Text: 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. 1 Jn. 2:1
Christ, the Advocate
For seven years I had the job of being an advocate for teachers. It was my responsibility to stand and plead the case for teachers who found themselves in trouble with the administration. Often, I had to use my influence with the administration on their behalf to resolve the problem. So, I am familiar with the role of the advocate. This morning we will look at the advocate God offers to sinners through Jesus Christ.
An advocate is one who undertakes for another and represents his case. He stands up and pleads for the accused, and to use his own influence on his behalf.
In the existence of this office it is implied:
That there is an accusation against us. We are all indicted and summoned for trial. We are held as sinners and must appear to answer for our offense. There is a question pending which implicates us all, and the influence of this advocate is needed in the case.
The existence of the office shows that the situation between sinners and God is not altogether hopeless. It is not like that of the fallen angels. If it were, there could be no place for an advocate.
As a one who has committed a sin, we are not without hope. If that were the case, we would not need an advocate.
The existence of an advocate indicates that God has compassion towards us. It should be considered that this Advocate is provided by God, not by the sinner. Why should God furnish us an advocate at all if He were cruel and without mercy?
Some persons seem to think that the compassion displayed in the gospel plan belongs wholly and alone to Jesus Christ--that the Father is no other than a vengeful spirit. But it should be considered that Christ was appointed to this office by the Father--a fact which shows that the difficulty in the way of any sinner's being forgiven lies not in the Father's heart, but in the demands of his commandments.
Sinners are in such a condition that they cannot help themselves. If they could, there would be no demand for an advocate. If they could be saved upon the bare mercy of God, as some have supposed, there would be no need of an advocate.
The essential qualifications of an advocate for sinners.
He must not be so mixed up with the transgressors that he is a transgressor himself. He must be righteous before God; else he will himself need an advocate. Consequently, we read of our Advocate--"Jesus Christ, the righteous." It is altogether essential that He should come with clean hands before the great court.
He must be willing to undertake the advocacy, to whatever amount of self-denial, pain, or expense it may subject him. He must be willing to assume all the responsibility, or he will not succeed. What can the sinner do for himself before the court of God?
He must take an interest in the people for whom he pleads. If he lacks this, he will not succeed, especially if there are significant obstacles to be overcome, and requires work, suffering, and trial. This is the case of sinners that whoever undertakes to be their advocate must encounter great obstacles--as everyone who had ever been convicted of sin must know.
As to the conditions of his success, it may be said:
He must be willing to undertake the task. We are assured that such is the fact.
He must be "retained" by each sinner for himself. This is a legal term and implies that the party is needing the services of an advocate, engages him to undertake it, and agrees for himself to commit his case into the advocate's hands. It is essential that the advocate should have the entire consent of those for whom he undertakes. They must commit their whole case to him. If he sees there are certain things they must do, or certain confessions they must make to have the needed accomplishment, they must promptly do those things and make those confessions. They must put themselves entirely in his hands. For example, if he insists that they must give up all sin, they must do it; or if he asks, they must repent, they must do it without hypocrisy and without delay. If he insists, they deny themselves, they must cheerfully meet the demand.
He must have some prevailing plea. He must have something to produce before the court that will come with power and influence.
Now, what plea can Christ make for the sinner? Can He say, This, is a righteous man, and not an offender against God's law or against his gospel? No. Can He plead any justification or apology? No. He can neither deny nor excuse the fact of sin. Sometimes a criminal denies the truth, and sometimes he pleads some apology, or that he had a right to do the deed. But in the sinner's case, Christ can plead nothing of this sort at all. There is no plea bargaining for a lesser sin.
Christ as an advocate will use no trickery, no deception; nothing of the kind. No sinner should make the least reliance on anything based on their own character.
The pleas, in this case, is not made on the question of guilt or innocence. The question made is not as is common in human courts--guilty or not guilty; Christ does not come forward to plead on that question. Our text reads, "If any man sin, we have an advocate," --implying of course that the question of sin is not up for debate. As to the fact of sin, there is no disagreement. There is no need for a jury. The only question is whether mercy can be given. The question is not at all whether the man deserves to die or is under condemnation; this fact is fully settled, and the sinner knows it. He is condemned and knows he ought to die. There is no lack of real guilt, and the question, therefore, does not need to be asked whether he is guilty nor how much guilt he had acquired. But the question comes up in entirely another shape. There is no apology to be made at all. The only question is, Can, mercy be shown, and the guilty man be pardoned? Can the execution be stopped, and can the sentence of death be set aside?
Christ will not attempt to set aside the penalty on legal grounds. By no means. Sometimes before human courts, an advocate appears and makes a motion to arrest proceedings on the ground of some error in fact or in law. But here in the sinner's case, there has been nothing done on God's part to be corrected--nothing wrong or in error.
Christ does by no means interrupt because He fears that the Father will not treat you with all the forbearance which your case will allow. But the appeal is to God's own compassion for you--to his own disposition to show mercy if by any means He can safely do it under the circumstances of the case. Our Advocate knows that as to the Father, judgment is His holy work and mercy his delight; and He accepts that the Father is entirely sincere in these declarations and in calling you all to repentance. Yet Christ does not take it for granted that because God loves to pardon, He will be able to do so, consistently with the demands of His commandments. He knows that God will show mercy--if it can be done compassionately, in consistency with the support of His Law.
But how is this to be done?
Here is the necessity for an advocate, to settle the question that it can be done within the divine government.
The Bible often brings out the fact that there was an understanding between the Father and the Son, that Christ should do certain things to honor the law and to persuade the sinner to turn from his sins, and then God would on certain conditions forgive. In theological terms, this is often called, "the covenant of redemption." It was made before the world began. It provided that if the world was created--if man should sin--then if Christ would become the substitute to bear their sins in his own body on the tree, doing so much as would render it proper for the Father to forgive, then forgiveness should be freely granted to all those who would repent of their sins and believe in Christ as their Redeemer.
It is easy to see what a simple thing it is to become a Christian. It is not going about to do some great work on your own, but it is merely to accept God’s prepared righteousness.
There are those who feel they must become better before they can come to God. Let me ask you what are you waiting for? The atonement is already made--this is prepared salvation; the question is not whether you are going to be better, but whether you will accept a prepared salvation, made ready for you.
You are condemned; you can do no works of righteousness to help yourself, yet a remedy is provided; will you accept it?
Salvation is provided and ready; will you accept it? God's method of making you righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, by taking him as your Advocate and Mediator is provided by the love of God.