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.” – 1 John 2:1-2
“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the father.” The term “advocate” conjures up images of a courtroom. There we are trembling at the defendant’s table, our sins laid bare before the court. Things would look pretty grim if not for our advocate. There is Jesus arguing as my defense attorney before God, the Heavenly Judge. Jesus defends me from every accusation made against me by the persecutor Satan. Through Satan is formidable, every accusation he hurls at me is repelled by the effective intercession of my Savior.
In verse 2, John explains how Jesus is such an effective advocate. “He is the propitiation for our sins” Propitiation is not a word we use every day. Or every week. Or month. Or year for that matter. Maybe you’ve never seen it before. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person.” Propitiation is the biblical doctrine embodying the concept that the death of Christ fully satisfied the demands of a righteous God with respect to judgment upon the sinner. The doctrine is not found with great frequency in the New Testament, the word propitiation appearing only three times in the ESV version (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10 ).
Scripture makes it clear that God’s holy response to sin is wrath: “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Romans 1:18), and the price of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) The sacrifice of Christ effectively cleanses God’s people from their sins.
When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, He was substituting His holy, righteous, and sinless Self in our unholy, unrighteous, and sinful place. The spotless Lamb of God was the perfect propitiatory sacrifice to atone for our sins and the sins of everyone who would believe in Him. The good news is that Christ’s advocacy and propitiation is free. The grace of salvation is freely given by our Lord Jesus Christ. “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17)
Jesus isn’t claiming that I am innocent, and therefore deserving of salvation. He acknowledges that I’m a sinner, but He has taken my place, paid my debts and satisfied the legal demands of God’s law on my behalf.
- Propitiation is a theological term that describes how Jesus absorbed the wrath of our sin through His payment on the cross. For those who are in Christ Jesus, God sees us as righteous and justified (right standing before God). Is the idea that God sees you as righteous and justified through Jesus a spiritual concept that is easier for you to accept or is it more difficult for you to process? Explain why.