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Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar: A Mandate for Global Evangelization

Why does the world need a Savior? Why do we need an advocate (2:1)? Why must there be a propitiation (2:2)? The answer is sin. Humanity has a sin problem. It is our most fundamental problem, and it affects everyone. Of course, not everyone agrees with this assertion. In 1973 psychologist Karl Menninger shocked modern sensibilities with his book entitled Whatever Became of Sin? Sin? What a quaint and outdated idea. In this book Menninger provided a scathing critique of modern-day preaching and the noticeable absence of the "S" word: "sin." In a chapter titled, "The Disappearances of Sin: An Eyewitness Account," Menninger wrote,

John then follows up with the positive and correct theological antidote in verse 9. It is one of the most beloved and memorized verses in the Bible. A free paraphrase of it may help us capture afresh the heart of its marvelous truth: "If we are characterized as those who are continually agreeing with God about our sin, both its nature and its acts, God is both faithful and just (true to Himself) to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all our wickedness." It is as if John were saying, "Look! There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars. There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven." Proverbs 28:13 reminds us, "The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy." The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon got it exactly right:

It should be noted that the apostle John does not deny our need to be seen as sinless. He simply notes that we cannot find it in ourselves. We need an advocate. We need an atonement. We need another.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky writes,

John says something similar but more simply: lie to others (1:6) and lie to yourself (1:8), and soon you will lie about God. In fact you will actually call God a liar.

John introduces his third "If we say" statement. Again the theological claim he is addressing is that we now live in a state of sinlessness. We claim to be right with God, to believe the truth, and to live without sin. John says with a double punch we are twice wrong. First, we make God a liar because He says we are sinners. Second, His Word is not in those who claim they have no sin problem. Someone else's word says we have no sin problem. But God says we are sinners and need a Savior. False teachers say we are not sinners and need no Savior. The differing claims are clear aren't they? Which are you going to believe?

The World Must Know What God Says about Jesus

1 John 2:1-2

Modern studies on the historical Jesus can be fascinating. They can also be deceiving and disappointing because they are so far removed in truth and time from the Jesus revealed in the Bible. In a book entitled The Historical Jesus: Five Views, it is noted that modernist options include:

I would argue that it is the last one that matches up with Scripture. And this one who is "the very embodiment of Yahweh-God" is both our advocate and our atonement in His work of redemption. Who could ever have imagined or made up anything like this? This Jesus may not be a Jesus we can be comfortable with, but He is the Jesus we need and the whole world needs! In the Chronicles of Narnia one of the Penvency children asks of the great Lion-king Aslan, "Is he safe?" The answer: "No! But he is good!" Oh how true that is of the Lion-King of Judah!

For the first of seven times in this letter John uses the phrase "my little children." It is a term of endearment and fatherly concern. John sees himself as their spiritual father and they as his spiritual children. They stand in striking contrast to the liars of chapter 1. John says, "As a spiritual father, now a spiritual grandfather (cf. Deut 6:1-9), I am writing to you these things, the things of 1:5-10, so that you may not sin." John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless (but note again the future promise of 3:2!), but he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (1:3).

We will still sin until we are glorified. What do we do when we sin? Well, in 1:9 he told us to confess our sins. Now in 2:1 he tells us to flee23 to our Savior who is our "advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One." The word "advocate" is parakletosin Greek, or paraclete. The word occurs five times in the New Testament (John 14:16, 26; 15:25; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). Four times it refers to the Holy Spirit. Only here is it a reference to the Lord Jesus who is able to be our advocate because He is "the Righteous One." Isaiah 53:11 may be echoed here. There our Lord is called Yahweh's "righteous Servant." This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in His nature and in all of His actions. There is no one else like Him.

The word "advocate" means helper, one who is called to come alongside in a time of need. This helper helps us when we sin. He is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin. Isn't the gospel amazing? We have a helper in our heart (the Holy Spirit) and a helper in heaven (Jesus Christ the Righteous One). Or as Paul says, we have an intercessor in our hearts (Rom 8:26-27) and an intercessor in heaven (Rom 8:35). As a result, no sin can "separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom 8:39).

John now informs us why Jesus can be our advocate. It is because He made a "propitiation," an atonement for our sins. The word "propitiation" is a very important word in the New Testament. It is the Greek word hilasmos. The word and its variants occur in the context of the work of Christ in four crucial texts: Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10. The word carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His bloody sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God's holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners. The wrath that should have been poured out on sinners was poured out on Jesus. The judgment that should have been experienced by sinners was experienced by Jesus. The hell that should have been experienced by sinners was experienced by Jesus.

All this was done to accomplish God's purpose. Second Corinthians 5:19 reveals that through this propitiation, "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself." Therefore feminist theologian Delores Williams is wrong when she says, "There is nothing divine in the blood of the cross" (Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 61). And Episcopal bishop John Spong misses it when he says, "Neither do I want a God who would kill his own son" (quoted in Ash, "Bishop Will Retire But He Won't Stop"). Steve Chalke is also in error when he says the orthodox understanding of the cross is a form of cosmic child abuse, "a vengeful 24father, punishing his son for an offence he has not even committed ... [a] twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith" (Chalke and Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, 182-83). No, the work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God's holiness and God's love meet, where God's judgment and God's mercy kiss. Yes, it pleased the Father to crush His Son and put Him to grief (Isa 53:10), and it pleased the Father to highly exalt Him and bestow on Him "the name that is above every name" (Phil 2:9).

And it is important to note that there is a universal component to this atoning work: it is "for [the sins] of the whole world." No one is beyond its reach. No one. A universal provision has been made so that as the redeemed so awesomely sing in Revelation 5:9, "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation."

Conclusion

The wonderful Church Father Augustine (ad 354-430) well said,

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) would add,

Thankfully, the light has not gone out. It has come in the person of Jesus Christ. So, let us flee to it. Then, let us take it to the world, a world for which He and He alone is the propitiation, the perfect atoning sacrifice.

Reflect and Discuss

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