JESUS ADVOCATE OF BELIEVERS ONLY
"I write unto you that ye avoid sin. Yet if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is a propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."—#1Jo 2:1,2.
In the past we have not been sufficiently discriminating in our study of the Word. Failing to notice that the salvation of the elect Church is a matter separate and distinct from the world’s salvation, we have applied the various Scriptures dealing with sin and its forgiveness in a loose manner, which has failed to bring us clear-cut views on the subject. For instance, with the gradual opening of the eyes of our understanding we note in our text the declaration that our Lord’s sacrifice is a propitiation, satisfaction for our sins, the Church’s sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
We perceive that in this text the Lord sharply differentiates between the Church and the world, between our salvation and the world’s salvation.
True, at one time there was no difference, for we were all "children of wrath even as others" still are; but we who have heard the voice of the Heavenly Father speaking peace through Jesus Christ, we who have accepted that Message, we who have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, are no longer of the world, but, from God’s standpoint, constitute a separate and distinct class, a small minority, "a little flock." The Scriptures tell us that we are called, chosen, separated from the world.
Our Master’s words are, "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you."
OUR ADVOCATE, THE WORLD’S MEDIATOR
At another time we hope to take up the subject of Christ the Mediator, and to then show that it will be during the Millennial Age that Christ will act as Mediator between God and man: that as He has already laid the foundation for the great work of reconciling the world unto the Father through the sacrifice of Himself, he will during the Millennial Age complete that work by reconciling the world to the Father—as many of the world under favorable opportunities will be glad to come to a knowledge of the Divine character and plan and to obedience to the Divine requirements. The Scriptures properly enough speak of our Lord Jesus as already the Mediator, from the standpoint that He has already been honored by the Father and indicated as the One who shall perform that great work of mediation—the One who must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet, and caused every knee to bow and every tongue to confess to the glory of God the Father. (#1Co 15:25; #Php 2:9-11.) The time for doing this work, however—the time for exercising His power as the Mediator and putting all things into subjection—is still future.
Just now we wish to emphasize the thought that our Lord Jesus is not the Church’s Mediator before the Father, but the Church’s Advocate. There is a sharp distinction to be drawn between the two thoughts. A mediator implies a hostility between two principals, requiring the intervention of a third party; and this is not the case with the Church. We are not rebels. We are not alienated from God, but now through faith in the blood we are children of God, and our Redeemer assures us, "The Father Himself loveth you." (#Joh 16:27.) Even before the time came in the Lord’s plan when the Kingdom would be established, the rebels subdued, we were glad to hear the Father’s voice speaking peace through Jesus Christ, and we came to Him. Surely, then, there is no need of a Mediator between the Father who loves His
children and the children who love their Father. However, the basis of our acceptance with the Father was our hearty renunciation of sin and our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus as covering our blemishes and condemnation of the past, and our acceptance of the Father in Christ was on condition that we would henceforth walk in His steps—not after the flesh but after the Spirit, as set forth in the perfect Law of Liberty, the Law of Love to God and man.
It may be asked then, If we are children of God and the Father Himself loveth us and has accepted us in Christ through the merit of His atoning blood, why should we need an Advocate with the Father? We reply that the Father’s requirement that our hearts be perfect in love to Him and to all is beyond our ability—not beyond our desires, our endeavors, our intentions, but beyond our accomplishment, because we have the treasure of the new mind in earthen vessels—in imperfect bodies, born in sin, shapen in iniquity, on account of which the Apostle says, "We can not do the things that we would." (#Ga 5:17.) This constitutes our need of an Advocate with the Father; otherwise we should lose the standing already granted to us through faith.
"FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES"
This brings up the subject of forgiveness of sins.
Some are inclined to say: If our sins were forgiven once why should we repeat the matter at the Throne of Grace?
Why should we continue to acknowledge ourselves sinners when the Word of the Lord assures us that our sins and iniquities are covered from His sight, that we are justified freely by His grace from all sin? There is a measure of correctness in this argument, but in other respects it is incorrect. So far as the original sin is concerned—our share in the Adamic condemnation that passed upon all men—the Scriptures assure us that we have escaped the condemnation which is on the world.—#Ro 8:1-4.
To whatever extent, therefore, we believe the testimony
of the Lord’s Word that our sins are covered, that we are escaped from that condemnation, it would not be proper for us to reiterate to the Lord prayers for forgiveness of our share in original sin. That is all past and gone, and the proper attitude of faith in God’s assurance forbids that we should repeat requests along that line. However, it would always be proper for us to acknowledge the Lord’s goodness in having forgiven us for our share of original sin, and to thank Him for having lifted our feet out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay of sin and its condemnation, for having placed our feet upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, and having put in our mouths the new song of rejoicing, thanksgiving and praise, which is our privilege and our joy since we have passed from condemnation to justification, from being children of wrath to joint-heirship with Jesus our Lord.
There are more sins than our original sin. These in the Lord’s prayer are designated trespasses; and these should be considered, should be mentioned at the Throne of Grace daily. As New Creatures we have entered into a covenant with the Lord to walk in Jesus’ steps in the narrow way, according to the Law of Love. And we all find continually that, however sincere and loyal our hearts are to the principles of righteousness and love, we come short of the perfect standard because of weaknesses, blemishes and imperfections of the flesh. These trespasses against the Law of Love should be mentioned at the Throne of grace. It is to these that the Apostle is referring in our text. In the preceding context he is directing us how we should maintain fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, that, so far from our imperfections separating us again from the Father and from the Son, our joy may be full, our fellowship complete. He tells us that as New Creatures we must walk in the light according to the new nature, according to truth, according to righteousness: we must not walk in sin, in darkness, according to the fallen human nature.
But since we have the treasure of the new mind in a blemished earthen vessel, since our spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness must be worn continually, and thus be brought in contact with the world, the Apostle intimates that it would be impossible for us to preserve it without spot or wrinkle. Nevertheless our wedding-robe must be without spot or wrinkle if we would be acceptable at the end of the age as members of the Heavenly Bride at the Marriage Feast. How then shall we do? What must be our course in view of these apparently contradictory conditions? The Apostle explains that the blood of Christ not only met first the obligations of the past, satisfying, setting aside the condemnation which was against us as members of Adam’s race—but that the same merit of the same sacrifice of Christ may be used for the cleansing of every spot, every imperfection, every blemish. He says, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us [keeps cleansing us] from all sin."
(#1Jo 1:7.) Thus and thus only can the Lord’s children in the present time continue to abide in fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and be prepared for the glorious change of the First Resurrection.
"IF WE DECEIVE OURSELVES"
The Apostle, surmising that some would claim that they had reached perfection and that their daily life was perfect, puts in a warning word, saying, "If we say that we have no sin [that we are free from any breaches of the perfect Law of Love toward God and man] we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." We make God a liar, and indicate that His Word is not in us—that we have not properly studied or understood His Word.
There is no more serious condition for the Lord’s people to get into than to imagine that they are perfect in the flesh. It implies that they are blind to many of their own failings. We may be sure that their neighbors and friends and kindred can discern blemishes in them, and that much more the Heavenly Father discerns, as He declares in His
Word that they come short of glorifying Him—that they come short of the full glory of perfection which the perfect Law of Love demands.—#1Jo 1:8-10.
While, therefore, faith in the Lord and a knowledge of His Word shows us clearly that we are purged from our old sins, that from the Divine standpoint these are all covered for the Household of Faith by the robe of Christ’s imputed righteousness, we see on the contrary that daily imperfections crop out, notwithstanding our best endeavors to walk as nearly up to the standard of the Divine Law as possible—we see that we can not do the things that we would.
More than this, as year by year we grow in grace and knowledge and love we see ourselves more clearly, so that after making progress in the Christian way for years, the best of the Lord’s people will see more of their own blemishes than they noted in the beginning of their Christian experience. They daily see more clearly than before the lengths, breadths, heights and depths of the Divine Character and of the Divine Law; and as they look into the perfect Law of Liberty they discern more clearly day by day, and behold as in a mirror their own natural imperfections and shortcomings. Such would be completely discouraged did they not realize the significance of the Apostle’s words in our context. He says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The Apostle, we see, is not referring to the question of mortal sin again, and the applying for a new robe of Christ’s righteousness. All that was done in the past.
That robe is now ours, and must never be laid off if we would abide in Divine favor. But our robe must be spotless, and hence the gracious provision of the Father through the Son that the blood of Christ may upon our application be applied to cleanse us from all sins, even the slighter ones. Thus has the Lord provided that we may keep our garments unspotted from the world by
making use of this privilege granted us of coming with courage to the Throne of Heavenly Grace that we may obtain mercy (in respect to our shortcomings or trespasses) and find grace to help in time of need.—#Heb 4:16.
Nothing in this, properly understood, suggests any carelessness on the part of those who would keep their garments unspotted from the world. Imbued with the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, with a love for righteousness, they are, as the Apostle suggests, to "hate even the garment spotted with the flesh" (Jude 23), and strive continually and with growing persistency and carefulness to avoid such blemishes and the necessity for confessing trespasses. But although this necessity grows less and less as we grow stronger and stronger in the Lord and in the power of His might, nevertheless, so long as the New Creature must operate through the earthen vessel, we must not feel discouraged with our best endeavors for righteousness, but the more earnestly wait for and hope for the glorious resurrection change, in which we shall receive glorious spirit bodies, which our Lord has promised to the faithful—perfect in every particular.
Thenceforth we shall know no sin, and need no further to confess trespasses; for that which is perfect shall have come, and the new mind, the New Creature, thenceforth will be able to express its high and glorious sentiments of obedience to righteousness perfectly.
"THEY WASH THEIR ROBES"
The Lord brings to our attention the fact that there will be two classes saved during this Gospel Age, as well as another class that will be saved during the Millennial Age. All saved during this age are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, "justified through faith in His blood."
(#Ro 5:9.) But the classes saved during this Gospel Age do more than believe, do more than repent, do more than seek to live righteously. Both classes make a covenant with the Lord to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Both classes receive the white robe of justification as a
result of such faith and consecration. One of these classes we have already referred to—the class which seeks to live up to its consecration daily, hourly, and which keeps its garments unspotted from the world, "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing." This class in the Scriptures is designated a "little flock."
The other class is designated the Great Company.
Concerning the latter company note the statement, "These are they who come out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (#Re 7:14.) This class, failing to keep their robes unspotted, failing to go to the Lord in prayer with every discovery of trespass, get their robes sadly bedraggled through contact with the world. They were vexed with the first spot, and with the second, and so on, but gradually they became more careless and less and less appreciative of the absolute spotlessness of the robe. For this reason they will not be accounted worthy of the high honor which the Lord proposes to give to the "little flock." But before they can obtain any honor or any place in the everlasting Kingdom it will be necessary that they should pass through fiery experiences, disciplines, for their correction, for their purification. In some parts of the Scriptures this trial is referred to as the "fiery trial which shall try you." (#1Pe 4:12.) Its primary reference is to a great tribulation in the end of this Age, through which all except the Little Flock may be expected to pass.—#Lu 21:36.
In this tribulation time there will be a general cleansing, a general turning to the Lord on the part of these consecrated ones and an acceptance by the Lord; for we read that they shall come up out of the great tribulation and be granted palm branches, and be permitted to serve the Lord in His Temple before His Throne. We notice, however, that the Little Flock, who keep their garments unspotted by daily, hourly, applying for their share of the precious blood for this purpose—these receive the higher
honor; and instead of being before the Throne are in the Throne as the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife. Instead of having palm branches, representing victory, they have crowns, which represent victory on a higher, grander plane, approving them as "more than conquerors" through Him who loved them and bought them with His precious blood.—#Ro 8:37.
In other words, the Great Company mentioned here are chastened through tribulations to the point of the abjuration of sins and the cleansing of the robe, and attain to the spiritual nature and will be highly honored servants of the Lord during the Millennial Reign, while the Little Flock will be joint-heirs with their Lord in that Kingdom. The two classes are represented to us in Psalm 45.
The Little Flock is the Bride, all glorious with raiment of fine needlework and gold, representing the embroidery of the fruits of the Spirit and the gold of the Divine nature, while the Great Company are represented by a larger company—"the virgins, her companions, that do follow her" into the King’s presence.
The little flock in this symbolization of Revelation are pictured as 144,000, 12,000 out of each tribe of Israel.
Natural Israel, as we have previously seen, was a typical people. The real Israel of God is Spiritual Israel. The promises and opportunities, however, went first to Natural Israel; and as many out of all the tribes who were of right condition of heart and received the Master were granted the liberty to become members of the House of Sons. (#Joh 1:12.) The remainder of that nation were cast off from participation in the chiefest blessing—to subsequently have an opportunity in the Millennial Age of attaining to an inferior blessing. Their casting off left vacancies in the appointed numbers of the twelve tribes; and it is to those vacancies that the Lord during this Gospel Age has been inviting those who have an ear to hear the Truth and who have earnest desires of accepting it. Many more will be called than will be chosen to this
place. The world in general is not called, but only those who have an ear to hear. The Great Company, although called, failing to respond with full appreciation, fail to secure membership in this Spiritual Israel class, the Little Flock. Yet, as we have seen, they will come through much tribulation and disciplines of the Lord to a grand position, but far inferior to that of the "Very Elect."
"WE HAVE AN ADVOCATE"
The world has no advocate with the Father, but "we have." The consecrated Household of Faith is represented in Heaven itself by Him who redeemed the whole world.
After our Lord had finished His sacrifice at Calvary, been raised from the dead on the third day, spent forty days with the disciples, establishing them and preparing them for the work before them, He then ascended up on High, there to appear in the presence of God on our behalf, as today’s text declares, to be our Advocate. (#Heb 9:24.)
The figure is a peculiar one. An advocate, an attorney, appears to answer for his client, not to answer for others; and so, although our Lord has laid down the Ransom-price for the sins of the whole world, or, as today’s text says, is a Propitiation for the sins of the whole world, nevertheless He did not appear for the whole world. The world has not retained Him as an Advocate. Only believers have come into this relationship, and consequently only for these does He appear, only for these has He made satisfaction. Only these, therefore, have been brought into covenant relationship with the Father, as the Scriptures indicate.
The same Jesus, on the basis of the same Sin-offering finished at Calvary, will in the next Age take up the cause of the world—not as an Advocate, not as appearing before the Father for them and having them justified through faith, but as a Mediator between God and man.
God stands for His own Justice. Mankind in general, the world, are in more or less of a rebellious attitude, lovers of sin, blind to their true interests. The Mediator undertakes
a work on their behalf, to bring in reconciliation between God and these His rebellious subjects, and to recover the latter by opening the eyes of their understanding, by giving them valuable lessons and experiences respecting the blessings of righteousness and the undesirableness of sin, and thus to bring back as many as possible to fellowship with the Father, and to restore them mentally, morally and physically to the original likeness of God. By the end of that Millennial Age the Mediator will be ready to introduce the perfect members of the race to the Father, blameless and irreprovable; for all those rejecting His ministries of reconciliation will have been cut off in the Second Death. Thenceforth there will be no more sorrow, pain, sighing, crying, dying, because all the former things will have passed away. The Mediator will have effected His grand work of destroying sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness.