JUDICIAL AND PARENTAL FORGIVENESS
Two different kinds of forgiveness are found in the Scriptures, and if we are going to be careful students of the Word, we must learn to distinguish them. We will call them judicial and parental forgiveness (though these names themselves are not used in the Bible).
To put it very simply, judicial forgiveness is the forgiveness of a judge and parental forgiveness is the forgiveness of a father. The first term is taken from the courtroom and the second from the home.
First let us go to the courtroom. God is the Judge and sinful man is the person on trial. Man is guilty of sinning, and the penalty is eternal death. But the Lord Jesus appears and announces, "I will pay the penalty which man's sins deserved; I will die as a Substitute for him!" This is what the Savior did on the Cross of Calvary. Now the Judge announces to sinful man, -if you will surrender to my Son as your Lord and Savior, I will forgive you." As soon as the man puts his faith in the Savior, he receives judicial forgiveness of all his sins. He will never have to pay the punishment for them in hell, because Christ has. paid it all. The forgiven sinner now enters into a new relationship: God is no longer his Judge; now He is his Father.
So now we move into the home for an illustration of parental forgiveness. God is the Father and the believer is the child. In an unguarded moment, the child commits an act of sin. Then what happens? Does God sentence the child to die for the sin? Of course not, because God is no longer the Judge, but the Father! What does happen? Well, fellowship in the family is broken. The happy family spirit is gone. The child has not lost his salvation, but he has lost the joy of his salvation. Soon he may experience the discipline of his Father, designed to bring him back into fellowship. As soon as the child confesses his sin, he receives parental forgiveness.
Judicial forgiveness takes place once-for-all at the time of conversion; parental forgiveness takes place every time a believer confesses and forsakes his sin. This is what Jesus taught in John 13:8-10: we need the bath of regeneration only once to deliver us from the penalty of sins, but we need many cleansings throughout our Christian lives to give us parental forgiveness.
The difference between the two types of forgiveness may be summarized graphically as follows:
From now on, when we come to verses that speak about the once-for-all forgiveness that is granted to us as sinners through the work of Christ, we will know that the subject is judicial forgiveness. The following illustrate this:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32 RSV).
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:13).
However, there are other passages of Scripture that deal with parental forgiveness:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses , your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14, 15).
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37).
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).
Notice that in two of these verses God is specifically mentioned as Father: it is the Father's forgiveness that is involved. Notice also that our being forgiven depends on our willingness to forgive others. That is not true of judicial forgiveness; willingness to forgive others is not a condition of salvation. But it is true of parental forgiveness; our Father will not forgive us if we don't forgive one another.
In Matthew 18:23-35 The Lord Jesus told the story of a slave who had been forgiven 10,000 talents by the king. But that same slave wouldn't forgive one of his fellow-slaves 100 pence. The king was therefore angry with him and delivered him to the jailers till he paid all his debt. The Lord Jesus concluded the parable by saying, "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Here again it is a matter of the Father's forgiveness. It is sin to have an unforgiving spirit, and God cannot forgive us parentally until we confess that sin and forsake it.
One of the thrills of Bible study is to see these basic distinctions and to be able to apply them in our daily reading. From now on when you come to the subject of forgiveness in the Word you should be able to say, "Oh, yes, that refers to judicial forgiveness" or else "that must refer to the Father's forgiveness of His child."
KINDS OF SANCTIFICATION
The word "sanctify" means "to set apart". There is a whole family of words-sanctify, sanctification, saint, holy, holiness, consecrate, consecration-that all have the same root meaning. Very often sanctification means the process of separating from common or unclean uses to divine service. But not always. If you just remember that to sanctify means to set apart, you will have a definition that fits all cases.
In the Old Testament God sanctified the seventh day (Gen. 2:3). The firstborn of both men and animals were sanctified to the Lord (Exod. 13:2). The priests were told to consecrate themselves to the Lord (Exod. 19:22). The Tabernacle and all its furniture were sanctified (Exod. 40:9).
In the New Testament sanctification is used primarily in regard to people. However, The Lord Jesus said that the Temple sanctifies the gold on it, and that the altar sanctifies the gift on it (Matt. 23:17, 19). Paul taught that when we give thanks for our food, it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:5).
With regard to the sanctification of persons, God consecrated Christ and sent Him into the world (John 10:36); that is, the Father set apart His Son for the work of saving us from our sins. The Lord Jesus consecrated Himself (John 17:19); in other words, He set Himself apart in order to intercede for His people.
There is even a sense in which certain unbelievers are sanctified. "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband" (1 Cor. 7:14). This means that the unbelieving partner is set apart in a position of privilege by having a Christian spouse praying for his salvation.
And there is a sense in which Christ should be sanctified by all believers. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts . (1 Pet. 3:15). We sanctify Him by setting Him apart as undisputed Sovereign in our lives.
In addition to the above, however, there are four other important kinds of sanctification which we should distinguish in our study of the New Testament. These are called pre-conversion sanctification, positional sanctification, progressive sanctification, and perfect sanctification.
Long before a person is born again, the Holy Spirit has been working in his life, setting him apart from the world to belong to Christ. Paul realized that he had been set apart before he was born (Gal. 1:15). In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the Apostle reminds the Thessalonians that there were three steps in their salvation:
1. Their selection by God.
2. Their sanctification by the Spirit.
3. Their belief in the truth.
Notice that this sanctification was before they believed and were saved.
In 1 Peter 1:2, the order of events connected with salvation is linked as follows:
1. Choice and destiny by God the Father.
2. Sanctification by the Spirit.
3. Obedience to Jesus Christ.
4. Sprinkling with His blood.
In eternity God chose us to belong to Himself. In time the Holy Spirit set us apart for the Lord. Then we obeyed the gospel. As soon as we did, all the value of the shed blood of Christ was credited to our account. But the point to notice here is that the sanctification Peter speaks of is a kind that takes place before a person is born again.
The moment a person is born again he becomes positionally sanctified. This means that as far as his standing before God is concerned, he is perfectly set apart to God from the world because he is "in Christ." In a very real sense Christ is his sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).
Every true believer is a saint; he has been separated to the Lord. This is his position. Thus in 1 Corinthians 1:2 all the Christians in the local church in Corinth are described as sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. " They weren't always very saintly. They tolerated sin in the fellowship (1 Cor. 5:1, 2). They went to law against one another (1 Cor. 6:1). They had teachers who denied the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:33, 34). But it was still true of them that as far as their position was concerned, they were saints-sanctified in Christ Jesus.
Now let us look at some of the passages that deal with positional sanctification. In Acts 20:32, the expression "all them which are sanctified" means all believers. In Acts 26:18 the Lord described His people as those "which are sanctified by faith that is in me." The Corinthians are described as having been "washed ... sanctified ... justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6: 11). And the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
Positional sanctification is also indicated at times by the use of the word "holy." Thus in Colossians 3:12, when Paul addresses the Christians as "holy," he is referring to their standing before God.
While there are many Scriptures which say that all Christians are sanctified, there are many others which say that they should be sanctified. If we fail to distinguish the kinds of sanctification, we can find this very confusing.
Progressive or practical sanctification refers to what we should be in our everyday lives. We should be living lives of separation to God from sin and evil. Saints should be becoming more saintly all the time.
It was this aspect of sanctification that the Lord Jesus referred to in John 17:17 when He prayed for His own, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
The believer's cooperation is involved in this (2 Tim. 2:21). Wherever you find exhortations concerning sanctification or holiness you can be sure that the subject is practical sanctification. Thus Paul urged the Corinthians, " - . . let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). And in the same vein Peter wrote, ". . . as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Pet. 1:15).
One particular form of practical sanctification concerns separation from immorality. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour" (1 Thess. 4:3, 4).
How does a Christian become more holy, more like the Lord Jesus? The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Practical holiness comes from being occupied with the Lord. It is a principle in life that we become like what we worship. The more we behold Christ, the more we become like Him. The Holy Spirit works this marvelous transformation-not all at once, but from one degree of glory to another!
This aspect of sanctification is still future for the believer. When he sees the Savior face-to-face he will be forever set apart from all sin and defilement. He will be morally like the Lord Jesus-perfectly sanctified.
This is what we read about in Colossians 1:22: "In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight."
In that day the Church will have its ultimate sanctification: "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
Other passages describe our perfect sanctification without mentioning the word. John, for instance, says,". . . we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). And Jude reminds us that our Lord will present us "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
Now it will be extremely helpful in your study of the Bible to distinguish these various aspects of sanctification. Whenever you find words that deal with holiness, ask yourself, "Is this what happened before conversion? Is this what I am in Christ? Is this what I should be day by day? Or is this what I will be when I am ushered into the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ?"
ASPECTS OF JUSTIFICATION
The New Testament teaches that we are justified by grace, by faith, by blood, by power, and by works. This is apt to prove confusing, if not contradictory, unless we realize that in each case a different aspect of the same subject is being presented.
First of all, what does justification mean? To justify means to reckon righteous. It does not mean to make righteous, but to declare to be righteous. Actually it is a legal term; it comes from the courtroom.
We are not righteous in ourselves. We have no righteousness. But when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God reckons us to be righteous on the basis of Christ's substitutionary work. When we are "in Christ," God can righteously declare us to be righteous because full satisfaction has been made at Calvary for all our sins. The believing sinner is clothed in all the righteousness of God. "For he (God) hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, (He) who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
As we mentioned at the outset, justification is said to be by grace, by faith, by blood, by power, and by works. How can it be by all these five ways?
First, justification is by grace. In Romans 3:24 we read, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." This means that man does not deserve to be justified. He cannot merit it or earn it; he must receive it as a gift. Grace is the term upon which God gives justification to man-completely undeserved and unbought-freely, as a gift.
Second, justification is by faith, "Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). This means that the sinner must receive justification by a definite act of trust in the Savior. Confessing himself to be worthy only of hell, he must accept the Lord Jesus as the One who paid the penalty of his sins on the Cross.
Grace is God stooping down to guilty man and offering justification as a free gift on the basis of Christ's redemptive work at Calvary. Faith is repentant man reaching up and receiving the gift from God without any thought of deserving it by his character or earning it by his works.
Justification is also by blood. "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Rom. 5:9). This, of course, refers to the price which had to be paid in order that I might be justified. The sinless Savior shed His precious blood to settle the debt that my sins had accumulated. The enormous value of my justification is seen in the staggering price that was paid to secure it.
While there is no Scripture that says in so many words that we are justified by power, the truth is contained in Romans 4:25: "(He) was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Here our justification is directly connected with the Resurrection of Christ. And rightly so! If He had not risen our faith would be futile, and we would still be in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17). So our justification is inseparably linked with the power that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. That is why we say that we are justified by power.
Finally, we are justified by works. " Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). Here is where a distinct contradiction seems to appear. The Apostle Paul teaches unmistakably that we are justified by faith alone. But James seems to say here, "Not so. We are justified by faith and by works." However, that is not what James is saying. He does not teach that justification is obtained initially by doing good works. Neither does he say that we are justified by faith plus works. What he is saying is that we are justified by the kind of faith that results in a life of good works.
It is futile for a man to say he has faith if he doesn't have works to back it up. That kind of faith-that is, a faith of words only, is worthless (James 2:14-17). True faith is invisible but can be demonstrated by works (James 2:18). Abraham was justified by believing the Lord (Gen. 15:6), but years later he showed that his faith was genuine by being willing to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:9-14). Rahab proved the reality of her faith by harboring the Israeli spies and helping them escape (James 2:25). So when we speak of justification by works we mean that works are the outward manifestation that we have truly been justified by faith. Works are not the cause; they are the effect. They are not the root; they are the fruit.
Putting these all together, we find that the New Testament teaches that we are justified by:
grace-this means we don't deserve it.
faith-this means we must receive it.
blood-this means it was purchased by the Savior's death.
power-this means that the Resurrection proves God's satisfaction with the Savior's work.
works-this means that when we are genuinely justified by faith, there will be good works to prove it.
All these aspects of justification have been expressed poetically as follows:
God's sov'reign grace selected me
To have in heav'n a place;
'Twas the good pleasure of His will;
I'm justified by grace.
In due time Christ on Calv'ry died;
There flowed that crimson flood
Which makes the foulest white as snow;
I'm justified by blood.
God raised Him up; this is the pledge,
Should evil doubtings lower;
His resurrection quells each fear;
I'm justified by power.
The Holy Spirit guided me
To what the Scripture saith;
I grasped the truth; Christ died for me!
I'm justified by faith.
Now if you doubt that I am Christ's,
If one suspicion lurks,
I'll show by deed that I am His;
I'm justified by works.
I praise the Lord, 'tis all of Him,
The grace, the faith, the blood,
The resurrection pow'r, the works;
I'm justified by God!
-Helen H. Shaw
POSITION AND PRACTICE
There is no key more helpful in unlocking the New Testament than an understanding of the difference between the believer's position and his practice. If you do not see this distinction, there will be times when passages will be positively confusing and even seemingly contradictory.
Position and practice are sometimes spoken of as standing and state; the meaning is the same. In brief, a Christian's position is his standing in Christ-what he is in Christ. His practice is what he is in himself-or better, what he should be. The first has to do with doctrine, the second with duty.
There is a difference between what a believer is in Christ and what he is in himself Grace has given the man in Christ an absolutely perfect standing before God. He is accepted in the Beloved One (Eph. 1:6) and complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). His sins have been forgiven and he is clothed in all the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). It is no presumption for him to say:
Near, so very near to God,
I could not nearer be;
For in the Person of God's Son
I am as near as He.
Dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I could not be;
The love with which He loves His Son,
That is His love to me.
The believer's practice is something else again. Unfortunately, it is far from perfect. In most cases it varies from day to day. Sometimes the believer is on the mountaintop spiritually. At other times he may be in the valley of defeat.
Now God's will is that our practice should increasingly correspond to our position. Out of love for the One who died for us, our everyday lives should be constantly growing in Christlikeness. Of course, we will never reach a perfect state in this life; that will never happen until we die or until the Savior comes. But the process should be going on; we should be becoming in practice more and more like what we are in position.
When we see the Savior we will be automatically like Him (1 John 3:2). This transformation will take place by divine power, without our cooperation. But it brings more glory to God if His people are growing in the likeness of the Lord Jesus in this life.
How can you tell whether a particular passage is speaking about our position or our practice? Well, watch for such phrases as "in Christ," "in the Beloved," or "in Him"; when you find such phrases, you can usually be sure that the writer is speaking about our position (see Eph. 1:3-14). The best way to identify our practice is to notice when we find a verse that tells us what we ought to be or do.
The invariable order in the New Testament is to find position first, then practice. Several of the Epistles are structured on this order. In Ephesians, for instance, the first three chapters describe what we are in Christ; the last three describe what we should be in daily living. In the first three chapters we find ourselves in heavenly places in Christ; in the last three we are tackling the nitty-gritty problems of the home and the business world.
Now let us see how helpful it is to be aware of this distinction as we study the New Testament. Here are seven simple examples of the difference between position and practice.
For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48).
The first verse says that all believers are perfect; the second says that all believers should be perfect. This would sound like double-talk if we did not realize that the first speaks of our standing and the second of our state.
How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? (Rom. 6:2). Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin (Rom. 6:11).
You are dead to sin-this is the position into which grace has put you. Now be dead to sin day by day-this is what your practice should be.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons (children) of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12). Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children (Eph. 5:1).
As soon as a person is born again he becomes a child of God. From then on he should be a follower of God as a beloved child. All who are God's children are expected to bear the family likeness, that is, to be godly.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9). I ... beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called (Eph. 4:1).
We have been called to a wonderful fellowship. Privilege carries responsibility. We should walk worthy of the calling.
Example 5 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (Rom. 1:7). . . . receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints (Rom. 16:2).
Paul addresses the Christians in Rome as saints; they were "set apart" ones. If they were saved, they were saints. But saints should be saintly; this is the practical side of it, as brought out in Romans 16:2.
Example 6 By grace are ye saved, through faith (Eph. 2:8). Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
Our standing is a gift from God. Our state is the way we should express our gratitude. Notice that the standing always comes first, then the state. We don't become Christians by living the Christian life. Rather, we live the Christian life because we have become Christians.
As a final example, we will take Colossians 3:1-5 and show how Paul alternates between position and practice.
If ye then be risen with Christ (v. 1:2) seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (v. lb).
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (v. 3). Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth (v. 2).
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth (v. 5a).
Paul is saying, in effect, "You are dead; now be dead." "You are risen; now live the resurrection life." What would otherwise be unintelligible becomes clear when we realize that the Apostle is speaking about what we are in Christ on one hand and what we should be in ourselves on the other.
In closing let me illustrate how the distinction between standing and state helped me through a difficult period in my life. After I was saved I used to hear people quote 2 Corinthians 5:17 when they gave their testimony:
Therefore, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
They would tell of the wonderful transformation that had taken place in their lives-how all the old things had passed away and all things had become new. I would sit there and think, "I wish I could say that all the old things had passed away in my life, and that all things had become new." But it wasn't so. I still had some of the old habits, some evil thoughts, displays of anger, and many other graveclothes from my pre-converted days. At times I doubted my salvation.
Then one day I noticed the phrase "in Christ," and my heart leaped with joy. I realized that the verse was talking about my position-not my practice. And of course "in Christ" it was all true. In Him all the old things had indeed passed away-condemnation, the dominion of Satan, the fear of death, etc. In Him everything was new-forgiveness, acceptance, justification, sanctification, and a host of other blessings. From that time on the verse has held no terror for me. I love it. And the knowledge of what I am in Christ makes me want to live for Him as the Lord of my life.
Question: Both standing and state are found in 1 Corinthians 5:7 and 1 Peter 2:9. Can you identify them?
RELATIONSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP
This study is somewhat similar to the one on position and practice. But the difference is important enough to devote a separate chapter to it.
When a person is born again a new relationship is formed; he becomes a child of God.
... to all who received him, who believed In his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:12 RSV).
Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2 RSV).
Now there is something very final about a birth. Did you ever think about that? Once a birth has taken place it lasts forever. You cannot go back and undo it. A relationship is formed that cannot be altered. Let us say, for example, that a son has just been born to the Joneses. No matter what happens, the child will always be a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and they will always be his parents. In later life he may dishonor his family and cause them deepest grief but the relationship still stands-Mr. Jones is still his father, and he is still the Joneses' son.
Now apply this to the believer. Through the new birth a relationship is formed with God the Father.
It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16 RSV).
So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son then an heir (Gal. 4:7 RSV).
It is a relationship that cannot be broken. Once a son, always a son.
But there is another side to the truth, and that side is fellowship. Fellowship means sharing in common. If relationship is union, then fellowship is communion. And if relationship is a chain that cannot be broken, fellowship is a slender thread that is very easily broken.
Sin breaks fellowship with God. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3 . :3), and God cannot walk in fellowship with His children when they sin. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). He cannot enjoy communion with those who are hiding evil in their lives.
Fellowship remains broken as long as sin is unconfessed and unforsaken. And broken fellowship is very serious. For example, a decision could be made when a believer is out of touch with the Lord that could put a blight on the rest of his life. How many backslidden Christians have chosen an unbelieving mate and ruined their lives as far as usefulness for God is concerned! Their souls have been saved but their lives have been lost.
Broken fellowship brings the chastening of God. While a believer is free from the eternal punishment of sins, he is not free from the consequences of sin in his life. Why were some of the Corinthian saints sick? Because they were going to the communion table without first confessing their sins and straightening out (1 Cor. 11:29-32). Some of them had even died. They had been made fit for heaven through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, but they were unfit for further life and testimony here on earth.
Broken fellowship will result in loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). All time spent out of fellowship with God is time wasted forever.
So while we rejoice in the truth that our relationship with God is unbreakable, we should greatly fear anything that breaks fellowship with our Father. Actually the knowledge that grace has brought us into such a wonderful relationship should be the strongest motive for maintaining continuous communion with the Lord. Grace does not encourage sin; it is the most powerful deterrent to it.
In the Old Testament, David is a classic example of a saint whose fellowship with God was broken by sin. We read of his confession and restoration to the Lord in Psalms 32 and 51.
In the New Testament, the prodigal son may be taken as an illustration of a returning backslider (Luke 15:11-24) (though the story is usually interpreted as the conversion of a sinner). Fellowship was broken through the son's waywardness and rebellion. But he was still a son, even in the far country. As soon as he returned and began to blurt out his confession, fellowship was restored. The father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
In 1 John 2:1 we read, "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (RSV). This is written to children, to those who have been born into the family of God. God's ideal is that His children should not sin. But we do sin, and God has made provision: " . . . if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father." Notice this-"we have an advocate with the Father." He is still our Father, even when we sin. How can that be? Because relationship is a tie that can never be broken. What happens when we sin? "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He immediately goes to work in our lives, bringing us to the place where we are willing to confess and forsake our sins, thus enjoying the Father's fellowship once more.
When I see the difference between relationship and fellowship it helps me understand these Scriptures. It also makes me appreciate the eternal security I have in Christ and motivates me to live in fellowship with my Father who loves me so.