Sermon – Propitiation (1 John 1:5 – 2:2) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Sermon 5 of 8


Tom Sweatman, 1 John 1:5 - 2:2, 3 October 2021

Tom continues our series in the Cross of Christ, preaching from Leviticus 16:15-16a and 1 John 1:5-2:2. We look into the doctrine of propitiation to see what it means for those who trust in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to deal with their sins.

1 John 1:5 - 2:2

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2:1 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. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

1 John chapter 1 from verse 5. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you. God is light. In him, there is no darkness at all.

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, We lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with 1 another and the blood of Jesus, his son purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

My dear children, I write this to you, so that you you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the father Jesus Christ, the righteous 1. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And not only for us, but also for the sins of the whole world. Tom.

Thank you, Ben. My name is Tom Sweetman. I'm 1 of the pastors here, and this is a series that we've been working through not 1 John, although the past couple of weeks, we have been in these words from 1 John, but we're thinking about the the work of the cross, the cross of the lord Jesus Christ and all that he achieved for his people there, and we're doing so by looking at and unpacking some big words that the bible uses to talk about Jesus's Jesus' work. Let's pray. Everything that was written in the past says Paul was written to teach us so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement that they provide, we might have hope.

Father, we thank you for your word, and we thank you that everything that has been written in the past and recorded for us in the bible was written to teach us that it was written to provide us with endurance, and it was written to provide us with encouragement. And it was written to give us hope. Hope in Jesus, hope in your character, hope in who you are and what you've done for us. And we pray that you would do all of those things for us this evening. Teach us to endure, provide us with encouragement, and give us hope.

And we ask you in Jesus name. Oh, men. Amen. Well, if you turn back to that 1 John, passage. You'll see that John is actually very helpful to us in this passage.

In the sense that he tells us why he's written the letter. Which is always very helpful, isn't it? You don't have to guess. We don't have to dig around and discover it ourselves. He tells us.

He tells us what he's written So 1 John 2 verse 1, my dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. And actually, when you read the whole of 1 John, there are 3 of those purpose statements. In the letter. 3 of those, I write this to you so that. Statements, each 1 is worthy of its own sermon, And in the morning services, not so long ago, we preached through the entire book and you can download them and listen to them.

But I just want us to focus on this first 1 here in chapter 2, my dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. And so that tells us that this letter and more broadly the whole bible was written to us so that we might not sin. And that is a very good command, isn't because sin is darkness. We read that in chapter 1 first 6 to 8. To walk in sin is to live in the lie.

It is to live in the darkness, to live in a world of deceit. But John wants for us and God wants for us that we might not sin but live in the light and live in the truth. I don't know if you've ever watched these these programs about emergency services or or life lifeguard. The the the lifeboats in particular. There was 1 just started called saving lives at sea, which we watched the other day, and it's amazing looking at all these RNNI volunteers who give up their time in order to save people from difficult dangerous situations.

And it's quite interesting when you watch those programs because a lot of the people who require saving do so because they've done things they ought not to have done. So they've either gone too close to the edge of a cliff or they've swam outside the flagged area, or they've gone kayaking or canoeing in places where they shouldn't have gone or they've had too much to drink and then decided they would go for a swim. You know, there are these laws that they have broken, this advice that they have disregarded, and they have got themselves into trouble. And you watch it and you think the RNNI could rightfully say, okay, you swam outside the flagged area, we are not coming for you. You disregarded our advice.

You ignored our laws. You've got yourself into this watery predicament. That you are now in, and we are not coming for you. But they don't do that. They don't do that.

They say very clearly Do not swim outside of these areas, but if you do, we won't leave you. We're gonna come and get you. It's similar type of thing that John is saying here. I write this to you that you would not sin. Don't swim outside of the flagged area.

Don't do it. But if you do, there is hope. And notice that he doesn't just say that to them. Look at verse 1, I write this to you so that you will not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate So you see the tone he's taking there. It's not I write this to you.

You sinners. You failures. You people unlike the muscles. I write this to you because this is what you need. He includes himself in those who are going to sin, He includes himself in those who are going to need a savior.

We have an advocate. My dear children, he says to them. It's warm. It's affectionate. He loves them and he's with them.

I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. I want to give you fresh power in your fight against sin. But I want you to know that I am in the fight just as much as you are. I need this advocate just as much as you do. That's the sort of apostle and friend and pastor that we want, isn't it?

And yet, as you can see in that reading, our hope is not in what John says about himself, but in what he says about Jesus. If we are going to kill sin and live in the truth, what do we need to know about Jesus? We need to know that he is the propitiation for our sins. Now, there is a whole other sermon that I'd half prepared and wanted to preach on Jesus, the righteous 1, our advocate. And what it means that Jesus is our advocate.

And if you wanna find out about that, or if you'd like to know where I was going with that point, then it just so happens to be a question time this evening. And, you know, you might you don't have to, but I would strongly encourage you if you wanted to to ask about that. And it may be that I've got some content pre prepared. For that sort of that sort of question. So I'll see you in question time if you want to ask about that.

But propitiation is the word, is the focus, for tonight, and yet the word, which isn't very common in the new testament anyway, isn't here at all in the NIV. And so you might be wondering why have we chosen this passage? And that's because there are some translations that want to give us an idea rather than a word. So there is a word and sometimes the translators choose to add a a a layer of interpretation to try to tell us what a thing is without just translating the word flatly. Sometimes they don't do sometimes they do.

And so I think the translators have thought here, well, how do we give people the meaning of propitiation? What is it? It is a sacrifice of atonement, a sacrifice of atonement. And whatever phrase we choose. There are 3 key ideas to get hold of when it comes to propitiation.

We're gonna look at them, And then we're gonna ask those 2 questions. How does propitiation help us not to sin? And how does it comfort us when we do sin? How does it help us not to sin? That's what John wants.

In 1 john 2 verse 1. How does it help us when we do sin? That's what he wants in 1 john 2 verse 2. So first thing to know about propitiate is that it is God's work for God's glory. It's God's work and it's for God's glory.

And the reason I start there is because in pagan religion, there is a very nasty version of propitiation. So if you know anything about the old testament nations, the canaanites, and the Amorites, and the kind of gods they worshiped, you know that 1 of the ways they worship their gods was with cruel sacrifices, so people would cut themselves in worship, they would self harm in order to get the attention of their gods. People would even throw their infants into the flames alive. In the hope that the God would look upon the the the weight of their sacrifice and either bless their cry I'll bless them in battle. They were these cruel, nasty gods, and a kind of worship sacrifice practice that went that went with them.

But as 1 Christian theologian says, j I j I packer, he puts it like this. The bible takes us right away from the world of pagan religion. It condemns paganism out of hand, as a monstrous distortion of the truth. In place of a cluster of gods, who are all too obviously made in the image of man, and who behave like a crowd of Hollywood film stars, the Bible sets, the 1 Almighty creator, In paganism, man propitiates his gods and religion becomes a form of commercialism, and indeed of bribery, throw my child into the fire, send the reins. In Christianity, however, God propitiates his wrath by his own actions, It was God himself who took the initiative in quenching his own wrath.

So when the Bible speaks about appreciation, it talks about the 1 God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not out of control, not wild, not sharing his power with any other, but from age to age the same. It tells us of a god who is not cruel and malicious and hard to know but 1 who is perfect in his love and perfect in his holiness, and loves to make himself known. It tells us of a God who doesn't demand that we do the work and provide the sacrifice to earn his favor. But of a god who has come to do the work himself for his own glory to save us. Anything else says J.

I Packer is a monstrous distortion of the truth. It is God's work for God's glory. Secondly, propitiation satisfies the wrath of God, and you may have picked that up in the quote. And if you've got a Bible, Now is the time to turn to leviticus chapter 16. There should be bibles on your tables or you may have bought them yourself.

If you turn to leviticus chapter 16, third book in the bible, Genesis, Exodus, then leviticus halfway through, roughly leviticus chapter 16, and we're gonna come to that in a moment. Now, if you were here last week or if you've listened to last week's sermon, Ben very helpfully showed us another key doctrine expiation, and he showed us that that doctrine has its roots here in leviticus 16 as well. And you remember he was telling us about the ceremony in Lit of Levitica's 16 part of it, where a goat, a living goat was brought to the high priest and the high priest laid his hands upon the goat and the sins of the people symbolically were transferred onto the goat and then that goat was taken out of the camp outside of the city, set free into the wilderness and they would watch it go, go, go, until it had gone away, and that was to symbolize that God had separated the sins of the people from from the people, from the people. But there is another aspect to that ceremony 1 which actually came before it and is crucial to it and its propitiation. And so Lvidica 16, this is the day of atonement same day And this was the day when the high priest would not only set that goat free, but that he would sacrifice a goat and he would take the blood of that goat into the tabernacle and into the most holy place.

Of the tabernacle. And here's what he did. This is the Vitica 16 verse 15, and it is on the screen. If you if you want to follow it there. It's the high priests He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood, he shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.

In this way, he will make atonement for the most holy because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. And this in their calendar, this was a huge moment. Only 1 person, the high priest, on 1 day a year was allowed to go behind that curtain and into the presence of God. Into the place where the Holy God symbolically dwelt among his people. And then what he would do is to sprinkle the blood of this sin offering on something called the Mercy seat, which is otherwise called the seat of appreciation.

He would sprinkle it on this seat, which was the lid of the ark of the covenant. Now, 1 of the things inside the ark of the covenant, which was basically like a big grand box, was the 10 commandments. And that is full of significance. The 10 commandments or the law reveal us and reveal the people to be sinful. The law showed them that they had not loved God as they ought, and they had not loved other people as they ought, they had broken God's law, they had offended the God of that law, and they were under the condemnation of God for that sin.

And that is why the curtain was there This big thick curtain said to the people, as you are, you cannot come in to the holiest place. You have broken God's law and are condemned by it. But then on the day of atonement, this sacrifice was made, and the blood was taken into the holy place and it was sprinkled over the law as it were, over the mercy seat, onto the seat of propitiation, and that blood spoke a better word. It spoke a word of salvation. And that is what was happening in this ceremony.

The judgment that the people deserved was turned aside from them and onto the goat. The goat was acting as their substitute. It was going instead of them. Dying in their place, bearing the wrath of God that they deserved for the sins of that year. So on the day of atonement, you had these 2 goats, that were doing slightly different things, but it was all part of the same gracious act.

For our sins to be removed from us, expiration, God's wrath be satisfied, propitiation. In order for the people to be forgiven, the wrath of God had to be satisfied. And it was done so on a goat instead of them, so that their sin could be taken away from them. That is a central idea to propitiation. The turning aside of God's wrath on a sacrifice instead of his people.

Now we're gonna see how John uses and picks up these ideas. A minute, but we're still defining the words. So firstly, it's God's work for God's glory. Secondly, it satisfies the wrath of God. Thirdly, propitiation brings us into the favor of God, into God's favor.

And the truth is, if that if that is not the end goal, Then all we have is an act which deals with our sin and takes away God's anger But then that's kind of it. It's debt canceled, it's off you go, and we are something like neutral with God. But propitiation goes much further. Yes. The anger of God must be satisfied But so that we can know him as our heavenly father.

So that we can enjoy his rich blessings, and so that we can live under the warm smile of God himself. Propitiation is not is not just a transaction. It's not just a legal transaction. Its end is a relationship with the living God. It is God's work for God's glory.

It satisfies his justice, and it brings us into the favor and under the smile of God. John says, Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins. And when he says that, all of those things he has in mind. And so, fourthly, after defining what it is, we now need to know the propitiation for our sins is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10 verse 4, another book in the new test tells us that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and go to take away sin.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats take away sin. Now to be clear, the day of atonement that we've just read about was god's idea And those sacrifices, and that blood, had real meaning. They weren't just playing games. It wasn't just theater, it was essential for their life with God. But after all the celebrations had finished, The curtain was still there.

Why? Because sin hadn't yet finally, hadn't yet fully been dealt with. For that to happen, a greater sacrifice was needed, a sacrifice that even those festivities were foreshadowing, picturing, encouraging people to look to. In reliable men, which is our men's ministry group here in the church, we've been working through the Heidelberg Catechism, which is an old document designed to teach the Christian faith question and answer, and here's a bit of a spoiler for those who attend, because this is later on. We're we're not as far on as this.

But this is how this catechism tries to explain these ideas. So it's done in this question and answer format, and it says here, can an can another creature any at all pay this debt for us. No. God will not punish any other creature for what a human is guilty of. Furthermore, no mere creature can bear the weight of God's wrath against sin, and deliver others from it.

And so you might think, well, why did they bother with the day of atonement then? If no creature can bear the wrath of God for people, and if God won't fully punish another creature for a sin a human has committed, why bother with it Well, the reason that it worked was because it was foreshadowing a greater sacrifice. That's why it worked on behalf of the people. The blood of goats can never deal with sin. It's impossible.

It worked because it pictured what Christ would go on to do for his people. And then the catechism goes on. Well, what kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then? 1 who is a true and righteous human, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is 1 who is also true god. And so the bible is saying to us, we need 1 who is a true human.

We need 1 who is qualified to bear the weight of God's wrath for us. We need 1 to become like us in every way In order to die for us, God could not have sent a perfect animal to do it, and a perfect angel would not have qualified either. It had to be a man. It had to be a person. But we need 1 who is truly divine.

We need God himself to come, because only God is qualified to bear the weight of God's Roth. We need 1 who is truly human and truly god, and yet 1. And so the catechism and I think this is almost a sermon the way they've written this, they then who is this mediator? True God, and at the same time a true and righteous human. He is our lord, Jesus Christ.

Roman 6 23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. That we have sinned, and that God is angry about that. That we deserve to die, not just once, but forever and ever because of our sin. But it also tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins. That he has gone in our place, and he has shed his blood, and he has substituted him self instead of us, and then he rose again.

And how critical is the resurrection to this whole story. You see, if that high priest never came out, if Jesus never rose from the dead. Everybody would know that it did not work book. If the high priest never returned, then the assumption was that he had died. And the blood had not worked.

If Jesus Christ remained in the tomb, then we would all know that his offering hadn't He wasn't able. But if Christ is risen, then it tells us that God has accept the sacrifice of his son. That the penalty has been paid for our sin. It really is finished. And that curtain, which was torn in 2 when Jesus died, is never going up again.

Our propitiation is Jesus Christ. He is God's work for God's glory. He satisfied the wrath of God in our place, and through him, we can draw near into the presence and favor and love of God. And following that, there are 3 applications that I want to make this evening. The first 1 is to the dear children that John writes do.

It's to the Christians, to most of us here. And you remember that the reason John is writing is that we might not sin. But if we do, we must remember crossed. And so the question now is how does all that we have learned about propitiation, help us in our battle against sin. And here's how I think John answered is it in chapter 1 verse 9.

If you look back to chapter 1 verse 9 with me of 1 John, He says, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just. And will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. And here's a astounding thing about that sentence. John is telling us that when we sin, we can go back to God, and appeal to his justice. Now, hold on, you might think.

That's a frightening thing to do. Wouldn't it be safer to go to him and say, Lord, I've sinned again, be merciful. To me. Be gracious to me. Wouldn't we naturally want to appeal to that side of his character?

To say Lord I've sinned again in your justice, remember me. In your holiness, remember me, In your justice, I come to you and your justice I ask for forgiveness, it doesn't sound Right. Does it? It sounds like we're appealing for a further punishment. But, no, this is the amazing thing about propitiation.

Of course, when we sin, we remember God's mercy, and we remember God's love, but we can all so rest in his justice. Because when we look to the cross, we can say loving father I can see there that justice has been done. That Christ has taken my punishment and that you accepted it for me. And so we say reverently, but it would now be unjust for God to punish his people. It would be unjust for him to do that.

Because it has been done fully and finally in Christ. And the resurrection proves that God was happy with his offering. That God accepted his offering, that he was able qualified to pay the price, he did it in full, justice has been done. And so brothers and sisters this week when we sin, we can bring it to god who in his justice will forgive us. You see, John does not assume that if a Christian sins they are not born again.

He assumes that if they sin, they have a sacrifice who has paid for them. And that they can go to God. Secondly, there's an application to the world around us, which does include us, but is such good news for this world. You see, maybe earlier as we were talking about this strange old testament religion, you might have thought, you it's weird, these these these pagan belief systems, and thank goodness. We don't have anything like that anymore.

And what what what how good to be rid of all of that stuff? And yet the truth is we are gripped by that very same religion. In our world, there are all kinds of gods Gods who do nothing for us, and yet we sacrifice so much in the hope of gaining their blessing and their favor. You think of the man or the woman who is so taken with money and Korea, that they will put their family on the altar. In order to try to win, the blessings and the favor of that god.

You think of the person who so needs the approval of their peers. That they will put week after week after week of their time on the altar of prof files and filters and images in order to try to secure the blessings and the favor. Of their peers. Tim Keller in his book, counterfeit God's says this, making an idol out of work may mean that your work may mean that you work until you ruin your health. Or you break the laws in order to get ahead.

Making an idol out of love may mean allowing the lover to exploit and abuse you or it may cause terrible blindness to the pathologies in the relationship. An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise rationalize any indiscretion or betray any other allegiance in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and upper boundaries, to practice idolatry is to be a slave. And surely, we've all felt something of that, haven't we? I know I have.

So much time and energy and thought can be sat sacrificed for things, which fail us, and yet they demand more and more and more sacrifice. Isn't it good news for this world? That there is a God in heaven who can free us from that. A god who came to do the work for us. A god who gives and gives and gives and never disappoints and never fails and who came to do all the most significant work for us.

So that we can rest in him. If that is true, if there is a propitiation like that for the world, if there is a god like that in heaven then we cannot and we dare not. Keep this to ourselves. And lastly, if you are here and you don't yet follow the lord Jesus Christ. You don't know where you stand with him.

You don't have the assurance that he is the propitiation for your sins. Then look again at what John says in 1 John 2 verse 2. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours, but also for the sins. Of the whole world. Now that cannot mean that every single person will be sinless, and saved in the end.

That Christ has borne the penalty for each and every person that he is pleading for each and every person right now, that he has taken God's wrath for every single person and will bring them all home because we know that won't fit with the rest of the bible. But if you are thinking Well, look, this sounds all of this sounds good for people in the Old Testament, who look forward to Jesus Sounds good for the people in John's Day who got this letter. Sounds good for these kind of religiously people who like this sort of talk. But not for me. God is saying to you in that verse, no.

It doesn't matter who you are or where in the world you are from or what you have done. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for every kind of person. In the world. And that means that you can turn to this 1 savior, Jesus whoever you are, wherever you're from, whether you feel this to be your culture or not, religious upbringing or not. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the world.

You can turn to him. And he can deal with your sins, and he can bring you into the favor of God forever. It's good news for the dear children who already follow him. It's good news for the world around us enslaved by idolatry, and it's good news for you here If you don't yet know Jesus because he has made a way for you to know him. It's God's work for God's glory.

It's satisfies the wrath of God. It brings us into the favor of God. And Jesus Christ, he is the propitiation for our sins. Let's pray together. Lord, God, we thank you that you are a just and a holy God and that you care deeply about sin and righteousness and that you cannot abide sin in your presence.

You are the 3 times holy, the holy, holy, holy god. And lord, we acknowledge that we have sinned before you. And we have broken your law and that you are not just angry at sins in general, but you are angry us. You are angry at sinners at those who commit sin. And that lord by Nate we do deserve to live under and to experience the full force of your justice.

And yet we thank you are are kind God, that your love for this world moved you to action. That you came in the person of your son truly God and truly man, the savior, and the redeemer that we needed, the 1 who was qualified to go in our place and to bear our curse and to live the life that we failed to live and to die the death that we deserve to die. And that on the cross, your wrath was satisfied upon your precious darling son. And we thank you that in him and through his death and resurrection we can have your wrath turned aside from us. And we can know you as a god who will love us who will pour favor upon us, who will even sing over us with joy because of Jesus.

Help us lord when we sin to remember this truth, that we can rest not only in your mercy but in your justice. Because the penalty has been paid. And yet, lord we pray that this same truth would help us not to sin. That as we remember just what Jesus has done for us, that we would want to put to death and kill whatever sin remains within We thank you for all of these things. We thank you that it's such good news for our world.

We can be so easily in slaved by the same kinds of gods that people have worshipped forever. God's that promise nothing, fail us regularly. And demand more and more dehumanizing sacrifices from us. Help us all to hold out this good news of Jesus to the world, and we ask it in his name. Amen.

Preached by Tom Sweatman
Tom Sweatman photo

Tom is an Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone and lives in Kingston with his wife Laura and their two children.

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