That Ye Sin Not
1 John 2:1
(1) 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:
In the above passage of Scripture, John begins with the phrase: “My little children…” In the Greek, the noun teknia (i.e., little children) is placed first, indicating stress. This can be interpreted as an endearing statement; it is as if John is saying: “My dear little children.” A similar sentence structure is found in 1 Peter 2:11 when the Bible says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” What is significant is that in both scriptures, an endearing exhortation is made before discussing the matter of sin and the old nature.
This reveals two critical truths about God’s character:
- God cares deeply about our personal lives, including the most minute things we don’t think about.
- God cares about us enough to caution us strongly against sin. After all, we are God’s children. What kind of father, especially a Heavenly Father, would let us indulge in that which is blatantly deadly and destructive?
Thus, it is exceptionally clear why the Bible says in 1 John 2:1: “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not.” Now, let’s take a look at the next part of the verse:
“And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
In the Greek, the word “advocate” means a comforter or a counselor. Jesus is certainly both a counselor and a comforter. In fact, Isaiah calls Him “the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6),” and Jesus himself refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter (John 14:26).” However, in our text, John calls Jesus our advocate.
According to Webster’s, an advocate is one who pleads the cause of another in a court of civil law. The image created in 1 John 2:1, then, is that Jesus pleads our case before the Father when we sin. As such, God forgives us of our sin based on Jesus’ righteousness and his shed blood on the Cross (see 1 John 1:7). What a blessing!
However, God’s forgiveness is not the primary point the author would like to stress in this article; the author would like to focus on the statement made at the beginning of our text: “that ye sin not.” This statement simply means that we are not supposed to continue in a lifestyle of sin as saved, born again Christians. Obviously, we will not be sinless; if that was the case, then the Bible would not have mentioned the fact that we have an advocate with the Father, which is Jesus Christ. Rather, the Bible is saying that we should sin less out of genuine love for the Savior and out of a reverential fear of God. Consider the following verses:
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Psalm 4:4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
These verses make it clear that we are not to be under the dominion and power of sin as Christians. We are to keep God’s commandments faithfully. Let’s take a look at verse number three of our text.
(3) And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Here, the Bible states that we can know that we know Christ (in other words, know that we are saved) if we keep God’s commandments. But what does it really mean to keep God’s commandments?
The Greek word for the English “keep” means to watch, guard, hold fast, keep, or preserve. The Strong’s Greek Dictionary mentions that this word has military overtones, similar to when troops form into a line and stand up against the enemy. Thus, when God says to keep his commandments, it means to not only obey them but guard them and bind them to our hearts. This assertion is supported in Proverbs:
(20) My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
(21) Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
The word bind simply means to tie or to knit; we should continually tie the commandments of God around our heart (our emotions, will, and intellect). Why would God command us to do this? The answer lies within the next verse.
(22) When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
When we guard, obey, preserve, and keep the commandments, precepts, and principles of God in our heart, God’s Word will lead us, guide us, and keep us in the way that we should go. Consider the blessed promise that God makes in Psalms:
Psalms 25:12 What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
When we keep God’s commandments, we show God that we have a reverential fear of Him. God promises that when we fear him, He will teach us His way. In order for us as Christians to have appropriate direction in our lives, we must learn to keep God’s commandments and follow them faithfully. When we do this, we will know God’s specific will for our lives, but more importantly, we will not continually live in sin. May God bless you as you desire in your heart to “sin not” and follow God all the days of your life.