THOUGHTS FROM JOHN’S LETTERS

WE HAVE AN ADVOCATE

Throughout his first letter John makes it clear that a life characterised by on-going, habitual sin invalidates any claim to know Jesus Christ. But he also distinguishes between a life of habitual sin (referred to in the Present tense) which characterises an unbeliever, and a Christian who commits individual acts of sin from time to time (referred to in the Aorist tense).

In 1John 2:1 & 2 John makes two strong affirmations that assure us that the salvation truths he has given us in 1:7 & 9 still apply even when we sin. His first strong affirmation is that, even though we should not sin, ‘if anybody does sin (Aorist tense), we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’ (2011 NIV). John is telling us that at any and every moment we have an advocate. There is never a moment, never a nano-second, when the advocacy of Jesus Christ is not active for us.

The word translated ‘advocate’ is parakletos. This word is used elsewhere only in John 14 – 16, where it refers to the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promised to send from the Father to live within believers. There it is translated ‘counsellor’ (1984 NIV), ‘advocate’ (2011 NIV) or ‘comforter’ (KJV). The word literally means ‘one called alongside’. It was used to refer to a defence advocate in a court of law.

Job, confronted by the accusations of his friends, longed for such an advocate:

‘If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both,
someone to remove God’s rod from me’ (Job 9:33, 34).

And later expressed his confidence that there was such an advocate:

‘Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend’ (Job 16:19 – 21).

This is an amazing insight arising out of Job’s knowledge of God and his grace. What he knew only as an undefined hope, we know by name. We know who our intercessor, our friend, is. We know that our intercessor is one who is both true God and true man, as Paul affirms in 1Timothy 2:5 - ‘there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’.

In Hebrews we learn about this Mediator:

That because Jesus Christ was fully human, just like us, and experienced the hard yards of human life, including its pressures, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He knows - not because he is the omniscient God, but because he has lived our human life and experienced our human temptations. (Read Hebrews 2:9 – 18)

He is in the presence of God as our high priest. That is, he represents us, he stands as our representative, in the presence of God. He is there on our behalf. (Read Hebrews 4:14 -16)

That because of his mediation we have permanent, present, uninhibited, confident access into the presence of God. (Read Hebrews 10:19 – 22)

So John in 2:1 states with absolute confidence: ‘if anybody does sin, we have an advocate ...’ We have Jesus Christ as our legal defence, our legal counsellor, one who is called alongside us, who stands beside us with his hand on our shoulder in the presence of God the Father, putting himself forward as our defence.

We must not assume from the presence of Christ as our Advocate with the Father that the Father is unwilling to forgive us. Rather, the Father sent the Son to do everything that he did to enable and procure our forgiveness. There is no possibility that the Father will not accept the advocacy of Jesus Christ. They are both involved in willing, in desiring, in enabling our salvation. As the New Testament teaches:

‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son ...’ – John 3:16.

Jesus said: ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’ – John 6:38.

‘... God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ ...’ – 2Corinthians 5:19.
‘When the time had fully come, God sent his Son ...’ – Galatians 4:4.

Jesus, our Advocate, does not have to persuade or plead with the Father to forgive us, as if the Father is reluctant to do so. All that Jesus does for us is what the Father appointed and sent him to do. As John says later in his letter: ‘God ...sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him ... God...sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (4:9, 10). In 1John 3:1 & 2 John affirms that those who believe in Jesus Christ are ‘children of God’. We belong to and are loved by both our Advocate and our Judge. Nothing and no one can undo or reverse their declaration of our permanent forgiveness and acquittal (read Romans 8:31 – 39).

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022