If Any One Sins
April 8th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
IF ANY ONE SIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 2:1
4-8-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message that concerns all of us: If Any One Sin. In these morning hours we are preaching through the First Epistle of John to whatever church he may have addressed it; but certainly addressed to all the churches of today. Now the text is the second chapter and the first verse; and this is the context:
The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
If we say that 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.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us.
[1 John 1:7-9]
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. But if any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
And He is the propitiation –
that is a long word, a theological term –
He is the hilasmos, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins:
and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2:1-2]
In Hebrews 9:5, hilastērion is translated, "mercy seat," hilastērion, the mercy seat. Above the ark of the covenant was the golden lid, and looking full upon it were the two cherubim. They were looking upon the hilastērion, the mercy seat; that is where the blood was sprinkled. And the hilasmos is the atoning victim, the sacrificial victim whose blood was poured, was sprinkled upon the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:14-16]. And Jesus is our hilasmos, whose blood is poured out upon the hilastērion, the mercy seat; He is the propitiation for our sins [1 John 2:2], the expiation of our sins. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins [Romans 5:11]. In His gift of life, and blood, and death, our sins are washed away [Revelation 1:5].
Now that is what John says; now, he begins the second chapter, "My little children" [1 John 2:1]. This of course refers to the aged apostle in his attitude toward the people in Ephesus that he had been pastor, undershepherd of, for, I would suppose, at least thirty-one years. John is now something like a hundred years old. And since the war broke out in Palestine in about 66 AD, sometime in the course of that war, John left Israel and went to Ephesus and lived the rest of his life in Ephesus. While he was there, you remember, he was exiled to Patmos and there saw the glorious apocalyptic vision [Revelation1:9]. Now in Ephesus, as an old, old, old, man – nearly a hundred years old, if not a hundred years old – and being pastor of the church thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three years, he writes this letter, and he calls them his "little children" [1 John 2:1].
Now, he says first that if we say that we do no sin, we deceive ourselves [1 John 1:8]. So in writing to the saints who sin he uses an "if"; but that "if" is very, very small. "If any one sin, if any one sin" [1 John 2:1], it is so tiny an "if" that it is not even to be considered, for he had just said above, "If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us" [1 John 1:10]. So the little "if," you could actually say, "Since we sin." Now, is that true in the life of the saints? Do God’s people sin? The answer is an unequivocal and uncategorical "Yes, God’s people sin" [Romans 3:23]. They are in the church; they have been regenerated, but they are still sinners and they continue to sin. That will characterize us as long as we experience the drag of this old man Adam, this nature that is a concomitant of the house, the mortal frame in which we live. We are sinners by nature, and we are sinners by practice. We never get beyond that depraved and fallen soul, and spirit, and body. Sin mars our repentance; our repentance is never quite perfect. Sin stains our tears, and there is even unbelief in our prayers. In God’s sight, no man is righteous, not one [Romans 3:10]. "All of our righteousnesses," Isaiah says, "are as filthy rags in His sight" [Isaiah 64:6]. In the Book of Job, a remarkable, a remarkable allusion to the purity of God; listen to it, "In HHHhhhis sight the heavens are not pure [Job 25:5], and He chargeth the angels with folly" [Job 4:18]. In the pure, white light of the holiness of God, all of us are sinners alike, "There is none righteous; no, not one" [Romans 3:10].
There are little idiosyncrasies that make up our personalities. And even in those idiosyncrasies, those little eccentricities that make us "us" and differentiate us from everybody else; even in those we err, and sin, and fall short. For example, some of us are very sensitive in spirit, very sensitive; and we are easily hurt, and any slight will have a deep repercussion in us. For example, there is a woman in this church who said to me, "Why is it that you always turn your back on me?"
I said to her, "My dear madam, I never did that in my life. I am not turned that way, I am not like that. I never turn my back on you in my life."
And she insisted, "Every time you see me, you turn your back on me. You don’t speak to me." She is hyper-sensitive. And evidently, passing by not seeing her – something that I couldn’t extenuate or ameliorate – she continued in that persuasion. She is sensitive, which is a fine, wonderful trait; to be sensitive, to be alive. But, oh! To be that is wrong.
Or again, there are many of us who have tempers, we are volative. I wouldn’t give a dime for a fellow who didn’t have a temper – he is just like a clod, he doesn’t rise to anything – he just might as well not live. He might as well not breathe; he just might as well be dead. I like a fellow who is quickened and who can flash and who can rise; I like that. But oh, dear! How easily it is to fall into aberration and into actual sin and transgression in a violent storm of temper.
Or take again, the spirit of many of us that can be easily depressed. When we are on the mountaintop, why, there is always that black shadow of pessimism. I’m up here on a mountaintop; wind’s going to blow me away. Or, I’m down here in the valley; an avalanche is going to fall on me and cover me; the ease with which we drift into a pessimistic spirit of depression.
One of the unusual words, translated here, "The sin which doth so easily beset us," in Hebrews 12:1, euperistatos, "Oh, that euperistatos, which doth so easily beset us"; translated with one, two, three, four, five, six words – in Greek it says one word – the "easily besetting sin." We all have it. Take a man’s ambition: he is not worth anything if he is not ambitious. He wants to strive, he wants to get ahead, but how easy it is for ambition to lead us into all kinds of iniquity and transgression. There is in us ever that fallen nature. And the saint lives like that: he also has the drag of his mortal life, every day that he lives. And always in him, no matter who he is, how fine he is, always there is in him those shortcomings, and those thoughts, and those omissions, and commissions that fall short of the glory, the expectation, the perfection of God [Romans 3:23].
Were you ever in a room, say, in the morning, and it looks perfectly clear, just like this room is perfectly clear, it looks clear to me, perfectly clear. And then there will come through some aperture, there will come a strong beam of sunlight, and did you ever look at that beam? There will be ten million little motes, and spores, and dancing particles in that beam; they are everywhere, we breathe them in! That’s sin; it is everywhere and we breathe it into our very lives, it’s a part of us. Ah! But you say, "These are just little things that you are talking about." My brother, little grains of sand will sink a barge just as much and as certainly as great, big, heavy iron bars will. In God’s sight they are not little, nor are they big; they are just signs of our depravity.
Now, before one another – if I could get you to listen to me – before one another, oh! we can just present the finest appearance, and we can dress ourselves up, and touch ourselves up here and there, and I can extol myself to you if in return I’ll be willing to listen to you glorify yourself. To one another, measuring ourselves by ourselves, we are such fine people, but in the presence of God there is no man that can glorify himself.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans, for example, Paul will start off, "What shall we say concerning Abraham? If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God" [Romans 4:1-2]; because God knew him. He could glory and boast before his fellow men, his friends, and neighbors, and all the people who herd sheep, and raise goats, and have the nomadic life that Abraham lived; he could appear fine before them, but not before God. For before God, God could point out in Abraham’s life some of the things that by inspiration are written there on the page; such as pawing off his own wife as his sister in order to save his neck [Genesis 12:11-19, 20:1-2]. What do you think about that? God knew him. So it is with all of God’s saints; we all are sinners [Romans 3:23].
Now, there is a distinction between the sins of a saint and the sins of an unregenerate sinner; they are in a different category. And I hope that I can, with God’s help, help us to see that: the sins of an unregenerate man and the sins of a sainted man, a regenerated man. All right, here are some differences: one, in the sin of an unregenerate man he has that transgression on the throne in his heart. But in a sainted man, in a regenerate man, the sin is not on the throne in his heart. Now I want to illustrate it. The state has changed, but when I lived in the state of my former pastorate, if a man sold liquid pot he did it through a bootlegger, he did it underneath, he did it furtively, clandestinely, secretly, unlawfully, illegally; it was down and out, and in a dark place, and you dealt with it in a den or a dive. But when I came to Texas, the thing that impressed me most when I moved here to Dallas was the liquid pot was on the street and it was advertised in beautiful, neon signs; and the stores were lighted, and inviting, and encouraging for people to come in. Now, that is exactly the difference between the sins of an unregenerate man and the sin of a sainted, regenerated man. The unregenerate man has it on his throne; it is a neon light, he is given to it. But the sins of a sainted man are not on the throne of his heart; they are not exalted in his life. All right, let me say it another way. The enormity of boasting about sin characterizes the unregenerate man, but it does not characterize the sainted man, the regenerated man.
Well, let’s look at that because I can illustrate it better than I can expatiate on it. When I was a youth, growing up out there in the Texas Panhandle, I won the declamation contest of the interscholastic league for all of West Texas. So they sent me to Austin, to Texas University, there to compete as a declaimer for the state championship. And while I was there at Texas University, I was staying in the home of a fraternity; there was a large group of young men in a large house, a fraternity. Now, I had given my life to be a minister of the gospel when I was a little boy, and all of the years of my upbringing were turned to that holy dedication. I was studying, even as an elementary child, to be a pastor and a preacher. There has never been any other vision; there has never been any other dream in my life but to be the pastor and the undershepherd of a church. I have had no other thought in all of my life. When I was in that fraternity house, and I stayed there several days, those boys would come in late at night, and then they would talk in the morning. And they would boast of their sexual conquests, either that night or next morning; what they had done the night before. And if they had seduced a virgin, the boy was doubly proud and doubly boastful. And those young fellows would compare notes, and they had given the names of the girls that they had seduced to one another, so that the other boy could also try to get a date with her and do the same thing. And they did that incessantly and constantly; they boasted of their promiscuity, and they boasted of their seductions. And especially, I say, if they had ruined a virgin. As I listened to it – to me, as a teenage boy down there, declaiming in an interscholastic league meet – it was unthinkable and unimaginable.
Let’s take a gambler, he boasts of his gambling and of his successes. He is a shrewd card poker player, but what he doesn’t realize – and he is impervious to the man whose wages that he took in his gambling may have been from a man whose children are at home hungry, and his wife is broken hearted – yet he boasts of his successes at the card table.
Or, take another: when I was a lad – this is in high school – when I was a lad, I worked at Saxtine’s grocery store, I was the delivery boy. I was trying to get enough money together to go to school; for I grew up in a poor home. As I worked in that grocery store, once in a while there would come in salesmen. And I remember one time well, there were about three or four of them there, those salesmen in Saxtine’s grocery store. And they began talking, and there was that same reiterated depravity again. I listened to those men as they described rendezvous that they would have in some other city, and they had hire a house, and there’d be about four of them together, and they had hire four women and then they would laugh and talk and joke about the sexual orgies with the four men and the four women that went on all day and all night long. And these men had wives and children back home. To me, as a boy, as I listened to those things, they were beyond imagination to me. But they boasted of it, and were proud of it, and to them it was a pleasure beyond description.
A sainted man, a regenerated man, could not do that and boast of it; he just couldn’t. It is impossible to him; he couldn’t do it. When he looks into the face of that one to whom he is given his heart and his life, it would kill him; he couldn’t do it. That is the difference between the sin of an unregenerate man and the sin of a sainted man. It’s the same thing as if you drove down the road – a sheep and a pig – and came to a mire, a mudhole, and the sheep would shy away from it instinctively, and the pig would fall into it, and wallow in it, and love it. It is the difference between a regenerated heart and an unregenerated heart.
Now, what does the saint do when he sins? "If any, my little children," writing to the people of the church, "my little children, if any one sin," then what, then what? All right, this is what: the pastor, writing out of long experience, "My little children, if any one sin, we have therefore forfeited our right to a Savior, we don’t belong in the church, we don’t belong in the household of God, we’ve forfeited our right to be numbered with the children of the Almighty," is that what he says? "If any one sin, we are no longer counted among the redeemed," is that correct? Nor does he say, "If we live a godly, holy life, therefore we have a friend in court and a friend in heaven." No! He says:
If any one of us sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous; who is the hilasmos for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole wide lost world.
[1 John 2:1-2]
That is, our standing before God is not dependent upon a covenant of works [Ephesians 2:8-9] – do this and I shall live – but my standing before God is grounded upon and founded upon a covenant of grace; it is in God’s goodness and God’s mercy, and it is in God’s love that God deals with me now as a sinner [Romans 5:8]. Not in judgment; I shall never stand at the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15] when the Lord judges those that are lost, never. My judgment is at the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3]; and my sins have paid for at the cross. And the judgment in which I stand before God now is one covered with the blood; it is in mercy and kindness that God deals with me [John 3:16-18].
Now I want us to look at that just for a moment, then I’ll have to quit; our time’s already gone. Don’t you marvel at how quickly the time goes? Seems to me just about the time I get started it is over.
Now just for a little moment, looking at what Jesus has done for us, and as sinners we stand before God. God does not look upon me now, upon us now, as being lost, outside the household of faith, shut out of the mercies of God; but the Lord looks upon me now in Christ inclusively, always this way, toward His heart, in His love, and in His goodness, and in His grace, and in His mercy. In Matthew 28:10, for example, the Lord will say to the women, "You go tell My brethren, that I go before them into Galilee." My brethren, why, in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, they had all forsaken Him, and fled [Matthew 26:56]. But they are still His brethren, even though they had all forsaken Him, and fled, and even though Simon Peter cursed and denied that he ever knew Him [Matthew 26:69-74], they are still His brethren. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? You know, I never saw that until I prepared this sermon; isn’t it funny how you can read the Bible, and read the Bible, and read the Bible and never see it until just suddenly it comes to your heart? Well, I was doing that in preparing this sermon, "Go tell My brethren," who just fled and cursed and denied Me,"go tell My brethren that I will meet them in Galilee" [Matthew 28:10]. They are still His brethren.
Or, take again, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, it says, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ"; that is, the Holy Spirit takes us when we are saved, and He puts us in to the body of Christ. Now, do you think that the members – we are all members of the body of Christ – do you think those members are taken out and put back in, taken out and put back in, taken out and put back in? One day my arm’s on me, and the next day it’s off, and the next day it’s on. One day my leg’s on me, and the next day it’s off of me. One day my gizzard’s in me, and the next day my gizzard’s out of me; or, my pancreas is here today, and now my pancreas is gone tomorrow. Listen, such a fanciful idea as that is not in the Scriptures, nor is it even approached or hinted at. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ" [1 Corinthians 12:13], are we joined to Christ; and God doesn’t lose any of His members. His hands, and His feet, and His head, and His pancreas, and His lungs, and whatever it is that makes up the body of Christ; it’s there forever. It’s there forever, there has no such thing in the Bible as one of the members of the body of Christ being lost; it just isn’t in the Book. Isn’t that a glorious thing?
Or, take again, the bride of Christ – we are the bride of Christ – when the bride is made beautiful and she is given a perfect white robe [Revelation 19:7-8], it’s just wonderful what God has done for us. And when the saint walks through the years of this life, why, the saint gets his feet dirty, and you can’t escape it. But day by day we come to Jesus for cleansing; every day we ought to pray, "Lord Jesus, forgive me my sins of this day." Every day we ought to come to Jesus for cleansing. That is exactly what John was talking about in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel that he wrote: when He came to Simon Peter, girding Himself with a towel at the Passover, and He started to wash Simon’s feet; and Simon Peter said, "Lord, You are not to wash my feet, never, never!" And the Lord said, "Simon, if I do not wash your feet, you do not have any part with Me" [John 13:4-8]. And the impetuous, volative Simon Peter said, "Then Lord do not wash my feet only, but my hands and my head; wash me all over." And the Lord replied, "Simon, he that is washed needeth not save but to wash his feet" [John 13:9-10]. That is one of the greatest doctrines of the Bible that John is illustrating there in what Jesus did: he that is saved, he that is washed, he that is regenerated and cleansed, he doesn’t have to be cleansed again, regenerated again, saved again. You are never saved but just one time. "He that is washed needeth not to be cleansed, but just that his feet be washed"; that is, in our walking through the wilderness of this world day by day, our feet get dirty, and we need to come to Jesus for daily cleansing.
And that is what the apostle writes here, "If any one of us sin, we have an," and there has an unusual word, Paraclete. In the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth chapters of John, that is translated "Comforter," and it refers to the Holy Spirit [John 14-16]. Here it refers to Jesus; "we have a Paraclete" [1 John 2:1]. That is, the Holy Spirit pleads with us here in earth [Romans 8:16-17], and the Lord is our pleader up there in heaven [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]; we have a Friend in heaven, a Friend in the court of God, "We have an Advocate with God, Jesus Christ the righteous" [1 John 2:1]. Jesus that is His name; Jesus, Savior, Christ, the official appointed One of Almighty God, the Anointed One of God to stand for us, "Jesus Christ the righteous," the Holy One.
It’s like this: the Lord stands in the presence of the judgment of God, and here I am down here in this world, a poor sinner and one that is frail; and Jesus says, "He is a sinner, yes; if any man sin," that includes me, "Yes, he is a sinner, yes. But, but, I am his Substitute. I stand for him. I’m his Advocate and his Pleader and his Mediator. And I kept the law for him in perfect obedience. And I paid the debt for him, everything that he owed I paid it [2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:4-14]. And I died for him [1 Corinthians 15:3]; the penalty I took in My own life and heart, and bore it in My own body on the tree" [1 Peter 2:24].
And if a debt’s paid, you don’t pay it again. And if a man in the penalty of sin dies, it’s not double jeopardy – he is not tried again for it, it is paid for – the crime is paid for; there is a death. And Jesus says, "I have paid his debt, I have kept perfect obedience to the law, and I died in his stead [Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13]. And this one who has trusted in Me, and believed in Me, he is free, he is saved, he is washed" [1 Corinthians 6:11]. That is what the Bible calls "justification" [Romans 4:25, 5:9]. Not that I actually am righteous, but that God receives me as being righteous for His name’s sake; for Jesus’ sake [Ephesians 4:32].
Dear me, what a gospel! No wonder they call it the euaggelion. This is the good news: that in Christ we have forgiveness of sins, washing, cleansing, salvation, someday stand in the very presence of the holy purity of God without spot, without wrinkle, "For the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7].
Oh! Bless you, sweet people, for listening as you do. There is no pastor in the earth that has such dear people to preach to as I do. And how thankful to God I am that back yonder, years and years ago, He put it in my heart to be a pastor. I’d rather be a pastor than to be the king of England or the president of the United States. I’d rather stand in the pulpit and say good things about Jesus than to have any other assignment in heaven or in earth.
Well, let’s sing us a song of appeal and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, "Pastor, today, I’d like to accept the free mercies of God, of Christ, of Jesus; and I’d like to invite Him into my heart." If that is your soul, come, "I take Him as my Savior, for all that He promised to be and here I am." Or, "I’d like to put my life in the fellowship of this wonderful church, and here I am." As God will press the appeal to your heart, come now, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The saint is still a sinner
the imperfection of our nature
long as we live in this body of death, we will feel the drag of transgression
and shortcoming(Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, Job
even enters our individual personality traits
sensitive – proud spirit
Christian constantly errs in the every day course of life(Romans 4:2)
Sins of omission
Sins of commission
II. A great difference between the sins of
the regenerate and the unregenerate
enthronement of sin
never sins with that enormity of boasting
The Christian out of his element in it
III. Our sins do not deprive us of our
have an Advocate (1 John 2:1)
Our hope is not built upon a covenant of works
No man can keep the commandments (Romans 6:23,
Covenant of grace is inclusive; never changes
the regenerate man does, he is still in that unchanging covenant(John 6:47, Matthew 26:28)
denial, transgression, cursing, fleeing of Christ’s brethren did not change His
attitude toward them(Matthew 26:56, 74, 28:10)
are members of the body of Christ – no putting on and taking off of the members(1 Corinthians 12:13)
We are the bride of Christ – saints still sin, but in Christ our garments are
washed pure and white
We must come to the Lord day by day and ask for forgiveness(John 13:10)
our Advocate(Hebrews 4:14-15)