“MY little children, these things I Write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
John means not his little children according to the flesh, but his children in the Lord, those begotten in the gospel, those given him by the grace of God as the fruit of his ministry. These, being “gospel subjects, are not under the old law, but under grace. Sin is transgression of law, and whatever law one is not under that law he cannot transgress. A person living in America cannot transgress some European law. Not living in Europe, he is not subject to the jurisdiction of any law there. The gospel subject cannot transgress any commandment of the law, for he is no longer under the law. Jesus, by his death, and resurrection from death, brings his elect out from under the law, so that they are no longer under its dominion. Not being under its dominion, they cannot disobey it. When John, therefore, says, “that ye sin not,” he is not hoping they will not transgress the law which formerly they were under, but means that he does not want them to transgress or disobey the precepts of Jesus. He is not thinking of the Mosaic or legal dispensation at all, nor of the law of sin and death, but knowing the church is now under the dominion of King Jesus, and subject to his grace, he desires to see believers walking in conformity with the doctrine and the precepts of grace, the teachings of Jesus. He desires to see them walking in the order of the Lord’s house blameless, holding fast their faith without wavering. “Sin,” as used by John here, means a transgression of the faith and order and practice of the gospel church. To forsake the assembling of ourselves together is to sin wilfully after we have come to a knowledge of the truth, it is a transgression of church order and practice. John tells his “little children” not to do it. To be unequally yoked together with unbelievers at the Lord’s table, or in any other department of the house of God, is a “sin” against grace. Do not do it. To keep company in church relationship with fornicators and idolaters is a “sin” against grace. Do not do that. In fact, any departure from the apostolic doctrine, faith and practice as laid down in the New Testament is a “sin” in the New Testament sense, and in the sense in which John here uses the word. The remarkable thing, however, about John’s language here is, that instead of threatening the “little children” with dire things in case of their disobedience, he holds forth for their consolation the truth that they have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous. The natural mind might reason that this is a poor way for John to write, that by telling them they have an advocate with the Father in case they do sin he might encourage them to care little whether they sinned or not, but every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is by grace made to hate sin so that it has no attraction for him, he cannot live in it, it is not hit element. Every sin detected in him causes self-abhorrence and a desire to flee from it. Instead, therefore, of John’s encouraging the brethren to sin, by telling them they have an advocate with the Father, he is handing out great comfort to them, for what a comfort it is to know that when we have sinned, however much we may have desired not to do it, that we have been cleansed from that and every other sin by the blood of Jesus. No sin ever committed by the elect but what is washed away in the blood of Jesus. Jesus not only took away all our sins that are past, but all present sins and all sins yet to be committed by us in the future. Thus, John says that it is his wish that .the children of his ministry may be found walking worthy of the high vocation whereunto they are called, that they may be found walking in all the ordinances of the Lord’s house blameless; but in case any one “sins,"or transgresses any precept of the gospel, he tells them for their support in adversity that they have an advocate with the Father, and that this advocate is none other than Jesus Christ the righteous, who washed away, not part, but all, their sins in his own blood.
Requested by brother Walter Mordecai, of Vernon, Alabama. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 19.
October 1, 1916