By Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin
If we sin, do we lose our salvation? If we are truly saved, will we ever sin? And if we do sin, what should we do to get rid of the guilt and the grief that hang heavy in our heart?
The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9–10; 2:1–2).
The word “advocate” means lawyer or one who pleads our cause or case. Jesus acts as our lawyer, pleading our case before the Father. When we are tempted, if we sin, we can claim the promise of First John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
After verse 10, the Apostle John went on to say, “My little children . . .” (1 John 2:1). Man put the divisions between these chapters; John did not write in chapter and verse like this. Therefore, reading the four verses of our text in sequence, we can see that John was not writing to sinners; he was writing to Christians.
First John 1:9 is often quoted to sinners, telling them to confess their sins. God didn’t tell them to. It would be impossible for a sinner to confess every wrong he had ever done, because his whole life is wrong! No, this verse was written to Christians.
John writes, “My little children [because they were saved under his ministry and were his spiritual children], these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
This brings us to a very sensitive subject in the Church world. When you teach about God’s grace and forgiveness, someone always believes you are giving people a license to sin.
Jesus Pleads Our CaseI always say, however, that people do enough sinning without a license! It is quite obvious that God does not want us to sin: “. . . these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1). It is quite obvious that if we walked completely in the Word and in love, we wouldn’t sin. But it is also obvious that none of us has achieved this yet.
Considering the other side of the issue, when people continually want to sin and choose to sin, I doubt that they ever were Christians to begin with. Why? When people live any way they want and do anything they want—cheat, lie, steal, and so forth—I doubt that a true Christian conversion ever took place.
Some have said to me, “It doesn’t make any difference what I do. Christ is my advocate.” One man said, “I might steal something next week. I’m not planning to do it, but if I do, Jesus already has forgiven me for it.” I doubt seriously if a man like that is even saved.
This scripture in First John never was intended to encourage people to sin. John is simply telling us about God’s provision for sin. The Spirit of God will help us overcome sin—not encourage us to practice it! After all, John said, “These things write I unto you, that you sin not.”
In the first place, if a person is born again—if he has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior—he doesn’t want to do wrong. But often the devil tempts him through his flesh and overcomes him because he is not strong spiritually.
Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
If it were just a fault Paul was talking about, we all would need restoring, and there wouldn’t be any spiritual people left to do the restoring. We all have faults. The Greek actually says, “If any man among you be overtaken in an offense, or sin, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness.”
God wants His people to be restored to full fellowship with Him. If they want to be restored, it is our obligation to restore them in a spirit of meekness, not arrogance. Why? “. . . considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). It is a different matter, however, when people do not want to be restored.
When it comes to healing, James 5:14–15 says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” We see here the possibility of sin in conjunction with sickness, and of forgiveness in connection with healing.
By way of illustration, if a man speaks sharply to his wife, he is not eternally lost because of it. He is, however, out of fellowship with her! He needs to get back in fellowship with her by apologizing and asking her forgiveness.
Well, First John 2:1 says, “. . . if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If we sin, we lose our sense of righteousness and cannot enter God’s presence. Righteousness means right-standing with God. Righteousness means the ability to stand in the presence of God without any inferiority complex, without a consciousness of sin.
If you have sinned or failed, you cannot stand in the presence of God without a consciousness of sin. But there is One Who can go in on your behalf—Jesus Christ, the Righteous. He is the propitiation—the substitute—for our sins; and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1–2).
As our advocate, Jesus restores to us our lost sense of righteousness, for He said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . .” (1 John 1:9). But He does more than just forgive us of our sins; He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He cleanses us from that sin-consciousness or spiritual inferiority complex that would keep us from going into God’s presence.
There are those who live under a cloud of fear. They say things such as, “I am so afraid of displeasing the Lord. If Jesus comes, I might not make it. I don’t know if I am ready or not.” And they are robbed of their joy in Christ. They are afraid that God is mad at them and will not have anything to do with them.
We do not have to live under such a cloud of fear and gloominess. We can know that if we have failed—if we are Christians—our hearts will be grieved about it. If we can keep sinning and failing, however, and are not grieved about it, we had better check up on our conversion experience. If we have been born again and have the life and nature of God in us, we don’t want to do wrong.
Many times new Christians miss God’s will and sin in ways they are not even aware of, but they are walking in the light they have. The Apostle John said, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
As I look back now, after nearly 70 years of being a Christian, I can see that I missed God many times when I didn’t even know it. At the time, I walked in what light I had, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleansed me from things I didn’t know about.
I can remember the first time I became conscious of having done wrong after I became a Christian. It nearly broke my heart.
If a believer is tempted and Satan gains mastery over him in something, when the believer cries out for mercy, he can hear Christ whisper, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
And then we also can hear Him say in these marvelous words from Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace.” Why? “. . . That we may obtain mercy . . . .” It is mercy that we need when we have sinned. As long as we are doing right, we can get by on justice.
In Hebrews 4:14 we read, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest . . . .” We have a High Priest Who also stands in this office of Advocate, that we may “. . . come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16).
Grace is unmerited favor. When you fail is the time you need grace; that’s when you need mercy.
Once while driving through a small town, a minister friend of mine accidentally drove through a stoplight. Before he knew it, there was a flashing red light behind him and the shrill sound of a siren. A policeman pulled him over and gave him a ticket for running a red light and for going 45 in a 30-mph zone.
When the minister appeared in court, his case was stated and the judge asked if he had anything to say.
He answered, “Yes, I do.” He said that he had been on his way to preach and explained that he ministered in small country churches. Then he said, “Judge, I don’t have a dime. I’ll just have to go to jail or work it out on the county farm. I’m not going to ask you for justice. I would be in trouble if I got justice, because I’m guilty. So I am asking instead for mercy.”
He continued, “I’m like the woman in the Bible who was taken in the act of adultery. Her accusers brought her to Jesus, and He said, ‘. . . He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ [John 8:7]. Jesus stooped down to write something in the sand, and when He looked up, everyone was gone.
“‘When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10–11).
The preacher added, “I’m asking for mercy, and I’ll go and sin no more.”
The judge asked, “Is that story in the Bible?”
“Yes,” the preacher answered.
The judge said, “I wish you would show it to me.” The preacher had his New Testament with him, so he turned to that passage and showed it to the judge.
The judge said, “I teach a Sunday school class in a local church, but I didn’t know that was in there. I’m going to teach on that. Case dismissed!”
The judge showed mercy. If the preacher hadn’t been speeding and hadn’t run that light, he could have gotten by on justice; he wouldn’t have needed mercy. But he broke the law and, therefore, needed mercy.
Mercy and grace are always available to us if we break God’s law. All we need to do is call on Christ our Advocate!