Questions often on Christian minds – adapted from Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund.
Q: What does it mean that Christ is our advocate?
A: The idea is that of someone who appears on behalf of another. Perhaps “advocate” comes closest of all our English words in expressing the role of the Greek word parakletos. The text of 1 John goes on immediately to say that Jesus is also “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). Jesus as our “propitiation” means that he assuages, or turns away, the just wrath of the Father toward our sins. It is a legal term, an objective one. Christ as our advocate may have a faint legal connotation, but more frequently in literature outside the New Testament in early times it has to do with something more subjective, expressing deep solidarity. Jesus shares with us in our actual experience. He feels what we feel. He draws near. And he speaks up longingly on our behalf.
Q: Why is Christ able to help us in our sin?
A: 1 John 2:1 tells us: he is “righteous.” He and he alone. We are unrighteous; he is righteous. Even our best repenting of our sin is itself plagued with more sin needing more forgiveness. To come to the Father without an advocate is hopeless. To be allied with an advocate, one who came and sought me out rather than waiting for me to come to him, one who is righteous in all the ways I am not—this is calm and confidence before the Father.
Christ’s advocacy is not a static part of his work. His advocacy rears up when occasion requires it. The Bible nowhere teaches that once we have been savingly united with Christ, we will find grievous sins to be a thing of the past. On the contrary, it is our regenerate state that has more deeply sensitized us to the impropriety of our sins. Our sins feel far more sinful after we have become believers than before. And it’s not only our felt perception of our sinfulness; we do indeed continue to sin after becoming believers. Sometimes we sin big sins. And that’s what Christ’s advocacy is for. It’s God way of encouraging us not to throw in the towel. Yes, we fail Christ as his disciples. But his advocacy on our behalf rises higher than our sins. His advocacy speaks louder than our failures.