Advocate and Atonement
An advocate is a person who comes to our aid or pleads our case to a judge. Advocates offer support, strength, and counsel and intercede for us when necessary. The Bible says that Jesus is an Advocate for those who’ve put their trust in Him: “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” (1 John 2:1). In other verses, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our Advocate (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The English word advocate has been translated from the Greek word parakleton, which means “helper, advisor, or counselor.”
In a human court system, an advocate speaks for the rights of his or her client. We call them lawyers because they have studied the intricacies of the law and can navigate through those often complicated statutes with accuracy and precision. That is the picture John paints when he refers to Jesus as our “advocate with the Father.” God’s righteous law pronounces us guilty on all counts. We have violated God’s standards, rejected His right to rule our lives, and continued to sin even after coming to a knowledge of the truth (Hebrews 10:26; Romans 1:21–23; 1 Timothy 2:4). The only just punishment for such wickedness is an eternity in hell (Revelation 14:10; 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9).
But Jesus stands as the Advocate between our repentant hearts and the law. If His blood has been applied to our lives through faith and confession of Him as Lord (Romans 10:9–10; 2 Corinthians 5:21), He pleads our case with the Righteous Judge. We may imagine the conversation going something like this: “Father, I know this one has sinned and violated our commands. He is guilty as charged. However, you have said that my sacrifice is sufficient payment for the debt he owes. My righteousness was applied to his account when he trusted in me for salvation and forgiveness. I have paid the price, so he can be pronounced ‘Not guilty.’ There is no debt left for him to pay” (Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:14).
Jesus is our Advocate when God first accepts us into His family as His children (John 1:12). And He remains our Advocate forever. First John 1:9 says that, when we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from it. As His followers, we will still sin. But, when we do, we are commanded to confess that sin to God. Confession is an agreement with God about how bad sin is. We stand guilty before Him with no argument and no justification of our own. Our Advocate steps before the Judge, and together they agree that, because we are “in Christ,” no further punishment is necessary. Jesus has already made sufficient payment to redeem us.
Another aspect that makes Jesus a compassionate Advocate is the fact that He has experienced life in this world, too. He has been tempted, rejected, overlooked, misunderstood, and abused. He does not represent us theoretically; He represents us experientially. He lived the life we live, yet He did so without succumbing to the evils that befall us. He successfully refused to give in to temptation and can be our High Priest because He perfectly fulfilled God’s law (Hebrews 4:15; 9:28; John 8:29). Our Advocate can plead our case from personal experience, something like this: “Father, this young woman has violated our righteous command, but she loves you and wants to serve you. I remember what it was like to be tempted like that, and my heart goes out to her. She has confessed this sin and desires to turn away from it. Because of my sacrifice, you can forgive this sin and purify her heart once more. Let’s teach her how to let the Holy Spirit comfort her and strengthen her to resist the next time.”
An earthly advocate can only plead our case from external evidence or witness testimony. Our heavenly Advocate knows our hearts and pleads our case on the basis of what is there (Luke 5:22; Mark 2:8). He also knows the intricacies of God’s legal system. He has already satisfied the demands of justice, so His advocacy is from a position of strength and righteousness. God accepts His Son’s advocacy on our behalf as part of their divine agreement, established before the world began (1 Peter 1:20; John 17:24; Revelation 13:8). Our position as “the righteousness of Christ” is secure because the One who purchased our position with His own blood is also our Advocate (Romans 4:25; 8:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
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