John does not have doubts about who God is. It does not even occur to him to question God’s reality, his presence, or his role in the world. For John, believing is as natural as breathing, as natural as being in a family. It has been said that John’s gospel brought us across the threshold of God’s house and that his first epistle makes us at home there.
In this letter, the world is outside of the home and family, and he writes from that vantage point frequently using terms of endearment to put his readers into a family frame of mind. Notice as we go through these verses that John is not writing to the person who is confident in their skepticism, but to those who are worried about their membership in the family. The skeptic doubts God’s reality while some in the church doubt their place in God’s family.
1 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–ESV)
Obedience is essential, but many Christians understand that and do not work to get around God’s rules. They are apprehensive that their sins will get them booted from the family, or at least placed in the dog house. “Uh, oh, now God is going to be mad at me,” their minds tell them.
John does not say, “Don’t feel guilty,” or “your sins don’t matter.” Sins do matter, but some people take it so far they become immobilized by it. They will feel guilty, and will not likely be talked out of their tendency toward self-accusation. Their problem is not willful sin, but paralyzing guilt.
Their problem is not willful sin, but paralyzing guilt.
What solution does John give to them? Jesus. He is their advocate before God. Their sins are real, but so is Jesus. John uses language to reach down inside of his readers, find two things that they understand (their sins and Jesus) and stack them up against one another. Jesus will be the victorious one for them. He can be stronger than their frets.