The Bible calls Jesus our “Advocate with the Father” (1 Jn 2:1). An advocate is one who pleads for another, a defender, an intercessor. When the apostle John attributed this role to Jesus, it was in the context of defining our need for a defender when we sin. “And if anyone sins” is the phrase that precedes it. But why do we need an advocate when we sin? And if Jesus is pleading for us then who is He pleading to and against?
First, Jesus pleads to the Father. When we sin, the good news is that our advocate has already become “the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 2:2). In other words, when we sin, the imputed righteousness of Jesus, which is our righteousness by faith (2 Cor. 5:21), comes to our defense as that which satisfies the holy, righteous demands of the Judge of Heaven. Therefore, we can rest in the assurance that, in Christ, we are accepted by God, and Jesus is not ashamed to refer to those who are sanctified as being His brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11).
Second, Jesus pleads to, and for, our conscience. If we are born again, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, then we ought to strive to live with a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:19). But when we fail to glorify God—when we sin—we need an advocate to speak biblical truth to our condemning conscience. In Christ, we have “a great priest over the house of God, let us [therefore] draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:21-22). When we sin, the words of our high priest remind us of the ongoing necessity for repentance and the promise of God’s forgiveness based on the shed blood of Christ.
Third, Jesus pleads for us against the devil. We need an advocate not only because the Spirit convicts our conscience in order to drive us back to the finished work of Christ on the cross, but also because Satan is the accuser of believers. He slanders us before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10). When the devil does his accusing, our Advocate declares our union with Him to be sufficient cause for our forgiveness and righteous standing with the Father. In the words of the hymn writer, “And now for me He stands before the Father’s throne; He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own.”
All of the past work of Jesus and His ongoing work as our intercessor results in a real, living relationship with God as our heavenly Father. Returning to the book of 1 John, later in the same chapter, we read, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake….I have written to you, children, because you know the Father” (1 Jn. 2:12-13). If you have repented of your sins and are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior then you are already accepted by God. The Father—your Father—has received you through your advocate. The Father’s wrath has been appeased by the blood of His Son. Therefore, the Father knows repentant sinners…in relationship. In Christ, we know the Father and the Father knows us…in loving relationship. But that doesn’t mean we don’t continue to struggle with sin and, therefore, need His ongoing grace and forgiveness.
So, when we sin, we need to run to Christ—our advocate and friend.
I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.
I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.
[From the hymn, I Run to Christ]