Brother Beebe: Will you please give your views on 1 John ii. 1,2? “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 whole world.”
Yours in love,
Penningtonville, Pa., Nov. 21, 1859.
Reply: We have scarcely room to express all that might be said on the text proposed for consideration, and must necessarily be brief in our remarks, as we have considerable very interesting matter waiting for insertion in our crowded columns.
The simple, but affectionate appellation, “My little children,” frequently occurs in the writing of this beloved apostle, and shows the paternal solicitude which he felt for the saints, to whom his instructions were addressed. “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” The context shows what things he alluded to, not only what he had said of their spiritual, immortal, eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested, and of their consequent fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ, and their fellowship one with another, but the strife and opposition of their carnal, depraved natures, in opposition to the Spirit of life revealed or manifested in them; but also all that the whole epistle contains was designed not only that their joy might be full, but that they should not sin. A knowledge of their eternal vital union in and with their Lord Jesus Christ, was calculated to deter them from sinning, and to awaken every heavenly energy within them to holy aspirations, joy, and love, and gratitude to God, for his abounding goodness and grace. The apostle could by no means indorse the foolish theory that a knowledge of the fixed and immutable principles of God’s eternal counsel and decrees, would tend to licentiousness, but, as he fully implies, they should be written and read, preached and believed, for the very opposite effect, which they were sure to secure, that the saints, or little children, instructed in them should sin not. The mystery should be elucidated, that we all, while in this state of existence, have a depraved, sinful, unrenewed nature, so that if any man shall say he hath no sin, he deceiveth himself, and the truth is not in him. But notwithstanding the indwelling pollution of their nature, which makes every saint groan while in this earthly tabernacle, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with their house which is from heaven, or in other words, that mortality might be swallowed up of life, there is in them who thus groan, an inward man that is born of God, and does not sin, “Because the seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The old corrupt nature is born of the flesh; but the new man is born of the Spirit, and is Spirit. For this reason the saints are admonished to crucify the old man with its affections and lusts, and to put on the new man, which, after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
But, notwithstanding the opposition of the inner man to the sins and depravity of the flesh, the children of God are frequently harrassed and perplexed with a consciousness of their short-coming; to will is present with them, but how to perform that which is good they find not; and if it were not for the happy consideration that they have a divine Advocate with the Father, they would utterly despair. They are too thoroughly acquainted with themselves to allow them to have any confidence in the flesh. But -
“If any man sin, we have an Advocate,” &c. Whatever be the condition of others who sin, (and all men are sinners,) we, the saints, the little children, have an Advocate with the Father. Who is he? Jesus Christ. What is he? The Righteous. Then Jesus Christ the Righteous is the Advocate of his people, and this consideration is calculated to fill them with joy and gratitude. He has every requisite qualification to manage their cause with honor to God and safety to the saints. His name is an ample guarantee of this: Jesus signifies a Savior, and Christ, the Anointed and Holy one. As he is the Savior, he can be relied on, and as he is anointed to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken hearted, to open the prison to them that are bound, and to comfort all who mourn, &c.; no other one could fill the office of our Advocate so well. Possessing in himself embodied all the fullness of the Godhead, with all heaven and earth at his command, and all principalities and powers, thrones and dominions, things visible and invisible, under his control, with all the power in heaven and earth in his hand, and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in him, how can he fail to maintain the cause of those for whom he officiates? He is the Righteous. He is never wrong. “He is of God, made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” And not only is he the Righteous, but he is “the Lord our Righteousness.” By virtue of a deathless union with all the members of his mystical body, he is their righteousness, and so in the presentation of himself before his Father, he presents his saints perfect and without blame before him in love. Eternal Justice is satisfied with him as the justifying righteousness of his body, the church; the law can ask no more; and the Father is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; but the apostle adds -
“And he is the propitiation for our sins.” The word propitiation signifies reconciliation, or atonement, satisfaction &c. He, our Advocate with the Father, by his righteousness, is the reconciliation or atonement for our sins. He gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquities, and purify to himself a peculiar people, &c. Instead then of sinners being redeemed with corruptible things, as silver or gold, nothing short of the precious blood of Christ could propitiate, conciliate, or satisfy the demands of law and justice for our sin. And instead of the pardon of the Pope, or Priest, the absolution of the Bishop, the prayers of ancient or modern revivalists, or the works of our own hands, commending us to the favor of God, he, and be alone, is the propitiation for our sins, and that on the most sacredly righteous principles, as he is the righteous. No sacrifice that we could make, or offering the world could afford, could atone for our sins. The cattle of a thousand hills, ten thousand rivers of oil, or the fruit of our body, or the labors of our hands - all, all would be offered in vain. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not; neither hadst thou pleasure in them. Then said I, [Jesus,] Lo, I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of me.” And it is written in that volume of none other, consequently there is salvation in none other. Ages of penitence, rivers of tears, millions of wealth bestowed for benevolent purposes, with all the reformations, prayers, or voluntary humility that mortals could perform, could make no propitiation for our sins, any more than they could make another “Jesus Christ the Righteous.” For Jesus Christ the Righteous is not a but the propitiation for our sins. And for any man to attempt to make or offer, or to rely on anything else for atonement, or reconciliation, is to set up another Christ, which is idolatry.
“He is the propitiation.” This declaration is clear, positive and emphatic; it admits of no uncertainty; it rests on no contingent agency or condition. It is not something which may be, or is to be; he already is the propitiation for our sins; and this propitiation is complete, as Jesus is complete; it is righteous, as Jesus is righteous; and it is the only propitiation, as he is the only Jesus Christ.
“And not for our sins only.” That is, as we understand the inspired apostle, not only for the sins of those little children, or saints to whom he addresses his epistle, which were scattered abroad, and then in the flesh; but also, or in like manner, for the sins of the whole world. The enemy has attempted to pervert the terms, the whole world, by an unrestricted application of them to the whole material world. But while they thus cavil, they would scarcely allow that it should include the sins of horses, swine, snakes and vipers; but they would rather contend that it means only the human family. They themselves, then, while they condemn the restriction of the application of the words, do themselves what they condemn. But let it be remembered that the apostle John uses the same words in reference to another class who, instead of being reconciled to God by this propitiation, are still in their sins: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Here it is very obvious that John contrasts the condition of those who are of God, with that of the whole world, which lieth in wickedness. (John v. 19.)
These words are to be understood according to the manner in which they are used. When used in an unrestricted sense they mean the heavens and earth, and all that they contain. When used in reference to the saints, they mean all the saints, from the beginning of the world to the end of time; and in this instance it applies more expressly to the saints among the Gentiles as well as those among the Jews. And when used in regard to those who lie in wickedness, it means all sinners, in all ages, and in all the nations and kindreds of the earth.
The plain and obvious sense, then, of the words, as they are used in the text, is that Christ is the only Propitiation in the whole world. That God’s elect among the Gentiles are saved in the same way and manner, as are the saved of the Jews. Go where you may, no other Savior of sinners can be found; with no other sacrifice will God be pleased; with no other atonement could the law, or eternal justice of Jehovah, be satisfied. All, therefore, who are redeemed from among men, in every kindred or nation, are reconciled to God by him who is the only and blessed Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Tim. vi. 16.)
Notwithstanding all the caviling of Arminians, and general atonement advocates, on the text under consideration, there is not another text in the Bible the plain and palpable meaning of which they have more reason to dread than this. It sweeps away, as with a besom of destruction, every refuge of lies on which they would predicate their cherished theories of salvation by works, by the use of means, by the labor of good or of bad men. Let the plain import of the text be admitted, and Jesus Christ the righteous will stand alone confessed as the only Savior, the only propitiation, the only propitiatory sacrifice for sin, that the eternal counsel of God has ordained, that the law can recognize, or eternal justice admit.
The contemplation of our subject is full of consolation for the tried, tempted, troubled and persecuted saints of the Most High God. The inspired words of truth regards them, as they really are and should be, a brotherhood of little children. They do not feel like giants, able to save themselves, and aid considerably in saving others. They feel the necessity of being led by the Spirit, step by step, and instead of eating or earning their own bread, or of wearing their own apparel, they desire the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby. As the confiding babe relies upon the strength of its faithful nurse, so do they rely alone on the everlasting arm of their blessed Savior, which is underneath them. They rejoice in their adorable Advocate with the Father. In heaven’s high courts they have a reliable Advocate. As Jeremiah said, “Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name: he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.” - Jer. i. 34. Our Advocate knows our feeble frame, he knows the feeling of our infirmities, and well he knows how to succor them that are tempted. Nor is he less familiar with his Father’s counsel. The law of God is in his heart, and all that he asks of the Father is granted, for the Father always hears him, and is always well pleased in him. He never lost a case, nor will he ever lose a case. While the presumptuous, who love sin, and find in it a congenial element, are sent empty away, the poor, the broken-hearted, who lament their vileness, and who, above all things, desire to be holy, as their Father in heaven is holy, may rest assured that
“Their cause can never, never fail,
For Jesus pleads, and must prevail.”
November 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 272 - 278