My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -I John 2:1-2
If you are going to memorize a passage of Scripture, can I suggest these two verses? My guess is you are going to need the good news they deliver every day of your life, multiple times a day. I love the tone that John is taking here; “My little children” is such a sweet term of endearment. He is communicating to his readers his heart for them. He is pulling them close and looking them in the eye and saying, “Sweethearts, the goal is not to sin.” Now if he just stopped there we all would be undone, finished, exasperated. We know that’s the goal. Our inner lawyer reminds us of that goal every day all day long.
“Don’t screw this up again”
“Remember what you promised yourself”
But then John comes in with some of the funniest five words in the Bible: “but if anyone does sin.” I mean, of course. Of course we will sin. It is who we are; it is what we do. Luther calls it being “bent in on ourselves”. Those five words are followed by seven more that reduce me to tears almost every time I read them— “we have an advocate with the Father”. Stop and read those words again. We have an advocate with the Father.
What makes them sweeter is the words that come before them: “if you happen to sin”. It would make sense if the words before were something like: “if you do your best”, “if you display self-control”, “if you do your quiet time every day”— but no, it’s the exact opposite —“if anyone does sin”. If you screw up, yet again. If you did the one thing you said you wouldn’t ever do. You, yes you,“have an advocate with the Father”. We have a helper. We have an advocate, one who is pleading our case to the Father. And what is his plea? Well, look at the next four glorious words “Jesus Christ the righteous”. He is standing before the Father saying “look at my righteousness; it is theirs too.”
Luther says this, “He is righteous and unstained. He is without sin. Whatever righteousness I have, this my Comforter has, He who cries out for me to the Father: ‘Spare him, and he has been spared! Forgive him! Help him!’ The righteousness of Jesus Christ is standing on our side. For the righteousness of God in Him is ours” — Jesus the righteous. Jesus in our place. He is the one advocating for us. He is the one standing before the Father, every single day of our lives. He is our advocate. He is our help.
He is the propitiation for our sin. He is the one that has born all of God’s wrath for all of our sin. He is the one that has taken away the penalty and the power of sin. He has covered us completely. Because He is our propitiation, you stand before a Holy God, right this second as one who is not guilty. Full stop. Bring to memory the sin that haunts, yes, even that sin is forgiven.
So dear children, children of God, if any of you happens to sin, remember Jesus. Remember where your righteousness is; it’s not in your own ability to do good, it’s not in your ability to not sin, it is in Christ. Christ your advocate, your helper. Christ your propitiation. Christ your covering. Christ for you.