Title: Saying ≠ Being Part 3
Text: I John 1:10-2:2
FCF: We often struggle recognizing our relationship to sin.
Prop: Because sin affects all men but not in the same way, we must understand our sin in relation to God.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John 1. Last week, as we continued John’s presentation of the gospel, understanding that God is light in whom no darkness resides. We saw that to say with any certainty that you are incapable of sin, is a lie against yourself and a sign that you do not have the truth. If God is light and in Him there is no darkness, it is a lie to say that I am man and in me there is no ability for darkness. You have drawn an equal sign between you and God and such a thing can only lead to your doom. For his readers then, John has unequivocally set out the facts of who is of God and who isn’t. People who have a lifestyle of sin and claim that they are unable to sin – they are not of God. But people who have a lifestyle of holiness and agree with God about their own sin – they prove by this that they are of God.
I hope and trust that these messages so far have been either very convicting to you or very encouraging to you. And regardless of where you fall, I am absolutely giddy to tell you that today’s message is the biggest yet. What John has to say today is THE most convicting thing he has said yet and is also THE most encouraging thing he has said yet.
If you are a fake believer today, as has been shown to you from the previous thoughts of John – today you are going to hear some very terrible news. But if you are a believer as John has proven from his previous words – today – this message has the potential to destroy your paradigm in the best of ways.
Today you will be challenged on your understanding, relationship and perception of sin. And regardless of what side of this discussion you are on, you will find some rather shocking news about sin especially our sin in relation to God.
I am in I John 1 starting in verse 5. We’ll read the entire thought of John through verse 2 of chapter 2. I am reading from the NET and you can follow along on page 1372 in the pew bible.
I was absolutely floored this week at the truth of this text. I broke out in spontaneous tears, singing, and praise to God for what He has done. I literally cannot wait to show you… so lets get to it.
I.) When we deny we have sinned we make God a liar, so we must view our sin in relation to God.
a. [Slide 2] 10 – If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
i. John has confronted two false teachings up to this point. Although the differences between them have been subtle, each teaching has a unique flavor. The first is that a person could claim fellowship with God while living a sinful lifestyle. The second is that a person could claim to be unable to sin.
ii. Now John turns his attention to one more false teaching that is incredibly damaging to his church. It is the claim that they have not sinned. But what is at the core of this teaching?
iii. This verb is in the perfect tense. Now to you that may mean nothing, but to a Greek speaker that would communicate quite a lot. Perfect tense is used to express an action that has been completed but has continuing results.
iv. There is no real English equivalent to this verb. If the verb were run – we may try to express this by saying, I have run before. This, kinda, gives us a past completed action and continuing results, but not as clearly as the Greek word would.
v. Of course here the verb is to sin, and it is negated by the word “not”. So what does that mean?
vi. It means that the claim of these false teachers is not simply that they are not affected by sin presently, but that they have never sinned in their past and therefore could not possibly be guilty of or affected by sin at all.
vii. This is a denial of a theological teaching called “original sin.” It is this teaching that says that all men inherit a sin nature from Adam. All men inherit death through Adam by sin. Romans 5 talks about this extensively.
viii. Such a denial can only lead to one possible conclusion about the person. What is it?
ix. They make God a liar. You might say, well that is a pretty strong accusation from John. It is. And rightfully so. God has revealed in His Word, from Old Testament to New, and from the lips of Christ Himself, there is none good, there is none righteous, there is none without sin. To deny such a rudimentary principle is to deny the clear and revealed Word of God.
x. And therefore, the conclusion that follows is obvious and unsurprising.
xi. God’s Word is not in such a person.
xii. Is this talking about Christ? The gospel? God’s revelation? How about we cautiously say yes. Although John may be meaning one of them in particular, all are certainly true. And perhaps John doesn’t clarify because he means all three.
b. [Slide 3] Passage Truth: Quite simply, John assures his readers that the false teachers have indeed sinned. In fact, he assures them that the false teachers are sinning as they claim to have never sinned. They are calling God a liar, and proving of course that God’s word is not in them. John’s wants his readers to understand that they do not need to be unable to sin, nor do they need to have never sinned to be in fellowship with God. In fact, such claims would suggest they are not in favor with God. It is only agreement with God about our sin and walking in the light that prove fellowship.
c. Passage Application: So the application is to continue to analyze how they view their own sin in relation to God. Certainly, they must agree with God – but is there anything else? Is there anything else different about their view of sin now that they have been redeemed? This will be answered in the next two verses.
d. [Slide 4] Broader Biblical Truth: Holistically then, from the whole bible, we understand that All men are sinful. All men are wicked. We are all born totally and completely unable and unwilling to seek God, obey His commands, or glorify Him as one of His creation. It is not simply that we have sinned, but that we are sinners. The core of our being has been corrupted beyond any ability of our own to change. And so to suggest that you have never sinned – or were not born a sinner – is to strike at the very Words of God.
e. Broader Biblical Application: Our application is very simple. We must reject any teaching that suggests that mankind is in any capacity, even after Christ’s cross, able to seek God. It is always and only by God’s grace that mankind is saved. But also, we may apply this text with John’s readers. Certainly we agree with God about our sin, but how else do we view sin? We must seek clarity on our view of our own sins.
[Slide 5(blank)] And Clarity is exactly what John is going for next. What he says next can be confusing, but when you understand it, it presents exactly what the Christian’s view of sin ought to be. And even though it seems contradictory in more than one way, I assure you, it is not. Let’s look.
II.) Because the sin of a believer is used for our good and His glory, we must view our sin in relation to God.
a. [Slide 6] 2:1 – My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.
i. John interrupts his pattern to clarify his intentions on the letter. Before John has used “If we say” to talk about the false teachers and reveal that they are lying and are proving they are not of God. 3 times he has approached their teaching this way. And then after each of these he says “If we” and what follows is an action that we do that proves that we are of God. However, this time, after the “if we say” of the false teachers, John does not follow it with an If we do clause.
ii. Having just said that agreement with God about their sin proves that they are inheritors of God’s faithfulness and justice, having just said that a denial of original sin and the effect of sin is a lie and making God a liar, his readers may be tempted to abandon the idea of pursuing a life without sin.
iii. This is a logical conclusion but not a theological one. If perfection is not possible in this life, nor can we ever escape the fact that we have sinned, then pursuing perfection is a logical blunder. But theologically, John wants to make sure they do not assume such a thing.
iv. John makes plain – in what is the second purpose statement of his writing the letter.
v. His first was – does anyone remember?
vi. Yes. His first was that their joy may be complete. Joy eternal and unending.
vii. Now he tells them that another purpose of his writing, which certainly fits with the first, is that they may not sin.
viii. And this verb to sin is not put in a continual aspect, but rather a point in time action. The significance of that is that John is not writing so that they will stop practicing sin. He is writing so they won’t sin at all.
ix. Is it the hope of any father that their child would stop practicing sin? Or would they rather their child stop sinning completely?
x. Is lifestyle sin what John wants to stop? Of course not. His aim is that they would stop sinning entirely.
xi. Thus he introduces a tension with what he has already wrote. That may be the purpose of his writing but if so it is guaranteed to fail because the presence and effect of sin will always remain with us. But as a father – there is no other option. He desires his children to not sin, ever!
xii. But John quickly resolves the tension.
b. [Slide 7] But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one 2 – and He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins
i. Although grammatically we translate this word “if”, and certainly that is a normal translation.
ii. Later in chapter 2:28 the same word appears in this context “and now little children, remain in Him, so that [if] he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back.“
iii. What is clear is that this word does mean if in the sense that it suggests an uncertain status to what is being said. However, in 2:28 it is clear that it is not the event that is uncertain but rather the timing of the event that is uncertain. We have a different word for that – it is when. And so we translate it “so that when he appears we may have confidence…”
iv. How do we determine what to use in each case? Context.
v. So what about here in I John 2:1. Should this be translated if? Or should it be translated when?
vi. John has just eliminated the possibility of those in Christ ever being totally free of the effect of sin on them. He has eliminated the possibility that sin has not infected and affected all men. For John to say if anyone sins would seem counter to this thought.
vii. However, John just confessed that his writing was for the intended purpose to have them stop sinning.
viii. And so, I am content to leave the translation as if. John just confessed his desire for the impossible that they might never sin again. But, in moving from the impossible he considers, almost tongue in cheek, the possibility *wink *wink of someone committing sin. If anyone sins…
ix. We have an advocate.
x. Before we unpack the rest of this, I’d like to call your attention here. Up to this point John has been speaking in evidence and interference relationships with his conditional statements. “if we do then it proves” We might assume that he would continue that pattern. However, if we did, we would be wrong.
xi. For it is not our sinning that is evidence that what follows is true.
xii. Rather, might I contend that this is a cause-effect relationship. The cause of someone sinning, produces the effect of having an advocate.
xiii. How do we know John has switched from evidence-inference to cause-effect?
1. First, It is theologically wrong to conclude that Christ’s advocacy and atonement is proved by our sinning.
2. Second, John has broken from the pattern of the first two conditional statements in several ways.
a. He has included an aside of personal intent of his writing. That they would not sin any more.
b. He has moved from “if we” to “if anyone” – effectively limiting the possibility from a collective we to an individual one of all of us.
3. Thus what follows is an effect which is true of every individual believer upon the cause of that individual succumbing to the temptation of sin.
4. And what is that effect?
xiv. That we have an advocate.
1. This word means helper, intercessor, mediator.
2. Literally it means to come alongside. To be someone’s crutch.
3. This is a defense attorney. Not pleading our innocence, but rather, pleading for favor from the judge in spite of our guilt. He comes alongside us, not to disagree with the judges ruling, but to plead for the judge’s mercy and favor.
4. Israel in their history had many intercessors. The High Priest’s function was that of an intercessor for the people. However, the problem was, that they too needed an intercessor. Who would intercede for the intercessors?
5. But this advocate is not like all the others. John sets him apart by including three unique qualifications that this person has as advocate.
a. First, He is Jesus Christ. He is a man, chosen of God. He is the Savior which is Christ the Lord. All three of these roles prophesied in the Old Testament, fulfilled in 1 man. The God-Man Christ Jesus. That is a fairly unique qualification.
b. Second is that He is the Righteous One.
i. How does this enable Him to be our advocate?
ii. [Slide 8] “Therefore, on the basis of [H]is own righteousness, manifested above all in the righteous act of the cross (cf. v 2), Jesus is supremely able to ask for that righteousness to be extended to all God’s children who are in fellowship with him. On that ground, also, God (who is [H]imself “righteous” v 9a) can “purify” us every kind of unrighteousness(emphasis his)” Pg 38 wbs smalley
iii. And so The Righteous One stands before the Righteous God and pleads that His Righteousness be extended like a blanket over God’s Children. So that they may not only be declared righteous in the court, but also continue to be righteous in practice.
iv. But an objection by the judge would be levied.
v. I cannot declare anyone to be righteous if they are unrighteous. I cannot justify those who are guilty. I cannot extend righteousness to those who are unrighteous.
vi. And that is where the third qualification of Christ’s advocacy is posited.
c. [Slide 9] The Third qualification that Jesus is a unique advocate is that He, Himself, is the atonement for our sins.
i. This word that the NET translators have rendered “atoning sacrifice” is quite a tricky word to define. The reason is that it is so infrequently used in the New Testament – only twice.
ii. It is used in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament – but remember that that was written almost 400 years before John uses the word here. Words tend to change their meanings.
iii. The primary point of disagreement in the translation of this word is on who is the object of the atonement.
1. Some would render this word, propitiation. This is what the KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NASB have. To propitiate something is to satisfy or to appease. And so the primary object of Christ being the atonement would be toward God. That God’s wrath is appeased. This is certainly true in scripture. Proved in many places, Romans 5 being quite overt. And even here in verse 1 of chapter 2, his advocacy indicates a God-ward nature of the atoning.
2. Others would render this, expiation. This appears in some less popular translations and follows what seems to be the predominant Old Testament usage of the word in the Septuagint. To expiate means to remove from or to separate. And so the primary object of Christ being the atonement would be toward man. That the man’s guilt of sin was removed from them by Christ being the atonement. Hebrews 9 affirms that Christ’s death puts away sin. Psalm 103:12 talks about God removing our sin as far as the east is from the west. That Christ’s death removed sin from us is surely true.
3. Because both of these are true and this word could be used in both ways, many newer translations desire to give the fullest expression of this word so as not to confuse readers. The NET, CSB, NIV, and NLT all translate this word something to the effect of atonement, atoning sacrifice or some other way to express this.
iv. As you might assume, there are arguments for each and against each. And since both are true in scripture, we must look at I John specifically to understand how John is using the word. But even when we do that, there are merits to both. John is clearly talking about the reality that Christ will put away our sin. What a comfort to a Christian overtaken by a sin, that Christ is our advocate and continues to apply his death to remove our sin guilt from us. But also, Christ is the righteous one who satisfies the wrath of God so that God may continue to look on us with favor, and provide grace to empower us to be obedient to Him.
&nbnbsp; v. It seems that these definitions are related and even dependent on each other. That Christ took our sin and appeased the wrath of God by bearing wrath.
vi. Therefore, Christ’s righteousness can be applied to us because the question of our sins, past, present, and future, has been answered in the ongoing nature of the completed work of Christ.
xv. John continues on from this point to conclude his thought.
c. [Slide 10] And not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
i. I’m not going to devote a lot of time to this phrase simply because it will be the primary focus of our sermon on I John 2:2 in the new year. But a couple things we must observe about this final phrase that is interesting.
1. John is saying this as a great comfort to his readers. Readers who have been told that their very salvation is suspect of truth because they don’t have some secret knowledge and they have not achieved this inability to commit sin. They have not realized that they have never sinned. John charges them with the goal of sinlessness but the comfort of knowing that they have an advocate when they sin, Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the atonement for their sin. So whatever this phrase means, it must also contribute to the general encouragement of his readers.
2. Although it is grammatically possible to add (and the sins of) before the whole world, it must be noted that it is not in the text. So Christ being the atonement concerning our sins and not for ours only but also for the whole world may not imply his atonement relationship toward the whole world’s sins. It is grammatically possible, since the whole world is singular, that he could be saying “Christ is the atonement for our sins and not for ours only but for the sin of the whole world” This also is grammatically ok. What is evident, is that by grammar alone we cannot solve this riddle as to what John means that Christ is the atonement concerning the whole world. That is why we will deal with it by itself next time in I John.
d. [Slide 11] Passage Truth: For a believer then, John says that it is his purpose in writing to charge them to never sin again. But if they do sin, should they transgress, do they expect quick judgment? Do they expect to be cast aside? Do they expect to lose grace or mercy? Absolutely not! For a believer, for one who is genuinely a follower of Christ, the ultimate effect of their sin is that they have an advocate to plead with the Father on their behalf, to apply His righteousness to them on the basis of his once for all time but perpetually continuing sacrifice on the cross. He has solved the problem of our sin, so that when we do sin, he moves into action to continue to cleanse us and free us of it.
e. Passage Application: So what is the message for John’s readers? Sin is a serious offense to a holy God. Something they ought not take lightly. But in repentance, they must understand that God’s mercy and Grace is greater than their sin and they are guaranteed that God will not allow them to stay in their sin, but His son will intercede for them and continue to free them from it. WOW!
f. [Slide 12] Broader Biblical Truth: From the whole bible, John tells His readers essentially what Paul says in Romans 8 – that there is no condemnation in Christ for those who are His. Christ’s intercession is the continual application of His death to our salvation. And there is no sin we can commit to undo that. BUT – John is writing so that they would never sin again. Because Christ’s continual application of His death, produces a greater love, a greater obedience, a greater holiness, a greater victory in His followers. What logically should produce license in us to sin abundantly – instead produces the righteousness of God through Christ. John fights the same battle Paul does when Paul says, shall we sin so that Grace may abound? Of course not! Why? Because the effect of our sin is Christ’s ongoing intercession to liberate us from it.
g. Broader Biblical Application: And so God has redeemed us completely. So that even when we sin, the ultimate effect of it is that God continues to purify us through Christ! Even when sin is able to overtake you, even when you fall – brothers – sisters – God still gets the victory. The advocate continues to apply his death to your sin and for your righteousness. He still wins – because even in your sin – you become more free. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we keep sinning. It can’t mean that. But what it does mean, is that NOTHING can undo what God is doing in the hearts of His elect. He will continue to purify you.
And just in case you think this is a new teaching… The puritans wrote about this in 1689.
[Slide 13 (end)] “The most wise, righteous and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season His own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good.”
If you are God’s child… not even sin can permanently keep you from walking closer to Him. This merciful and gracious God is able to take our hearts after betraying Him, and mold it back into something better than it started as. In that while we would never pursue sin, we also do not despair if we should be caught in it, because God has made a way to continue to intercede for us.
My friends! Satan must be so frustrated by this. God’s people who are constantly submitting to God, against whom Satan must continue to flee, the moment he is able to surprise us and ambush us, God is at work to take what that believer was and make it more like His Son through it. God is in the habit of making gourmet omelets out of our broken eggs. And although we walk with Him and continue to try to make those omelets the best we can, when we fail, he gives us something better than we could have made.
Again – I must reiterate – that God’s people don’t pursue sin. God’s people agree with God about sin. They do not walk in darkness but in light. That is how we know we have fellowship with Him. It is that kind of person, who hates, flees, and despises sin, that is promised, that when they sin, God gives greater grace.
Wow. I finally understand how there can be no condemnation in Christ. He is able to use even my transgressions to bring himself glory, purify me, which is ultimately for my good. In fact, John is saying that that is the ultimate outcome of our sins if we are in Christ. Wow.
So again, this application diverges into two very different directions.
If you are one who has continued to walk in a sinful lifestyle, if you disagree with God about your sin, if you think you are not guilty of sin, then it means that you are not in fellowship with God, regardless of what you say or believe. And friend, if you are not in fellowship with God, you have no intercessor pleading for you before the Father. You have no helper seeking to apply righteousness to you. You have no atonement to take away the guilt of your sin by appeasing God’s wrath. You alone will stand before the Lord one day. And every sin you have ever done, or will ever do, will condemn you to an eternal existence devoid of God’s grace and mercy.
And friends if that bothers you – may it bother you more that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to change your fate. There is no choice you can make, there is no penance you can pay, there is no hope you have to undo what is upon you. Only God can change you. Only God can show favor to you.
But if all this has driven you to the end of yourself. If all this has produced in you that holy fear of the wrath of God and the hopelessness of your own self-righteousness. If you truly believe that you have no hope unless He does something to you. Then perhaps this is proof that God is doing something. How can you know that God is changing your heart? Seek Him and continue to do so. Turn from your sin. Plead with Him for mercy and grace. Knock at the door an continue to do so. If you are able to do these things and continue to do them, it is a sign that God is working and God promises to answer those who diligently seek Him.
But friends, if you are His child. If you walk in the light. If you agree with God about your sin. If you are in pursuit of holiness and fleeing sin. Do you realize that for you sin has lost its power? That when you sin, you have an advocate who is the satisfaction for your sin and the provider of your righteousness both in standing and in living. Before you were converted, your sin damned you. That to violate 1 point of the law of God would mean your death and all inherit this death by sin through Adam. But the moment that you are in Christ, you have died with Christ in Adam, and are alive with Christ in His Spirit, the moment that happens, your sin no longer leads to death and to despair but God works through His Son’s intercession for your sin to continue to conform you into the image of Christ.
The bible says that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. So that even when we sin, God uses it to accomplish our good, for His purpose, and for His glory. You who are of God, is this not your experience? Is it not how God works? That in our failure, we become weak and humble. In our failure our hatred of sin grows. In our failure we cry out to God in greater faith. My friends, for those who flee sin, for those who pursue holiness… not even sin that catches us can keep us from becoming what God wants us to become. Why? Because we have an intercessor… an advocate who is the satisfaction for our sin and is our righteousness. And He will continue to perfect that good work that He has begun in us, until we are finally perfected.
We must understand that sin’s effect on us never leaves in this life. Meaning that we may still sin. But we must also understand that sin’s penalty and power over us has been destroyed by Christ, and our new Master uses all things in our lives to conform us into the image of Christ. Yes, even when we sin.
Truly, my brothers and sisters, there is no condemnation in Christ! There is only victory!
So repent but do not despair. Turn from sin quickly! Because what awaits is not condemnation, but victory!