Take your Bible and return with me, please to the book of I John. Today is our third in a series of messages through this powerful book that I’ve entitled “Back to the Basics.” We have already come to understand much from this book as we’ve pondered the fact that our gospel is unshakeable, and that we must walk in the light if we would truly follow Christ. As we consider the text together this morning, we come to understand that there is a very real solution to our sin problem.
A man in his mid-thirties was known as a strong leader in the church in which he attended. He participated in many music groups, he gave willingly and frequently to the offering, and his family seemed to be following after him in a desire to serve Christ. All of the sudden, however, it was revealed that he had been living in a life of immorality of the greatest kind. His family was shattered, his kids lost respect for him, and he was left to pick up the pieces of broken dreams and ambitions. He knew Jesus, but he lived as if there was no solution to sin.
A high school boy is known in his youth group as a “good kid.” He seems to love the Lord, and he even takes occasional leadership roles when they are offered to him. He has a major problem, however. He’s not able to say “no” to peer pressure when it seeks to sway him away from the Lord. One weekend when his parents are gone, this high schooler attends a party, gets drunk, and gets his first taste of drugs. His parents find out when they return home, and understandably, they are crushed. This kid knew Jesus, but he lived as if there was no solution to sin.
A man knows God better than perhaps anyone you know knows God. He is intimately acquainted with the things that God likes, and the things that He doesn’t like. He walks with God in an incredibly deep manner, and He is used of God in great ways. One day, however, he is overcome with a particular temptation towards immorality. In a moment of weakness, all that he knows about the holiness of God seems to be swept away, and that man commits immorality in a great way. He knew the Lord, but he lived as if there were no solution to sin.
All of the examples that I just gave you are true. The first two come from people that I have known in my own life, and the last one comes from the Bible as David commits gross adultery in the sight of God. What happened in all of these situations? The answer is really quite simple. These people knew Jesus, but they continued to live as if there were no solution to sin.
As we open our Bibles today again to the book of I John, we encounter a group of people not unlike the examples that I have just provided. They are spread out amongst the flocks in Asia minor, where they are lovingly cared for by an aged apostle named John. John has been used of God in a great way, and many of them have come to know the Lord through his ministry. But now turbulent times have come, as the pre-gnostic teachers have infiltrated the church, teaching a doctrine that has several damnable tenants.
There are actually people in the churches that are falling to these teachings. They are leaving the church, and they have become known as the secessionists. Many of them, struggling with their own lusts, have welcomed this teaching from the pre-gnostics. They have begun to believe that there really is no solution to sin. This is the group that John addresses specifically within the church in I John 2. As he addresses them this morning, he addresses us as well. You see, even though we may know the Lord, People live as though there is no solution to sin.
I John 2:1-6 tells us that this is a completely wrong idea. John’s point in this passage is simply this:
Proposition: Because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must conquer sin.
According to this passage, John makes it clear that there are two primary things that every Christian who lives in victory over sin must do.
I. Because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must understand that sin has no power over you (v. 1-2).
With the phrase “I write unto you,” John draws attention to exhortation, which is something that he regularly does in this book. He mingles truth with exhortation, and he is about to get real practical. The aged apostle addresses them with the phrase “my little children” which is suggestive of John’s age & tenderness towards them.Verse 1 includes another ivna clause that is about to lay out a third purpose for this letter that John is writing. 2 reasons for you to pay close attention right now: John is getting to another point for his writing of this book.These are some of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture. John makes the point clear that because sin has now power over you…
A. You do not have to be controlled by your sin (v. 1).
John’s primary purpose in writing this book (specifically, the these things refers back to verses 6 to 10 that we considered last week) was that these dear people would not fall into the same trap of sin that the heretics fell into. He longs that they should be preserved from the eil teaching of the heretics and not fall into sin. There’s a problem here, though, right? I mean, we all know that people sin all of the time! People in the church that John was writing to were constantly falling into sin! In fact, they were being taught by the heretics that they could not stop falling into sin, and it actually didn’t even matter if the did fall into sin! John could not disagree any more. Here’s the point of what John is saying in the beginning of verse 1: “The law demands perfection but is powerless to save. Jesus, through the gospel, enables us to love righteously.”
There is a new way in Christ through which you must view everything, including your ineptitude to stop sinning. You are no longer controlled! In order to really have victory of your sin you must come to grips with the fact that you do not have to be controlled by sin!!
Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is trying and failing at the same thing multiple times but expecting different results. That’s just frustrating. When you know there’s a better way out there, and you keep failing at your way, but yet you still keep on trying it somehow expecting different results.
That’s where some of you are right now! You’re right there with the church members in Ephesus. You’re trying, through human effort, to not sin, and you’re finding that your efforts are radically inept. John “rocks the world” of these confused believers, and he should be “rocking your world” as well with this radical truth: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE CONTROLLED BY YOUR SIN! Look, guys, there’s a better way, and His name is Jesus! Sin has no power over you, and you don’t have to be controlled by it.
B. You do not have to be judged for your sin (v. 1).
After John writes that his purpose for writing is that we might not sin, he follows with this startling statement:“But if anyone does sin…” Understand that the word “but” here could actually be better translated as “and if anyone does sin.” The Verb “sin” Refers to a single act of sin, not a lifestyle. It is phrased in such a way (Aorist subjunctive, 3rd class conditional) is phrased in such a way that John recognizes that people will commit sins. Ultimately, however, not only is sin powerless over you (you don’t have to), but it can’t even hold the threat of judgment! Why? Because…
Since John indicates that there is a strong probability that we will sin, there is obviously a huge problem! John solves the problem in one phrase when he says, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word “Advocate” is a latin word that carries the meaning of the Greek word that it translates, parakleto. The word is consistently translated in extra-biblical Greek texts as “defense attorney.” John is the only one in the NT who uses this word. Christ pleads our case against the accuser and to the Father, rendering the power of sin useless, because you no longer have to be judged for your sin!
The man stood trembling in the courtroom. He was guilty and he knew it. He didn’t make any pretense of innocence, and he had already begun to silently accept his fate. In walked his public defender. “It’s over,” he thought. “I haven’t got a chance.” But how wrong he was! You see, the defender knew the judge, he walked right up to him, pointed at his scars in his hands, spoke to the judge, and he was free.
That’s exactly what John is saying happens to you. You stand guilty before the bar of heaven – you haven’t got a chance. The accuser of the brethren shrieks out your guilty claims – you don’t have an argument. Jesus stands forward, points at his hands, and God lets you go. Do you know what we learn from this, guys? We learn that sin has no power over us! But how does Jesus appeal to God on your behalf?
Charles Wesley captured the magnificent scene so well:
Guys, sin is totally powerless, because Jesus, the righteous one, appeals to God on your behalf! Sometimes, instead of coming down and applying these things on you, the best thing that we can do is just sit here and bask in this magnificent truth.
C. You do not have to face God’s wrath for your sin (v. 2).
So what happens after our Defense Attorney pleads for us to God? Understand clearly that the Advocate does not maintain our innocence, but he confesses our guilt. Then, he enters his plea before the Father on our behalf! Ultimately, then, he is the propitiation for our sin. What does that mean? ilasmos is the Greek word meaning an offering made by a guilty person to appease the offended. Propitiate means to remove wrath. Maybe a bad word, since that just means appeasing one who is angry. Don’t draw the conclusion that Jesus had to persuade God! Jesus could never make a successful argument without first being the propitiation. Think of a word that means “God’s wrath is gone,” and “fellowship is enjoyed” at the same time. That’s who Jesus is! In verse one, he’s arguing for us in the courtroom, and in verse two, he’s atoning for us in the temple with the result that God’s wrath is gone!
Some of you conceive of a God who is really, really, angry with your sin with an anger that will result in judgment. Then you don’t understand John’s point here. You will never, never have to face God’s wrath for your sin.
Summary of this Point: In these two verses, John has looked into the hearts of those who are wearied with their fight against sin, and successfully argued for the fact that sin is powerless. How? Because you don’t have to be controlled by it, you don’t have to be judged for it, and you don’t have to face God’s wrath for it. All of this as a result of your divine defense attorney, and yet still people live as though there is no solution to sin. Because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must conquer sin.
We have understood today that you must know that sin has no power over you, and the second truth in this passage tied to Christ in verse 1 is this…
II. Because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must develop a relationship with Him (v. 3-6).
The better translation of verse 3 is this: “Here is a test to make sure that we know Him [the Defense Attorney]. If you have this resource (Jesus) available to you, don’t you want to be sure that you know Him?
There are two purposes for verses 3 to 6:
A. You can know Jesus only by keeping His commandments (v. 3-4).
If we are so knew to this book, and we can already tell that this is a great emphasis of John’s, then don’t you think we should pay attention to it? The pre-gnostics made claims to knowing God, but they didn’t really know Him. In fact, many religions made claims to know God. John’s point is not to invalidate the assertion that knowing God is possible, but to point out the fact that it is not possible without a real-life change. He does it by stating this claim both positively and negatively: (v. 3) By this we have come to know Him, if we keep his commandments. There are at least three types of ancient knowledge that the audience would have known about:
The verb “to obey” is not mere external observance, but watchful, observant obedience.
JOHN’S POINT: External obedience provides a test for whether internal change happens. (v. 4) Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Knowledge of God is not theoretical, but real. To claim to know God, but not to act it would be to be devoid of truth. These false teachers, mistakenly thinking that they had knowledge, had not ruth. John, the “son of thunder,” is now calling them out!
It’s time to be done with pithy confessions of the gospel that have no effect on your life. Teenager, if you claim to know Jesus is just that – only a claim – then you don’t know him. True Christianity is life of obedience to the commands of Jesus. You need to get to know your Divine Defense Attorney, and you can only do that through an attitude of watchfulness and concern for his commandments.
B. You can love Jesus only by keeping His word (v. 5).
“Love of God” is an objective genitive that really means “love for God.” True love is expressed not in sentimental knowledge, or in mystical ideas, but in real action. “Made complete” means to be entire and mature.
That’s the idea of this verse. You can only truly perfect your love for Jesus by keeping His word, but if you don’t even know His Word, you’re never going to get there!
C. You can abide in Jesus only by living like Him (v. 5-6).
I hope you notice by now the words that parallel each other related to a relationship with your Divine Defense Attorney:
The heretics actually used the phrase “in Him.” This probably referred to their visions, etc. What they did not gain, was a way of life that had any ethical seriousness. This is where we are today! If you’re really going to abide in Jesus, you need to live like Him!
People live as though there is no solution to sin, but; because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must conquer sin.
Put yourself back in that courtroom. The attorney is there and available. You know all about him and now the choice is yours. Why did those people at the beginning fall to sin? Because they saw no solution.
John clearly pictures a solution in this text. You have a Divine Defense Attorney who renders sin powerless & you must develop a relationship with Him.
Because you have a Divine Defense Attorney, you must conquer sin.
Chad's Greek OUtline of 1 John 2:1-6
Chad's Handwritten Outline and Commentary Notes for 1 John 2:1-6
What People have to Say:
"We pledge on this day (Wednesday, July 31, 2013) to fan the flame of their (Chad and Courtney Phelps) lives and work . . . To be here tonight and listen to the testimony of this dear family is profoundly inspiring."
- Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States
"God takes an event like this and works in infinite numbers of ways and in countless numbers of lives."
- Steve Pettit, President of Bob Jones University
"This is a trage-tunity. It's a tragedy but also an opportunity to declare the glorious gospel of Christ."
- Joe Fant, Program Director at The WILDS Christian Camp