Our Strong and Perfect Plea: Why God, the Just, Was Satisfied (1 John 1:8-9)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:8-9
One of my favorite lines in the song "Before the Throne of God Above" is, “For God, the just, was satisfied to look on him and pardon me.” The scope of that lyric gives us a better grasp on the gospel. Here’s the question: why was God just to pardon me? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is imperative to draw a connection in our minds between the gospel and the justice of God.
Because God is holy, it would not be just of him to let sin pass unpunished. As the song says, though, God “looked on him,” meaning that his full wrath for sin landed on Jesus, not you and me. Jesus took the punishment we should have paid by claiming our sin as his own and enduring his Father’s anger, as though he himself was guilty. One of the stunning implications for believers of what he did is that our peace with God is now based entirely on his unchanging character. More than that, God is committed to “cleansing us of all unrighteousness” by the power of his Holy Spirit at work within us! He is continually refining us to make us more like himself, until the day we will be like him when we see him face to face.
We are forgiven because God is just. There is now no condemnation for us because God is just. For God to treat us any differently than wholly acceptable in his sight would be out of step with who he is. If it is true that Jesus absorbed all of God’s wrath toward us, then for us to fear his punishment now would be to say we do not take him at his word and trust him for his character. While it is true that we do not deserve to be treated this way apart from Christ, it is just as true that in Christ, we have the right to be called children of God (John 1:12-13), and justly lavished with love instead of wrath.
What a confidence we have in this! What a comfort to grasp in times of darkness and guilt! If we would but taste and see the goodness of the gospel, we could effectively fight the devil’s lies. When, as the song says, "he tempts us to despair, and tells us of our guilt within," we can look upward "and see him there, who made an end to all our sin"—what Jesus did on the cross ultimately destroyed the works of the devil, and handed us the victory.
“When Satan tempts you to despair,” do you begin to fear God’s wrath? How can you fight that tendency with truth in the future?
Do you believe that God is just to treat you as his child? How might believing that truth influence the way you relate to him?
What are some ways you see God “cleansing you of all unrighteousness?” Take some time to thank him for this. What are some areas in which you would like to see more growth in holiness? Ask him for help.