|Our Advocate and Forgiveness
By: T.B. Gilbert
It is a blessed thing for one to know Christ as his Savior but more blessed to know the
Savior. Paul could say, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12), but also desired to
“know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).
The Lord Jesus Christ not only became man to die for our sins but is now a risen, glorified
man in heaven, the High Priest and Advocate of His people. As High Priest, He is touched
with the feeling of our infirmities and lives to strengthen us, that we might “hold fast our
confession” – or testimony in this world (Heb. 4:14-16, R.V.). As Advocate (or intercessor)
He pleads our cause when we sin. “If any man sin, we Have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). When a Christian does wrong he needs one who
is right, or righteous, to plead his cause. We need an advocate in heaven, because Satan
accuses us before God day and night (Rev. 12:10). Satan would like to put a mark against
the Christian when he sins. If he could do this, every Christian would be barred from
heaven, because none is perfect. But, thank God, the Lord Jesus Christ is the author of
Eternal Salvation. He not only died upon the cross to save us, but He lives as our
Advocate in heaven to intercede on our behalf; therefore, “Who shall lay anything to the
charge of God’s elect?” (Rom. 8: 33). “If any man sin, we have an Advocate.” Notice, it
does not say if any man confess his sin we have an Advocate but, “If any man sin.” The
moment a Christian sins Christ his Advocate pleads his cause, so that no charge can be
laid against him in heaven. Sin, however, does affect his fellowship with God his Father
and must be confessed on earth.
It is important to notice, “we have an Advocate With the Father” not with God as creator or
judge but as Father. The name “Father” denotes a family and children. The sinner will
have to meet God in judgment for his sins after death (Heb. 9:27). But the Christian is
chastised, by his Father, in this life here and now, and more especially when he does not
judge himself and confess his sins (1 Cor. 11:31). God’s character in dealing with sin is “a
consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The Lord Jesus met God in His holiness and was consumed
by His wrath for our sins, as it is written: “Thy wrath lieth hard upon Me, and Thou hast
afflicted Me with all Thy waves” (Ps. 88:7). He cried upon the cross: “My God, My God, why
hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Surely, this is proof that no sinner who meets God
in his sins will ever escape His wrath. Moses saw God as a consuming fire dwelling in the
“bush.” He marveled that “the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed”
(Exodus 3:2). God might have consumed the bush (Israel), because He was holy and they
were sinful; but in grace He condescended to dwell with them as their Deliverer and
Savior. And so He does with us. God chastens (child-trains) His children as a Father now,
but at the judgment seat of Christ their works of wood, hay, and stubble will be burned by
the fire of His judgment. But the believer himself “shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor.
Some Christians at Corinth were weak and sickly, and some slept (died), because of
unjudged sin The Lord judged them as children, that they “should not be condemned with
the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). The same was doubtless true of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-
10). Both of these cases were sins unto death (1 John 5:16), i.e. they died for, or because
of, their sin in this life, but will not be condemned in the next life. Sinners will be judged
after death (Acts 17:31, Heb. 9:27), not here.
The Forgiveness of Sins
This is one of the most important subjects in the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures
regarding this truth will rob one of joy, happiness, and blessing. There are three aspects
of forgiveness that I would like to consider namely: 1-God’s Forgiveness of Sinners; 2-The
Father’s Forgiveness of His children; 3.-The Christian’s Forgiveness of others.
1-God’s Forgiveness of Sinners.
It is a known fact that sin cannot enter heaven. Since all in the world are sinners, each
one must be forgiven or be lost forever (Rom. 3:23). This forgiveness must be upon the
ground of God’s sovereign grace and not man’s worthiness. “Grace and truth came by
Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
The ground of forgiveness is Christ’s death and resurrection: “Him hath God exalted with
His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and the
forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). “Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness
of sins” (Acts 13:38). “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission (forgiveness)
of sins” (Acts 10:43). The foundation of the new covenant is the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:
28, Heb. 10:16); therefore, all believers can say: “In whom we have redemption through His
blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). Notice
these words, “we have redemption,” “we have. ... the forgiveness of sins”; and note the
ground: “according to the riches of His grace.” What a wonderful salvation God’s grace
has provided for the sinner! He has said concerning all who believe, “Their sins and
iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
Reader, are you a believer? If you are, look afresh to the cross and believe those words:
“It is finished!” Believe God when He says, your sins are “remembered no more”-your past
sins; your present sins; your future gins. All your sins are gone forever and you are
eternally forgiven: “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are
sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). Behold Christ Jesus who “sat down in perpetuity” at God’s right
hand in heaven (Heb. 10:12, R.V.) Since you are accepted in Him (Eph. 1:6), you are no
longer in Adam but in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17). You are no longer a sinner but a
saint (Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:2). You are in the world but not of it (John 17:16). “Ye are not your
own, for ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor.6:19-20).
Your link with the old creation has been severed forever before God, because Christ died
as your substitute and you have died with Him. As a new creature you are a partaker of the
“divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4); God is your Father; you are His child, and heaven is your
home. You have received resurrection life from Christ and He is your life (Col. 3:4). You
can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal.2:20, R.V.). As believers we are “to
walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us” (Eph.5:1,2).
2-The Father’s Forgiveness of His Children.
John wrote to the little children, “Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake”
(1 John 2:12). He also said:”These things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2: 1).
God has not saved us to go on in sin, but to live for Him (Rom. 6: 13). Paul wrote: “Shall we
continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead (have
died, R. V.) to sin, live any longer there-in?” (Rom. 6: 1, 2). Sin is still in us, but no longer
as the ruling power of our lives; no longer to reign or to have dominion over us (Rom. 6:
12, 14). We are not saved to be “always sinning,” as some say, but we read, “If any man sin,
we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1). We have
noticed the words “Advocate with the Father.” The name “Father” speaks of relationship.
Because of this changed relationship, a Christian is no longer counted a sinner-not even
when he sins. He is a child of God, but a disobedient child, and as such, must confess his
sins to his Father, to be forgiven.
This is what happens when Christians sin: In heaven, God our Father is displeased; Satan
accuses us before God’s throne; and Christ, our Advocate, must plead our cause so that
no charge can be laid against us there. On earth, fellowship with our Father is broken; the
Holy Spirit-the Comforter who takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us-is
grieved, and He must convict us of sin until we judge ourselves for allowing it and
confess it to our Father. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He is faithful to Christ and
His Word. He is just, because the debt of sin has been paid on 1the cross (Rom. 3:25,26);
therefore, when the Christian confesses his sin, fellowship with his Father is restored. If
we do not judge ourselves and confess our sins, we are subject to our Father’s
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth”
(Heb. 12:6). Thus we learn that a true Christian is not allowed to do as he pleases, for he is
saved to please God. The sooner we learn this the better, for sin committed by the
believer brings chastisement on earth and the loss of reward in heaven; while obedience
gives joy and happiness here and will bring reward in heaven.
Peter exhorts, “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and
to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness . . . For
so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.. . But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot
see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Therefore, it behooves us to confess our sins immediately, lest we receive chastisement
now, and lose our reward at Christ’s coming (Rev. 22:12). On the other hand, should God
see fit to cut off by death (sleep, 1 Cor. 11: 30) a backslidden or disobedient Christian
because of his sin-although he has lost joy and fellowship and will lose future reward – yet
he will enter heaven without charge against him as a child, because he is trusting a
faithful Savior and Advocate. To understand this more fully one must see the difference
between the “Father’s House” and the “Kingdom.” In the “Father’s House,” all the
children will have fullness of joy, according to their capacity, but they will only have
capacity according to their spiritual growth in this world; while in the “Kingdom,” those
who are “faithful servants” will be made rulers over cities (John 14:2; Luke 19:17).
3-The Christian’s Forgiveness of Others
As children of God and members of His family, Christians are expected to obey the rules
that govern God’s family. One of the rules He has established is: “Forgive, and ye shall be
forgiven” (Luke 6:37). There is conditional forgiveness in God’s government: “Forgive us
our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). The Lord Jesus said: “If ye forgive not
men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). In
Matthew eighteen, He told a story of the man who owed ten thousand talents (millions of
dollars) and was forgiven, then refused to forgive his fellow servant who owed him one
hundred pence (about fifteen dollars). This man with the “unforgiving spirit” was
delivered to the tormentors, and the Lord adds: “So likewise shall My heavenly Father do
also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses”
(Matt 18:35). In the same chapter, Peter was told that he must forgive, not only seven
times, but seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22). If we are able to forgive a person 490 times
there will be no limit to our forgiveness.
The Lord Jesus illustrated, when on the cross, what He had taught during His life. At the
time of His greatest suffering at the hands of men, He cried: “Father, forgive them; for
they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). To be like Him we must forgive sinners.
In the epistles, Christians are exhorted to forgive: “Even as God for Christ’s sake hath
forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). If we want to walk as Christ walked, and if we want to
consciously enjoy our Father’s forgiveness and fellowship, we must forgive others. For it
is written: “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us . . .
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his
brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen” (1 John 4:12,
20)? These words may well exercise all who retain hate and unforgiveness in their hearts
Forgiveness and the Lord’s Supper
The Lord Jesus Christ said: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there
rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the
altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift”
(Matt. 5:23, 24). In the epistles, we are taught, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger,
and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one
to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath
forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31, 32). It is not always the easiest to forgive, but it is Christlike. God
prizes our gifts if we offer them having forgiveness in our hearts toward others. He
commanded Israel: “Ye shall burn no leaven in any offering of the Lord made by fire” (Lev.
2:11). “Unleavened” speaks of “sincerity and truth,” and “leaven” of “malice and
wickedness” (1 Cor. 5:8). There was no malice or wickedness in Christ. We must lay aside
these in order to praise and worship Him.
Forgiveness and Prayer
“When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also….may
forgive you… But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive
your trespasses” (Mark 11: 25-26). It is evident from this passage that our Father often
withholds answers to prayer because of an unforgiving spirit. The Psalmist said: “If I
regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66: 18).
Cases have been known where prayers were answered after Christians learned and
confessed before God the dreadfulness of the unforgiving spirit. No matter what it costs,
we must forgive others in order to walk with God. By “suffering as Christians,” we glorify
God; and though our faith be tried as by fire, it will “be found unto praise and honor and
glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7; 4:16-19).
We have seen that God forgives sinners, unconditionally and eternally, through faith in
the Lord Jesus Christ: “whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts
10:43). But we have noticed that the forgiveness of children, by God our Father, is
conditional upon our having a forgiving spirit toward others, and upon our judging and
our confessing sin. The disobedient child is also subject to his Father’s chastening, which
may mean sickness, death, or other chastisements. This chastising is here and now, not
after death. The disobedient child of God suffers the loss of joy, fellowship, and worship
in this life, and besides will lose reward at Christ’s coming. If he confesses his sins,
having a forgiving spirit toward others, his Father will forgive him. May the Lord give
writer and reader, if saved, grace to walk worthy of our blessed Lord, with a right spirit
toward others, and with true love toward God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.