Category Archives: 1 John

10 Tests for Knowing that you Know God’s Love – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The following is a summary of 10 tests for knowing that you know God’s love as preached by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his sermon on 1 John 4:16.  Specifically, they can be found in his collection of 1 John sermons entitled Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John published by Crossway.  They are listed in reverse order.  Following along in 1 John, we can submit that knowing God’s love equates to being His child, therefore our list can be evidences of genuine salvation.

10. A loss of the feeling that God is against you.

9. A loss of a fear of God, while a sense of awe remains.

8. A sense that God is for you and that God loves you.

7. A sense of sins forgiven.

6. A sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God.

5. An increasing hatred of sin.

4. A desire to please God and to live a good life because of what He has done for you.

3. A desire to know Him better and to draw closer to Him.

2. A conscious regret that our love for Him is so poor combined with a desire to love Him more.

1. A delight in hearing these things and in hearing about Him.

The Nature and Necessity of Propitiation – 1 John 2:2

To view this series on 1 John, simply select 1 John from under Bible Study on the Categories drop down menu.

 

“1 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.2 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

“Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity?”  That’s the question J.I. Packer poses in his classic work Knowing God.  Packer goes on to say, “In the faith of the New Testament it is central.  The love of God, the taking of human form by the Son, the meaning of the cross, Christ’s heavenly intercession, the way of salvation – all are to be explained in terms of it, as the passages quoted (Romans 3:21-26, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:1-2, 4:10) show, and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading, by New Testament standards.”1 Simply put, propitiation is essential to understanding Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.  Its definition means to placate, pacify, appease, or conciliate “and it is this idea that is applied to the atonement accomplished by Christ”2 as we will see, His propitiation appeased or satisfied the wrath of God.  We come to this glorious truth in our study of 1 John.  Remember in our last lesson that we were introduced to propitiation in conjunction with Christ’s advocacy; in fact, along with His righteousness, we saw that propitiation comprised the basis of His advocacy.  Since it is such a grand subject of Christian salvation, it deserves individual attention.  Propitiation is oft misunderstood, overlooked, and even omitted in discussions of Christ’s death on the cross.  You may have realized this if you use an NIV or RSV Bible translation, to say nothing of the paraphrases, because they interpret propitiation as “sacrifice of atonement”, “expiation”, or whatever the translator feels best explains the idea.  Each of these is insufficient and in fact weakens the Gospel.  As Packer stated earlier, not only are they incomplete, but they are actually misleading.

In order to fully appreciate the nature of propitiation, we need to look at it first from a cultural standpoint, because it’s from this angle that the New Testament writers employ cultural language through the Greek word hilasmos, used only 2 times in the N.T. here and in 1 John 4:10, and its derivatives hilasterion, used in Rom. 3:25 and hilaskomai from Heb. 2:17 (see also Luke 18:13).  In his book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, D.A. Carson provides helpful details on the pagan notion of propitiation.  “In ancient paganism, propitiation worked like this.  There were a lot of gods with various domains (god of the sea, god/goddess of fertility, god of speech, god of war, etc.) who were a bit whimsical and bad-tempered.  Your job was to make them propitious (i.e. favorable) toward you.  For example, if you wanted to take a sea voyage, you would make sure that the god of the sea, Neptune, was favorable by offering him a propitiating sacrifice in the hope that he would provide you with safe passage.  So the object of the propitiating sacrifice is the god himself, and the purpose is to make the god propitiatous.”  Here is where the biblical idea differs from the pagan notion, and it is a significant difference.  In It is Well, Mark Dever provides a quote by John Stott highlighting this difference.6 In it, Stott states, “It would be hard to exaggerate the differences between the pagan and the Christian views of propitiation.  In the pagan perspective, human beings try to placate their bad-tempered deities with their own paltry offerings.  According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death.  Thus God gave himself to save us from himself.”5 This is precisely what we see in our passage from 1 John 2:2, “He [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins.”  But there is something else we must realize.  Remember in our last post we briefly mentioned Christ’s role as believer’s High Priest.  In keeping with this role, He not only is the propitiation, but also makes the propitiation (Hebrews 2:17).  He is not only the lamb that is sacrificed, but is indeed the High Priest making the sacrifice.  Next we’ll see how this unfolds in Scripture to better understand the significance. 

The doctrine of propitiation is not something new, as in post New Testament terms, but instead is a prevalent theme in the Old Testament as well.  In fact, propitiation is the very foundation of the Levitical priest’s sacrificial system and through its foreshadowing of Christ’s atonement we are provided the greatest details into the meaning of the word.  In the Pillar New Testament Commentary on The Letters of First John, the author points out that our Greek word for propitiation, hilasmos, used exclusively in 1 John as we’ve noted, is actually found 6 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (its derivatives are used extensively).  Of significance is its use in Leviticus 25:9, as it refers to the Day of Atonement.  Relating propitiation to the Day of Atonement is not isolated to this passage as the PNTC points out, but it will allow us the opportunity to examine in detail the methods of the Old Testament high priest, so that we can better understand the work of Jesus Christ, as The High Priest.  For this, we need only to turn to Leviticus 16 as we see the Lord outlining the procedure for the Day of Atonement to Moses.

In this passage, the language of “mercy-seat” (vs. 2) is significant to developing the idea of propitiation, because it is the Greek word hilasterion; translated ‘propitiation’ in Romans 3:25 and ‘mercy seat’ in Hebrews 9:5.  This relation of terms serves to show how pervasive propitiation is in our passage and the Bible, as well as to help us ultimately understand that wrath and mercy meet at the cross.  The first thing we need to notice from this very descriptive passage is that Aaron, the high priest, needed to enter the holy place with a bull sacrificed for his own sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering (Lev 16:3;6).  Before he could even attempt to make a sacrifice for the people, he needed to first make one for himself.  Contrast this with Christ our High Priest from Hebrews 7:26-27 who had no need to offer a sacrifice for Himself because He was, “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens.”  Next, Aaron was instructed to “take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering” (Lev 16:5).  It is significant that these sacrificial animals came from the people of Israel, as certainly the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ came from the people of Israel as well.  While the bull was an offering for Aaaon and his family, the two goats were to be set before the Lord, and Aaron was to cast lots over them; one for the Lord and the other for Azazel (there are disagreements over this meaning), or most commonly referred to as the ‘scapegoat’.  The goat for the Lord was to be sacrificed as a sin offering, while the scapegoat was to be released in the wilderness with the sins of the people confessed over it, “15 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with is blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.  16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.  And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleanness.”  (Lev 16:15-16) In these instructions to Aaron, by way of his brother Moses, Aaron was to make propitiation for the people of Israel. 

But what about the second goat?  We pick up on it in verse 20-22, “…he shall present the live goat.  And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins.  And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of the man who is in readiness.  The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.”  On this Day of Atonement, as outlined for us in Leviticus, we see 2 fundamental actions that compose the nature of propitiation: 1a) The sacrifice of a goat for the sins of Israel (propitiation) 1b) The release of a goat, the scapegoat, with the sin of the people confessed on its head (expiation).  As the PNTC points out in its discussion of propitiation, “…the notion of atonement in the OT is best understood comprehensively to include both the cleansing and forgiveness of the sinner, and the turning away for God’s anger.  This in turn suggests that neither the idea expiation nor that of propitiation can be ruled out as possible meanings for hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10.”7  In the Levitical Day of Atonement, we see a type and foreshadow of what was to come with Christ’s atonement.  As Hebrews 10:4 tells us, the blood of bulls and goats could not actually take away sins, only Christ can.  In His atonement, Jesus satisfied the wrath of the Father (propitiation) and offered cleansing and forgiveness (expiation) for the one who repents and turns to Him in faith.

Propitiation is necessary because man is a sinner who stands under the wrath of Holy God (Eph. 2:3).  But God, provided a propitiation for Himself, in the form of His Son, who willingly came to earth in the flesh, lived a perfect, holy, and sinless life and died on the cross making propitiation for all those who have and will believe (Rom. 3:24-25).  In this, Jesus Christ made the sacrifice of atonement and was the sacrifice of atonement.  The wrath of holy God was poured out on His Son, thus placating or satisfying His wrath for sinners who repent and place their faith in the Son of God (Rom. 5:9).  In doing so, the punishment for sinners was taken in Christ and the guilt of sin was removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and as we’ve seen cleansing and forgiveness is offered through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:7).

Believer, do you have any room for propitiation in your Christianity?  Is there anything that could bring you more comfort and joy than to know that the wrath of all holy God has been satisfied by Him lovingly sending His Son to be the propitiation for you? 

Unbeliever, do you realize your need for Christ to be your propitiation?  You stand condemned under the wrath of God.  But in His love, He sent forth His Son Jesus to be the propitiation “for the sins of the whole world.”  Repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus.

  1. J.I. Packer Knowing God
  2. John Murray – Redemption Accomplished Redemption Applied
  3. D.A. Carson – Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
  4. Dever and Lawrence: It is Well pg. 125
  5. Stott, Romans pg. 115.
  6. Kruse, PNTC The Letters of First John pg 75-76
  7. Ibid. pg 76

Christ the Advocate – 1 John 2:1-2

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 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. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 1:8-2:2

Last time we reviewed the passage of Scripture from 1 John 1:8-10 included above.  This time, we will look at how the verses from 2:1-2 connect with our previous passage.  Remember that John has just laid down a test for us, one of recognition and confession of sin.  We looked at what it means for a person to deny sin, namely self-deception and calling God a liar.  We also dissected 1 John 1:9 to better understand how God’s character is linked to His actions for believers who confess their sins, namely in the forgiveness and cleansing from sins.

John begins verse 1 by addressing his readers as “little children.”  This is the first occurrence of several instances where he uses this compassionate term.  Like a father with his children John has a way of encouraging and assuring while also offering exhortation and warning.  He clearly speaks the truth in love as a loving Father would for his children.  After all, John has assumed the position of elder in these churches and he’s likely the oldest and remaining survivor of Jesus’ disciples.  Needless to say he has a spiritual as well as physical maturity.  With this address to his readers, it’s almost as if he jumped out in chapter 1 with a quick blow to the Gnostic influences of the Church and here settles into the message of his letter.  He does this by pointing out the first, of several, reasons for writing his epistle.  The first is an exhortation to holiness, “so that you may not sin”.

In the previous 3 verses John has just delivered a test of assurance for his believers: recognize your sin and confess it.  As we previously mentioned, he ties this into Christ’s atonement (from vs. 1:5 and in vs. 1:9) and links this to the character and actions of God (vs. 1:9).  After reading the end of chapter 1, you can almost hear people clamoring with the same response that the Apostle Paul expected in his letter to the Romans, “Hooray!  We can sin all we want and as long as we confess it to God, He has to forgive it!”  To which Paul responded “By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Romans 6:2 John’s response comes by way of giving reason for his letter, “so that you may not sin”.  This is a purposeful statement by John, not just mere sentiment.  He’s instructing them in a path of godliness and holiness and will soon outline for them (and us) the Christian’s incompatibility with sin.  It’s important to understand that John has not given his readers a pass to sin, quite the opposite, but watch the amazing direction that He takes next.  “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  This is a hope filled statement from John.  Imagine the churches reading this for the first time and you can almost hear the gasps and sighs of relief.  A gasp at vs. 1:8, a sigh at vs. 1:9, gasp again at vs. 1:10 and holding it in to the middle of vs. 2:1, when a divine truth is revealed through the little powerful conjunction that the ESV renders, “but”.  In a practical application of John’s letter the phrase “but if”, could nearly be replaced by “when” anyone does sin, because of the given certainty of the action.  In fact, as we will see, the very nature of Christ’s advocacy implies that believers will indeed sin.

We can best picture Christ’s role as Advocate in terms of a divine defense attorney.  Perhaps in the courtroom setting we would see God the Father as the Supreme Judge, Christ as Defense attorney, Satan as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), and 1 by 1 persons are brought before the Judge.  Will you stand before the Judge and represent yourself?  Or will you entreat yourself to the Divine Advocate?  That is the eternal question dear reader.  Only insane, depraved people would dare stand before a holy God and plead their own case.  Yet it does not have to be that way.  The evidence is stacked against everyone: sinful by nature (Ephesians 2:1-3), guilty not merely on the basis of imputed sin (Romans 5:12-19), but on the basis of rebellion against God in breaking everyone of His righteous, holy commandments (Romans 3:10).  The Accuser standing in prosecution pointing out every vile detail, when Christ the Advocate stands in and lays His body of evidence down before the Judge on behalf of all those who have repented and placed their faith in Him.  Puritan Thomas Watson adds, “Christ by his intercession answers all bills of indictment brought in against the elect. Do what they can, sin, and then Satan, accuses believers to God, and conscience accuses them to themselves; but Christ, by his intercession, answers all these accusations.”1   It’s as if Satan would say, “See what sin he’s committed!”  And the Judge replies, “Yes, but see what my Son has done!  See His nail-scarred hands and pierced side!”  And the verdict is handed down for the believer, “Not guilty, on the basis of Jesus Christ.”  What glorious news dear Christian!

Before we move from this passage, there are two details that John has provided for us in this passage, as it relates to the Advocacy of Jesus Christ.  The first we find at the end of 2:1, “Jesus Christ the righteous”.  Certainly tied up in the name of Jesus Christ is his deity, Sonship, Lordship, and Messiahship, but look at what John adds, “the righteous.”  It is a sad fact that so many evangelical churches neglect the importance of a statement such as this and as a result, many Christians fail to understand its significance.  Just as important as Christ’s death on the cross, which all orthodox believers would agree on, was His perfectly sinless, holy, righteous life.  If the single focus of Christ’s work was His death, then certainly He could’ve come as a man and died on the cross that very same day.  But there was greater purpose.  Christ had to be born as a man, live as a man, do what man could not, namely obey the law of God, suffer as a man, and die as a man all the while His divine nature was joined together with His human nature (100%/100%).  The Apostle John points out to us that Christ’s advocacy is secured on the basis of His righteousness.  Not only that, but had Jesus merely offered forgiveness of sins and a pardon of the guilty, it would simply bring the guilty party from debt to balance.  There would still be no basis upon which to grant eternal life in the presence of Almighty God.  Thus Christ’s righteousness was needed for the believer.  This is what theologians refer to as the “Great Transaction”.  Man, guilty in his sins, has his sins “imputed”, judicially speaking credited, to the “account” of Christ, for which He takes the punishment due them, namely the wrath of God (1 Cor. 5:21; Romans 3:24-25).  The other side of the transaction involves the righteousness of Christ being imputed to believers (Romans 5:19).  The righteousness of Christ cannot be overstated.  John includes it because it is His character and he once again links character with action, as we see in vs. 2:2.

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  The word propitiation completes the link that John creates and is our second detail that provides the basis for Christ’s advocacy.  Propitiation is a word that has massive implications.  One in which we will look at in greater later, but for now, we will summarize by pointing out that in Christ’s death on the cross He was the One making the sacrifice and also THE Sacrifice.  It is on this basis that His advocacy took effect.  With the inclusion of Christ as the One making the sacrifice and the One being sacrificed, we can draw upon deeper meaning into His advocacy, namely His Office of High Priest (see Hebrews).

Now the question you might ask after hearing this is, “If all of our sins were forgiven, why do we need an Advocate?”  We need an Advocate because we cannot stand on our own righteousness because we have none and for that reason God always looks at believers through Christ, the Advocate. His legal brief as defense attorney is His righteousness and His propitiation (altogether His atonement).  Because of the holiness of God, He cannot look upon sinful man as forgiven and cleansed from unrighteousness except through His Son Jesus.  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, “I need such a representative in the presence of God because of the holiness and the absolute righteousness and justice of God.  That is the way, and the only way, whereby any one of us can ever come into fellowship with God or can ever be maintained in that glorious fellowship.”2  Simply put, His advocacy on our behalf is eternal, as “He always lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25) and this should give all believers immense  assurance.

Before reading the next post in this series, consider the following for additional study (from 1 John 2:1-2:2):

  1. Review Hebrews, specifically chapters 6-10 which focus on the High Priestly role of Jesus and the offer of His sacrifice.
  2. Read Leviticus 16.  What parallels, if any, can  you draw between the Old Testament ‘Day of Atonement’ and the passages from Hebrews?
  3. If you previously looked up the definition for propitiation, what two significant actions from Leviticus 16 are foreshadows of Christ’s propitiation?

 

Resources:

  1. Thomas Watson Body of Divinity
  2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Life in Christ Studies in 1 John