So That You Will Not Sin
1 John 2:1-6
Key Verse 2:1a
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.”
The Christian life is a life of fellowship. It is a fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. The terms that John uses in his letter maybe strange to the non-Christians. But to the Christians, the terms he uses are not so strange. Rather they are somewhat interesting because they draw lines for us in life that otherwise we do not see in the world. For example, John uses terms such as light and darkness. He says that those who have fellowship with God, walk in the light, while those who do not have fellowship with God walk darkness. We talked a little bit about that when we went through chapter one. We identified the darkness as the darkness of sin. John warns those Christians against the darkness of the times, the darkness of sin that seems to have wanted to corrupt the teaching of the Lord Jesus. He warned them against heretics who wanted to distort the very gospel teaching we find in our Bible today. Many were claiming in his time to have fellowship with God and to be true Christians, calling to have fellowship with them. John, who was Jesus’ disciple, and who knew Jesus personally wanted to teach the church that not everyone who claims to have fellowship with God actually does. He wanted to teach them how to tell who really has fellowship with God and who does not; who is the true Christian and who is not; how to identify light from darkness; truth from lies. In the first chapter, he taught us one of the most fundamental Christian truths. The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus who came in the flesh. There were those who were denying this truth. So a true Christian would acknowledge this. He also taught us that we are sinners and we ought to confess our sins. Again there were those who were denying this truth as well. So a true Christian would acknowledge this as well, confess his or her sins, and be forgiven. This is the way to be in fellowship with God.
In Chapter 2, he continues his discussion on the issues of fellowship with God and with one another. He continues with the issue of sin. Read verses 1-2. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” We need to remember that one of the greatest heresies of the time had been the heresy of the Gnostics who claimed that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. That sin had been so great that it influenced the faith of many believers and caused them to stumble beyond recovery. For this reason, John wrote to the church telling them that he is writing this to them so that they will not sin by believing the lie, or a false gospel.
But I think we ought to think about his choice of words. “I write this to you so that you will not sin.” The word of God tells us many similar things. After healing the invalid man, Jesus found him and told him these words: “Stop sinning.” (John 5:14) Jesus exhorted the adulterous woman saying: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) One thing is clear is that God does not want his children to sin. The Lord does not want his children to live in sin nor to practice sin. In fact no true Christian wants to sin. They fight it all day long. They despise the fact that sin lives in them and that it rears its ugly head every so often. They hate it that the world is so full of temptation that constantly harass them and tempt them to violate their conscience. Occasionally they call to sin’s temptation and feel dirty until they bring that sin to their father God for cleansing. But indeed John’s words are not strange: “I write this to you so that you will not sin.” In fact this is what the whole gospel is all about. Jesus brought us out of our slavery to sin and into a new life in him where sin is no longer our master, so that we obey its desires no more. And when we walk in the light of His word and live by his truth, our hatred of sin also grows and we see that we do not want to sin.
There was a time you couldn’t have told me not to sin. It wasn’t within my nature not to sin. Sin was the chain on my neck that drew me to fulfill its desire and to accomplish its purpose. It dragged me down and made me do things I am now ashamed of. There was a time I had no choice but to sin. But the chain of sin was broken and now my heart has been set free to pursue what God created me to pursue— mainly him— and mainly to do his will. Another chain now binds me— one of love which bids me walk away from the pleasures of sin and turn my heart to God my Savior and to his kingdom work.
However, let us read verses 1-2 again. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” He says: “But if anybody does sin”. And we do! Now he shifts his tone. We must not sin, especially we must not sin by believing any lie that contradicts the gospel of God’s grace. We must not sin by allowing any darkness to cloud the light that has shined into our hearts through what we heard from the word of life. But if anybody does sin, and we do because we are still in the flesh and have not been fully sanctified yet, then what? Well, John immediately comforts us in the same breath that he exhorts us not to sin. He tells that if we sin, then we have an advocate with the Father. Here there are two things we should consider. We have an advocate. And he is with the Father. We have sinned, but he is still our Father. That hasn’t changed. That doesn’t change! When the prodigal son was wallowing in the pigpen, he came to his senses and realized that he didn’t belong with the pigs, that he shouldn’t have to eat pig-slop. His conviction led him to repent. He realized that he should go back to his father. His father was still his father. He would always be his father. That truth always brings us out of the pigpen of sin and of sinning and calls us to go back to fellowship with our Father. There is nothing sweeter than the knowledge that though our relationship with our Father has been broken by sin, we have a father who’s always our Father and who’s always ready to forgive our sins and receive us back into fellowship with him.
The second thing we should consider is that we have an advocate with the Father. We have an advocate. This is the same word advocate “parakletos” in Greek which Jesus used in describing the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter here on earth, and Christ Jesus is our Comforter in heaven. “Paraklete” is s legal term for Helper or someone who will come to your side every time you are in need. What does this suggest? It suggests the truth that there is one in heaven as well who is our accuser— as Revelation 12:10 tells us. He is Satan who accused us before the throne of God every time we sin. This is very bad for the world because as these accusations are piling up against them the day will come when in that courtroom in heaven all who have no defender will be banished with their accuser to the depth of hell. But praise God that the children of God have a defender Jesus Christ. The accuser can not touch them because our defender defends us with his blood shed on the cross for every sin we have committed in our lives. He is our Comforter in heaven who comforts us with the eternal truth that no accusation can ever stand regardless of how terrible it is. We are comforted to know that the Righteous one is there covering us with his own righteousness. He died for us. He defends us relentlessly. We have to believe this! When we sin we confess our sins and we are forgiven. Our relationship with our Father is restored. There is no record of any wrong done!
When the advocate advocates for us in heaven, what happens? The Holy Spirit then who is our counselor convicts us of our sin and urges us to confess and repent. We then do so and the Father forgives us. Confession is very important! Why? Because confession and repentance testify that we are on God’s side— that we have sinned against him and against others. There is no room for pride here at all. This should always be our attitude towards our sins. There are those who always resist the Holy Spirit. They think they are being smart in withholding their confessions. They think they are being smart in postponing their confessions waiting for others to confess first, to apologize first, to admit wrong first, to concede first. They think that they have time to confess and repent later, so they put the Holy Spirit and conviction on hold not knowing that their pride is grieving the Holy Spirit. The sincere child of God wants to please God Father. The humble man or woman of God wants to humbly concede to the conviction of the Holy Spirit at any cost especially at the cost of their pride. The Psalmist says “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (139:23-24) This is the only way of fellowship with the Father.
We are a family. Our family is not like the world’s family where children are obnoxious and rebellious and rude and they Lord it over their parents, where they get what they want, and think that if they throw a fit long enough, their father or mother will give in and do anything just to appease them and make them happy. God’s family is different. God is holy and righteous. Your fits your smug behavior your having your way with God doesn’t work. When there’s sin in your life it needs confession and repentance, otherwise the relationship is broken. No amount of sulking and fits and rudeness will get you in good graces with your father God. This is God’s family. He is the head of the family. He makes the rules they won’t be broken. Confession is the wisdom of God for us to remain in close fellowship with him and with each other. So we need to humble ourselves and know that our advocate intercedes for us. Confess and be forgiven.
In verses 3-5 John tells us another aspect of who is in fellowship with God and who is not. The Gnostics were talking about their superior knowledge of God, that they knew God through experiences that were apart from what was being taught by the apostles. We can understand this very well. Many even today speak of experiences as such. The religions of the world, even some Christian sects talks about experiences that can only be had through special meditation and disciplines that are not found in the Bible. They claim many such things and undermine what the Bible teaches about the truth of God. Listen to what the author of Hebrews tells us in the first 2 verses of his letter: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) What he is telling us is that our Lord Jesus is the very last and final revelation of God to humanity. There is no other revelation to the human race over and above what the Lord Jesus has already revealed to us. In him we find all that God would tell us. In him we can come to know God perfectly. Nothing else is needed beside Jesus. This goes for all time. So if we want to know God, all we need to do is to look to the Lord Jesus and believe in him. (John 14:7)
John now is telling us the same thing. In his time there were those who were saying that they have knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and that their knowledge is superior to all others, even to the apostles. Perhaps John’s church were confused at such things. So John wanted to show the church how to know who knows the Lord and who does not. Read verses 3-5. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” This is a beautiful declaration of who knows the Lord and who does not. John testifies that those who truly know the Lord are those who obey his commands. What commands are we talking about? Possibly we can imagine that the 10 commandments might be included here somewhere. But unlikely John was talking about them here. What John was talking about were the commands given specifically to the family of God, Christ’s family and the children of God who belonged to that family.
What commands did the Lord Jesus give his own family? “For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2) “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) These are some of the commands that we have from the Lord Jesus which we are to obey if we know the Lord. There is no way a person knows the Lord and does not cherish these commands and take them to heart. If we are to have fellowship with the father and enjoy that assurance in our hearts that we’re part of his family then we are going to want to obey his commands from our hearts. We don’t do as we please. Of course sometimes we struggle with our sinful nature because we are selfish and our hearts drift away. But we know that we are not free to do as we want to do because we belong to Christ’s family, because we love him, and because we want to do what he wants us to. John truly here shows what it is like to know him and what it is like not to know him at all. To say that one knows him and live in disobedience to his commands— that’s a proof that one doesn’t know him. It’s proof that one’s life as a Christian is a lie. This is very clear. It doesn’t need interpretation.
Look at verse 5-6. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” When we know the Lord, we also know his great love and sacrifice and we are eager to participate in his life of love and sacrifice. Knowing him and obeying him are not a burden but a joy— a joy to walk as he did. How did Jesus walk? Jesus walked in love and obedience to God. To live in Jesus is to walk as he did, that is, in obedience to his commands. Amen.