1 John 2:1-6
1 "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin:
but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ
the righteous; and 2 he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we may be sure that
we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says 'I know him' but disobeys
his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps
his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. 6 By this we may be sure
that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same
which he walked."
In the first chapter of this letter, John speaks a lot of the relationship
between our walk, or the way we live our life, and fellowship, or intimate
relationship with God and with each other. He says that he is proclaiming to
his readers what he has seen and heard so that they might have fellowship with
him and with Jesus and the Father. God is light and when we walk in the light,
we have fellowship with Him. So truth and living in God's reality (which is
reality) is intricately bound up with our relationships or lack thereof. Intimate
fellowship only happens in the truth.
John continues this theme in the 2nd chapter. In verse 3 he says that we know
God when we keep his commandments, which is the same as walking in the light.
Our knowing God, having fellowship with Him, then is bound up with obeying
Him, living according to the truth.
Before I say more about that, we should look at the first 2 verses. John tells
them that he is writing about not deceiving ourselves but confessing our sins
so that we may not sin. This at first seems a bit odd, when he just told us
that we need to confess we sin, how can we now be admonished to not sin? But
if we remember that sin is distrusting God, I think that John is reminding
us of the need to be truthful about ourselves, i.e. that we are not righteous
on our own and that we need to trust God to forgive and cleanse us, and to
be truthful about God, i.e. He is totally and completely trustworthy. He reminds
us of this so we can go on trusting God and not ourselves and not therefore
fall into sin. The opposite of sinning is to count more and more on God and
to live as if He really is our total source of life and identity. So remember
who you are, a sinful broken person in need of God's constant healing and don't
fall back on counting on yourself again.
But before any one has time to despair over their ability to count perfectly
on God, John rushes on to remind them that if they do sin, "we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation
for our sins , and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." What
a mouthful! John calls Jesus our advocate, one who comes alongside and speaks
for us, presents our case because we can't present our own. An advocate represents
another not to cheat the system but because he/she is better able to speak
for you than you are. The advocate understands you and your case better than
you do. Jesus, as our advocate, stands in our place and speaks on our behalf,
able to shed his light on us and revealing the truth about us in him.
He gives Jesus the title "the righteous". He is not a slick lawyer
trying to get us off, stretching or giving no heed to justice or having to
manipulate or cheat the justice system. Our advocate with the Father is the
one who is righteous or in right relationship with the Father and with us.
What a great advocate to have then, one who knows already what it is to be
righteous and one who can make us righteous. Also, this title echoes v.5 of
chapter one--God is light, there is no darkness in Him. Jesus is the Righteous
one--that is who He is and He can be trusted to act according to His character--righteously.
But John goes on from there. Jesus doesn't just expiate our sins, i.e. separate
us from them, turn us away from them. He Himself is the expiation for our sins.
In Himself, He has not only removed the sin from us but has dispelled the darkness
in which we lived and filled our lives with his light. He is the great justifier,
the one who makes us righteous by giving us His own righteousness. And to help
his readers even better to see how wonderful Jesus is he reminds them that
Jesus is this expiation for the sins of the whole world. The whole world is
affected by what Jesus has accomplished in Himself.
Now that John has again reminded his readers of the character of the triune
God he says that we know God if we keep His commandments. In fact, we are nothing
better than liars if we claim we know God but we don't obey Him. Again, this
makes sense in our human relationships. A child can come to know better his/her
parents' hearts only as they do as they are told. They can come to see the
wisdom in the things the parents ask them to do and so know their parents on
a deeper level. God's commandments come out of who He is and when we do them
we know better, on a deeper level, that He truly is good and for us. When we
disobey (don't walk in the light) we miss the opportunity to see how He would
have worked and used our obedience in our own transformation. Staying in the
darkness doesn't help you see better in the darkness.
It is important, too, to remember here that a crucial part of obeying God
is trusting Him, counting on Him. Trust is the foundational command so that
all of our obedience is to flow out of a trust that He is active and good and
present. And, as we trust Him and act on that trust, we see that He is trustworthy,
we come to know Him better. As we all know it is difficult if not impossible
to have an intimate friendship when there is no trust.
It is interesting to look at v.5 and see that when we keep His word, "love
for God is perfected" in us. Notice it does not say that we perfect our
love for God. Rather as we trust God and act on that, even when that means
being honest about our own sins, God is able to do something in us--He is able
to grow our love for Him to perfection--which goes back to what it means to
be righteous. Righteousness, perfection, is not some abstract individual goal
to attain. To be righteous is to be in right relationship. To obey God is to
grow in having more and more of an intimate full loving relationship with Him.
Right now I know my love for God is poor. I do not enjoy loving Him very much.
How wonderful to know that some day nothing will impede me from loving Him
with all that I am and so also come to love fully all His ways as well.
Last point--John says that the way to know we are in Christ is to walk or
live in the same way He walked. John is speaking about something deep, internal,
personal. The point is not so much that we need to follow Jesus' example but
much more we should as abide where He abides, remain with Him wherever He goes,
share in His heart and mind, be led by His Spirit. Being in Christ is not just
imitating Him, appearing like Him, mimicking Him, letting Him be our role model.
That's all superficial and shallow, external compared to what John is telling
us. Jesus is far more than a example or a tool or instrument or means to an
end. The connection between Jesus and us is far more profound. Jesus walked
by the Spirit, trusting wholly in His good and loving Father, doing what He
saw His Father doing, knowing and sharing in His very heart.
God is light and Jesus, the Righteous, by becoming the expiation for our sins
has connected Himself to us in such a way that now we can share in His loving
relationship with His Father and He will make us right in Him so that our fellowship
with God is perfected. Hooray!
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