Our Righteous Advocate
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1).- 1 John 2:1–2
The topic of Christ’s ascension in question and answer 46 of the Heidelberg Catechism prompted the discussion of the hypostatic union in questions and answers 47 and 48. Question and answer 49 refer again to the ascension of Jesus, outlining the benefits of our Lord’s ascent to heaven after His resurrection.
Turning to 1 John 2:1, the catechism says that the ascension established Christ as our Advocate. In the ancient world, the advocate was like a modern defense attorney who pleads a defendant’s case before a judge. When John calls Jesus “our Advocate,” he means that our Savior stands before the Father to plead our case. Yet Jesus’ work as our Advocate goes far above and beyond the work of an earthly defense attorney, for His case for us is grounded in the work He has done to secure God’s favorable verdict (Rom. 8:1–4). For those who are in Christ, God is no longer the Judge who condemns us but the Father who adopts us into His family. We are guilty of sin and unable to meet the Lord’s demands, but the perfect righteousness of Jesus, imputed to us in our justification, sets us right with God. Matthew Henry writes: “The clients are guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded. It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.”
God no longer condemns believers, for Christ has satisfied His Father’s just demands. This is clear in 1 John 2:2, which describes the foundation for Jesus’ work as our Advocate. He is the “propitiation” for us, the one who endured the wrath we deserve so that divine justice is fulfilled, not set aside. Christ is the propitiation for “the whole world,” not because He made atonement for every sinner, but because He redeemed not only Jews but people from all parts of the world. The Father accepts no atonement from anyone except the death of His only begotten Son. Thus, Jesus is the world’s Savior.
Jesus’ priestly work as our Advocate, 1 John 2:1 explains, involves our ongoing sanctification and our once-for-all justification. When we first trust Jesus, His righteousness is imputed to us, giving us a righteous status that cannot be lost (Rom. 5:9; 8:30). Yet even though there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, we continue to sin until we are glorified. We continually need God’s forgiveness to encourage us to walk in holiness. As we repent, Jesus advocates for us to restore our fellowship with God.
Even now, Jesus is pleading with the Father in our behalf, interceding for us that we might be forgiven, purified, and strengthened for holiness. To be sure, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13), but we can do so because the Savior prays for us to guarantee our perseverance. Let us rejoice that Jesus continues to advocate for us, and let us always draw near to the throne of grace when we are in need.
Passages for Further Study