"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not; and if any man 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."
Although this text has often been discussed in our columns, at the special request of a beloved brother we will venture a few remarks upon it, hoping that it may be of service to at least some of our readers who desire to know the truth. The affectionate manner of the aged apostle, in addressing the scattered saints, as his little children, is worthy of our observation, and of imitation by those who are called to feed the flock of God; not as lords over God's heritage, but with the affectionate solicitude of a tender father in Israel, who has no greater joy than to see the children of Zion walking in the truth. The aged brethren in the church are, by divine authority, to be entreated as fathers, and the younger as brethren; and in return the aged servants of Christ are to instruct, admonish and reprove the saints with the faithful regards of a father. John not only calls them children, but he claims them as his little children. They have not yet attained their maturity, for he says, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." But at present we are very small, and need to be nursed, fed, and instructed in the things of the kingdom. Having thus addressed them, he tells them why he writes to them. "These things write I unto you that ye sin not." The writing was not to make them children, or to tell them how to become children, but because they were children - as he says in his next chapter, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." The relationship is already as perfect as it ever can be or ever need to be. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" And being the sons of God it does not become us to sin - or transgress the law by which the children of God are governed; not that sin can dissolve this relationship; but because it is dishonoring to our heavenly birth, and calculated to pierce our own souls with many sorrows. The law of our King being written in the hearts of his subjects, they cannot sin without sorrow; they love holiness, and sin is loathsome and distressing to them, hence for their peace and God's declarative glory the apostle desires that they should not sin.
But the things which John has written to prevent them from sinning are very different from the things which are urged by many of the modern divines professedly for the same purpose. Carnal professors are only deterred from what they call sin by threats, terrors, and the fear of wrath and damnation; but these appliances are all omitted by John. He does not excite their fleshly passions with terror; but appeals to that immortal principle of love to God, and love to holiness which God has written in their hearts. And the things which, in the wisdom of God, have a tendency to prevent their sinning, are the very things which legalists and all workmongrel professors hold to be calculated to make them sin the more. These things written by John; read them all. What are they? Now are ye the sons of God; Christ is now your life. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him. This life in which the saints are made manifest as the sons of God was with the Father, and was manifested: and this is the record, borne by the Three that bear record in heaven, and the Three that bear witness in earth. That God hath (not that he proposed to) given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. It is frequently urged in this day that to assure the saints that their life is hid with Christ in God will make them careless and indifferent about their deportment, and lead them into licentiousness. But John knew better, for he was inspired by the Holy Ghost to write these very things to them, for the very opposite purpose that they should not sin. The terrors of hell may work upon the selfish elements of carnal nature, and make them cringe and tremble; but it is the love of God that leadeth the children of God to repentance. Hence the things written by John of the perfect security of all the saints in Christ, and of his Advocacy with the Eternal Father in their behalf, and of his propitiatory atonement for them, presents such incentives to holiness as only the children of God can appreciate, or have any knowledge of. If you would deter the legalist or the hypocrite from transgression, threaten him with retribution in wrath, terrify him with the flames of hell. But the christian is moved by the love of God and of holiness which God has implanted in his heart Tell the ungodly that he has an Advocate with the Father, who is sure to gain his cause and secure for him the approbation of Jehovah if he sins, and he will indulge his lusts, and take his fill of sin; because sin is his element, he has not lost his relish for it; and all he desires is that he may escape punishment; for the children who bear the image of Christ and have his spirit in them, are all the more disgusted with sin, as they are enabled to see and contemplate the holiness of God. And if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. Although the little children of God have this immortal principle in them, they cannot sin because their seed abideth in them, and they cannot sin because they are born of God, and are led by his spirit, yet they painfully feel the workings within them of an opposite nature, which is born of the flesh, and in which there dwells no good thing, which wars against the law of their mind, and brings them into captivity to the law of sin, which is in their members. This would utterly discourage them, if they did not know they had an able, faithful and infallible Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous, in whose righteousness they participate, and are thereby justified before God. They groan, being burdened with their earthly nature, and long to be delivered from the body of this death; but their faith still clings to Jesus Christ the righteous as the only foundation of their hope for eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began. As their banner is the banner of love, and as love is the motive power that works in them to glorify God, the more fully assured they are that God has effectually secured their eternal salvation in Jesus Christ the righteous, beyond the possibility of a failure, the more exceedingly careful and prayerful they are to avoid sinning against that God whom they so dearly love.
As their Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, perfectly understands their case. By his knowledge shall he justify many. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal. The Lord knoweth them that are his." He is always right. Not only righteous in all his perfections, as God, as man, and as Mediator between God and men, and the saints are made the righteousness of God in him, and he is of God made unto them Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption, and he is the Lord our Righteousness; but officially, he is also righteous - never wrong. He advocates no cause in which he can fail of complete success. He never mistakes his clients, nor does he ever attempt for any upon uncertainty. Nor does he plead upon any indefinite or uncertain grounds. His plea for his children before the Father is not what they have done to entitle them to divine favor, for no such plea could stand, or gain the suit for them. But he pleads what God and grace has done. In his advocacy for us, he takes the sealed book, searches the eternal records of the counsel and will of God - shows every demand of law and justice met and canceled by himself, and presents himself the approved propitiation for their sins. And he is the propitiation for our sins. A propitiation, according to our standard lexicons, is that which renders propitious, or that which removes wrath and condemnation; an atonement for sin. In this sense Jesus Christ the righteous, standing in relation to his people as the Head of the body, the church, he having put away the sins of the church, and being the righteousness of God unto them - presents them holy and unblameable in himself. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law should be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. As our righteousness, and our atoning sacrifice, he has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.. That is, as our Advocate with the Father. He was delivered for our offenses, and raised from the dead for our justification. Hence the atonement, or at-one-ment is made, the propitiation is perfect, and the little children are safe.
And not for ours only, but the sins of the whole world. This atonement was not only for those primitive saints which were called by grace, in the cities of Judah in the days of the apostles, but, this being the only propitiation in all the world, his propitiation removes all condemnation from the people of God in any part of the world, at any period. This mission of Jesus was to save his people from their sins, and God has informed us that the Lord's portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. And "This people," he says, "I have formed for myself. They shall show forth my praise." They are redeemed out of every nation, kindred, and tongue under heaven - therefore the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ our Advocate was not for the saints immediately written to by John alone, but covered the sins of all his people from the beginning of time to the end of the world; in every nation under heaven. So that there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. No man cometh to the Father but by him.
The play on words by arminians, universalists and others who would pervert the Scriptures of truth only shows their readiness to sport with their own deceivings. Should they give the words, the whole world an unlimited application, it would include swine and horses, serpents and vipers, as well as men and women, and if the words be restricted in their application, the only sure rule of restriction must be to the redeemed family of God - out of the whole world. The words, the whole world, are used by this same apostle in this restricted sense, in this same epistle both in reference to the saints and the ungodly. In reference to the saints, as in our text, meaning all the redeemed of the Lord throughout the world; and in Chapter 5:19, in reverence exclusively to the ungodly. "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." This was the common way of speaking and writing in the New Testament. For instance, Jerusalem and Judea, and all the regions round about Jordan, were baptized by John in Jordan. But the Pharisees, who dwelt in Jerusalem and Judea and in the regions round about Jordan were not baptized by John in Jordan - only those were meant who brought forth fruit meet for repentance. The proclamation of the advent of Christ was glad tidings of great joy to all men; but Herod, when he heard the tidings, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Caesar made a decree that all the world should be taxed; but he levied no tax on the continent of America. The Jewish council said: "If we let these men go, the whole world will go after them; and the Romans will come and take away our place and nation." We might multiply examples in the Scriptures where such words are used in a restricted sense, and if they were not so used by John in our text, then there must have been two distinct whole worlds: the one redeemed to God - saved and called out of the world, having Christ as their Advocate and propitiation, and the other whole world lying in wickedness without a propitiation or an Advocate with the Father. But as we have neither time nor inclination to enter the list with cavilers and infidels, we leave them to draw their own conclusions, until God may open their blind eyes if it be his pleasure to do so; for we have no power to deliver them from the power of darkness, or to translate them into the kingdom.
We hope that the inquiring saints may be edified, and our object will be secured.
July 1, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials of Gilbert Beebe
Volume 5 pgs 13-19