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)
“Advocate” is a translation from the Greek noun Παράκλητον (Strong’s 3875), and apart from the above verse we can find this word also in John 14:15; 26, John 15:26 and John 16:7, with the meaning of either Comforter or Helper – which the holy Spirit is often called.
John writes his letter to advise the recipients to avoid sinning (among other things), suggesting that they can avoid it (which also Titus 2:11-12 confirms). Unfortunately it is quite common that Christians with the reformed theology view understand this verse to mean that we really should not sin but if we do sin we still have no reason to worry because we always have an advocate in Jesus Christ who always forgives his elect no matter what they do.
That would be another way of saying that we have a license to sin, which of course the Bible does not teach. Just like in a secular court it is not certain that we will get an acquittal just because we have a defense attorney, or perhaps we should compare it with the idea that we will not even get a defense attorney unless we meet certain requirements (such as requesting one in the first place, and avoid making further crimes in the meantime). We will not be forgiven unless we REPENT. We will never be forgiven in the midst of our sins or if we have no intention of leaving the old man behind and live a new kind of life. For those who are in Christ (those who believe in him, follow him and obey him) can rest assured they have an advocate in Jesus Christ and that their past sins are forgiven. Their future sins are certainly not forgiven (that would be a license to sin) but they do not need to take an oath to never ever sin again.
1 John 2: 1-2 Being a propitiation for the sins of the whole world
Two verses after 1 John 2:1 (1 John 2:3) we can read how we can know that we know Jesus Christ. The answer is: “if we keep his commandments”. If anyone claims to know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. This is not legalism but the word of God. The teaching that we can successfully be faithful to God should never be labelled as legalism and something ugly. V. 5 mentions people who do keep his word, which means they truly exist and are not mere fantasies. We should walk as Jesus walked (v. 6), rather than hiding behind Jesus and pretend that our Father does not see our sins. We cannot fool God. The darkness should be in our past once the light has come into our life.
When reading 1 John 1-2 we can see that Jesus is the propitiation (an “offer”) not only for a select group of people (like “the elect), but he is the propitiation for the whole world. To be an offer for the sins of the whole world does not mean that the sins of the whole world will automatically be forgiven and forgotten (like the very minute that Jesus died on the cross). Just like in the old testament, during the animal sacrifice system, it was a requirement for the Israelites to confess their sins and repent for them while the priest offered up animals as a propitiation for their sins. Merely killing animals on an altar will not remove any sins – unless people also repent and understand the meaning of this process. We all have the opportunity to get all our sins erased, even the sins of the most vicious criminals, so it is a universal offer – albeit tied to conditions.
1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.3 And HEREBY WE DO KNOW THAT WE KNOW HIM, IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.– 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 14 — I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. —17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOR EVER. —24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. 28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that EVERY ONE THAT DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS is born of him.
1 John 1:8 – the famous “sin verse”
In the previous chapter (1 John 1) we find the famous 1 John 1:8, so commonly quoted by those who would like to normalize sins also among Christians, but 1 John 1:6 and 1:9 are sadly not quoted just as often. The whole context is important: We have all sinned. IF we confess our sins and start walking in the light (notice the conditions) Jesus Christ will cleanse us from our sins and we will be forgiven.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Rom. 8:26 and Rom. 8:27 – intercession
Also Rom. 8:26 and 27 are often used as an attempt to support the idea that we can be saved in our sins, but such promise cannot be found there either. The holy Spirit is given to those who believe in Jesus and who have repented for their sins, and the focus of Rom. 8:26 is the content of our prayers and the holy Spirit as our Helper. Note that there are two different Greek words for “make intercession” in Rom. 26 and 27.
Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
“Maketh intercession” above is a translation from the Greek verb συναντιλαμβάνομαι (Strong’s 4878) with the meaning of lend a hand along with, assist jointly to perform some task, cooperate with, help, etc. Apart from the above verse you will only find this word in Luke 10:40 (Martha’s desire to get cooperation from her sister when it comes to serving).
Rom. 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
“Makes intercession” above is a translation from the Greek verb ἐντυγχάνω (Strong’s 1793), and apart from the above two verses you can find this word also in Acts 25:24, Rom. 11:2 and Hebrews 7:25 – with the meaning of making a petition for something. Does Christ do this only when it comes to the saints? Well, yes, since the saints are those who have chosen to follow Christ and repented for their sins.
Read what else Rom. 8 says below. There is life to get IF we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (those who live this way are in Jesus Christ). Otherwise we must expect death, and that warning goes for Christians as well. We have a great Helper to accomplish this, and thankfully we get more than one chance to do what we successfully can be doing.
Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.—.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God