyed and honoured. True mercy can only be exercised in harmony with righteousness. The well-being of man is an impossibility except he be won to loyalty to the Law of God. Jesus Christ vindicated the solemn authority of God's holy Law by his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. Again, there was an obstruction in the heart of man to the free flowing forth of the mercy of God to him. Man regarded God with distrust and suspicion, if not with enmity. "Alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works" is the apostolic description of unrenewed man. The propitiation was designed to reconcile man to God, and dispose him to accept the offered salvation. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." The sacrifice of Christ is the supreme manifestation of the infinite love of God towards man (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8). When that love is heartily believed in, man is reconciled to God; he no longer regards him as an enemy, but as his gracious and adorable God and Father. This accords with the statement of St. Paul that Christ Jesus is "a Propitiation through faith by his blood." "The true Christian idea of propitiation," says Bushnell, "is not that God is placated or satisfied by the expiatory pains offered him. It supposes, first, a subjective atoning, or reconciliation in us; and then, as a further result, that God is objectively propitiated, or set in a new relation of welcome and peace. Before he could not embrace us, even in his love. His love was the love of compassion; now it is the love of complacency and permitted friendship." And this propitiation is for all men. "The Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." If any are not saved, it is neither because of any deficiency in the Divine purposes or provisions, nor because the propitiation of Christ is limited to certain persons or to a certain number only. The salvation of Jesus Christ is adequate to all men, and is offered freely to all men. If any are not saved, it is because they refuse the redemptive mercy of God in Christ Jesus. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: