1 John 3:4–6 (NKJV)
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
For the first three Sundays in Lent, we addressed our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin; they drive us away from our Creator. So having identified each of these enemies, let us, in the next couple weeks, highlight the way that Jesus, through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, has conquered each of these enemies. Lent, recall, is a time of preparation – a time to prepare for Good Friday and Easter, to remind ourselves anew of the glorious Good News that Christ has died and risen again to free us from our slavery to sin, to the devil, and to the world.
So notice that our text today emphasizes one reason Jesus was manifested. John writes, “And you know that He was manifested” – He was revealed, He took on human flesh – “to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” Jesus appeared to take away our sins. How did He do this?
First, Jesus died on the cross to take away the guilt of sin. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And even as the lambs under the old covenant had to be perfect, without blemish, so Jesus was without blemish, “in Him,” John writes, “there is no sin.” So as the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus offered Himself as our substitute. He died in our place. We are sinners, enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil; we deserve God’s wrath and curse. But Jesus, the one who was free of the world, free of the flesh (the sinful nature), and free of the devil, offered His own life in place of ours. Consequently, through Jesus’ death on the cross we can be forgiven – glory be to God! Jesus appeared to “take away our sins.” No matter how heinous your sin, Christ died to take it away, died that you might stand before God holy and blameless – not because of Your goodness but because of His. By His death Jesus frees us from the guilt of sin.
But not only did Jesus “take away our sins” by dying on the cross, He also “takes away our sins” by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus rose from the dead that we sinful and rebellious human beings might have new life; that the resurrection power of Jesus might transform our fallen nature that we might live lives that honor and please our Creator. So, John tells us, “Whoever abides in him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” Jesus did not come simply to forgive you; He came to transform you. All those whom He forgives through the cross He transforms through His resurrection from the dead. By His Spirit, He dwells in us and we dwell in Him and He frees us from the power of sin.
Good Friday and Easter, therefore, are the foundation of our deliverance from sin – our deliverance from the flesh, from our sinful nature. Jesus frees us from the guilt and power of sin. And, praise be to God, one day Jesus shall return in glory to free us and all creation from the presence of sin. Truly He was manifested to take away our sins.
So have you praised God for the blessing of forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice? Have you praised God for the blessing of new life through Jesus’ resurrection? Or have you been making light of your sin instead? Perhaps claiming that you don’t need to be forgiven? Or claiming that you’re really a pretty good person on your own?
If so, the Word of God comes to you today, reminding you of your sin and the impossibility of taking away your sin by yourself. There is only one who can take away your sin – Jesus Christ. So reminded that it is Jesus’ death and resurrection that frees us from sin, let us confess our sin and praise the Lord for providing for our forgiveness and new life.