The Good News - Home
By David A. DePra
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 1:8-2:1)The term "advocate" is from the Greek "parakletos," which means "to call to one’s side." As a noun, it was a term used in a court of justice for a legal assistant, or counsel for the defense. Of course, to be an "advocate" in English, means to be FOR someone. It means to plead in favor of a person, or a cause.
John says, "We have an Advocate – Jesus Christ." But ask: Jesus is WHOSE Advocate? WHO is John referring to by the word, "we?" He is referring to the people he has just addressed as, "my little children." These are those who have already embraced Christ as Savior. Indeed, John lumps himself into the group who can claim Jesus as their Advocate: "WE have an Advocate…." These are saved people.
Advocate for the Saved
Jesus is the Advocate for those who are saved. And only for the saved. This is important to establish. John is not saying that Jesus Christ is an Advocate for those who are not saved.
But wait a minute. Why isn’t Jesus an Advocate of those who are not saved? Didn’t He come to save sinners? To save everyone? Sure. But the issue here is not whether Jesus came to save sinners. John is, at this point, talking about what happens when Christians sin. He is writing to "my little children."
The point is, people who are not saved don’t need an Advocate. They need a Savior. But once they do come to Jesus as Savior, He then becomes their Advocate.
This distinction is important. If an "advocate" can be likened to a defense attorney, imagine the picture we are creating if we say that Jesus is the Advocate of the sinner. We would be suggesting that Jesus pleads the case of the guilty sinner, in an attempt to get them declared innocent. No. Jesus never does this. In fact, everything in the plan and purpose of God is geared to doing exactly the opposite: God wants to prove the sinner IS guilty – so that the sinner can see he NEEDS a Savior.
God is incapable of lying. Jesus must therefore say that the sinner is guilty, and deserves death. He will say this because it is THE Truth. But He will also say it so that the sinner will see he needs a Savior. Not sometimes, but all the time. Again – the sinner cannot be defended. Jesus can be no Advocate for the sinner. But He can be, and is, their Savior.
The saint – a saved person – is not in the same position. Jesus does act as the Advocate for the saved. But He does not do this by denying we sin. No. Indeed, John states, "If we say we have no sin, we make HIM a liar." No. Jesus says we DO sin. But He is our Advocate because He says that despite the fact that we sin – we cannot be condemned for it. Why? Because, in Christ, all of our sins are already forgiven.
John’s statements are based on the fact that when we embraced Christ as Savior, all of our sins were paid for – including future sins. But that is not all. In Christ, we were also declared righteous – not just legally – but because we were MADE righteous by His righteousness! Thus, what charge can be brought against us? None. This is why Jesus is our Advocate. In Him, "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7)
We need to understand that it is impossible for God to lie, twist, or confuse the Truth. He does not call the sinner a saint, or a saint a sinner. If Jesus is our Advocate, He is not pleading a case He knows is a lie. He is pleading our innocence because that is exactly what we are because of His finished work.
The Job of An Advocate
In the legal systems of the world, the stated goal of any trial is justice and truth. When a defendant is accused, our system provides a legal venue -- a trial -- in which the evidence is to be presented by both the defense and prosecution. A verdict, based on that evidence, is then to be arrived at by a judge or jury. Of course, justice and truth are sometimes not served in our society. But the ideal is nevertheless there, as the stated goal.
In our legal system, there are two types of defendants. There is the defendant who is accused, and is GUILTY. But there is the defendant who is accused, but INNOCENT. The accusation itself makes no one guilty. Neither does the fact of the trial make anyone guilty. A defendant is guilty or innocent before the trial even begins. The purpose of the trial is to find out the truth about the defendant, and to render a verdict that justly reflects it.
Each type of defendant – the one who is really guilty, and the one who is really innocent – are entitled to an "advocate" or "defense attorney." The ADVOCATE pleads the case for the defendant. He attempts to prove that his client is innocent, or "not guilty." That is his job.
In our legal system, a defense attorney will do whatever is necessary – hopefully within the law – to see to it that his client is proven "not guilty." What this means is that it an advocate often defends someone who IS actually guilty. The advocate may even know this. But it is still his job to try to show that he is NOT guilty. This is the law.
Now, all of that is important to establish because John tells us that Jesus Christ is our "Advocate" or "defense attorney." But NOT in the sense of a human advocate who defends his client regardless of his guilt. Jesus does not plead the case of the guilty. Never. But He does plead the case of those God has declared "not guilty."
The only way in which Jesus could be a truthful Advocate is if somehow God makes us innocent. Note the word, "makes." God cannot "just call us innocent" because of Christ. He must MAKE us innocent – so that what He calls us is the Truth. The Redemption is the means by which God not only legally and justly pays the price for sinners. It is the means by which God takes the sinner and makes him a saint.
If you and I want Jesus to be our Advocate, this necessitates that we become NOT GUILTY before God. Some of us might think that the way to do this is to come before God and deny we are sinners. But according to I John, the opposite is the Truth. I become guiltless before God by first confessing that I am guilty. I have to become convicted of sin and sentenced to death before I can be pardoned through Christ.
No one can so much as start this process for themselves. God must begin the process by bringing some Light. Light IS Jesus. But in the Light of Jesus, God will begin to expose the sinner as wrong. But not just that. Light exposes the sinner as being wrong towards GOD.
The most hardened atheist can have a tinge of conscience, and admit he is wrong. Indeed, some atheists, in order to "prove" that people can be good without God, go out of their way to admit they are wrong about things. But when God brings light, carried with the package is more than just seeing I am wrong about "things." God’s light causes me to see that I am wrong towards HIM.
Immediately what we see here is accountability towards God. When God brings His Light, it is geared to showing the sinner that, yes, he has done many wrong things. But worst of all, God’s light shows us that we have been wrong towards HIM. The sinner must see that he is guilty of THE SIN – the sin of living his life independent of God.
It is true that you and I did not sit up the night before we were born, and choose to be born with a sin nature. No. We are not to blame for that. Adam is to blame for that. But we have all, to one degree or another, affirmed the sin of Adam – if we have committed at least one sin in our lives. We have all fallen short of God’s glory, if, just once, we have done anything independent of God.
Now, that is just the beginning. For on top of our affirmation of the sin of Adam, many of us have heaped a greater condemnation upon ourselves. We have not only affirmed the sin of Adam – but we have refused the Light of Jesus Christ. In other words, we may not be to blame for being born in Adam, but we are to blame for staying in Adam once we see the way out through Jesus.
The Light which God brings is the Light which shows us this sin. It shows us that we have been wrong towards God and must "come to Jesus" to be saved. As long as we refuse, we are under the judgment of God. John writes, "THIS IS condemnation, that Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness, rather than Light, because their deeds were evil." (Jn. 3:19)
Why do people love darkness rather than Light? Because their deeds are evil – that is – they don’t want them exposed AS evil by the Light. They don’t want to come into God’s court of law and be declared guilty. They would rather stay in the darkness where they can hide.
Of course this all boils down to refusing to believe. I love darkness RATHER than Light because I will not accept my utter guilt before the Lord. I will not confess my accountability to Him.
The worst group of people on this planet are not those who are in the absolute darkness we acquire by birth. No. The worst are those who are trying to live in the gray area. Why? Because they HAVE some Light. That is WHY it is gray where they live. They are in the process of resisting the Light. In effect, gray is the result of having some light, but of continuing to love darkness. If they persist, then they will bring upon themselves an even greater absolute darkness. But it won’t be a darkness they acquired by birth. It will be a darkness acquired by choice – a darkness which is the result of refusing the Light Himself.
Someone who continually resists the grace of God is like a fugitive from the law. They run and they hide. But the problem is, the day is going to come where there will be no place to hide. We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. God beckons us to come there NOW and plead guilty. If we do, there will be nothing left to bring against us in that day of the Lord.
We need to see that we are dead in sin by birth. But the greatest sin of all is not that we were born, or that we did bad things as a result of the sin nature. No. The greatest sin of all is to refuse to confess we are a sinner and come to Jesus. If God is calling us to Christ, and we persist in our refusal, it will seal our condemnation.
The only hope for the sinner is to "come to Jesus." We must repent of NOT coming to Jesus – and if we do, the outcome will be that we will come to Jesus! Then the sinner will no longer be a sinner in need of a Savior. He will be a saint who has a Savior – a Savior who is likewise his Advocate.
What does John say we should do once the Light of God exposes our sins? Hide them? Deny them? Defend them? No. John says that we must CONFESS them. We must confess THE SIN – of living for ourselves, over and against living for God. And we should confess any other sin that has been the outcome of THE SIN.
John states, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to have forgiven us our sins, and to have cleansed us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and his word is not in us." Clearly, we are to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, about our sins, and about our guilt. Indeed, it we don’t tell the truth about it, we make God Himself a liar. Why? Because He has already proclaimed us GUILTY.
We have to get this straight. God has told us we, as sinners, ARE guilty. He has said that we DO have sin. That is why John writes, "If we say we have not sinned, we make HIM a liar." We are "guilty as charged." This is the Truth.
God is perfectly clear about our guilt. Paul writes, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We are not only sinners by birth, but we have all affirmed the sin of Adam by living independent of God. We have all likewise committed many acts of sin. God not only tells us this, again and again, through the Bible, but as we have seen, He wants us to come to the place where we openly confess it.
Jesus Christ is not going to lie about that guilt. If God tells US to confess our sin, Jesus isn’t going to try to cover them up. No. Indeed, even later, as our Advocate, Jesus is going to continually exhort us to confess our sin to God every time. Jesus not only tells the Truth, but Jesus IS the Truth. God cannot lie.
The Justice of God
In a court of law, defense attorneys sometimes do proclaim the guilty of their client. Sure. They are asked for the plea of their client. And they answer, "Guilty as charged." A guilty plea is not uncommon in a court of law. This is also part of any legal system. The hope of the advocate is that the penalty for the crime might be reduced due to the admission of guilt.
If the sinner is to "come to Jesus," he must plead guilty every time. He cannot come to Jesus and think that Jesus is going to proclaim that he is innocent. No. God calls everything what it is. In Adam, we are all guilty, and most confess that it is so.
If there is one message in the Bible, it is that we need a Savior. God continually shows us how much we need Him. He shows us how guilty we are in Adam. His chief instrument is His holy law. In James, for instance, God inspires this indictment against us:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)
Paul also wrote:
Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:19-20, 23)
Yep, if you read the Bible, and do not understand God, you can get the impression that God is doing everything He can do to make us guilty. He puts an impossible standard upon us, tells us it is impossible for us to keep it, and then condemns us for NOT keeping it. How is that fair? How is it just? And why does God do that?
In reality, all of these questions are based on a faulty understanding. God is doing nothing to MAKE us guilty. No. What God is doing is showing us that we ARE guilty. He gave us His law, not as an impossible standard that would make us guilty, but as the standard that would show us our terrible condition.
God’s law doesn’t make us sinners. It exposes us AS sinners. This is fundamental Christian teaching. That is why Paul is able to say that sin was in the world before the law was given. (see Romans 5:13) It is why he is able to state, as seen above, that the purpose of the law is to expose everyone as guilty before God. When I look into a holy, just, and good law of God, I see that I am unholy, unjust, and bad.
The reason some of us might think that God makes it hard for us, or that He is overly rigid and demanding, is not because He is. It is because we are callous to His holiness. It is because we have little concept of from where man has fallen, or to where God wants to bring us back. In effect, God’s standards are NORMAL. We are not. We are absolutely ABNORMAL. Thus, we view the normal standards of God as harsh.
God’s law is given for the purpose of showing us as guilty, so that we will "plead guilty" before Him. Paul writes that the law is given so, "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." God wants to show us our condition for the deliberate purpose of bringing us to this place of guilt before Him.
A Guilty Plea
Now we come to the pivotal question: If Jesus is FOR us, and our Advocate along side of the Father, then why does He do everything He can do to show us we are guilty? Simple: We ARE guilty! That is the Truth.
But we are not left there. Once we are shown to be guilty, and confess it, we are told to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court – God’s court. And it is in that mercy that we not only find life, but we find Jesus as our Advocate.
You will never find salvation in Jesus Christ unless you come to Him as a sinner, pleading guilty. You cannot be raised in Christ, and become a saint, free of condemnation, unless you first die in Him as a sinner. Water it down if you like, but in the end, those are the Truths upon which Christianity is based.
How does the sinner become NOT guilty? – become a saint? By denying he is guilty? No. By confessing he is guilty. By throwing himself one hundred percent upon God’s mercy. THAT is faith. It is faith in Jesus Christ to come to the place where I see that there is NO ESCAPE from my sin, and, as a result of that, to unconditionally surrender all of myself to Jesus.
We see in this a two-fold confession. First, a confession of what I am: A dead and guilty sinner. But second, a confession of who Jesus is: My only Savior. By faith I relinquish myself, repenting of my unbelief. I place my faith in Jesus Christ. I then become a saint.
A saint is not someone who is better than a sinner. Rather, he is someone who sees Jesus is better than us all. Neither is a saint someone who never sins. No. A saint is simply someone who "belongs to God." He has, by faith, surrendered himself to the One who died for him and was raised. In short, a saint is a sinner who is saved by grace.
God is not content to simply forgive us for sin. No. That is only the start of our Redemption. Through Christ, God actually goes on to make us righteous.
Many of us think that once we put our faith in Christ, that God says, "Since Jesus paid the penalty for your sin, I will now LIFT that penalty from you. You are hereby pronounced forgiven, and forever pardoned. Consequently, you may now LIVE forever." We call this outcome "eternal life."
Now this SEEMS right. And it isn’t as if there are not elements of Truth to it. We do escape death in the sense that Jesus died for us, and as the Bible says, "tasted death for every man." And we do end up with eternal life. But we need to look at this for a moment, because what really happens is much more wonderful and final than such a limited view of the Redemption.
First of all, salvation is more than just being legally proclaimed "not guilty" -- although Jesus did paid our penalty. It is more than just having our sins forgiven. It is more than God merely LIFTING from us the penalty for sin. Salvation is LIFE – new life. And the fact is, the only way to get NEW life is if the old life DIES.
Our old life – our "old man" must die. The real us – the fundament of our being – does escape death because of Christ. But the old man of sin does NOT escape death. Notice what Paul says about this in Romans:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:6-7)
Our "old man" – our old nature – is put to death in Christ. Our "old man" does not escape death. He MEETS death in Christ. The way in which this happens is that we are made ONE with Jesus Christ in His death. Paul says:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death. (Rom. 6:3)
Here we see the old dying in Christ. There is no pardon, no forgiveness, and no lifting of the penalty from the old. No. Jesus Christ bore our old man of sin. In Christ, he died.
He better have died! That is the only way in which the full justice of God could be served. And it is the only way in which you and I can have NEW life. The old must first die, in order for the new to be possible.
We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…for he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. (Romans 6:4-8)
There is no new life in Christ unless there is first death in Christ. If we expect to be planted in the likeness of His resurrection, we must first be planted into the likeness of His death. In Christ, LIFE always comes from DEATH.
Once we read these verses, we understand that salvation is more than just having the penalty of death LIFTED from us. Rather, it is the result of us MEETING death in Jesus Christ. The death of our old man. And then because we have MET the death of the old in Christ, we are able to be raised in Him unto newness of life.
Salvation is NEW BIRTH – new life. It is not a revamping of the old life. It is not the REVERSAL of death. It is a PASSING THROUGH death, unto new life. Paul writes, "If any man is in Christ, he is a NEW creation, old things are passed away, behold, ALL things are become NEW." (II Cor. 5:17)
Merely lifting the penalty for sin does nothing to change the sinner. In fact, what it would do is leave us as old creations in Adam, except now with NO penalty for sin! This could never be.
Salvation is more than a new legal standing with God. It is new life. When you accept Christ, God doesn’t merely stamp you "forgiven." No. You actually become a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Now, all of this is vital background, for we must see that when Jesus Christ acts as our Advocate that He is not lying about us. He is telling the Truth. He is pleading our innocence, because if we have our faith in Him, we ARE!
But wait. John writes, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." John is talking about Jesus as our Advocate WHEN WE SIN. If Jesus is our Advocate when we sin, how is He telling the Truth if He pleads our innocence?
He is telling the Truth because He is also our propitiation. John also writes, "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: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." In other words, we are innocent because Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. And we have His righteousness in us.
A person whose faith is in Christ cannot be condemned for sin, because, in the eyes of God, he has already been put to death for that sin. In Christ. Christ died for sinners, and sinners died in Christ. If I have died in Christ, then in Christ, that "sinner" is dead. What is alive in Christ is NOT that same sinner. What is alive is a new creation: A saint.
If I am a saint, I am not a sinner. I have a new identity. I cannot be convicted based on the sin of another person. And if I have been raised in Christ, I am a new creation – a brand new person.
Now, it is here that we are tempted to say, "Ok. But this is just how God has to look at it because of Jesus. It really isn’t that way. I’m still a sinner. In fact, John even tells us that if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar."
We misunderstand. John never says we have no sin. He says we do, and need to confess it. But we are not sinners. We are saints who sin, but not sinners. We are new creations in Christ Jesus. We must understand that we have a new identity.
This is true, otherwise Jesus is an Advocate who lies about us. He pleads our case, and proclaims our innocence, all the while knowing it really isn’t true. NO. God never lies about these things. He calls us exactly what we are. He says that we are saints who sin, but who are completely pardoned because of Jesus Christ.
Notice how clearly this is taught in scripture:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Paul says that there is NO CONDEMNATION upon those in Christ. When? EXCEPT when we sin? No. EVEN when we sin. Indeed, ESPECIALLY when we sin. If fact, if there is no condemnation EXCEPT when we sin, then there IS condemnation when we sin. And that amounts to the Redemption of Jesus meaning NOTHING. Condemnation, in that case, is based on our works, and not on Jesus.
The only way in which there could be NO condemnation when we sin is if the basis for condemnation were removed. It has been through Christ. He paid the full price. And we are dead in Him, and alive because of Him.
Romans 8:1 is a "closing argument" which might be given by Jesus, our Advocate. There is no condemnation for us because Jesus did for us what the works of the law could not do. He died for us on the Cross. But because of His resurrection, He made it possible for the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us. He has been made to us as Righteousness.
Again we see that salvation is more than just a new legal classification, or a matter of merely being forgiven for sins. Salvation is new life – Christ in us, the hope of glory.
What this means is that God doesn’t merely "call us righteous." He makes us righteous. He puts a righteousness IN US through the life of His Son.
The great message of the gospel is that, in Christ, we are made righteous. But not with a righteousness of our own, or one that we carry independently of Christ. We are made righteous with HIS righteousness – that is – because Christ is in us.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:21-24)
All of this is why Jesus is able to be our Advocate – even if we sin. In Christ, we have already died to sin. In Christ, we have already been raised to newness of life. We have already been declared righteous – not just legally, or in theory – but because Christ is in us and HE is righteous.
The bottom line is this: Our righteousness is based on NOTHING about us. It is based on Jesus Christ – if our faith is in HIM. Thus, Jesus is able to be our Advocate, and to plead our innocence, because HE Himself is righteous and guiltless.
A "saint" is not merely someone who is proclaimed NOT GUILTY. A "saint" is someone who is imputed with RIGHTEOUSNESS. His righteousness. THAT is the basis upon which Jesus is our Advocate.
The words of John now make so much more sense:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (I John 1:8-2:1)
God Is For Us
The Truth revealed in the Bible is that God is FOR US, rather than against us. Of course, this carries with it the necessity that God knows best. We don’t get to define what being "for us" means. God knows that. And it is certainly good that He does.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies.
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:31-34)
To be FOR someone means you are their ADVOCATE. An advocate is always FOR someone – always out for their best interests. Attorney’s can be a legal advocate. But with God, there is more than merely the legal aspect. God is for us because God is LOVE.
When you love someone, you are FOR THEM. Even if they are against themselves -- or against you. You do right by them – as defined by God – no matter what. God loves us, is for us. And He has already done what is best for us in Christ. If we realize this, we should be at rest with regard to the day of judgment.
God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:16-18)
Do we realize that we have, as our Advocate along side of the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous? That He has not only done everything possible to give us new life, but is, right now, always making intercession for us, according to the will of God. We might, upon that realization quote the words of the apostle Paul: If God be for us, who can be against us? *
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