First Expressions in First John (part 2)

Robert E. Surgenor

2:1 - PREVENTION & PLEA - "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."

As John exposes the motive for his epistle, immediately he makes known to them his parental affection by addressing them as, "my little children. " This tender expression applies to Christians irrespective of advancement in spiritual things. This particular word is found only nine times in the entire Bible and eight of those occasions are found from the pen of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Paul uses the expression once in Galatians 4:19. Our Lord uses it only once and John records it in his gospel (13:33). John 13:33, seems to be the first occurrence of the word "little children" (teknia) and it is interesting to notice the setting. It was used on the night of our Lord’s betrayal to those who were with Him in the upper room. However, it is interesting to observe that our Lord never spoke of them as "little children" until Judas Iscariot had departed from the little company, for he certainly didn’t fall into the category of being one of the Lord’s little children. Other than John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the word "Teknia" is used exclusively in John’s First Epistle seven times - 2:1,12,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:2 1. Some would tell us that this particular expression also implies a kindly address by teachers to their disciples. Let me say that John was extremely blunt, yet there was a kindness about his approach. We, who seek to give corrective ministry could all learn from his example. You cannot scorch the Lord’s wayward people and produce favorable results. However, if one is convinced that the person ministering searching ministry to their souls has a genuine love and care for them - then results from such ministry will redound to the glory of God in that saint, manifesting a change in their behavior. John was a blunt man, a searching man, but a loving and a tender man.

John indicated two reasons for his writing. Notice; "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (verse 4). "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not" (verse 1). The two go together this way in my mind. If I allow sin in my life, then I lose the joy that could of been mine. When David grievously sinned, remember how he earnestly cried to His God, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation" ( Psalm 51:12). Sin had caused him to lose his joy. Do you want peace of mind, contentment, fellowship with God, the joy of the Lord in your soul, and strength for the trials of life? Then — sin not!

The tense in which the word sin is employed in this verse indicates not a state, but an act. It is the thought of something falling suddenly upon us, or perhaps you could say, something that overtakes us. We know that unlike our blessed Lord, we could never attain to a state of sinless perfection. That will never be a reality until we reach the heavenly shore. However, John seemingly is very concerned about sin in the little child’s life and that concern is manifested by his words, "that ye sin not." How ugly sin is! It is condemned and hated by God, for it is wrong in its own nature. Sin allowed in our life immediately breaks that sweet fellowship with God that He desires for us. Sin allowed is totally inconsistent with our professed abhorrence of sin. Dabbled in, it will lead to a guilty conscience and cause doubts of our salvation in our own souls. How dishonoring it is to the gospel regarding its claims and its power. Let us also consider this before we sin - it was our sins that caused the intense sufferings of our blessed Lord. I trust that a careful consideration of these statements will be a deterrent to you regarding the allowance of sin in your life.

The disciples were told to pray, "lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil" (Lk. 11:4). The thought being that we ought to pray that the opportunity to sin and the desire to do so never coincide. One deterrent to sinning is the Word of God. Remember the psalmist’s noble confession? "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119:11). In other words, he treasured God’s Word and stored it up in his heart. Out of the heart are the issues of life. Notice the behavior of Christians. Why would a sister wear immodest clothing, or perhaps trim her hair, or deck herself with jewelry? Why would a brother wear gaudy clothing, or, manifest pride and self-sufficiency or, become deeply involved with worldly affairs? The answer is simple. They have not esteemed the Word of God enough to treasure it up in their hearts. Mr. William Warke used to say quite often in his searching ministry; "This Book will keep me from sin, but sin will keep me from this Book!" How true! The story has often been told of the lady that daily went to the spring for clear, clean water. However the bucket leaked. By the time she got back up the hill to her house the bucket retained very little of its contents. However, the water, whether retained or lost, kept the bucket clean. In like manner, we read the Word, but seemingly the older we become the less we retain of what we read. However, the very reading of the Word keeps the reader clean. May it be our meditation all the day long.

Another deterrent to sin is prayer. "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:30,31). One of the first things noticed about Saul when Christ revealed Himself to him is described in these words, "Behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:11). Such exercise was to characterize his whole life. Notice how often Holy Scripture records him praying for the saints and assemblies. He was a man who confessed that he knew nothing against himself. Socializing with the Lord’s people can be pleasant. However, too much of this type of activity can lead to familiarity and then perhaps to sin. Let us be careful to spend more time alone in fellowship with God than in social activities with God’s people. I’m sure that we recognize the difference between our social gatherings and gatherings that involve fellowship with the saints. Fellowship always involves participation in the things of God together. Socializing involves just the enjoyment of each other’s company.

However, we do sin, don’t we? It may be only a stray thought flitting across our mind that is inconsistent with the mind and will of our Holy God - yet it is sin. What can be done now? John provides the answer. Just as a legal assistant pleads the cause of his erring client before the court, so our blessed Lord pleads our cause. I believe this to be the force of the word, "advocate." He is with the Father. He is face to face with the Father in utmost intimacy. Christ is always looking into the face of the Father. He is always there to represent us. He seeks no admission like an earthly lawyer may do, regarding the judge, to represent his client. Oh no, nothing of that sort! Our Advocate is always face to face with God. What a consistent and perfect representation we have. Perhaps you never considered yourself so important to Him, however you are! He is constantly there to plead your cause.

Not only this, consider the qualifications of our Advocate. He is righteous! Seeing that I am so frail, weak and sinful, I need a representative in the presence of God that worthy and absolutely perfect, otherwise, how could such an one plead for me? But I have this confidence, my Advocate is righteous. He has the perfect right to plead my cause. No one else is fit to stand in the presence of God. Thank God, we have an Advocate that is righteous!

Not only this, He is known as Jesus Christ. Jesus, the lowly Man who trod the scenes of earth, now returned to heaven, the Christ, the anointed One. Our Lord became human that He may perfectly understand us. He experienced tiredness, hunger, sorrow and the various trials that accompany us as humans in our sojourn here. He also Himself, likewise took part of the same. He was the anointed Prophet in His sojourn here. In heaven he is the anointed Priest on our behalf and in that glorious, soon-coming day He will manifest Himself as Israel’s anointed King. Since my Saviour has born all of my sins and righteously dealt with them at Calvary, He can plead my cause. God cannot righteously charge me with my sins since Christ bare my sins in His own body on the tree. I stand cleared of guilt. It is not a matter of God overlooking my sin. Oh no, that would be unrighteousness on His part. It is simply a matter of God looking on Christ who bore my sin, thus clearing me before His holy throne. I hope that none of this would appear to you as an excuse to sin. Quite the contrary! Might the thought of such a righteous Advocate have the tendency to keep me from sinning.

Brethren, seeing that we are such a privileged people, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16). Above all - let us sin not!