Jesus is Our Advocate
However we may wish to rationalize it, when a Christian sins, the creature is actively rebelling against his Creator, despite all God has done to prevent him from sinning. It would be understandable if God chose to punish us as we deserved, but the Lord chooses rather to show mercy. Although it is ideal that the Christian break the habit of sin, John gives the sinning Christian the following consolation, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
An “advocate” is a legal term denoting a lawyer who represents his client before a court of law. When applied to the present ministry of Christ, it speaks of his work for sinning believers to restore them to fellowship. His work as an advocate is based upon the sufficiency of the blood of Christ for all sin, past, present, and future.
When a person receives Christ, he is saved eternally. Nothing can separate him from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39). Even if he denied Christ, Christ remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). Although our union with Christ is secure, our fellowship with God is dependent upon our daily walk with him. As long as we attempt to do what is right, i.e., “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), our fellowship is secure, and any sin committed unknowingly is cleansed. “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us” (1 John 1:7).
It is when we step out of line and do sin that we break our fellowship with God. As long as we are consciously aware of sin that exists between ourselves and God, there is a barrier that God will not cross. Our salvation remains secure, but the quality of our Christian life suffers because we are out of fellowship with him.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We should never cease to be amazed how much God desires to fellowship with us. Sin is an insult to the nature of God, and when a Christian commits such an act, he is choosing his own way and actively opposing God.
The fact that God tolerates our sin is evidence of the depth of the love of God. There is nothing on the part of God that will prevent the restoration of fellowship. We must simply be willing to admit and turn from our sins and he will forgive (1 John 1:9).
Propitiation (Pleasing God)
Fellowship can be restored only because Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The term “propitiation” means “satisfaction.” When we sin, the holiness of God is offended. To be restored to his fellowship, the holiness of God is satisfied by the blood of Christ. The cost involved in providing salvation for a lost world was the person of Christ and his shed blood (Rom. 3:24).
This payment was necessary to satisfy the righteousness of a holy God. Only in this way could it be possible for God to forgive sins and still be righteous. The blood of Christ is sufficient to save the entire world from all their sins (1 John 2:2). This makes possible restored fellowship even when we sin against God.
A lawyer is only as good as the information given him by the client. Sometimes the client may fail to follow his lawyer’s advice or forget to tell him something that is necessary for the trial. Christ, our advocate, knows already about our sins. The root meaning of “confess. . . ” is “to say the same thing,” or to agree. We must agree with Christ concerning our sins in order to find forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
If the Advocate is going to restore our fellowship with God, we must confess our sins-totally. If we are unwilling to do that, we prevent the work of our Advocate in heaven.
Confession involves acknowledging our error and agreeing with God as to its sinful nature. When we are prepared to admit our responsibility in sin, Jesus pleads our case before God on the basis of the payment he has already made for our sin (1 John 2:2). God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Jesus used the social custom of the day of footwashing to illustrate this principle of continually cleansing the Christian. Before the disciples came to the meeting place for the Pass-over, they had no doubt washed in a public bath completely, including their feet. In walking along the dusty streets of Jerusalem to the upper room, their feet got dusty. When we are saved, we are cleansed from all sin (parallel to an entire bath), but as we walk in the world our feet often get dirty.
It is not necessary that we seek a total cleansing again (getting saved again), as Peter suggested (John 13:9), but rather that we confess known sin in order to be cleansed (John 13:10).