Propitiation for Sin

1 John 2:1-2

Spent year-and-a-half working through Isaiah, 73 sermons on topic: The Holy One of Israel. In evening service: 6 months in James and Pursuit of Holiness. Conclusion: a holy God requires a holy people with whom to fellowship. If true, what does a holy people look like? In culture permeated by moral relativism, what fits biblical definition of real faith? A question John endeavors to answer in his epistles.

WSC Q10: How did God create man? A10: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Model of holiness – Adam and Eve pre-Fall. Then, sin, mankind no longer holy. Not even close, no way on his own to get there. Not even possible to shine up enough to be acceptable to God. If he is to have a holy people for fellowship, has to begin with some pitiful specimens. Good thing for us God accepts us as we are, dirty rotten sinners, hopelessly lost in sin. He doesn’t leave us that way, though. Expects us to progress in holiness, to wear the evidence of real Christianity John describes in epistles.

John says clearly: wrote the letter in order to promote holiness in his readers. Sin is ongoing reality, but… can’t just accept as a given that we can’t help, let chips fall where they may, presume God will forgive anyway. Must recognize reality, identify the enemy, deal with it God’s way.

A. the goal – perfection/acceptance

tender concern for the flock – τεκνία – teknia – little children

this from a “son of thunder” (Mar. 3:17; Luk. 9:49-56)

time and work of Holy Spirit had transformed

early in time of following Jesus – all right out there, bold for the Gospel, quick to lose patience when message wasn’t received immediately

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” v.49

“Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” v.54

fire and (perhaps) pride of being on right side, side of truth no longer evident

now it’s patient and gentle firmness along with sadness

firmness to guide genuine believers in the truth, sadness toward those who reject it

purpose of writing – reminder/exhortation

reminder: no longer under domination of sin

John’s intention not to bully them into obedience

sin does not have power to bully into disobedience

sin is present but not an inescapable given

the goal: no sin at all; fact we think it might be unreachable no excuse for not trying

indentification: the enemy is sin

not circumstances, not someone else

greatest enemy is within and John later says, so our greatest help (1 John 4:4)

exhortation – this is the goal, you’re not in it alone; fight a good fight against known enemy

a holy God requires a holy people for fellowship

B. the problem – remaining sin, 2-part issue

we all live with it

he says “if”, not “when”, you sin – another reminder sin isn’t a given

human frailty is never excuse to relax God’s standard – Ivory clean isn’t good enough

God accommodates our weakness by providing a substitute, not dumbing it down

our Substitute absolutely 100% pure and free from sin of any kind

OT: nearly 50x, sacrificial animal identified as one without blemish

Peter says we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19)

Christ loved the church, gave himself for her “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)

it alienates us from the Father

remember God’s title: “Holy One of Israel”, Isaiah’s response to seeing Lord Christ on his throne

Isa 6:5“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

no high-fives, “big guy in the sky” language; none of that with this John either

Rev. 1:17 “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”

Father is not indifferent to sin, regardless of where it lies

will not overlook ever or tolerate forever persistent sin

judges it in his enemies, chastises and corrects it in his children

when present it hinders fellowship between Father and child – brings into disfavor, causes distance

what hope can we have? Once again in debt, no resources to cover the debt, no way to appease God’s righteous anger against sin. Good news for child of God: have an advocate with the Father.

C. the person – an Advocate

one who stands beside: παράκλητος – parakletos – advocate

not one who speaks in our defense: sin is indefensible

we stand before the Father guilty of having sinned against him

rather one who speaks on our behalf

doesn’t deny our guilt, he takes credit for our guilt

doesn’t maintain our righteousness, pleads his own righteousness in our place

doesn’t seek reduced penalty for us, reminds the Father that he paid penalty in full

doesn’t argue for mercy rather than justice, reminds the Father he completely satisfied demands of justice

means we shouldn’t be paralyzed in sin or hopeless in fight against it

if we understand nature of sin and work of our Advocate, know there is hope for reconciliation

Arise, my soul, arise, / Shake off thy guilty fears: / The bleeding Sacrifice / In my behalf appears: / Before the Throne my Surety stands, / My name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above, / For me to intercede, / His all-redeeming love, / His precious blood to plead; / His blood atoned for ev’ry race, / And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds he bears, / Received on Calvary; / They pour effectual prayers, / They strongly plead for me; / “Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry, / “Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

My God is reconciled; / His pard’ning voice I hear; / He owns me for his child, / I can no longer fear; / With confidence I now draw nigh, / And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.

D. the means – propitiation

he himself, the Advocate, is the sacrifice: ἱλασμός – hilasmos – propitiation, atoning sacrifice

imagery of sacrifice pointed to a substitute from beginning

sin offering formalized in Mosaic law: Leviticus 4

bull or kid or lamb brought tabernacle, offerer would “lay his hand on the [animal]’s head and kill the [animal] before the Lord.” Then animal burned as offering to the Lord

symbolically transferring guilt of sin from own head to head of animal, then exacting payment of penalty for sin from the substitute

in that ritual, was clearly visible what sinful man deserves for disobedience and rebellion

purpose of propitiation – turn away or appease the wrath of God

wrath – Rom. 1:18; 2:6-11

rightly directed against ungodliness and unrighteousness, those who do evil rather than good

that’s all of us before we come to Christ in faith – none righteous, no not one

the propitiation, the one who is the sacrifice himself, who sacrificed himself

absorbed and bore the wrath that should have been ours

standing before the Father, those 5 wounds are unmistakeable evidence he was the sacrifice

they speak the truth: Father, you can justly forgive those for whom I suffered

also speak the truth: child of God, your cleansing and holiness flow from Christ, your forgiveness has its foundation in Christ and his completed sacrifice

E. the extent – the whole world

not just Jews

those who had been special recipients of God’s favor for generations

to whom the Savior had been born – son of Mary, son of David

not just those in Asia Minor

within sound of John’s voice

within reach of John’s pen

not just those who already had fellowship with God, Father and Son

to whom Christ’s redemptive work had already been applied

who had already experienced forgiveness from sin and cleansing from unrighteousness

members of all families of the world

as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob Gen 12:3; 26:4; 27:29

know for certain Gentiles are included:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8)

and, of course, broadest expression of all:

“You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9; 7:9)

Not an inclusive message here, not one way among many to find acceptance with God. Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation, the advocate, the Savior of the world. The only way to God, only source of forgiveness and cleansing. Not intolerant, it’s actually liberating: you’ve heard the truth, don’t have to wonder or go looking to see if you’ve found the right way to be right with God. It is here and only here in Christ Jesus. Only by trusting him will you find mercy and rest and forgiveness and hope. Trust him, he will save you.


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