John may have sounded harsh in his words to believers, as our first chapter drew to a close, but he continually shows in his writing his deep love for his hearers. Look at how he begins chapter 2:
My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous one. He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.1 John 2:1-2 CSB
It is obvious that his straightforward writing about the reality of sin in the life of believers is to keep them from sinning. He had just written that if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just and will forgive and purify us. He reiterates this again by saying that Christ is our advocate with the Father.
Only Christ can advocate for us—plead our case—because he is righteous.
He is the only one who can stand before the Holy God and defend us, the guilty sinners. He does this because of his own righteous holiness and because of his sacrifice to atone for our sins. His sacrifice covers not just our sin, but that of the world. A one-time act of the spotless Lamb of God would cover all who believe for all time.
God’s Word guides us to holy living but also shows the way to regain right standing when we do fail.
That’s why John says but if any of you do sin…because he knows it’s going to happen. This side of eternity, we are still in the battle with the flesh, but even on this side, we have hope. Like a child who falls down, scrapes his knee, and cries out to his mother, Jesus picks us up and wipes off the stain of sin when we call out to him, confessing our fall in sin. He makes it all better.
Have you ever had a big brother or sister who was your defender? Or, maybe a best friend? What happened when you did something wrong that led your parents to grow upset? They took up for you, pled your case in all sincerity and love, knowing that you really did not want to make your parents mad. I love that picture of having a defender. Jesus is our defender before God.
Without the atoning work of Christ, God would continue to deal with us in his wrath alone. He loves us as his creation, but his justice requires a payment for sin. We have it in Christ, and until we are with him face-to-face, there is a constant advocacy required on our behalf. Our salvation is assured, and yet, on this side of eternity, we must rely on his forgiveness.
This is why John must be so firm because the battle wages on. May we all call on and be grateful for our Defender, our Advocate, our Atoning Sacrifice until the Day of his return.
Grace and Peace