"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1)
The greatest plague that a living child of God experiences is sin. When he first is brought to a knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, and is able in some little measure to realize a sense of pardoning mercy, he is happy, sweetly happy. He says to himself, "Now, I should like the wings of a dove, and fly away, and be with God for ever: my sin is gone!" But very soon he discovers that he has not done with sin. Yea, perhaps he is beset with some terrible temptation, and finds to his dismay that he is still a poor sinner. And then he begins to think thus, "I could believe that all my past sins and iniquities were pardoned, the sins of my thoughtless, reckless life, when I was without hope and without God in the world. I could believe that my soul was safe when the Lord revealed Himself to me; but now I have broken out afresh--I have sinned since my pardon, and my belief is shaken. Is there any warrant for me holding that this fresh sin will be pardoned?" To whom I answer, Yes, yes, my poor brother or sister, every warrant: as assuredly as you have been pardoned your past sins, so will you be pardoned your present sins, so will you be pardoned your future sins. And simply because of your interest in Christ--because Christ ever liveth to make intercession for you. Now, mark you, I do not tell you this great truth to make you careless in your life. Sin is ever hateful to God; sin will ever bring its own punishment with it to the soul of God's sinning child. It will bring darkness and fear and unhappiness and dejection; but sin can never separate a soul from "the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." Your minister's address to you is the same as the apostle's" "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The Gospel with its glorious message gives no license or encouragement to sin. Yet it proclaims that, even if a man sin, there is an Advocate with the Father, even Christ Jesus, whose blood cleanseth from all sin. And now let us analyze this text:--
I. To whom is this addressed?
II. What are the subjects of Christ's advocacy?
III. What sort of an Advocate is Christ?
I. To whom is this word addressed?--I at once answer, Not to every one. Christ is not the Advocate for all. For, independent of Scriptures which positively tell us this, we logically infer that He cannot be; for such is the almighty influence of His advocacy, that if He were the Advocate for all, all must be pardoned. The Universalists shockingly disparage Christ. They make His atonement a mere experiment. And they make His advocacy another experiment. They thus undeify Christ, and lower Him to the position of the Unitarian's Christ. But such a Christ as that can be of no earthly use to a poor bankrupt sinner. The price is not high enough. The influence is not great enough for his desperate circumstances. Those parties may retort and say, we "shockingly disparage Christ's love in attempting to limit it to a certain people." To this we reply, Not so. It is quite possible for a great and a good Being to bestow His love where He pleases; but it is not possible for God to try an experiment. Try and remember this. Well, to whom is this Scripture addressed? It is to those whom the apostle described in the preceding chapter--namely, those who walk not in darkness, but in the light. (chap. 1:6,7) In short, those who have been called out of nature's darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel--those who believe themselves to be sinners, and that Christ's blood cleanseth from all sin. Mark you that word "we." It doesn't mean merely we apostles, but we believers--we who have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is the greatest mistake in the world to suppose that this or any other gracious declaration in the Scriptures is intended for everybody. Men must be believers before they can hope that Christ is their Advocate. Doubtless, Christ has pleaded, and is pleading, the cause of many a man dead in trespasses and sins; but what I mean is, that no unbeliever has any warrant to assume that Christ is his Advocate with the Father. Observe, too, poor sensible sinners, the words "we have." This denotes continual advocacy and may well encourage us to look up. He is always at His post. Never weary in performing His duties, and ever ready to give ear to the prayer of the poor suppliant. Observe, too, His title, "Advocate." You know an advocate is one who pleads a cause--one who stands in opposition to an accuser. Satan is our accuser, sin the charge. Christ stands by to answer the accusation and wipe off the charge. Mark you, too, this word is in the singular number. It is not "Advocates." So this is a Scripture against the Romish folly of blasphemy of having many advocates, such as the Virgin Mary and the saints. There is but one Advocate.
"With the Father." There is something peculiarly comforting in this. It is not with the enemy, or with the Judge, or with my Father, or with your Father, but with "the Father," Father both to the Advocate and client!
Note, too, the words, "Jesus Christ the righteous." The word "righteous" here, means "just," and intimates for our comfort, that there can be no exception made, either against His Person, or His carriage to weaken any motion He may make.
Now, if I were to stop here, and not utter another word in exposition of my text, surely you would have abundance to feed upon, and to encourage you--not to sin, God forbid, but to keep you from dejection when you do sin. But I have much more to say to you upon the point.
II. What are the subjects of His advocacy?--They are as many as His people are perplexed with, and as many as concern their privileges--so we may be sure they are not a few.
First. He advocates for our daily pardon; you know, my brethren, that we contract daily debts by committing daily sins. You know there is not a day we live, but we deserve the total removal of justifying grace. But Christ our Advocate pleads His precious blood on our behalf. Oh, who can tell how oft he offends? None but God--none but Christ! What folly is it to talk about living without sin for a single day! The best of all saints sins continually; and the reason men do not believe this is they do not understand what sin is. Thousands of times have we sinned even since our justification, and as many times have we been pardoned by virtue of Christ's advocacy.
Secondly. Christ advocates for our daily protection against temptation. It is to this advocacy that we are to attribute our not being swallowed up by Satan's accursed devices; "Keep them from the evil," is still the plea in heaven. "Ah, then," says some one, "Christ has not pleaded for me; for I have been overcome by Satan!" But I answer, So might poor Peter have said when he fell. But, remember, what Christ means when He prays, "Keep them from the evil." It is not that the evil should not touch them, or even temporarily prevail over them, but that their faith should not fail through it. Does your faith yet stand, my brother? Then, depend upon it, you are an object of Christ's love, and your faith a subject of Christ's advocacy! Christ's advocacy is not always for keeping us from temptation, but it is always for keeping us against the ruinous results.
Thirdly. Christ's advocacy is for our perseverance in grace. Oh, how often should we have made shipwreck of our faith if Christ's advocacy had not been at our back! The instability of our minds, and the remnants of corruption, would long ago have extinguished it, if Christ had not pleaded our cause before the Father. Brethren, grace, though a spark of the divine nature, and though it cannot be corrupted, yet would quickly be ejected by our abominable corruptions, if Christ did not advocate our cause. I can well fancy grace soliciting God to take it away from such a den of iniquity as we are--and imploring to be loosed from such a cage of unclean birds as the best of fallen men is. But there is Christ's advocacy to keep it there. Oh, blessed be Christ!
Fourthly. Christ's advocacy is for the acceptance of our services. Our very prayers are so imbued with sin, that they must needs be rejected, if Christ did not plead our cause before the Father. Our best works are so soiled with the slime of human depravity and conceit, that they could not be accepted by God, were it not for the advocacy of Christ! It is the incense ascending from His holy censer that purifies our prayers and our works, and causes them to have a sweet savor before God! Do you now see where you stand and how you stand before the Lord? Out of Christ we are worse than nothing. In Christ, though worthless ourselves, we are kings and priests before God!
III. What kind of an Advocate is Christ?--Is He an Advocate that may plead with all His might and energy and influence, and be defeated? You know there are many such advocates. The mightiest and most eloquent of human advocates, with even a good cause, have been unsuccessful. Is Christ such as these? Nay, nay! The idea is preposterous, for Christ is God and must have all power with God.
First. He is an authoritative Advocate. All power in heaven and earth is in His hands. "Ask of me," says God the Father to Christ, "Ask of me and I will give Thee." (Ps. 2:8)
Secondly. He is a wise and skillful Advocate. He completely understands His business. He knows God intimately, and knows man as intimately. He knows the sincerity of His client's hearts; He knows all about their groans, their breathings, their sighs and tears, their trials and temptations; and He pleads their cause accordingly.
Thirdly. He is a compassionate Advocate, and a sympathetic Advocate. "Brethren," says the apostle, "we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15) Oh, my hearers, Christ knows what sore temptations mean, and is ever ready with His tender compassion towards His dear clients!
Fourthly. He is an earnest and pressing Advocate. He is never weary; we can never come at a wrong time to Him. He is as fresh in the evening as in the morning--at midnight as at noon.
Fifthly. He is a joyful and cheerful Advocate. He does not undertake His business with a bad grace; but at once enters into it with all His heart and soul.
Lastly. He is an acceptable Advocate. The Father delights to hear Him: "Behold my Servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth," say God of Christ. (Isa. 42:1)
What need for dejection, then, my brethren in the Lord? Surely with such an Advocate as this to plead our cause, we may rejoice before God.