CHAPTER 2: The Promise
This chapter continues unfolding the word of life and fellowship that we have with the Father so that we may abide in the love of Christ, overcome deception, and inherit the promise of God.
VERSE 1: Jesus Christ the Righteous
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
The incredible affection the apostle John has for the children of God is evident by the phrase Τεκνίον, meaning “little child”; he repeats this phrase six times in this epistle (1 John 2:12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). The significance of this phrase compels us to read the tone of this letter with a paternal care and affection; reading this letter without this paternal care and affection misunderstands the heart of the letter itself and can predispose us to come to wrong conclusions.
“I write this to you so that”: the function of this phrase is highly misunderstood in John’s epistle. This phrase appear six times in various forms (2:1, 8, 12, 13, 26, and 5:13) and is not used to provide the purpose of the epistle as a whole, but to explain John’s major propositions as he unpacks the central themes of eternal life and Christian fellowship that are given to us in the prologue.
The first major proposition that John makes in this epistle is “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1:5). Therefore, this verse is concerned with unpacking the proposition that “God is light”.
“So that you will not sin”: one of the chief distinctions between Christ’s way to God and the world’s way is that Christ’s solution to our ethical problem as fallen mortals is not law but the transforming knowledge of God that is given through him.
The reality that “God is light” transforms and sanctifies believers.
True spiritual transformation comes from beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus:
2nd Corinthians 3:18 (CSB) We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
John wrote that “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” so that we would behold the glory of God as it is revealed in Christ and be transformed through faith “from glory to glory” by the Holy Spirit. Our transformation as believers does not come from the shadows of the law but from the light of the knowledge of God.
Those who are still in the darkness cannot know God, but we have been made children of the light:
Ephesians 5:8-9 (CSB) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—9 for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth…
2nd Peter 1:3-4 (CSB) His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.
Everything required for life and godliness is given through the knowledge of Christ by the power of his glory and the grace of his goodness; these attributes of glory and goodness have given us the promises of eternal life so that through God’s promises we can share in his divine nature.
The divine nature is light, which consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth. This does not make us gods, but children of light who no longer walk in hate, sin, and deception because God’s sovereign power has transferred us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his Beloved – Jesus Christ.
The process of our sanctification in the light is described in 1st John 1:5-10 as follows:
1. God is light
2. We have fellowship with the Church in Light
3. Christ’s blood cleanses us from all sin
4. As we confess our sins with confidence in his faithfulness and righteousness
Our sanctification begins with the reality of God’s nature and progresses in communion with the Body of Christ as the Holy Spirit washes away our sin-guilt with the blood of Christ in those who walk in humility with faith towards Christ.
“But if anybody does sin”: neither sinless-perfection nor licentiousness is assumed but sanctification.
John is preaching our sanctification in the light of God. That we are transformed by the work of Christ and not the power of the flesh; he embraces neither the lie of licentiousness (1:6) nor the lie of sinlessness (1:8).
Too much emphasis is placed on the word “if” by many well-meaning preachers who are concerned with holiness; they see John’s first epistle as a weapon they can use to fight the flood of licentiousness and want “if” to convey doubt, but in their zeal to fight the heresies of “hyper grace” they are mishandling God’s word, sometimes with disastrous results.
“καὶ ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ” formally reads “and if anyone sins”; ἐάν (“if”) is an adverbial conditional conjunction, meaning that it conveys condition, not doubt. In English we communicate adverbial conditional conjunctions with “if”, “whether”, “provided that”, “so long as”, and “unless”. John is not doubting whether or not we will sin because he knows that we all have sin (1:8), rather, John is conveying the means by which the believer’s sanctification in the light occurs.
“We have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One”: our heavenly Paraclete (Advocate) is the means by which the believer’s sanctification in the light occurs!
The High-Priestly ministry of Jesus Christ the Righteous One is the means by which we are sanctified on earth. His ministry as our High Priest provides everything necessary for our renewal and transformation in true grace and eternal life. Nothing is lacking in Christ to provide wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to those who wait expectantly on him:
1st Corinthians 1:30-31 (CSB) It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Volumes have been written on the significance of Christ being our advocate in Heaven and the relationship to the Holy Spirit being sent as our advocate on earth. Unfortunately, the natural limitations of this media platform require that I be incomplete.
I believe Christ’s advocacy on our behalf in heaven is most clearly explained in the following:
Romans 8:33-34 (CSB) Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
Hebrews 7.25-27 (CSB) Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. 26 For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself.
There’s no one in heaven who can bring any charge against us because God himself justifies us and Christ intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of God.
More study on Christ’s role as our advocate can be found in the following passages: Matthew 10:20; 10:40; 11:27; 18:20; 25:31–46; 28:19–20; Mark 13:11; Luke 10:16; 10:22; 21:15; 24:48–49; John 13:20.