1 John 2:2

Sermon preached on May 10, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few months ago I paid my mortgage online. I've been doing it that way for years. When I paid it online I got a confirmation number. I made a note of the number and wrote it down for my records. After that I forgot about it until three weeks later when I received a letter from the bank that I hadn't paid my mortgage. I went back to my records and found the confirmation that I had paid it. But when I checked it online again, I noticed that there was a new column in record, which stated the status of the transaction. In that column was the word, "Failed". For some reason, even though it confirmed the transaction when I did it, even though it told me that the transaction had succeeded and give me a confirmation number, at some point after I completed the transaction, something went wrong with their banking and the money never got transferred from my account to the bank. When I contacted the bank they immediately corrected their error and fixed everything up. But the whole experience was a little bit disconcerting. Before I phoned the bank I wondered how they were going to react. Would the confirmation number I had mean anything to them? Would they fix it? Was the system I counted on going to let me down?

As Christians we can sometimes have questions like that about our salvation. As a Christian, how do you know that you are saved? How do you know that your sins have been paid for? How do you know that the transaction is complete? How do you know that on the great Day of Judgment, when you stand before God, that your sins are not going to be there to condemn you?

These are important questions. In 1 John the apostle answers these questions and we would do well to pay attention to his answers. This morning we are going to look at the answer to one of those questions—what God does with our sin. Sin is the real problem. We are not sinless. John made that clear in verse 8 of chapter 1. He said,

"If we claim to be without sin,
we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us."

Christians have to deal with sin in their lives. Verse 1 reads,

"My dear children,
I write this to you
so that you will not sin.
But if anybody does sin,
we have one who speaks
to the Father in our defense—
Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."

We are not supposed to sin. It is a contradiction of who we are in Jesus. We are the redeemed of the Lord. Jesus came to deliver us from the power of sin. As we read in 1 John 1 God is light and our fellowship is with Him. But the problem is that we do sin. What does Jesus do with our sin? John here gives us a great truth about this situation. He says of Jesus Christ. (1 John 2:2)

"He is the atoning sacrifice
for our sins,
and not only for ours
but also for the sins
of the whole world."

The main thing we see from our text is that

Jesus deals with our sin in such a way that He covers them completely.

They are removed from God's sight. There are many pictures in the Bible about how God has dwelt with our sins. One of my favorite is in Psalm 103:12 where David wrote,

"as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us."

How wonderful that concept is. God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west—as far as possible. Our sins could not be further removed from us. They are completely removed.

Another great passage in this regard is Micah 7:18–19 where the prophet said,

"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and
forgives the transgression of
the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities
into the depths of the sea."

Our sins have been trampled underfoot. They have been destroyed. They have been hurled into the depths of the sea. In ancient days hurling something into the depths of the sea indicated that it was gone forever.

Even today, with all our technology, the sea is a place where things get lost. It's been 14 months now but they still haven't found Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which they believe was lost in the Indian Ocean. They haven't found a trace of the Boeing 777. Being cast into the depths of the sea is still a good image telling us that our sins will never come back to haunt us.

In Jeremiah 31:34 we have God saying about His people,

"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."

He will forget our sins. We are not to take this literally of course. God remembers everything. But God tells us it will be like He forgets them. They will not be called to His mind.

They will be covered. Just before the Israelites left Egypt they were commanded to slaughter a lamb and put some of its blood on the doorframes of their houses, so that when the Lord saw the blood, He passed over that house and did not kill the firstborn. God said, (Exodus 12:13)

"The blood will be a sign for you
on the houses where you are;
and when I see the blood,
I will pass over you."

John 1:29 tells us that when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said,

"Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!"

Our sins have been taken away. And Revelation 7:14 refers to the great multitude in white robes,

"These are they who have
come out of the great tribulation;
they have washed their robes
and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb."

Those are great images.

In our text we have another one.

Jesus, our Advocate, covers our sin.

The NIV says that Jesus is the 'atoning sacrifice' for our sins. The ESV and the HCSB use the word 'propitiation' instead of 'atoning sacrifice'. The ESV says,

"He is the propitiation for our sins…"

In spite of all that there's good evidence that the word should be translated, 'expiation', which means that our sins are covered.

In evangelical circles today there's somewhat of a prejudice against the concept of 'expiation' because liberal theologians want to get rid of the idea of the word 'propitiation' altogether and replace it with 'expiation'. What they don't like about the term 'propitiation' is that it has to do with God's wrath. Liberal theology doesn't like the concept of God's wrath and propitiation means the turning away of God's wrath. Therefore they don't want to use the term 'propitiation' but want to use the term 'expiation' instead.

But the Bible speaks of God's wrath and the necessity of it being dealt with. So we can't get rid of the word 'propitiation' because it's a biblical term and should be used. But evangelicals have overreacted and regard any use translation of 'expiation' in the New Testament with suspicion. And that's unnecessary.

Expiation is also a biblical term and concept. It means to 'cover' sin. Donald Macleod points out an important distinction between them. He writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 110)

" 'Expiation' highlights the effect of the atonement on sin, whereas 'propitiation' highlights its effect on God. Sin is expiated, God is propitiated…"

But it's important to note that these two terms,

"cannot be separated. God can be propitiated only if sin is expiated; and sin is expiated only in order that God may be propitiated."

Now getting back to our text. What is it mainly dealing with? It's dealing with our sin. Remember what I just quoted—that expiation highlights the effect of the atonement on sin, and that propitiation highlights its effect on God. In our verse the reference is to our sins, not to God. So it should be probably be translated 'expiation'. Jesus Christ is the expiation for our sins. He covers them. They are covered. That's the primary reference here. That means, of course, that because they are covered God is also placated. It is the expiation that propitiates. (Macleod, p. 111) Both concepts are present but the main focus of our text is on our sins being covered.

The second thing we see from our next is that

Jesus Himself is covering for our sins.

Our Advocate covers our sins. The picture before us is judicial, a courtroom scene. Donald Macleod says of Jesus, our Advocate, (p. 118)

"He is not in court to plead the personal innocence of his clients. Their guilt is taken for granted."

We are guilty. Rather than pleading that we are innocent, our Advocate states that our sins have been expiated by none other than Himself. In chapter 1 verse 7 John stated,

"the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin."

The effect of the sacrifice of Christ was to cover our sin so that it cannot be seen. It is expiated. It has been washed away. It has been taken care of.

That's why in John 1:9 John said that if we confess our sin, God is

"faithful and just and will forgive us
our sins and purify us
from all unrighteousness."

Our sins have been paid for. They are covered. Justice demands that they be forgiven. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 119)

"And this is the advocate's case: 'I took these sins and made them mine. I put my name on them, shed my blood for them and carried them away. The little ones have nothing to answer.'"

In a way this reminds me of the scapegoat in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 16:20–22 we read,

"When Aaron has finished
making atonement
for the Most Holy Place,
the Tent of Meeting and the altar,
he shall bring forward the live goat.
He is to lay both hands on the head
of the live goat and confess over it
all the wickedness
and rebellion of the Israelites—
all their sins—
and put them on the goat's head.
He shall send the goat away
into the desert in the care
of a man appointed for the task.
The goat will carry on itself
all their sins to a solitary place;
and the man shall release it in the desert."

The scapegoat carried the sins of the Israelites away. Of course this was a type and shadow that pointed to the great work of Jesus. He was the fulfillment of them. He has carried away our sins. He has paid for them. His work achieved the expiation once and for all. In Him and His work our sins were neutralized, canceled. (F.F. Bruce, 1 John, p. 117) The book of Hebrews says that Christ's work, (Macleod)

"It purged away sin (Heb. 1:3); it did away with sin (Heb. 9:26); it secured the forgiveness of sin (lit. its aphesis or dismissal, Heb. 9.22); it 'took away' sin (Heb. 10:4)."

There's another use of expiation in the New Testament that is also informative. Romans 3:25 says,

"God presented him
as a sacrifice of atonement,
through faith in his blood.
He did this to demonstrate his justice,
because in his forbearance
he had left the sins
committed beforehand unpunished—"

The Greek word that is used here is used in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew word that refers to the solid gold lid of the Ark of the Covenant. This is often called the "Mercy Seat". Under this cover were the two tablets of the Law that were given to Moses. On Yom Kippur, this mercy seat was sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. This was done to make atonement for the sins of the people. The mercy seat was not merely a lid, but also a cover. John Calvin (commenting on Exodus 25:17) noted that this cover had a metaphorical meaning because the law requires a covering in order to cancel our transgressions. Donald Macleod, (p. 112-113)

"It was here, at the mercy seat, that Yahweh met with his people; and it was here that he spoke to them (Exod. 25:22). We can be sure that it was by no accident, but by divine design, that the meeting point was the place where the tablets of the (broken) law were covered by the blood-sprinkled lid. This was the most sacred point in the cultic institutions of Israel, the most holy point within the Most Holy Place, not because of its physical function as a lid, or because of its visual splendor as a sheet of pure gold 112 centimetres in length and sixty-eight centimetres in breadth, but because it was the place of symbolic atonement and a pointer to the real atonement to be accomplished on the great Yom Kippur at Calvary."

Macleod, p. 113

"Here, if anywhere, is an authoritative 'model' of the atonement. Christ not only provides, but is, the 'atonement cover' which obscures our sins from the sight of God, expiating our guilt by his blood."

Christ is the atonement cover and He provided the blood. Macleod says that the, (p. 114)

"significance and efficacy the two cannot be separated. The 'atonement cover' was nothing without the blood but, conversely, the blood itself would have been unavailing had it been sprinkled anywhere else… The underlying emphasis is absolutely clear: it is as a sacrifice that Christ atones. We have expiation by his blood."

For you who are Christians,

all this means that our sins have been dealt with thoroughly, completely, irrevocably.

The transaction is complete. Our sins have been covered. For all intends and purposes they are gone. They have been paid for and therefore nullified. For Christians, God's justice now demands that we be forgiven of our sins. They can no longer condemn us.

This means that your faith in Jesus and His work should be without doubt. It should be strong and complete. Your sins have been dealt with. Never doubt that.

This means that you should be rejoicing in the work of Jesus. Who is like Him? What a work He did on your behalf. Only He could deal with your sins and He dealt with them fully. He dealt with them once for all. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven.

For those of you who are not Christians, this means that

you should realize that you need your sins covered.

Of all the things in this world that you need—this is of first importance. Unless your sins are covered they are going to be a millstone around your neck to drag you to hell. The curse of sin is eternal death. You need your sins to be dealt with. Either you're going to pay the price and suffer eternally, or, you can trust in Jesus to save you from your sins. It's one or the other. It's the best offer you'll ever receive. Trust in Jesus now. Ask Him to cover your sins.