“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
Here the Apostle Paul summarized the heart of the gospel, that which he stated was ‘the message of reconciliation” (v.19). This explains how sinners such as us can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Two actions by God the Father upon Jesus, the Son of God resulted in the fulfillment of the promised destruction of sin in Genesis 3:15. Jesus the sinless Son of God, knew no sin was made to carry our sin on our behalf. God the Father, using the principle which is called imputation, treated Christ as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” v.19 “God by His own will and design used His Son, the only acceptable and perfect sacrifice, as the means to reconcile sinners to Himself.” “On the cross, Jesus did not become a sinner (as some suggest), but remained as holy as ever. He was treated as if He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, though He committed none.”*
* John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 2 Co 5:21.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB)
Sometimes big words which aren’t commonly used by us can cause us to not quite understand what a verse is saying for us. We have a powerful big word in this passage – “propitiation.” In the New Testament it signifies “an expiation, (another big word) which is a means whereby sin is covered and remitted.” This implies that we, when we believe by faith, have a clear purpose for living. John simply puts it like this: don’t sin — don’t do what dishonors God. John wrote these for us to know that we may not sin. It is possible to not sin because God has forgiven us our sins. In 1 John 3:8 he wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” We can say this positively, instead of negatively. In 1 John 3:23 is a summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment” — “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” That’s our purpose. Two things so closely connected John calls them one commandment: believe Jesus and love others.
“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”” – Exodus 20:20 (NASB)
Like the promise of ‘hope’ that does not disappoint, we are more used to a ‘hope’ that lets us down. Our hope more of a wish than a sure hope in God’s promises. There is a fear that we know and think of it as a terrible and unwanted emotion. The people of Israel, at the base of Mount Sinai are receiving the Law of God, specifically the Ten Commandments. Having seen the thunder and lightning and the sounds of the trumpet and fire from the mountain top, they are deathly afraid of God and fear He is going to kill them. Moses instructs them to not respond to the phenomena with fear, they were also told to have proper fear, it’s healthy, it’s being in awe and reverence of God. Such fear deterrers sin. God’s intention is that his power and holiness stimulate fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. Fearing God means, first, fearing to abandon him as our great security and satisfaction. Romans 11:20 instructs us to stand strong through faith so that we will avoid pride and fear falling to unbelief instead.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race…” – Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
The word “therefore” is frequent in the Bible. When we come across it we find out what it is there for. This time it bridges a transition between Chapters 11 & 12 of Hebrews where is a list of deceased people whose lives witnessed the value and blessing of living by faith. The author of Hebrews is giving us reassurance that is drawn from the saints in the past who faithfully believed in the LORD God. We are encouraged to rid ourselves of sin because sin entangles us and inhibits our ability to live with endurance. We are all on a path that is a race of sorts, not against each other but against the wickedness of Satan who is set on causing us to stumble and fall and fail to reach our goal. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:13-14) explains this, and like him, we have a goal that we are straining forward to reach. A life pleasing to God. Therefore we are pressing on toward the goal God has set before us. Sin entangles us and misdirects us and causes us to miss out on the prize of blessings God has set for us.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)
Yesterday our promise focused on the small word, ‘sin,’ how in truth we struggle with sin and our need for confession of sins. Today’s promise comes from a much bigger word and one which is not in our common vocabulary. It is ‘propitiation.’ It is appropriate for John to address his readers as “my little children” because when he wrote this, John was greatly advanced in years. He was the sole remaining survivor of the apostles who had enjoyed intimate, eyewitness association with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. Yet not exiled to Patmos where He receives the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John was actively serving the church in Ephesus. He taught that Christian must continually acknowledge and confess sin (1 John 1:9), but we’re not powerless against it. Fulfilling the duty of confession does not give license to sin. When we do sin, we have a promised defense attorney, Jesus Christ our Advocate. Why is this a promise for us? Because the death of Jesus on the cross satisfied the demands of God’s holiness for the punishment of sin. That’s what ‘propitiation’ means – “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the satisfaction of God for us each time we sin, we’re covered.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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.” – 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB)
Now here is a little word that none of us consider a favorite word. In fact we don’t even want to think about the sinful acts that we do. Yet, the truth is this, we cannot escape from sin being a part of our lives. We do sin. Everyone sins. There is no one who does not sin. If we refuse to acknowledge the sin that assails us and pretend to claim that we have no sin, as our verse tells us, we are deceiving ourselves. We can’t profess to live in truth if we are not addressing the sinful actions and thoughts we do and have. In fact, if we deny having sinned, we make God a liar. Our promise is if we sin (and we do) then we confess our sins. What is confessing? It is being honest and saying the same thing about our actions that God says. We agree with God that we have sinned and God faithfully and lovingly promises to forgive and clean us up. The bad thoughts and actions are washed away. We’re done with them. It is an ongoing process in our lives until we get to heaven.
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” – 1 John 3:7-8 (NASB)
Recalling the promise from yesterday’s verse helps us understand today’s verse and why we are instructed to submit and resist. It is a persistent goal of the devil to deceive, especially those who are in Christ. If we don’t submit to God and if we don’t resist the devil we are actually practicing the devil’s ways. There are no multiple ways to multiple gods. Only one God and only one way to Him. We are instructed to practice righteousness as Christ, who is righteous, dwells within each true believer. If we fall for the deception of Satan and give in to the temptations he presents then our way of our life is the practice of sin. Christ has chosen us⸺he has provided the gifts of faith, and grace, for salvation⸺we should believe in the purpose Christ came to earth. He came to destroy the effects of the devil’s work. In His death on the cross, Christ struck the decisive blow to destroy the works of Satan. Christ’s resurrection from the dead secured for us the victory. One day, Satan’s time of conditional limited freedom will be over – that is a promise. (Revelation 20:10)