Friday, August 14, 2009

1 John 2:1-2

V1-2 – 1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for [Or, He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also] the sins of the whole world.

John begins this chapter by answering the error that claimed a sinless Christian life. But he doesn’t want his audience to think that he is promoting sinful living – for God has not only forgiven our sin and removed guilt; He has also begun the sanctifying process, which He will see through to completion (Philippians 1:6) – by denying the possibility of sinlessness, therefore, he says that he writes “so that you will not sin.” John wants holy living for followers of Christ, but not with despair over failure. Instead, John wants us to confess and repent and grow in grace, making progress in a lifestyle of holiness, for he knows, once again, that we are “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of” Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

John points us to Jesus Christ as our advocate, our defense attorney, but not before a judge that despises us. Rather the judge is biased in our favor due to the Person and work of our advocate, Jesus Christ. He is “the Righteous One,” who has paid our debt, our propitiation, which turns aside and satisfies the wrath of God. It’s critical that Jesus is righteous, because God is first and foremost just. Before mercy and love come justice and righteousness as characteristics of God the Father. Thus out of His righteous justice comes His love and mercy. And Jesus is not merely the One who satisfies God’s wrath; He is the satisfaction. He is not merely the propitiator; He is the propitiation. God was pleased to crush Him out of justice and out of love for us. So in response to the erroneous idea that we are sinless, John says, “Turn to Jesus.” He is to be the ground of our confidence in the fight against sin; He is the source from which our holiness flows; He is the basis on which our forgiveness rests.

Now the second half of v2 causes some controversy within evangelical Christianity. But all John is saying is that Jesus turns aside God’s wrath for any of, all of, and only those who know Him, who trust in Him for salvation from sin. It’s a claim of universal availability (Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female) but not universal effectiveness (exclusive to those who “know Him”); He is sufficient for all but not efficient for all. He is efficient for the elect, for those who by grace come to Jesus in faith for salvation. Some use this verse to promote universal salvation, realizing what John teaches, that if God pours out His full justice on Christ for the sins of the whole world, then He can’t in justice issue an additional punishment on the sinner. But the parallel passage, also from John, helps tremendously. We let Scripture interpret Scripture by reading John 11:50-52 alongside 1 John 2:2. In that passage the high priest Caiaphas says, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” And John explains, “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.” Jesus was not only the propitiation for the sins of Jewish believers, or for the sins of believers of John’s congregation, but for the sins of all believers everywhere, “for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Properly explained, this verse strongly promotes the view of the rest of Scripture, that of Limited Atonement.

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