1 John 2 and 3 … Consider Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world, (2:1-2).

These chapters can almost be interpreted as legalism, unless we remember the context. John was writing to expose the false teaching of Gnosticism and to encourage the believers in the assurance of their salvation.

One of the false teachings wrapped up in the Gnostic’s insidious claims was that since the body was made of matter that is inherently evil, and since only the spirit is good, their immoral actions could not be considered sin. Sinful behaviors were simply part of evil matter, and not to worry, what one did in the flesh had no impact on the spirit.

This false teaching concluded that rather than being concerned about moral living, one must pursue the “special knowledge” of Gnosticism. This “special knowledge,” that went beyond the teachings of the Scriptures and the apostles, is what would usher in salvation.

The thoughts that begin chapter two, continue John’s refutation against these erroneous ideologies.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us, (1 John 1:8-10).

Denying the reality of sin is denying Truth and our need for forgiveness; and worse, denying sin makes Him a liar.

There is absolutely no way to adequately contemplate everything in these two chapters. It felt almost like I was sitting in the window seat of an airplane, craning to see the miniscule details of the landscape below; there is just too much to see and I am too far away and unable to stay long enough or get close enough to make out any of the intricacies below. So I must content myself with a distant overview, certain I will miss the most important sights.

But then, from this outlying vantage point a common thread seemed to appear; and while there was much that could not be studied, this one thread wove thoughts together that previously seemed disconnected.

It did seem as though John jumped between love and hate, light and darkness, truth and lies, obedience and lawlessness, righteousness and sin. And it can almost sound as though he was stating if we don’t achieve absolute sinlessness on earth, we are doomed. But John was not promoting perfection on earth, for salvation is only through faith in Christ, our Advocate Who pleads our case before the Father.

But God is Just and Justice is required; and if all we had was one who was an expert lawyer, the evidence would still be against us and thus demand a guilty verdict. But oh, Jesus did not merely plead our case. He Himself became our case, as He transferred all our guilt on Himself, making Himself the Propitiation for Our Sins.

But the false teachers were intent on promoting their deceptive lies denying the need for Propitiation.

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you, (2:26).

Propitiation. It’s not a word we typically hear but is vital to our salvation; it is our only hope to escape the wrath of a Holy and Just God. Today is a word study kind of day. It has to be.

The following excerpt taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is lengthy, but I hope you will take the time to prayerfully contemplate the meaning of Propitiation. For in studying this one word, we can get much closer than an aerial view of Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins.

Propitiation (also translated atoning sacrifice): 2434. ἱλασμός hilasmós; gen. hilasmoú, masc. noun from hiláskomai (2433), to propitiate, expiate. Propitiation. The benefit of Christ’s blood for the sinner in the acceptance by the Father. Hilasmós refers to Christ as the one who not only propitiates but offers Himself as the propitiatory sacrifice. He is both the sacrifice and the officiating High Priest (John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 10:14; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:6, 8). The sacrifice of Jesus Christ in shedding His blood, both as the victim and the high priest, is indicated by the use of the basic verb hiláskomai (2433) in Heb. 2:17: “To make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” which means to pay the necessary price for the expiation and removal of the sins of the people. This was parallel to that which the high priest did, but it was perfect and a far better sacrifice in that it was permanent and unrestricted…

Hilasmós, found only in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, is equivalent to hilastḗrion (2435) as used by Paul in Rom. 3:25. It is the means of putting away sin and establishing righteousness. God is never presented as changing His mind toward the sinner or the sin that estranged the sinner from Him. Man is never said to be able to appease God with any of his offerings, as in the heathen religions where man offered gifts in an attempt to accomplish this.

In the NT, we find man incapable of offering anything to placate God because He is a righteous God. For Him to accept sinful man, it was necessary for God, not man, to do something to deliver man from his sin. This is the reason why, in 1 John 2:1, we find Jesus Christ presented as the righteous One. God demands that the payment for sin be made once and for all. It is Christ Himself, therefore, who becomes hilasmós, the means which is acceptable to God to satisfy His righteousness or His justice. This does not merely appease God but provides the means for the redemption of man. Christ is the propitiation which supplies the method of deliverance from our sin and, being reconciled to God, we are acceptable for fellowship with God. Christ became the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice for our sins. John adds that this sacrifice of Christ was a historical event. Jesus Christ does not need to shed his blood and die again for any new believers because it is all–encompassing. Nobody’s sins have ever been permanently removed in any other way except by means of the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on Calvary’s cross. OT sacrifices pointed toward Christ’s sacrifice, which is an objective accomplishment, a finished work for the whole world as a basis from which individual forgiveness and cleansing from sin proceeds.

The virtue of the propitiation extends beyond the subjective experience of those who actually are made partakers of grace. 1 John 2:2 presents the propitiation of Christ as vividly personal: “He is our propitiation” (a.t.). The life of Christ as well as His death is involved, His person as well as His work. The use of the word hilasmós by John refers not only to the process of the atonement, but also to its final achievement as a fact: “He is the propitiation”; “His blood is cleansing us from all sin” (a.t. [1 John 1:7]). It is more than a completed act. The propitiation abides as a living, present energy residing in the personality of Christ Himself. According to John, therefore, the propitiation is the cleansing from sin rather than merely the work of justification before God or the acceptance of the sinner as if he had never sinned.

Paul associates Christ’s propitiation as more closely connected with the righteousness of the Law. In John, love and propitiation become interchangeable realities necessary to one another, with one explaining the other, even lost in one another. John defines love by propitiation, and propitiation by love: “In this have we come to know what love is, that He for us laid down His life” (a.t. [1 John 3:16); “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). When John speaks of God as love, he refers to Him as the means of reconciliation of man to God. See hiláskomai (2433), to propitiate, to reconcile to oneself; hilastḗrion (2435), propitiator, mercy seat; híleōs (2436), mercy, merciful, propitious.

Consider Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins

  • He is the Propitiation for Our Sins, the forgiveness for our sins.
    • I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake, (2:12).
  • He is the Propitiation for Our Sins, the promise of eternal life.
    • This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life, (2:25).
  • He is the Propitiation for Our Sins, destroying the works of the devil.
    • the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil, (3:8).
  • He is the Propitiation for Our Sins, adopting us in His love
    • See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him, (3:25).

How do we respond to Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins?

Our response must begin by agreeing with His Word: we are guilty before Holy God, His Justice demands our punishment, and left to ourselves we are condemned. Our only hope is to place our faith in Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins, that we would be spared.

As John is writing to believers, much of these two chapters describes the evidence that one has in in fact believed in Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins. John is not espousing that faith equals perfection here on earth, but he is saying that our faith will have a purifying effect on how we live as we wait for that day when we will be perfectly transformed by His Presence.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.(3:2-3).

This purifying conduct that demonstrates genuine faith has as its foundation, obedience and love. The proof of our faith will be evident in a transformed life that obeys His commands and loves one another.

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us (3:23).

Today is a call to self-examination and renewed commitment of our obedience and love.

Is my faith being validated through my obedience?

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (2:3-5); (also 2:17,29; 3:10,24).

Is my faith being demonstrated through my love for others?

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (2:9-10); (also 3:10,11,14,16).

It is not that we must work for our salvation, for we are not called to live out our faith by a checklist of dos and don’ts. But as we commit to live by faith in Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins, He will be faithful to work in us to obey and love according to His will.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure, (Philippians 2:12-13).

Oh, may we live by faith, knowing that because we have trusted Him, the Propitiation for Our Sins, we have been given His Holy Spirit Who abides in us; and as we abide in Him, He will empower us to become the living proof of our faith as He works in us to walk in obedience and love.

The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (3:24).

Let’s Grow Together!

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