AN ADVOCATE AND THE PROPITIATION
Because of this tendency of ours to remain under condemnation, 1 John 2 begins by telling us that if we 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” (vv. 1-2). Christ is our Advocate, taking care of our case with the Father. He is also our propitiation, meaning that He has settled our problem with sin. Whatever concern we have, He has already made provision for. Yes, our sin does cause a problem between God and us. But we must realize that the Lord Jesus, as the propitiation for our sins, has already settled this problem. Based upon His propitiatory work, He is now our heavenly Attorney, presenting our case in the heavenly court. We may be assured that when we are exposed by the light, the blood cleanses us. The very One who made propitiation for our sins is now the Advocate taking care of our case.
Not only does the blood maintain our fellowship; besides the blood, we have the Advocate and the propitiation. God is righteous and holy. We are both sinful and unholy. When we come into the light, we are exposed, but right away the blood cleanses us. This we find hard to believe. Thus, the Apostle John tells us that we have an Advocate with the heavenly Judge. This Advocate has already settled our case. As our propitiation, He paid our debt, met our obligations, and at His own expense took care of whatever was outstanding against us. There is therefore no longer any problem between the Judge and us. The word advocate is the same word in Greek as that translated Comforter in John 14:16; 15:26; and 16:7. The Spirit of reality is the Comforter within us, while the Lord Jesus is the Attorney in the heavenly court, handling our case upon the basis of His own propitiatory work. We must not be bothered, therefore, by the exposing.
Satan is subtle. When we pray, even with fasting, he would always seek to keep a veil over us. Eventually, of course, he is frustrated, for whenever the heart “shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16). Then we see how evil and contaminated we are. When the light exposes our true condition, there is no need to apply the blood. It is right there to cleanse us. But Satan’s strategy is to keep condemning us, telling us how unclean we are. Because we lack the assurance that the blood has cleansed us, the Apostle goes on to remind us that Jesus Christ the righteous is our Attorney and our propitiation. We must not be upset by the exposure of our evil condition; it has already been taken care of by Him. It is therefore possible for us to go on in the light.
Notice that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us” (1 John 1:9). John did not say that God is merciful and kind. We are inclined to beg for mercy when we sin, but it is just for God to forgive us. Christ has made propitiation. God can therefore righteously forgive us, not out of mercy or kindness but because He is just. He has given us the good news; now He must keep His word. Otherwise He would not be faithful. He therefore justly forgives us because of Christ’s propitiation and faithfully forgives us because of His own spoken word.
The Apostle John’s writings appear simple, but that cannot be said of these two chapters, where he speaks of the blood’s cleansing, the Advocate with the Father, and the propitiation for our sins. These terms are probably not all that clear to you, but in any case I do want to assure you that if you are willing to abide in the fellowship, it will surely bring you into God, who is light. Here you will be fully exposed.
GROWTH IN LIFE
Without this thorough exposure, there can be little growth in life. Once we have been exposed and cleansed and have the assurance that God’s claims against us have been satisfied by Christ, our growth in life will spurt forward. Why is it that so many of us seem to have come to a standstill as regards our growth in life? This lack of progress results from our not being in the light, even while we have the truth. We may mentally perceive that we are wrong or sinful, but until we are in the light that knowledge or conviction is at best superficial. In the light we shall have the deep, deep realization that every part of our being is sinful and that even what we consider holy is still sin. This exposing is for the cleansing of the blood. These two, the exposing and the cleansing, are for the growth in life.
Satan attempts to thwart our enjoying the growth in life by attacking our conscience with self-condemnation. We must be at peace, assured that in spite of our sinfulness, the Lord Jesus has made propitiation for us and is now our Advocate in the heavenly court. In spite of our sinfulness, we will not be distracted from going on, because this Attorney fully takes care of our case. Propitiation, unlike redemption, is not concerned with bringing us back to God. Propitiation brings our enlightened conscience peace by answering God’s case against us. Regardless of how much is exposed, our conscience is not troubled. We can advance rapidly in the growth in life.
(Seven Mysteries in the First Epistle of John, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)