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I.               Introduction: The Apostolic Message - 1:1-4

II.             The First Series of Tests - 1:5-2:27

A.             The Moral Test (1) - 1:5-10

B.             A Digression: God's provision and assurance of salvation - 2:1-2

This text follows John's first application of what we have called the Moral Test of authentic Christianity. John's purpose is to apply this test, together with the Doctrinal and Social tests, to those who profess to have life. In doing so, he will expose the false (unbelievers) and confirm and assure the genuine (believers). In 1:5-10 John lists three claims made by certain individuals, claims that expose themselves as unregenerate and their faith as spurious. They profess to have fellowship with God yet walk in darkness (1:6). They deny that they are stained with the guilt of sin, which is proof of self-deception (1:8). And they deny that sin manifests itself in their conduct, which is to make God a liar (1:10). The genuine believer, on the other hand, walks in the light and thus receives cleansing by Christ's blood (1:7), and confesses the reality of sin and guilt with a view to forgiveness from a just and faithful God (1:8-9).

However, lest one think that confession of sin and its free and full forgiveness lend themselves to licentiousness or a casual approach to righteousness, John writes in 2:1 that his purpose is to prevent sin, not condone it. Hence, John approaches the subject of a Christian's sin, first with an exhortation to avoid it (2:1) and second with instruction concerning God's provision if and when it should occur (2:2). Stott summarizes:

"Here John begins a new sentence in order to enlarge on the subject of sin in the Christian. He does this first negatively ('that ye sin not') and then positively ('and if any man sin'). It is important to hold these two statements in balance. It is possible to be both too lenient and too severe towards sin. Too great a lenience would seem almost to encourage sin in the Christian by stressing God's provision for the sinner. An exaggerated severity, on the other hand, would either deny the possibility of a Christian sinning or refuse him forgiveness and restoration if he falls. Both extreme positions are contradicted by John" (79).

Or, as Smalley puts it, "whereas in the first part of this v. [v. 1] John is anticipating too lenient an attitude toward sin, in the second half he is countering the possibility of too harsh a view" (35-36).

1.              a deterrent to sin - 2:1a

The use of the aorist tense ("that you may not sin" and "if anyone sins") points to the fact that whereas acts of sin are surely possible for the Christian, habitual sin (which would call for the present tense) is not.

2.              a provision for sin - 2:1b-2

The word translated "advocate" is parakletos or "paraklete," which refers to one who is called alongside of another; one who is summoned to the assistance of another; a counsel for the defense, if you will. See John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7. "If we have an advocate in heaven, Christ has an advocate on earth. The Holy Spirit is Christ's Paraclete, as the Lord Jesus is ours. But whereas the Holy Spirit pleads Christ's cause before a hostile world, Christ pleads our cause against our 'accuser' (Rev. xii. 10) and with the Father, who loves and forgives His children" (Stott, 80-81).

a.              his identity: Jesus Christ - 2:1b

Observe that John says we have an advocate 'with the Father (pros ton patera), which recalls the language of John 1:1 where the Word is said to have been 'with God (pros ton theon).

b.              his qualification: the righteous - 2:1c

As Kruse notes, 'the term 'righteous' (dikaios) is found in four other places in the letter (1:9; 2:29; 3:7,12), and in each case the term is related to righteous behaviour (73). Thus John's point is that the One who has acted righteously (Jesus) stands in God's presence to plead the case of those who have acted unrighteously (us).

c.              his basis of appeal: propitiation - 2:2

1)             the nature of propitiation

On propitiation, see John Stott, The Epistles of John (IVP, 1988), pp. 89-93; Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmans, 1972), pp. 125-185; John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 29-33; Roger Nicole, "C. H. Dodd and the Doctrine of Propitiation," Westminster Theological Journal, May 1955, Vol. XVII, pp. 117-57. The relevant NT texts are Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Hebrews 2:17.

To propitiate is to turn away wrath. The word John uses is hilasmos, found in only two places in the NT, both of them in 1 John (2:2; 4:10). The debate among scholars is whether the atoning sacrifice or propitiation deals only with the removal of sin (hence, 'expiation) or whether it also entails the appeasement or removal of God's wrath. Murray and other conservative scholars opt for the latter:

"To propitiate means to placate, pacify, appease, conciliate. And it is this idea tht is applied to the atonement accomplished by Christ. Propitiation presupposed the wrath and displeasure of God, and the purpose of propitiation is the removal of this displeasure. Very simply stated the doctrine of propitiation means that Christ propitiated the wrath of God and rendered God propitious to his people" (30).

Thus, propitiation entails four elements:

*          an offense, crime, or sin which incurs a penalty

*          an offended person whose anger needs to be appeased

*          an offending person who needs to be pardoned and accepted

*          a sacrifice of sufficent value to appease the offended person, resulting in pardon and acceptance of the offender, and a reconciliation of the two estranged parties.

2)             the extent of propitiation


*          for "our" sins (= the elect) and for the sins of "the whole world" (= the non-elect)

*          for "our" sins (= Jewish believers) and for the sins of "the whole world" (= Gentile believers)

*          for "our" sins (= believers in Asia Minor) and for the sins of "the whole world" (= believers outside Asia Minor)


The Heavenly Intercession of Jesus Christ

A.             Biblical evidence for Christ's heavenly advocacy

1.              Prefigured in the Old Testament - We know that Christ's atoning death was prefigured by the offering of sacrifices on the brazen altar, but the daily burning of incense on the golden altar in the Holy Place (cf. Exod. 30:1-10; Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4), symbolic of Israel's prayers, also prefigured the priestly prayers of Jesus on behalf of his people.

2.              Confirmed in the New Testament - 1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:24; 10:19-22; John 17; Romans 8:28-34; John 14:16.

B.             For whom does Christ intercede?

John 17:2,9,20; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:33-34.

C.             Characteristics of Christ's intercession

1.              His intercession is inseparable from his atoning death - In the OT, those for whom sacrifice was made were represented by the priest before God. So, too, in the NT those who are the recipients of Christ's redemptive blessing are those for whom he intercedes with the Father. Rom. 8:33-34 indicates that the basis for our receiving the blessings of his redemptive work is his intercession on our behalf at God's right hand. The intercessory work of Christ is but a continuation of the atoning work of Calvary, serving as the means whereby the saving benefits of his sacrifice are effectually applied. As Calvin says, "He appears before God for the purpose of exercising towards us the power and efficacy of His sacrifice. . . . Christ's intercession is the continual application of His death to our salvation" (Commentary on 1 John, 243). This is why John speaks of Christ's propitiatory work as the ground or cause (i.e., the basis of his appeal) of his advocacy. The success of the latter depends on the success of the former.

2.              His intercession brings assurance of the fulfillment of God's promises - Hebrews 6:17-20

3.              His intercession secures our sanctification - John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15.

4.              His intercession is a ministry of comfort, strengthening and sympathy

a.              to help us deal with temptation (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16)

b.              to help us deal with sorrow (Heb. 4:14-16)

c.              to give us hope (John 17:24)

5.              His intercession keeps us secure in the Father's redemptive purpose - John 17:11; Rom. 5:6-11; 8:33-34; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:2.

6.              His intercession provides us with access to the Father in prayer - 1 Pt. 2:5

7.              His intercession is incessant - Heb. 7:25