Home » Advanced Search » 1 John 3:5

1 John 3:5

View Download and Print Options

1 John 3:5, ‘…He appeared in order to take away sins…’

Jesus appeared—the Word was made flesh—in order to take away sins. But what does it mean that He takes away sins? Certainly He bears them in Himself as the representative head of redeemed humanity (2 Cor.5:21); certainly He secures their forgiveness through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross (Eph. 1:7); certainly He sees their damning power dissolved by absorbing that damnation into His own cursed flesh as it hangs on the tree (Rom. 3:25, Gal.3:13)…but I don’t think any of these is what John has in mind here when he says that Jesus ‘takes away’ sin.

Rather, we see in the parallel statement in verse 8 that to ‘take away’ sin is analogous to *destroying the works of the Devil*. In other words, when John says Jesus came to take away sins, *in this context* he means that Jesus came to see actual works of sin removed, destroyed, taken away. He came so that the un-fought, un-opposed practice of sin would be put to an end in the lives of His people.

How does the appearing of Jesus achieve this? For John, I believe the answer comes in 4:8-10. The Word is made flesh so that He might offer (and is made flesh quintessentially *in* the act of offering) that flesh up on the altar of the cross as the wrath-absorbing sacrifice for the sins of His people. This—incarnation, death, resurrection—is the ‘appearing’ John speaks of in 1 Jn 3:5. But how does this take away sins? Yes, it takes away the punishment due to sin…but how does it take away the *practice of* sin in our lives? Because the propitiating work of Christ is not merely redemptive, it is—supremely—revelatory.

On the cross—as perceived by faith from the vantage of the resurrection—we see not merely what God does, but *who God is,* and if we have come to see *this one* who pours Himself out in love for His enemies as our Lord and God and Master and Treasure and Life, then we cannot but begin to conform to that same image…in beholding, we are becoming what we behold (2 Cor.3:18). And as that happens, sin—defined here as anti-cross lovelessness—is (incrementally, haltingly, yet steadily and graciously) ‘taken away.’