1 John 2:1-2 (Christ Examination)

Dear Church Family,

In our continuing study of 1 John, in our previous installment, we saw how the main emphasis of the first section of the main body of this letter (1 John 1:5-2:6) is sanctification – how to cease from sinning and to grow in obedience to God’s Law. In the center of this section, John says: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). In our pursuit of holiness, we noted how the Apostle John called us to first examine ourselves. And, when believers examine themselves, they will find that they are “in the Light” (in knowledge and holiness, 1 John 1:5-7); simultaneously, when believers examine themselves, they will also find that “sin is in them” (1 John 1:8-10).

So, self-examination is a biblical and practical aspect of sanctification; however, if it was the only aspect then the church would just be a bunch of navel-gazing, depressed people. That’s why it’s important that we move on to the next part: Christ-examination.

Christ Examination (1 John 2:1-2)

While God’s Word calls us to examine ourselves, it never leaves us there; we are always admonished to ultimately look to Christ, our perfect Savior:

2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Just as we learned two things about ourselves in our self-examination, here we learn two things about Jesus, the Son of God, in our Christ-examination.

(1) Christ is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2)

First, from verse 2, He Himself is the propitiation (or, as the NIV puts it, “atoning sacrifice”) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Now, the word “propitiation” has fallen out of use, but we must rescue the word and the idea of propitiation. This is one of the ‘great words’ of the Bible that we need to understand and hang on to: “The basic meaning of propitiation is ‘to appease’ or ‘to satisfy.’ Propitiation is God-ward, for it is God, not man, who needs to be propitiated. Biblically speaking, propitiation is the appeasing of the wrath of God and the satisfying of His holy, righteous demands against sin” (Jack Arnold, Great Words (2008), 103).

The point here is that God the Father is rightfully angry with sin. He is justly displeased with your and my sin – and the sins of the whole world. Yet, when you examine Christ – your Messiah – you will see that God’s righteous and holy wrath was appeased – Jesus propitiated the wrath of God, and gained for us, God’s favor and good will.

And not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world. In other words, we cannot rest content, knowing that we have been saved – we must spread the news to the whole world: Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God. As John the Baptist proclaimed – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” So, Christian, when you examine your Christ, you will find that He is “the propitiation” – that’s verse 2. He appeased God’s holy wrath.

(2) Christ, our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

In verse 1, you will also find that Jesus Christ is your Advocate with the Father. Now, most of us know that an advocate is one who pleads your case for you. So, Jesus is your Advocate – the righteous and Holy One of God who pleads a case for you before the Father. He intercedes for you. But, unlike most human advocates, Jesus doesn’t plead your case before the heavenly Father – God forbid! How would that be if Jesus were to stand before the Holy Judge of Heaven and say, “Give him justice! Give him what he has earned! Give him what he deserves.” If that were Jesus’ case, we would all be cast into hell.

Instead, Jesus pleads His case before the Father. And, Jesus’ case is simple. Jesus says, “Holy Father, I am righteous. I have propitiated and appeased your wrath. I plead My case, not based on the merits of the defendant, but upon My merits, the Advocate.”

This wonderful aspect of Jesus’ intercessory ministry is beautifully described in one of my favorite hymns by Charles Wesley…

Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;
the bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears:
before the throne my Surety stands,
before the throne my Surety stands,
my name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede,
his all-redeeming love, his precious blood to plead;
his blood atoned for every race,
his blood atoned for every race,
and sprinkles now the throne of grace.

By the way, the word in 1 John 2:1 which is translated as “Advocate” is from the Greek word, “parakletos.” It’s the same word that Jesus uses in the Gospel of John to describe the Holy Spirit. Jesus says – “The Father will give you another Helper” – another Advocate, another parakletos. You see – Jesus, Himself is your primary Advocate in Heaven, and yet you also have the added blessing of another Advocate who lives within you, the Holy Spirit.


So, after doing some self-examination, remember to do some Christ-examination. Examine Christ and know that He is “the propitiation” – the One who appeased the wrath of God. And, Examine Christ and know that He is your Advocate – the One who pleads His case and His merits on your behalf before the throne of God the Father, the holy Judge.

The Lord be with you!

– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch