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. – 1 John 2:1 ESV
For John, a life without sin was to be the goal for every believer. But he was well aware of the fact that complete sinlessness was not a possibility as long as we live on this earth and in these bodies. Like every other believer, John had a sin nature and knew all too well the kind of influence it could have on his life. But he was also convinced that a life characterized by sin was no longer the inevitable fate for those who had placed their faith in Christ. We could and should “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, has made it possible for us to have fellowship with God. He gave us His Spirit to live within us and to empower us to live godly lives. Our sin natures were not eradicated at our conversion, but our helpless and hopeless enslavement to sin was. Paul explained our new post-conversion status: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6 ESV). What made all this possible was the righteousness of Christ. It was His sinlessness that made Him the perfect, acceptable sacrifice. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT). His righteousness made our right standing with God possible. We could have spent our lifetimes trying to earn favor with God and live up to His holy standard, and we would have failed. But the righteousness of Christ alone is what satisfied (propitiated) God the Father. His sinlessness allowed Him to become our substitute and pay the price for our sinfulness.
His death has given us life – life more abundantly in this age and the guarantee of eternal life in the age to come. Until He returns, we must still deal with the reality of sin in and around us. Our sin natures are alive and well. Our flesh, as Paul so aptly describes our sin nature, is alive and well. It is that earthly, unrighteous part of us that is driven by desires and passions that are contrary to the will of God. Paul puts it this way: “ The sinful nature [flesh] wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). But the answer to this dilemma is to walk in the Spirit, to live our lives under the Spirit’s control. Christ has provided a new source of strength through the Spirit’s indwelling presence that can enable us to say no to sin. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:24-25 NLT). Elsewhere Paul writes, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace” (Romans 6:12-14 NLT).
We can walk in the light, as He is in the light. We can live our lives in the power of the Spirit. We can walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). But John reminds us, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1 ESV). It’s not a matter of if, but when. We will sin in this lifetime. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are still greatly influenced by its presence in and around us. We can sin less and we should. But in those times when we give in to temptation and listen to our sinful passions rather than the Spirit within us, we have an advocate – a paraklētos – an intercessor who is pleading our cause before God. Jesus Christ the righteous is our advocate. He sits at the right hand of God the Father and represents us before Him. He is a constant reminder to God the Father of our righteous standing because of His own righteousness. When God looks at us, in essence, He sees Jesus. We are clothed in His righteousness. As a result, we stand before God as justified. Because of what Jesus the righteous has done on our behalf, God is able to pardon, accept and declare us to be just in His sight. So that when we sin, “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 ESV). “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV). Jesus died for our sins. Jesus lives for our sins. He is our advocate. He is our representative. His death paid for our sins. But in His resurrected life, He continues to redeem and save us from the condemnation of sin in our lives. “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:10-11 NLT).