by William M. Banks, Scotland
The word advocate is used in a variety of contexts in our modern society. Some who adhere strictly to one cause or another are usually referred to as advocates of their particular organisations: for example animal rights, renewable energy or the like groups. It also has legal connotations. It is used to define some lawyers with additional qualifications, although this varies with different legal systems. It is perhaps unfortunate that the connection with law is so deeply engrained in our thinking, because while the fundamental idea of help and assistance is common to its Biblical use, other ideas such as pleading are inappropriate, as will be shown.
The word “advocate” only occurs once in the A.V.: “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” 1Jn.2.1. However, the original Greek word “parakletos” (used only by John) is also used as a designation of the Holy Spirit and translated as “Comforter” four times in the upper room ministry, Jn.14.16,26; 15.26; 16.7. The R.V. margin adds “or Advocate, or Helper”. The Amplified Version has in brackets after Comforter; “Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby”. Darby translates it as “patron” in 1Jn.2.1 with a helpful footnote. It means properly “one who is summoned to the side of another to help”. The different translations of the word in our A.V. are perhaps not inappropriate. We have a Comforter on earth and an Advocate in heaven! Both are Divine Persons. The Advocate is immediately available “with the Father” if we do sin, and the Comforter is with us, indeed indwelling us, Jn.14.17, that we may not sin.
THE COMFORTER IN THE UPPER ROOM MINISTRY
The references to the Comforter in the upper room ministry emphasise some lovely truths, and help to elicit the deeper meaning of the term. We learn that He is a Divine Person in Jn.14.16: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another [allos = of the same kind] Comforter, that He may abide with [meta = among] you for ever.” He is thus among the believers for ever. There is also an incidental affirmation that the Lord Jesus was also a “Comforter” while with the disciples on earth. What He was to them while here in assisting, helping, guiding and comforting would now be undertaken by the presence of the Holy Spirit with them and in them.
The inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, and the accurate communication of the words of Christ Himself are emphasised in Jn.14.26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” He will thus be alongside to help (teaching and giving accurate recall of the spoken words of Christ) in the writing, and thus the inspiration of the New Testament.
The main function of the Spirit’s ministry is to focus our attention on the Lord Himself. This is clearly stated in Jn.15.26: “But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.” The glory of Christ is the central objective and outcome of His activity. To appreciate this brings comfort to the believer that the One Whom he currently serves though despised by men now, is to be manifested in glory in the future, Titus 2.13 (J.N.D.).
The fourth reference in John’s Gospel indicates that there will be comfort and help for the disciples (and for us in the present dispensation) after the departure of their Master: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” Jn.16.7. He is here to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” v.8, and provide the basis in conviction, for the effective communication of the message of God’s salvation.
Thus the emphasis on help or comfort is evident in each of the four references; the Holy Spirit is going to be among us; communicate Divine truth; He will focus on the glory of the Person of Christ and assist in the message we preach. An awareness and appreciation of the Spirit’s work should have a positive sanctifying influence on the life of the believer.
However, the baneful influence of the world is never far away. The effects are evident and “… there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” Eccl.7.20: “… there is no man that sinneth not” 1Kgs.8.46. There is therefore the need for the Advocate: “… if any man sin”. The particular help required is different from that seen above from the Comforter, and John is going to indicate the nature of that help and the circumstances in which it is available to us.
THE CONTEXT IN 1JOHN
The section of the epistle in which there is reference to the Advocate begins at 1.5 and goes on to 2.2. The general subject is that of light and darkness, truthfulness and lying, reality and profession. Please note the three-fold use of the expression, “… if we say” 1.6,8,10. This unambiguous antithesis is a feature of John’s writing throughout the whole epistle.
THE DECLARATION OF THE MESSAGE – 1.5-10
In the prologue to his epistle, 1.1-4, John has been emphasising the manifestation or incarnation of the Lord Jesus as the “Word of life”. He has focused on the reality of His Person and His public ministry “from the beginning”. This involved hearing Him (mentioned twice in vv.1,3), seeing Him (mentioned four times, three times directly and once indirectly (in His manifestation) in vv.1 (twice), 2, 3) and touching Him, v.1. He was indeed a real Person: “… Eternal Life (the Person) … manifested unto us” v.2. John is now going to communicate the message he heard from Him and apply it to the circumstances of his readers.
God is Light – v.5
The matter upon which John wants to focus is what “… we have heard … God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” v.5. For John this is the epitome of the message which he had heard from the incarnate Christ. He has emphasised elsewhere that “God is a Spirit” Jn.4.24, and will emphasise later in this epistle that “God is love” 4.8. We ought to note the importance of the order – light before love. These are all essential attributes of Deity. However, the matter for now in the summation of the communication from the “Word of life” v.1, is the fact that “God is light”. That God is light indicates His perfection, His holiness, His transparency, His untarnished excellence. There is “no darkness at all”, nothing that needs to be kept in the shade. This is to be used as the basis of the first test of having “eternal life”, which of course is his main reason for writing, 5.13. Can his readers have fellowship with Him, (note four references to “fellowship” in 1.3 (twice),6,7)? There are only two possibilities – we either “walk in the light” as true believers and experience that fellowship, or “we walk in darkness” as sinners where no fellowship is possible. There is nothing in between. There is no other possibility. To walk in the light and have fellowship with Him there must be agreement – “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3.3.
The Tests of Profession – vv.6-10
John is now going to put his readers (and us!) to the test. These tests are not in the sphere of our ecclesiastical thinking. They have to do with the family of which John writes in his epistle. He is essentially bringing before us three areas of our profession in relation to sin, which touch on this question of fellowship. Is what we say consistent with what we do? Christianity is not just saying! Is our thinking and activity in relation to sin affecting our fellowship? John probably has in mind well-known false teachers of his day who were making high claims to spiritual experiences. What was the reality?
Test 1: Where Are We Walking? – vv.6,7
To say we have fellowship with God is not sufficient. Our walk must be consistent with our profession. If we walk in darkness (the walk of unbelievers) there is no possibility of fellowship. In fact John is again unambiguous “we lie and do not the truth”. (“The truth” appears around twenty times in the Johannine epistles and embraces the body of doctrine particularly linked to the comprehensive doctrine of salvation). In speaking of those who lie, John is likely thinking of the persons he will focus on later in the epistle (generally known as Gnostics), who deny that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” 4.3, or the individuals whom he elsewhere labels as “antichrists” 2.18. They were essentially bringing God down to their level.
There is a corrective, however. Contrary to the above, two features mark them who do walk in the light viz. they have “fellowship one with another” and “all [their] sin” can be cleansed, v.7, on the basis of the work of Calvary. Practical or progressive sanctification can be known. The shedding of the blood of “Jesus Christ His Son” has effected the righteous basis that makes this possible. The truth is the means by which it becomes effective: “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” Eph.5.26.
The apostle Paul indicates in Eph.5.8-14 other features that mark those who “walk as children of the light” v.8. It is a walk evidencing the fruit of the Spirit, v.9; under the Lordship of Christ, v.10; in separation from the world, v.11; with controlled speech, v.12, and that convicts those still walking in darkness and unaware of the deadness of their condition, vv.12,13.
Test 2: Are We Deceived or Is The Truth In Us? – vv.8,9
John now turns from a light regard of the sinfulness of sin to the possibility of saying “we have no sin” (no root principle of sin) at all. In this case they were elevating themselves to the Divine level. We might find this boast a little strange in the light of direct Scriptural references giving evidences to the contrary e.g. Rom.3.23; 5.12 etc. Indeed, John indicates that it is total deception, “we deceive ourselves”, and evidences the absence of truth. Nevertheless, clearly there were those in John’s day who did believe they had “no sin” and were totally deceived. He deals with them in more detail later in the epistle.
Again he introduces a corrective in v.9. Those who do recognise that sin as a root produces sins as the fruit, can know both forgiveness, (here paternal; in 2.12 it is legal or judicial), and cleansing from guilt and uncleanness respectively. However, it does not come automatically; it is based on confession. Also God remains faithful and just in doing it; faithful to His character as “light” v.5, and “just” v.9, on the basis that the blood has been shed and the righteous basis laid. In addition there is no thought of restriction as to the extent of the problem; it is “all unrighteousness”!
Test 3: Do We Make God a Liar? – v.10
The apostle now goes a little further still. The errorists are now saying they have not sinned at all, with the tense indicating that this continues up to the present! This makes God a liar, since He has stated unequivocally that “there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” Eccl.7.20, and “there is no man that sinneth not” 1Kgs.8.46. Hence His Word is not in them.
This time there is no balancing corrective given to these “unrepentant, unregenerate infidels”1. However, it may be that 2.1,2 are supplying that for us. The first test dealt with a lack of appreciation of the sinfulness of sin, “we lie”. There was, however, an awareness of its sinfulness when walking in the light, leading to an evident need for cleansing. The second test goes further, in that the unregenerate are now saying they have no sin at all. This time awareness that we have sin leads to confession. The third test goes further still in failing to acknowledge that we have sinned at all. What then happens if we do sin? This is answered in the details associated with the Advocate in 2.1,2.
- 1 Kistemaker, S.J. “Exposition of the Epistles of James and the Epistles of John”. New Testament Commentary Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986.
THE ADVOCATE WE HAVE – 2.1,2
The Address Used, v.1a – “My little children”
It must have been a great relief to John to leave the unreality of vv.6-10 of the previous chapter, and to turn from the false boasts of the unregenerate Gnostics and antichrists to his beloved children; to show to them the true basis for maintaining fellowship with the Father. The word he uses for little children (teknion) is used a total of 9 times in our New Testament: once by Paul in Gal.4.19, when he makes a tender appeal to the Galatians to mature in likeness to Christ and not be turned back from spiritual development by the appeal of Judaisers. Our Lord used it in Jn.13.33 when telling His own in the upper room that He was leaving them. This is probably where John learned its value to His own soul, and now wanted to impart something of its pathos to His family. He uses the term 7 times in 1Jn.2.1,12,28; 3.7,18; 4.4; 5.21. The “little children” of 2.13,18 is a different word and used in the context of spiritual development from immaturity to “young men” and then to “fathers”. The possessive pronoun “my” speaks volumes: my “bairns” (to use a Scottish word) indicating a deep family affection. John of course focuses on the family (note the reference to the “Father” in v.1 and 13 times in the epistle), embracing all of God’s children, while the apostle Paul focuses on the “body”.
The Letter Sent, v.1b – “… these things write I unto you”
John was evidently so concerned about his “family” (perhaps living mainly in the vicinity of Ephesus; note the “my” and the “I”, and contrast with the “we” of 1.4) that he must take time to write to them. He was thereby indicating to them the importance of the message he was conveying and the enormity of the danger they were facing. “These things” refers to the light regard of sin evidenced in the three tests he has just been articulating. Could they misunderstand and be discouraged from focusing on personal holiness? He is going to show that his objective is the very opposite. The pressures in testimony today, with sin rampant in every avenue of life, means that we do well to take account of what John writes.
The Purpose Stated, v.1c – “… that ye sin not”
The accuser is ready to pounce. We read that “the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” Rev.12.10. He desires that we sin, but John’s desire is that we sin not (cf. Ps.119.11). He is of course not speaking of sinless perfection as will become clear in the next phrase. However, as he emphasises throughout the epistle, sinning for the believer should be the exception and certainly not the rule: 3.6, “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him” and 5.18, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”. Sinning is not to be the habit of the believer. His words “that ye sin not”, “do not suggest that his readers are living in sin; the aorist tense indicates that his purpose is to support their resolve not to condone even a single act of sin. What he has just said [“these things”] should make them realise that “sin is so heinous in the sight of God that it may not be indulged in even once”.2 John had no sympathy with the claims of the professional perfectionist”.3
- 2 Gingrich, R.E. “An Outline and Analysis of the First Epistle of John.” Grand Rapids: Zondervvan, 1943.
- 3 Hiebert, D.E. “The Epistles of John – An Expositional Commentary.” Bob Jones University Press, 1910.
There are other reasons given for writing the letter, e.g. in 1.4 “that your joy may be full”, with the main objective stated in 5.13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Having come to faith in Christ through the Gospel of John and having “life through His name” Jn.20.31, he now wants us to have assurance, to “know”, (see, for example, 2.3,5; 3.14)!
The Possibility Recognised, v.1d – “… and if any man sin”
There are three matters to be elicited from this phrase. It has often been pointed out that it does not say “when” any man sin. As indicated above it is assumed that sinning is the exception rather than the rule. However, the word “if” does indicate the possibility. The conjunction “and” might be better translated “but”, further emphasising that this is an exception.
A second matter of importance is that of inclusivity and so he speaks of “any man”. Note “ye” in the above exposition; sinning is not characteristic of them. Unlike the boasters in 1.10 who say “we have not sinned”, John recognises the potential in the breast of every “little child” to sin. He of course is not only thinking of immature Christians, he is embracing all members of the family. All saints (individually – “any man”) are capable of sinning. The mature David, relaxing at the time when kings go forth to battle, was enticed by “the lust of the eyes” 2Sam.11.2. The strong Samson was lured by “the lust of the flesh”; “get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” Judg.14.3. The great spiritual engineer Uzziah, “he made … engines” 2Chr.26.15, was beguiled by “the pride of life”; “when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” v.16. All believers need to be on their guard.
The particular nature of the “sin” is not stressed. It should be pointed out, however, that the tense is again the aorist indicating that this sin may be contrary to the tenor of the believer’s life. It is not a habit, a normal course pursued! Fundamentally it means “to miss the mark”, and is the general word for sin in the New Testament. No one is outside the possibility of being involved; all need the ministry of the Advocate.
The Present Possession, v.1e – “… we have”
The moment we sin the “machinery of heaven”4 is set in motion. Of course we have an Advocate whether we sin or not. There is no need for us to plead for one to act on our behalf like Job in 16.21 of his book: “O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!” The believer has this as part of his spiritual armoury; note “we have”! God has been kind to us, realising that there is a requirement to act in heaven, before even we begin to realise the sad potential of unconfessed sin on earth. It is interesting that John includes himself; “we have”, indicating his recognition of his own need as well.
- 4 Gooding, A.M.S. “1, 2, 3John What the Bible Teaches.” Ritchie N.T. Commentaries, 1987.
“We have” many other things besides. “We have a great high Priest” Heb.4.14; “We have such an high Priest” Heb.8.1, appearing “in the presence of God for us” Heb.9.24. Additionally “we have peace with God” Rom.5.1; “we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” 2Cor.5.1. These are only a sample; what a privileged people we are!
The Advocate We Have, v.1f – “Jesus Christ the Righteous”
Advocacy is one of the offices of the Lord Jesus which He executes perpetually in the presence of God for us. Samuel Medley’s beautiful hymn, “Come let us sing the matchless worth”, makes much of the glories “which in the Saviour shine”. One of the verses begins with these memorable words:
- Great are the offices He bears,
And bright His character appears,
Exalted on the throne.
His advocacy is one of these great offices. As our Advocate He represents us in the presence of God, or more accurately, in the presence of “the Father”. He is not there so much to plead our cause or our case as an advocate would do in a court of law. His very presence with the Father is sufficient qualification to meet our need. This is evidenced in the titles ascribed to Him: Jesus Christ the Righteous.
Each of these titles has deep significance in the context of Advocacy. The name Jesus is that associated with His humanity. He has been here. He knows the vicissitudes of life. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15. While this verse touches on His priesthood, it affirms that He knows the way that we take. The title Christ is indicative of His exaltation and glory. He is seated in authority. Our Advocate has no mean position in the universe, and yet He is interested in the individual believer! He is Righteous. There is no definite article; what is being emphasised is His character as being righteous. He will not deviate from the highest standard. Everything must be consistent with the throne where He sits in glory. The work of Calvary, as will be seen, has ensured the righteous foundation.
The Position the Advocate Occupies, v.1g – “… with the Father”
Two matters are indicated in this expression. The first thing we learn is that believers are in view, since this is truth “with the Father”. Sin has not broken the relationship; the One against Whom we have sinned is our Father! We still belong to Him. The enjoyment of the relationship with the Father is disturbed, but the vital family link can never be severed. The believer can never be lost. While advocacy is in relation to the Father, in the case of priesthood the Lord is “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God” Heb.2.17.
The second matter of importance is the preposition used. The word “with” is “pros”, a preposition of direction indicating nearness; or face to face with. It is the preposition with which we are familiar in Jn.1.1; “the Word was with God” and already used in our epistle in 1.2 as “with the Father”. He is back where He came from, with the Father in glory! The reference in 1.2 is preincarnational; in 2.1 it is postresurrectional.
This preposition should be compared and contrasted with that which is part of the original word parakletos. It will be observed that this word is really made up of two parts: para and kletos. The preposition para means “alongside”. (Kletos means “called to comfort, to help, to teach, to convict”). This is all very beautiful, indicating an Advocate Who at one and the same time is “face to face” with God, and “alongside” the believer. We might have wondered how the believer becomes sensitive to the fact of his sin, and is led to the righteous availability of cleansing, 1.7, leading to confession and forgiveness, “from all unrighteousness” 1.9. The fact that the Advocate is alongside makes the believer aware of his sin, convicts of its wrongness, and leads to the point of confession and restoration. This instils great confidence particularly to the sensitive soul, and indicates an atmosphere of affection, not one that is adversarial as is common in courts of law.
This means that our Advocate is not in the presence of God to plead our cause or our case, as we commonly associate with those who function in courts on earth. He does not plead for the Father’s forgiveness for His erring child, nor does He plead the merit of His blood. Neither of these is necessary. His presence with the Father as being righteous, and having established a righteous basis for forgiveness in propitiation (see next paragraph), is sufficient for the activity to be set in motion to restore the erring child, as indicated in the previous paragraph. The idea of “intercession” is, of course, not unrelated as affirmed in Rom.8.34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
The Ground of Appeal, v.2a – “He is the propitiation for our sins”
The word for propitiation (hilasmos) occurs only here and in 4.10. Vine5 has a helpful comment; “hilasmos signifies ‘an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted’. It is used in the New Testament of Christ Himself as ‘the propitiation’ in 1Jn.2.2 and 4.10, signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His death, is the personal means by Whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided. In the former passage, what is indicated is that provision is made for the whole world, so that no one is, by Divine predetermination, excluded from the scope of God’s mercy; the efficacy of the ‘propitiation,’ however, is made actual for those who believe. In 4.10, the fact that God ‘sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,’ is shown to be the great expression of God’s love toward man, and the reason why Christians should love one another.”
- 5 Vine, W.E. “Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.” World, No date.
Propitiation thus provides the righteous basis upon which a holy God can remain holy, and yet offer forgiveness to the sinner. Propitiation is Godward and associated with sins. He is the Propitiation on the throne, making good what was done at Calvary as the Propitiator. The throne is thus satisfied and the sinner can be justified. Our verse indicates (as well as 4.10) that propitiation is in a person, indeed is a Person, and that Person is none other than our Advocate! He has laid the righteous foundation, and is thus perfectly qualified to act on our behalf. The present tense, “is the propitiation”, indicates that what He accomplished at the cross to satisfy Divine justice has permanent effects for the child of God. “He was, and is, and will continue to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins”6. A cognate word (hilasterion) in Rom.3.25, (also rendered ‘propitiation’) is translated “mercy seat” in Heb.9.5, and is indicative of the place where propitiation is made.
- 6 Hiebert, D.E. “The Epistles of John – An Expositional Commentary.” Bob Jones University Press, 1910.
The Universal Value, v.2b – “… not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”
The whole world can come under the value of accomplished atonement. The words “the sins of” should of course be retained, as both understood and grammatically necessary, just as the word “sins” is necessarily understood in Heb.7.27 after the word “people’s”; “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.”
The value of the propitiation is thus as wide as the sin. The “world” is the world of mankind in alienation from God, and recognised as lost in sin. Wonderfully, there is a remedy! There is no thought of a limited atonement! None need perish. The value of Christ’s death cannot be quantified, it can only be considered qualitatively. An infinite Person has done an infinite work with no thought of limitation of any kind! Of course the value of the work of Calvary only becomes effective in the lives of those who believe. Such have the unique honour of having the Advocate with the Father.
There is a lovely picture of advocacy in the upper room ministry. Indeed we might have been a little surprised if there was not, bearing in mind that four times over, our original word, ‘parakletos’, is found in that context. In John chapter 13 our Lord is acutely aware that He is leaving this world. “Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” v.1. Note it is “unto the Father” and of course “we have an Advocate with the Father” 1Jn.2.1. Additionally, our Lord was aware that “He went to God” v.3. Conversely “His own … were in the world” v.1. An interesting picture is emerging; the Lord has effectively gone to be with the Father, (or to use the parallel language of Jn.17.11, He is “no more in the world”), but His own are still “in the world”. Kelly7 seems to have accurately assessed the situation: “He was going to His Father on high, and here reveals what He in that glory would do for them while here below”. It is a beautiful picture of advocacy!
- 7 Kelly, W. “Exposition of the Gospel of John”. F.E.Race, London, 1898.
He is admirably fitted to undertake the task, clothed appropriately for the occasion, vv.4,5. Garments of earth are laid aside. Girded with a towel and with water in a basin, He is ready to undertake the task. Garments of course speak of character and here is “Jesus Christ”, (earthly garments laid aside), the “Righteous”, (He alone capable of taking the towel and the water, Eph.5.26), cleansing defiled disciples in view of communion and fellowship, cf. 1Jn.1.6. “It is the washing of water by the word which the Spirit applies in answer to the Son’s advocacy with the Father. Of this Christ was here giving the sign”.8
- 8 Ibid
The fact that there is a deeper significance in the act is evidenced by our Lord’s reply to Peter. Peter had asked “Lord dost Thou wash my feet”? The Lord’s answer is most revealing; “what I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter”. Vincent9 has an interesting observation. He says “… the A.V. ignores the distinction between the two words [for knowing]. Thou knowest not (eido) of absolute and complete knowledge. Thou shalt learn or perceive (ginosko), of knowledge gained by experience.” Peter might have protested that he was perfectly well aware of what was happening, his feet were being washed! However, there was something more. He did not have “complete knowledge”. He would “learn or perceive” the deeper meaning by experience. This was a picture then, or practical preview of what would take place “hereafter”, when the Lord would be the Advocate with the Father. It is clear that John had grasped the deeper significance when he wrote his epistle. The involuntary defilement by walking the streets of Jerusalem had to be removed. Otherwise Peter had “no part with” not “in” the Lord. The vital link of being ‘in’ Him was not broken. The preposition ‘with’ indicates communion or fellowship and could only be maintained by the removal of the defilement (“if any man sin”). No believer today can escape involuntary defilement in a world saturated with sordid sin. There is always the need for the Advocate!
- 9 Vincent, M.R. “Word Studies in the New Testament”. Macdonald Publishing Company. No date – original 1886.
It is evident too that the Lord took the initiative. Again the link with 1John is clear. The Advocate, the Helper, the Intercessor, moves immediately the requirement is known, maybe in many cases even before it is known: (see e.g. Lk.22.31,32; “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”). How much have we been preserved from, without even knowing it?
There was no need of course for an overall washing, regeneration needs no repetition. It is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” Titus 3.5.
The first eleven verses of John chapter 13 are thus a lovely picture of our Lord’s office as an Advocate. The parallel with what we have seen in 1John is unmistakeable. Of course we should not miss the fact that the Lord is also leaving us an example, as emphasised in v.15, to “do as (not what) I have done to you”. The exemplary character of His activity is emphasised from vv.12-17. The Lord “has taken His garments and was set down again.” He retakes His place with them now as “Lord and Master”. He is able to resume fellowship with them, on the basis of the effectiveness of His work as an Advocate, and to bring to bear the important practical and salutary lessons of being His devoted servants, v.6.
The work of the Advocate thus brings restoration of communion and fellowship between the believer who has sinned and the Father. This permits the believer to continue to progress in the Christian life. John is keen to indicate what that progress entails in the verses immediately following those dealing with the Advocate; viz. 2.3-6. The results are threefold. It begins with obedience to His commandments, vv.3,4. They must be kept. Adherence to Scripture is not a matter of choice; it is an essential in the Christian’s life. It is followed by an evidence of love in a deepening relationship with God, v.5. The order should be noted. The love is an outworking of the truth. Truth and love lead to a walk consistent with that of Christ, v.6, “even as He walked”.
Thus the claims we make; “he that saith” vv.4,6,9, must be evidenced in our walk in truth, based on a right relationship with the Father, cemented by the advocacy of “Jesus Christ the Righteous”.