For the Sins of the Whole World

1 John 2

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. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God abides in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

“My little children, I write these things to you so that you would not sin. If someone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father, the righteous One Jesus Christ. He is the means of forgiveness for our sins, and not just for our sins alone, but for the benefit of the whole world.” (2:1-2)

I am a pretty horrible dart player. It’s embarrassing. Though it was years ago, I can still remember standing behind the line and taking aim. I would look directly at the bullseye, perform a couple practice motions and let it loose. No matter how hard I tried, I don’t think that I’ve ever hit the dart board square in the center. Each throw was aimed at and intended for the bullseye yet without fail I missed the mark. Scripture talks about sin in these terms. Christ urges us to be perfect, for our Father in heaven is perfect, yet “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We can set out with the best intentions, but end up sinning all the same.

Sin is an important theme in the gospel and letters of John, appearing 27 times in this letter alone. In yesterday’s devotion I called attention to 1 John 1:8-10. John calls for a searching and fearless moral inventory which will invariably reveal our guilt, yet we should not let our hearts be troubled for the forgiveness and reconciliation we seek is found in the name of Jesus. Some would argue that we should continue sinning, because in God’s grace we are forgiven. Paul says “I pity the fool!” Actually that was Mr. T, but that’s exactly what he means in Romans 6:15. Scripture encourages us to shoot for the bullseye every time. Grace is there to lift us up when we miss the mark, but to set out with moral failure in mind is to cheapen the sacrifice Jesus made to bring us forgiveness in the first place. Then we’re not talking about missing the mark, we’re missing the board altogether and hitting the wall!

The day of atonement, Yom Kippur, was the day when the High Priest would make a sacrifice on behalf of all Israel. He would choose a perfect, blameless lamb. The shed blood of that sacrificial lamb was the expiation (means of forgiveness) for the collective sins of the nation. The lamb of God effectively takes away the sins of the world (see John 1:35 for the connection to Jesus). The wrath of God is satisfied on the altar of sacrifice, yet the crimson stain of sin remains.

Using the language of debt, the sacrificial system covers only the interest. The principal still remains. Only through the offering of His only son could the debt be erased forever. I really wish that would happen with my student loans. But wait! It gets even better. Not only did Christ die for you and for me, Christ’s sacrifice was universal and eternal. Even more than the atonement sacrifice of Israel, the finished work of Christ on the cross is for every person anywhere and always.

Sometimes we can get caught up in our individual salvation and we miss out on the cosmic scope of His sacrifice. NT Wright says that to assume salvation is just for us “is as though the postman were to imagine that all the letters in his bag were intended for him”. What Jesus did for us is beyond huge, and in response to His sacrifice, we are privileged to pursue sacrificial lives which testify “Worthy is the lamb who was slain!”

Reflect

  1. Take a look at the spiritual affirmations of verses 12-14. How might you edify a brother or sister today in the faith?
  2. Read verse 28. If you knew that Jesus, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” was coming back tonight, how might you live differently today?

Pray

Father, forgive me, for I am a person of unclean lips. I have not loved you with my whole heart, and have not loved my neighbor as myself. Yet just as I am, you died for me that I might know everlasting life. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to keep a healthy perspective on sin and pursue your holiness. Fill me with the desire to live a blameless life in response to your amazing grace. May my desire to please you be pleasing to you, even when I fall short. I thank you and I love you, Lord! Amen.

Zac Holt, April 28, 2020
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