************ Sermon on 1 John 2:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 19, 2019
1 John 2:1-2
1 John 2:2
"The Atoning Sacrifice"
Imagine yourself in court. You have been accused of a crime. The judge asks how you plead. You answer, "Guilty, I am guilty, I am guilty your honor." When you do that your defense attorney has no case. He can't defend you because you have confessed your guilt.
Now, imagine yourself in the Divine courtroom, God's courtroom. Jesus is your attorney. Go back to verse 1: He is the "one who speaks to the Father in your defense." Jesus only accepts those cases in which the accused confesses his or her guilt. Jesus only defends those people who admit, "Guilty, I am guilty, I am guilty Lord."
What defense can Jesus give when we admit our guilt? How can Jesus be a defense attorney for a confessed sinner? The answer comes in our text: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins ..." Other translations use the words "propitiation" or "expiation."
I The Meaning
A Atoning sacrifice, propitiation, expiation. The different translations are all getting at the same point: appeasement, to make satisfaction, to placate. Somehow, in some way, God needs to be appeased, God needs to be satisfied, God needs to be placated.
The Jewish faith has a day, a place, and a ceremony that focuses on this. I am talking about what happens in the Temple on the Day of Atonement.
The inner part of the Temple consisted of two parts: the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies had only one piece of furniture: the ark of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the cover. In the space between the cover and the outstretched wings of the cherubim was the presence of God Himself.
The outer room, the Holy Place, was a scene of great activity every day of the year. The inner room, the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, was anything but busy. For 364 days of the year it was closed off. For 364 days of the year no one went behind its curtain. But then came the Day of Atonement, the 365th day of the year. On that day the curtain could be opened and the high priest was admitted to the earthly throne room of Almighty God.
The high priest entered the Holy of Holies three times. The first time he lifted the veil and entered the inner sanctum with a golden censor. With the censor he carried coals taken from the altar of incense on the other side of the veil. He poured out the glowing coals before the Lord, sprinkled incense on top, and filled the Holy of Holies with a sweet aroma. The high priest then exited the inner room.
Earlier that day the high priest had placed his hands on the head of a bull, confessed his sins and the sins of his family, and slaughtered the bull. Now he took the blood of the bull and reentered the Holy of Holies. This time he sprinkled blood on the cover of the ark. Seven times he sprinkled the blood. Again he exited the Holy of Holies.
The high priest then sacrificed a goat. He confessed the sins of the people. He entered the Holy of Holies a third time and seven times sprinkled the blood of the goat on the cover.
B Now what is going on here? The ark contains the tablets of the Law. The Law that is broken by every human every day. So the ark contains the broken Law. You need to realize this makes God angry. God is angry with sinners for breaking His Law. God is angry enough to punish sinners. God's judgment and God's anger must be appeased, placated, satisfied. The only thing that appeases and placates and satisfies God is a blood sacrifice.
That is what the high priest is doing on the Day of Atonement -- he is appeasing, placating, satisfying God with a blood sacrifice. That's why the cover of the ark is called the mercy seat, or the atonement cover, because there God is satisfied, God is appeased, God is placated. The blood of the sacrifice changed the ark of God's broken Law into a mercy seat.
Now, the book of Hebrews tells us it is "impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb 10:4). The whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament did not satisfy God. No matter how many years, no matter how many sacrifices, no matter how much blood. So was the high priest simply wasting his time? Was the high priest trying to fool the people with a meaningless ritual? No, because the sacrificial system of the Old Testament looks to the one sacrifice that does please God -- the blood of Jesus on the cross. As the Lord's Supper shows us, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice, the expiation, the propitiation that satisfies and placates and appeases God.
II The Necessity
Our second point is that an atoning sacrifice is necessary. After examining yourself this past week in preparation for the Lord's Supper you know your sin. And, you know you deserve the wrath and judgment of God.
I already mentioned this but let me say it again: sin makes God angry; sin puts us under the judgment of God. God is an offended God because we continually break His Law. In fact, every sin committed by every person offends Him. God needs to be appeased, placated, satisfied.
People today don't like to think of themselves as sinners in the hands of an angry God. Even many Christians don't want to think this way. Instead, they want to think of God as a God of love, not as a God of wrath and fury and judgment and punishment.
Because we are sinners and because God hates sin, an atoning sacrifice is necessary. Sin needs to be paid for. Guilt needs to be punished. God needs to be appeased, placated, satisfied. The only question is how or when or who. Either you pay for your sin or Jesus does. Let me repeat this: Either you pay for your sin or Jesus does.
(Jn 3:36) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.If you believe in Jesus the wrath of God is appeased. If you don't believe in Jesus you suffer the wrath of God forever in the fires of hell.
III The Atoner
A This brings us to our third point: the Atoner. Jesus "is the atoning sacrifice."
We need to go back again to verse 1. Notice the description of Jesus? He is "the Righteous One." Righteous. Pure. Holy. Without sin. Without a sinful nature. Obedient. Never once breaking any of God's laws. Every thought, word, and deed in compliance with the will of God.
I need to emphasize this about Jesus -- that He is the Righteous One. Because a sinner cannot pay for other sinners. Only someone pure and righteous and holy can appease, placate, and satisfy God in our place, for our sins.
B "He is the atoning sacrifice." That's what our text says. Not, "He makes an atoning sacrifice." Not, "He offers expiation." Not, "He brings satisfaction." Rather, "He IS the atoning sacrifice." Don't you just love the sound of that? "He IS the atoning sacrifice." You know what He did:
(Isa 53:5-6) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.He was punished for our sins. Christ died. To appease God. To satisfy God. To placate God.
As we eat and drink from the Lord's Table realize Jesus is the atoning sacrifice, your atoning sacrifice. Remember and believe that He took your place and suffered God's wrath. Remember and believe that He appeased, satisfied, and placated God.
IV The Extent
This brings us to our last point: the extent of the atoning sacrifice. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. Here is the extent: "for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
"For our sins." John worked mainly with Jewish Christians. At least at the start of his ministry (cf Gal 2:9). So, "our sins" refers for sure to the sins of the Jewish Christians. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the Jewish Christians. And then John adds "but also for the sins of the whole world." Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
Hold it. Is John teaching universalism? Does John mean Jesus satisfied or appeased the wrath of God against the sin of the whole world? Many people want to believe this. They want to believe this because then no one has to fear hell. If that is the case, then the church is wasting its time calling people to repent and believe.
To understand John we need to go back to the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement had limitations. It applied only to Israel. It was only for the Jews, for the whole community of Israel (cf Lev 16:17). It was a sacrifice for Israel. But the sacrifice of Jesus is different: "not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world." The atoning sacrifice of Jesus is not just for Israel but for those of every tribe and language and nation and people.
Is this universalism? Absolutely not! Jesus did not make atonement for Judas. Jesus did not pay for the sins of Pilate or Herod. Jesus did not shed blood for the unrepentant thief on the cross. Jesus did not appease the wrath of God against the majority of Israel.
Did Jesus pay for your sin? Is He your atoning sacrifice? The answer is yes if you, by grace, repent and believe.
Come to the Lord's Table, dear brothers and sisters. Come to the Lord's Table in repentance and faith. Come to the Lord's Table. Remember and believe that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice Who appeases, satisfies, placates the wrath of God against guilty sinners.
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