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.
In these verses we see Jesus referred to in two ways: Advocate and propitiation. Both of these terms are important, and they point us to the glory of God displayed in the good news of the gospel. So let’s take them one at a time.
- Advocate – The word advocate means one who speaks on behalf of another. And this speaking on behalf of another is not simply pleading his case (in a legal sense), rather it is saying something positive on his account. Jesus is the advocate for Christians before the Father. This is important for two reasons. One, if we were to stand before God and speak for ourselves we would have nothing good to say. This is the truth of Romans 3:19, which states that before God “every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be accountable to Him. Two, Jesus not only speaks to the Father on our behalf, but he speaks well of us to the Father. Jesus is righteous and his righteousness is credited to all who belong to him. This means that when Jesus advocates for us, he speaks on behalf of people who have been made righteous in him.
- Propitiation – The word propitiation means “a sacrifice which bears God wrath to the end and turns that wrath toward us into favor.”* Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. This is important because what we see in the gospel is the Father putting forth the Son, the Son taking on the wrath of the Father for all of his people’s sins, and God’s wrath toward us changed to favor in Christ. Jesus lived the life we could not live, died the death we deserved to die, and in him we are redeemed. This is the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21, which states that “God made him who knew no sin (Jesus) to become sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In Christ we are made righteous. In Christ the penalty for our sins is no longer held against us. In Christ we are favored by God, and are called His beloved children. What a Savior!
*Definition from Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem