A couple of years ago I sat in a courtroom as a member of a jury serving a criminal case. On that day there were two lawyers in that courtroom serving as advocates — one as a defender of the man accused of a crime, and the other serving as both defender of the victim of the crime and the prosecutor of the accused.
After the prosecutor made his case, the defense attorney offered no rebuttal or defense, essentially agreeing to the accusation. So as the trial moved to the sentencing portion, the defense attorney began calling character witnesses for the defendant. One after one they lauded the character of the man they thought they knew, and on each occasion the prosecutor rebutted their testimonies with a question like this: “Would you say that a man convicted of the crime of sexual assault of a minor is a good man?” And each and every person would then hang his/her head and admit, “No.” They could not assert the innocence of their friend. He was not innocent. He was guilty. And he had no defense.
That is also the case of every believer. We also, though being redeemed from the penalty and power of sin, still sin because we still are fleshly. Though new creatures, we still have the vestiges of the old man hanging on our backs, and so we will still sin until the day we are finally redeemed (Rom. 8:30).
But John reminds us of our hope when he writes, “And if [when] anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1b).
There are a number wonderful truths to note about Christ’s advocacy of believers from this verse:
- He is Jesus — a man, the Man, who can stand in the place of other men.
- He is Christ — fully God who can absorb an infinite wrath from God.
- He is our Advocate — to the accusations of Satan (Rev. 12:10), He says something like this to the Father, “Yes, that is sin, but I have atoned for that sin. I paid your infinite penalty for that sin, and My perfect righteousness has been applied to that person. Not only should you not condemn him, you cannot, because I took that wrath.”
- We have Him as our Advocate — that is, He is ever and always serving as our defender. He does not have to make further sacrifice for our sins (that’s the point of Heb. 7:24-25; 10:1ff), but having paid once for the removal of our sin, He constantly stands interceding for us.
- He is righteous — like God who has no darkness in Him (1:5), Christ is perfectly righteous (2:29; 3:7). And as the righteous God-Man Christ has perfectly fulfilled what God requires of all men.
- He is with the Father — He has unprecedented access to God that no one else has (1:2). He is and has always been with the Father in full and complete fellowship. So there is no chance that what he urges in the presence of God will be rejected. He has held up the standard of righteousness and is one with the Father. He is an unbeatable advocate.
But there is one other item about the advocacy of Christ that is not explicit in this passage.
John is the only NT writer to use this word “Advocate” and the only other time he uses it is in his Gospel (generally translated “helper”) —
- “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever…” (14:16)
- “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (14:26)
- “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me…” (15:26)
- “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (16:7)
What did you notice about all those verses? Yes, they are spoken by Christ, about the Holy Spirit. So in those passages Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate. And John says Jesus is our Advocate. So who is our Advocate? Christ is. And so is the Holy Spirit.
John Stott summarizes this amazing dual-provision for the believer this way:
If we have an advocate in heaven, Christ has an advocate on earth. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s Paraklete, as the Lord Jesus is ours. But whereas the Holy Spirit pleads Christ’s cause before a hostile world, Christ pleases our cause against our ‘accuser’ (Rev. xii. 10) and with the Father, who loves and forgives His children. [Epistles of John]
If you are a believer in Christ, you have the Advocate, Jesus Christ standing before God’s throne defending you against the hellish attacks of Satan. You don’t defend yourself because you cannot defend yourself. You are guilty. You have sinned, you do sin, and you will sin. But the righteous blood of the righteous Christ has cleansed you of your sin and that Christ now defends you on the basis of what He has done for you.
And if you are a believer in Christ, you have the further advocacy of the Spirit of God working within you, teaching you, testifying about Christ to you, exhorting and comforting you, and helping you.
The man who was on trial in the courtroom two summers ago had no chance before judge and jury because of His guilt. The believer in Christ — though similarly guilty — has infinite grace and complete security before the divine Judge because of the advocating work of Christ and the Holy Spirit.