Sermon from the First Epistle of John | Atonement | 1 John 2:1-2

Atonement (1 John 2:1-2)

Several years ago, Tammy and I had an argument a week or so before Valentine’s Day. I don’t mean that we simply had words; we fought. We didn’t speak to each other for days, and we tried not to be in the same room with each other. I don’t remember what we fought over, but I can in all seriousness guarantee you that I was to blame and that I was in the wrong.

Since Valentine’s Day was upon us, I used ProFlowers to send Tammy a dozen roses and a box of chocolates. Tammy’s surprise couldn’t be delivered on Valentine’s Day because we’d had a massive snowstorm, but when those flowers were delivered, there was a little thawing in our relationship and we were soon back to normal.

Have you ever been in a comparable situation? Maybe your parents were angry with you, and you tried to be extra good—maybe you even brought home a test or essay from school with a good grade on it. Perhaps you husbands have gone out and bought flowers or candy when you have angered your wife. Ladies, did you ever fix your husband’s favorite meal or hand over the remote when you had angered him?

God gets angry, too: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). Because of God’s wrath toward man’s sin, a chasm exists between God and man: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Is 59:2). However, all is not lost, for “Jesus is the propitiation for all sin.” As the propitiation for all sin, Jesus removes God’s wrath for those in Christ.

Scripture (1 John 2:1-2)

verse 1:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

John had just written that God is perfectly holy, but every mortal struggles with sin; further, he has written that if a Christian seeks to live as God does and confesses his sins, God will cleanse him from all unrighteousness.

John wrote all of that so that his readers “may not sin.” The tense of that word “sin” points to a single act; John wanted his readers to avoid a single solitary sin.

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Knowing that his readers would sin, John wanted to keep them from despair; when they sinned—even one single time—they had an advocate with the Father. The word “advocate” really means something like “defense attorney” or “counselor,” this was someone who would plead your case in court. Jesus, before the Father, defends the Christian from God’s wrath.

He is the perfect advocate, for he is righteous. The Greek here is really “Jesus Christ, the righteous One.” Thus, Jesus is able to stand in God’s presence and plead the Christian’s case, for he is perfectly righteous.

verse 2:

“He is the propitiation for our sins.”

Some translations water down the Greek a little bit and render this as “atoning sacrifice.” Understand that a “propitiation” is an atonement, but it is more than that; “propitiation” (which is the word John used) fully means “that which appeases the wrath of a deity.” “Propitiation” reminds us that God is wrathful toward sinners, and Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for that wrath.

“And not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Anyone who wishes may claim Jesus as the propitiation for his or her sins. Since John wrote in the first chapter of this epistle about the conditional nature of God’s forgiveness, he obviously didn’t mean that Jesus removes God’s wrath from everyone. Rather, Jesus removes God’s wrath for those in Christ, and anyone who wishes may come to Jesus, the propitiation for sin.


Jesus is the propitiation for all sin.” Since Jesus laid down his life for you, you should desire to lay down your life for him. Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27). People died on crosses, and the idea is that you lay down your life for him. In other words, to be Jesus’s disciple, you must give up your hopes and your dreams and your ambitions and your desires and live for his hopes and his dreams and his ambitions and his desires. This morning’s text tells us a little bit about what that life in Christ should resemble because “Jesus is the propitiation for all sin.” What should your life resemble?

Your life should resemble A Sinless Life.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 Jn 2:1). As we’ve already mentioned, “may not sin” means “may not sin a single time.” I fear that too many Christians don’t see sin as all that big a deal; if they sin, they simply pray for forgiveness and go on.

John viewed sin differently. Because Jesus bled and died, one single solitary sin is too much. You cannot view sin lightly; instead, you must commit yourself to living A Sinless Life. Sure, you will sin, but that cannot change your determination to keep sin away from you.

You are in Christ, and you are, therefore, different than the world. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom 6:6). “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (1 Jn 3:6). When you were baptized into Christ, you gave up yourself, and you were clothed with Christ. Jesus died for you; live A Sinless Life.

Your life should also resemble A Suing Life.

While a sinless life must be your aim, you are going to sin; therefore, you need A Suing Life, a life where you sue, you beg, and you plead for Jesus to intercede for you. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1).

When you commit any sin, you must fall on your face before God and sue his Son Jesus Christ for forgiveness. When Simon the sorcerer fell back into sin after being clothed with Christ, Peter told him, “Repent . . . of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). “Let us . . . with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).

When you sin, make going to God’s throne your first stop. Plead with the Father and with Jesus, your propitiation, to remove the guilt of your sin; live A Suing Life.

Your life should also resemble A Sharing Life.

As your strive to live without sinning and as you seek God’s forgiveness, you must also live A Sharing Life, a life where you share Jesus’s saving message with others. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2). Why are you so special that you should have access to God’s grace through Jesus, while your friends and family and neighbors walk the road to eternal damnation?

Obviously, people choose whether or not they wish to claim Jesus’s propitiation for their sins. In the first chapter of First John, the apostle twice talked about being forgiven of sin, and both times he made that forgiveness conditional. If someone chooses not to meet the conditions for forgiveness, he won’t have forgiveness.

However, you have an obligation to share the Gospel with everyone you possibly can. “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). When persecution arose in Jerusalem after Stephen’s death, every Christian—except the apostles—fled; those fleeing Christians lived A Sharing Life: “Those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Since Jesus died for everyone, isn’t it time we share his message with everyone? Whom will you tell this week?


You’ve heard Jesus’s message; in fact, all of you here have responded to that message. What type of life are your living this morning? Do you need to come this morning and claim a new life in Jesus Christ the righteous?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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