When Justice Married Mercy
Text: 1 John 2:1-5
Proposition: When justice married mercy God’s own hand was on both sides, the hand of God’s justice perfectly met by the nail pierced hand of Jesus.
Introduction: It’s the second longest river in North America, 3190 kilometers (1980 miles) long beginning in the mountains of BC and ending on the Alaskan coast of the Bering Sea. The Yukon River is a large broad river, it’s average flow rate is 6,430 cubic meters per second (227,000 ft³/s) . To give you an idea of the overall mass of this river, it’s combined surface area it is 25% larger than the Province of Alberta. When the Yukon River flows by the city of Whitehorse it’s clean, clear water looks a lot like the Bow River in Calgary. As it twists and turns making its way northward, it eventually passes the community of Dawson City. That trip from Whitehorse to Dawson takes about two weeks of drifting along on a river that moves at about 5 miles an hour. But just before the Yukon gets to Dawson, about 150 miles up stream, another river pours into the Yukon and it changes it’s nature for the rest of it’s length. That river is called the White River, a glacier-fed stream that eventually becomes a large river flowing into the Yukon River. The White River transports 19 million tons of sediment per year from the upper part of its basin into the waters of the Yukon changing the clear waters into a brown murky mass. It’s that way for the rest of the course of the Yukon river which at that point has over a thousand miles to go to the Bering Sea.
The nature of the Yukon is that it is mired with silt, an inseparable silt that evidences itself. The water is undrinkable; the silt causes all kinds of navigational hazards as it creates shoals and sandbars. Why all this talk about a river many may never see? It’s because the river itself becomes an illustration of all people. From Adams creation man was clean, pure, able to be with God without any mire of sin until the day that all changed with Satan’s deception and man disobeyed God for the first time. It was an act of disobedience that introduced the knowledge of good and evil into the being of man, bringing with it the residing presence of a sin nature. From that point on every person was conceived and born with a nature silted with sin. It flows in us as we live, it becomes part of us and it affects the things we think, say and do. When John wrote his letter to the church it was this very reality he wanted to highlight for either sin controls us or in Christ we control it. Have a look at 1 John 2:1-5.
I. For Every Sinful Action There’s an Equal and Opposite Double Reaction.
So, John begins this second chapter by calling his readers “My little children”, some translations phrase it “My dear children”. It would be easy to think that this was like calling someone ‘childish’ but that’s not the case here. John is so connected to these people that he sees them as his own family. The subtle inference here is that the same sin he refers to in them is also the very thing John wrestles with as well, like father, like son. So he has written to them in the previous chapter about the value of fellowship with others and with God and the caution that sin has the potential to disrupt that. What John wants them to get is that they are not in this alone. The people around you who are Christians are just like you, they too have to struggle with their sin nature. Here’s the beautiful part, for every action of sin that is begun in us there’s an equal and opposite double reaction to stop it in its tracks. The first reaction was given to us in 1 John 1:9, it was our ability to see sin and recognize it for what it is and then agree with God about it and receive forgiveness right then and there. Then there is this second reaction to sin that is also put into effect. John describes it in verses 1 and 2. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Two words stand out to us, the word ‘Advocate” and the word ‘propitiation’. These words describe the action of God as He reacts to sin, to our sin, when we agree with Him about its effect in us.
Advocate – it’s the Greek word ‘parakletos’, literally, ‘one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a counsel for the defense.’ In short as a Christian you have a defense lawyer, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He intercedes for us, He presents to the Father our case and here’s the crazy thing. It’s like the Judge says, ‘This person is charged with a sinful action against another and against God.’ Our lawyer, Jesus Christ immediately jumps to His feet and says to the Judge… ‘Guilty as charged Your Honor.’ He says that because it’s true, we did sin. But then our Advocate goes on to present Himself as our propitiation.
Propitiation – it’s the Greek ‘hilasmos’, translated the term is ‘atonement’, the one who appeases’. Our Advocate knows we have sinned, He doesn’t try to twist that. He just acknowledges it before the Father and agrees with the Father that we can’t remove the silt from the river of who we are. So the only other course of action is to have One who is sinless step between God and us and say to the Judge, ‘Put what their debt is on Me.’ Whether the debt of our sin might seem small or irreversibly great, Jesus says, ‘Put that debt on Me.’ What we need to see in the atonement of Christ is that God the Father acts with Justice against sin and the only way He can do that and still keep us in fellowship with Him, in unity with Him, alive eternally, is if God Himself pays the price of our sin. So it says in verse 2, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins…”. How much does God love you? “He gave Himself, what more could He give, Oh how He loves you and me…” say the words of the old song. That love is what I would refer to as the great mercy of God. If ‘mercy’ can be defined as ‘God not giving us the very thing we do deserve’, in this case the wrath of Justice against sin, then indeed the love of God is the highest expression of His mercy. So for every sinful action on our part there can be an equal, neutralizing, effect that has the double reaction of our confession of sin and the intercession of our Advocate who presents Himself as our propitiation. To this John adds a small but profound statement, “and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” The whole world has had its sin atoned for yet the grim reality is that whole world has not agreed with God about their sin, has not confessed their sin, has not realized their deep and desperate need to be forgiven of a debt they can never pay. As such atonement sits at the door, like a gift on the doorstep of life, from God, by God to them, paid in full and yet they leave the gift unopened, not received if they do not seek His action of forgiveness.
II. When Justice Married Mercy, You Were His Hope.
In the previous chapter John spoke about the importance of fellowship with God, the whole ability to walk in the light rested on that bond of fellowship. Light Work meant I can do things that resist the pull of darkness and even restore the damage that the darkness of sin and Satan can cause (1 John 1:9). So the burning question becomes, ‘How can I know that I have this fellowship with God?’ That’s why John begins to say what he does in verse 3, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” To know Him is to have fellowship with Him. John makes the point that fellowship with God is directly connected to keeping His commandments, keeping faithful to what Jesus directed us to do. Here’s the thing, keeping His commandments, keeping His word is not a matter of doing things right, it’s a matter learning how to love well by allowing the love of God to be present in you as you keep His commandments. Have a look at verse 5, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” So it starts by doing the right thing, resisting sin, confessing it when we do sin but then as you do that a greater motivating presence begins to make itself known. That presence is the Holy Spirit in you directing you to love like Jesus did. If you were to pick up a handful of sand and if you believed that this handful sand was what life’s happiness and purpose was all about, the harder you gripped your hand on the sand the more it slipped from your fingers. Even more of an issue is that the bowl of life giving fruit in front of you could not be reached for nor taken hold of because your hand was already full… of sand. What I’m saying is that the love of God is perfected in us when we let go of the things we think we must have, that we hang onto so tightly that nothing else can come in. If I obey His command, keep His word, I do so by searching it, thirsting after it, loving it, and then following it. Then it happens as John said it would, “… truly the love of God is perfected in him.” When Justice married Mercy, when God saw sin and then sent His Son, His only Son, the exact image of Himself to step forward to take the sentence of death, then Mercy took the hand of Justice and you were the hope in that action. When the love of God is perfected, made evident to you and others… “by this we know that we are in Him.”