1 John #8 (2:1-2)
So What Do We Do When We Sin?
When teaching about the full forgiveness of our sins through Jesus, where we no longer spend our lives confessing our sins for forgiveness, but rather claiming that we are forgiven eternally through faith in Jesus, I am asked:
“So what do you do when you sin?”
This question is proof the good news of God’s grace is being taught, and it is a great question to ask the one teaching the full forgiveness of sins.
More than likely, it was a question asked to John on numerous occasions, which is why he answers the question in 1 John 2:1-2.
Before we look at his answer to that question, we should also note that he was probably accused of telling people they could sin, since they were fully forgiven of all their sins, no longer needed to confess their sins for forgiveness and fellowship.
John addresses both issues among the churches of Asia Minor in 1 John 2:1-2.
Let’s examine these two issues.
Issue #1: Since believers are forgiven of all their sins, are you saying they can sin all the more?
About this issue, John writes:
“I write these things to you so that you will not sin.”
John understood that by teaching the good news of God’s total forgiveness in Jesus, some may believe they could sin all the more, thus using grace as a license to sin.
So he answers the question in one sentence.
Paul addressed the same issue in Romans 6.
He too answered the question in one sentence when he said, “Perish the thought!”
In John’s statement, he also answers his critics who accuse him of giving people a license to sin by saying, “I write these things to you so that you will not sin.”
Paul also had his critics (Romans 3:8).
The first attack by critics of those who teach the eternal forgiveness of sins is that the teacher is giving people a license to sin.
These attacks will come, which is proof the good news the blood of Jesus that forgives and cleanses from all sin has been accurately communicated.
Issue #2: So what do you do when you sin?
John clearly answers this question when he writes:
“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
First, John points people to Jesus as the Advocate for all people and for all sins.
As our Advocate, Jesus fully represented everyone at the cross when he died for all sins.
John then points believers who sin to the finished work of Jesus on the cross as a reminder that their sins have been paid for in full through the complete, eternal, and final sacrifice of Jesus (propitiation).
The Greek word for propitiation is “hilasmos.”
Hilasmos is in a family of Greek words that all point to the final, full, and forever sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for all sins, for all people, for all time.
It points to the blood of Jesus that forgives and cleanses from all sin.
This Greek family of words are used in the following verses in the Bible.
Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17
Both Romans and Hebrews are written to teach people about the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus, who was sacrificed for our sins and through his blood are forgiven and cleansed from all sin.
As we learn in Hebrews, there is no more sacrifice for sin left, nor is there any more forgiveness and cleansing necessary for sins, since Jesus was the final, full, and forever sacrifice for sins, which brings eternal forgiveness and cleansing.
This complete and eternal forgiveness and cleansing, as taught in both Romans and Hebrews, is received by faith.
John also uses the word hilasmos, which means propitiation, in 1 John 4:10, when he writes,
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Again, propitiation means that Jesus through his blood sacrifice made the complete and full payment for our sins, resulting in eternal forgiveness and righteousness for those who believe.
So John in answering the question, “What should people do when they sin?,” points people to focus on what
Jesus did for them when he died for their sins as their Advocate.
He doesn’t point believers back to 1 John 1:9 to continually confess their sins for forgiveness.
Instead, he points them to the cross, where forgiveness is complete and eternal.
Notice what he doesn’t tell believers.
He doesn’t tell them their fellowship with God has been broken and is in need of being restored through confessed sin.
He doesn’t tell them they need to confess their sins, so they can be forgiven and cleansed of unrighteousness and resume fellowship with God.
No, he points them to the finished work of Jesus...his full, final, and forever sacrifice for their sins, where eternal forgiveness was secured and continual fellowship with the Father is experienced.
John did not want them doubting for one second they were not forgiven and not in fellowship with the Father.
John understood that if doubt crept in, fearing they were not forgiven and in fellowship with God, then discouragement would soon follow, and possibly depression.
The false teachers were causing enough problems among the believers, seeking to lead them away from the identity of Jesus and the reality of what he did for them.
They were already beginning to doubt their salvation and live in fear.
Therefore, John writes so they will no longer be deceived by these false teachers.
John knew the deception of the false teachers could be halted by directing the attention of the believers to the identity of Jesus - the Christ, and the reality of what Jesus did for them through his blood sacrifice on the cross, which forgives and cleanses from all sin for all time and that enables believers to be in continual fellowship with the Father.
So rather than pointing believers back to 1 John 1:9 when answering the question, “What do we do when we sin?,” John points them to the finished work of Christ on the cross, assuring them they are forgiven and in fellowship with the Father.