These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.
 

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 way in 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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