John has just revealed in the previous chapter that God is faithful to forgive us our sins. Even though the desire is to live without sin, John is aware that we will sin; and he reminds us that we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ. Let's explore this role of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the word "propitiation/atoning sacrifice" a little more deeply:
Advocate (paraklēton) - John used this term when referring to the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. The word, in this context, carries behind it the thought of "a defense attorney who takes up the case of his client before a tribunal" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 887). God, the Father, is the Judge. Satan stands as a prosecuting attorney accusing us of our sin, but Jesus Christ, the righteous One, is at the right hand of the Judge. Because of His death on the cross, He has satisfied the justice of God through His propitiation (see below). Therefore, when we sin and confess, He takes up our case with the Father.
Propitiation (hilasmos) - This word is used here and in 1 John 4:10. A noun form is in Romans 3:25 and verb form is in Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 2:17. The NASB has the word "satisfaction" in the margin for this word. Because of God's justice, His only response toward sin can be wrath, but the cross has satisfied God and has met His righteous demands. The sin is covered and the guilt of it is extinguished (expiated). God shows his mercy on the one who believes in Christ as the One who provides this. This provision is made for the whole world, but it is only put into effect for those who believe. The fact that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, shows God's great love toward us and should motivate us to love one another. Hilasmo begets love (4:7, 11, 20-21).Next, John talks about obedience. Jesus promised that He would disclose Himself to those who keep His commandments (John 14:21). This is what John is getting at here. Knowing Him leads to obeying the truth, and obeying the truth leads to deeper knowing and God's love being made complete in us, and we become more Christ-like (2:5-6).
As God is in us, we love one another. Love is the fulfillment of God's Law (Romans 13:8-10). Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34, 35; 15:9, 12, 17).
John wrote the letter to warn them, and he had done so in 1:5-2:11, but he also wrote to encourage them by speaking of the things he saw they possessed in 2:12-14:
1) Forgiveness of sin (2:12)
2) True knowledge of Jesus who was from the beginning (2:13)
3) True knowledge and fellowship with God (2:13)
3) Overcoming the evil one (2:13, 14)
4) Growth in strength (2:14)
5) Abiding in the Word of God (2:14)
Some commentators delineate between the categories of children, fathers, and young men as stages of spiritual maturity, but I see these as things we can all possess.
In the middle of writing this post, I took a break and went to the beautiful Oregon Coast for five days of solitude, prayer, and reflection. It has been a very full and busy summer. In the fast pace, God revealed that I had buried a hurtful situation that had occurred in June, and it came out during these five days. I wrestled with it for four days until I heard God say, "Choose love!" I immediately felt released from the hurt, and I could move. It was as simple as that.
Another thing that struck me in this chapter was the role of the Word of God in overcoming the evil one (2:14):
Satan's number-one objective is to destroy our joy of faith. We have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). But what many Christians fail to realize is that we can't draw the sword from someone else's scabbard. If we don't wear it, we can't wield it. If the Word of God does not abide in us (John 15:7), we will reach for it in vain when the enemy strikes. but if we do wear it, if it lives within us, what mighty warriors we can be! "I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14).
(Desiring God by John Piper, p. 151)
How can we love one another in a practical way. There are many "one another's" in the New Testament. Here are a few to look up and pray about:
Romans 12:10, 16
Romans 15:7, 14
1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:9
We can fight off the enemy by a sustained daily discipline of meditation on the Bible. What is your plan of attack?
Thank You Jesus that You are our Advocate and propitiation. Because of Your great love, Father, I can choose to love others even when they hurt me unnecessarily. Teach me more about how I can love others. Amen.