1 John 2:1
The question often arises in the minds of the Lord’s people, especially of those who are young in the faith, “What is to be done if we commit sins after we have been saved?” Many a child of God has said, “I know that I have believed in Christ, and see that my sins were put away by His blood; but what troubles me are the sins I commit now, and what am I to do with them?” The direct answer to this question is found in 1 John 2: 1, 2: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.” This is clearly written to believers, for the apostle addresses them as “my children”; that is, those who have been born of God. And again, “We have an advocate with the Father,” as it is only those who are born again who can call God their Father.
The first thing for us to see is that, as believers in the Lord Jesus, all our sins are put away before God by the one offering on the cross, as we get fully brought out in the epistle to the Hebrews; because until this is seen there must always be confusion in the mind, confounding our knowledge of forgiveness of sins with the work of Christ that put them all away when they were all future. In Hebrews 10: 11, 12, 14, we read, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man [Christ], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God…For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” The priests, under the law, stood and offered “oftentimes the same sacrifices, which could never take away sins,” therefore their work was never done; but this Man (Christ) offered one sacrifice, and “for ever sat down on the right hand of God.” Do you see, dear reader, that there is only one sacrifice for sins, and that there never will be another? So that if all your sins were not put away then, they never can be, for Christ is not going to die again.
People often say, “I know that my sins were put away up to my conversion”; but Scripture never speaks in that way. When did Christ bear your sins? On the cross. Did He bear a part of your sins, or did He put them away up to the day of your conversion? No; if He bore one, He bore them all when they were all future, when you had committed none of them; for, blessed be His name, He offered the “one sacrifice for sins,” and then “for ever sat down on the right hand of God.” This word “forever” is not that which is used for everlasting, but it has the sense of continuously, uninterruptedly, never to rise up to offer another sacrifice or to complete the work; and the reason that He is so seated at the right hand of God is that “by one offering He hath perfected forever [same word] them that are sanctified.” He has perfected us forever, therefore He has sat down for ever. The value of His one offering, which put away all our sins, is forever; therefore, He has nothing more to do throughout eternity with regard to the putting away of the sins of those that believe in His name.
Of course, when a soul is first awakened by the Holy Spirit, it could only be past sins that are brought to his knowledge, and that he knows are forgiven; but then, when we get the knowledge of forgiveness, we see that the work that put our sins away was accomplished when they were all future, and the value of that one sacrifice was not only up to the day of our conversion. Now we see the One that did the work “for ever sat down on the right hand of God,” because He has perfected us forever by that one offering; and God says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17.) Forgiveness of sins is the common portion of all Christians, as we read in 1 John 2: 12: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” There would be no sense in saying our future sins are forgiven, for we have not committed them, and we ought not to contemplate sinning in the future; but we can always say, as Christians, as in Colossians 1:14, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
But many have thought, “If we have the ‘forgiveness of sins,’ why do we read, in 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins’?” There is another sense in which Scripture speaks of forgiveness: When a child of God has sinned, and his communion has been interrupted, and he confesses his sin, he gets forgiveness, not in the sense of non-imputation, as in Roman. 4:7, 8, but of communion and joy being restored, which had been interrupted by the sin. The above verse (1 John 1:9) is a general statement, and would apply either to a sinner first coming to God and confessing his sins, and so getting forgiveness once for all on the ground of the death of Christ, or to a child of God who has sinned and confesses, and gets forgiveness as a child by the Father. The one might be called justifying forgiveness in the case of the sinner; and the other, Fatherly, or governmental, forgiveness in the case of a saint; and it is very important to distinguish between the two.