We are all outraged when a judge is found to be corrupt, when the very ones who are to be upholding justice commit a travesty of justice. We are also all familiar with the jokes that point fun at corrupt lawyers, lawyers who try to get what they can for both themselves and their client no matter who is truly guilty. However, can you imagine a situation in which the judge himself cannot possibly do any injustice because of his character? Can you imagine a situation in which the lawyer is absolutely blameless and yet pays the penalty of his rightly accused client? Such is the picture of God the Father as Judge and Jesus Christ as Advocate for those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. The New Testament paints a beautiful picture of God’s unmerited favor in 1 John 2:1, “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.”
First, it is important to note that the Apostle John is writing to Christians in this passage. He is writing to those who have already been saved as Romans 10:9-10 describes, those who already have claimed the blood of Jesus to forgive their sins and to grant them salvation. By confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and believing that He not only died in their place (2 Corinthians 5:21) but also rose from the dead, they now have eternal life. But what is often misunderstood by Christians and non-Christians alike is that the work of Christ’s salvation does not end at that moment.
Jesus not only rose from the dead but He also ascended into Heaven after His physical, bodily work on earth was done for now. He is presently seated before God the Father as the believer’s Advocate. Jesus is often pictured in the New Testament as seated at God’s right hand because the position at the right hand of a King symbolized a position of absolute authority under the King, but He is also pictured as seated because His work in one sense is done (Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3). Jesus fulfilled the work of the High Priest that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, that priest would enter into God’s presence after taking the blood of the sacrificed animals and a censer with burning incense. He would then enter behind the inner veil of theTemple, what was known as the “Holy of Holies” where the Ark of the Covenant was, and where God’s enthroned presence was above theArk. After entering behind the veil, the High Priest would sprinkle the blood upon the mercy seat to atone for the people’s sins, because God’s law demanded that a blood sacrifice be made for sin (Hebrews 9:22, see all of Hebrews 9 for the description of this ritual and how Christ fulfilled it). Jesus Christ, however, as the ultimate High Priest, entered God’s presence in Heaven, which the earthly Temple was a shadow of. He offered Himself and His blood there to God as the final payment for sin for those who would trust in Him.
God is perfectly holy, without even a hint of sin. Many people think that because God is also loving and forgiving, that they can come to Him in any way that they want to and He will forgive them. However, God would be unjust to do so without a proper payment for sin. This is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for sinners. Still, although His work regarding the payment of sins was done through His death on the cross, Christ also has an ongoing ministry that is happening today (Hebrews 8:2, 6).
Now He stands before God and is the Advocate for the Christian. As John MacArthur has explained, “Whenever we sin He says to the Father, ‘Put that on My account. My sacrifice has already paid for it.’…In His Son we are now blameless in the Father’s sight.” The reason that a Christian can know that a spotless God will accept him or her back after sinning is not only because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, but also because He now stands as the Advocate. The New International Version translates the Greek word parakletos that many versions translate as “advocate” by explaining, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” Only Jesus could fulfill this role, not only because He lived a perfect life, but because He is both God and man.
When Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God became flesh. That means that the second person of the Trinity was joined eternally with sinless humanity. Because of this, He is not as the priests were in the Old Testament, imperfect advocates or mediators between God and man. After Jesus’ ascension, He is able to stand before the Father face to face in Heaven and claim each sin of His own children as paid for fully by His blood. In fact, the original language of 1 John 2:2 points this out: “…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” (emphasis mine). The word with, along with the legal picture painted in this verse and the theology of the New Testament that we have discussed, point out that Jesus Christ’s unique position as the Ascended Son of God gives Him the right to be face to face with the Father on behalf of His followers. Jesus is qualified to look into the Father’s eyes, as it were, and claim His own. It is the fact that the Person of Christ is both God and Man that gives Him the character to be able to be the believer’s Advocate. This aspect of His character is seen at the end of verse 1, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” and in the following verse of 1 John, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…” (2:2). On the basis of Christ’s perfect character, He is able to propitiate or appease the wrath of God.
It needs to be pointed out that although Christ is needed as the defense of believers before the holy God, it is not as if God the Father is unwilling to forgive in this whole scenario. He is the one who planned all of this before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-5, John 3:16, Galatians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 5:19)! This is how He is able to be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus, pardoning them on the basis of Christ’s past and continuing work (Romans 3:26).
Besides man’s guilt because of sin, there is the great deceiver and enemy of our souls that must be dealt with. Satan is known as the accuser of the brethren, and in Job (i.e. chapters 1 and 2) we can see that one of his activities is to go before God and accuse us. Perhaps he says something like, “What about your follower Tim Counts? He can’t even keep from sinning with his mouth for more than a day, even though he has promised you again and again to do better when he sometimes ‘repents.’” The picture of 1 John 2:2 that has also been drawn out from Hebrews and Romans is that Jesus would then look at the Father and show His wounds in His hands and side and declare, “Tim Counts is one of mine. My blood covers his sins. He has access to your Throne. His unrighteousness is covered by my righteousness.” God the Father looks at Satan and exclaims, you have no accusation that can stick against Tim. He is forgiven!
For the Christian who is struggling with coming to God for forgiveness of that same sin again, Jesus Christ stands as the Advocate before the Father, giving us unfettered access to God! The loving God who is also the Judge of the World has appointed the perfect Advocate. There is no one, not even Satan, who can bring an accusation too great against those who have truly run to Jesus for refuge, because Jesus still intercedes for us (Romans 8:35). For the unbeliever who wonders if he or she can ever have a relationship with God who seems so far away, Jesus Christ offers forgiveness as the only one qualified to be able to truly offer it and exclaims triumphantly, “Come to me!” I have spoken to unbelievers who think that I somehow think of myself as better than them because I believe in the exclusivity of Christ to forgive sins. Rather, I am humbled that God would see fit to provide Christ who even intercedes for me today when I sin, all by His free gift of salvation! He is my sure hope of a relationship with God, and their only hope. One of my favorite worship songs beautifully states the theme of Christ’s Advocacy that gives me free access to the Throne of Grace. It is a favorite because it points to the greatness of a God who is transcendent and yet forgiving because of Christ’s death and current ministry as my Advocate.
Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is “Love,”
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in Heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart…
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.