1Jn 3:4-6 “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.”
We sometimes think of sin as being the result of transgression. Sin is not a result; sin is the act of transgression. We do not know we are sinners until we know there is a law (Rom 7:9). The law does not make us sinners; the law reveals to us that we are sinners. Before we can have any understanding of what Jesus has done for us we have to know the law.
I understand that we are now living under grace and not under the law service. That is something that I thank God for every day. Under the law service, people could not approach God directly. If you were of Israel, then you had to bring your offering to a priest. You could come into the temple, but never into the Holiest of Holies unless you were the high priest. The Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone and placed in the Ark of the Covenant, but there were scrolls that contained a multitude of laws which were derived from these original ten.
The laws were very specific and it was difficult to remember them all. Eventually, law gave way to custom. There are times throughout the Old Testament where it speaks of someone rediscovering the writings of the law. They were brought forth and read to the people. This was followed by a time of godly sorrow and repentance which resulted in a closer walk with God until the law of God was forgotten again after a generation or two.
God promised us through the mouth of Jeremiah that He would make a covenant that would no longer require us to rely on our memory to know His law. He promised that, in the new covenant He would make with His people, He would put His law in our inward parts and write it in our minds (Jer 31:33). The writer of Hebrews confirms this truth when he writes about Jesus as our High Priest (Heb, Ch. 8). Under the law service, the law of God was something external; it was recorded in stone and on scrolls. In this grace covenant the law of God is internal; it is part of who we are, by His mercy.
When the law we know is only external (religious rules and regulations written down somewhere and enforced by men) it is easy to forget or neglect them. We can persuade ourselves that we are keeping the law and doing pretty well, just like the rich young ruler in Mat 19:20. Once the law of God is revealed in us, we can come to only one conclusion; we are sinners and cannot redeem ourselves. We then truly cry out for a Savior with conviction in our hearts. Just as surely as the as we cry out for a Savior, God gives us grace to see that Jesus came to take away our sin. He has accomplished what we can never do for ourselves.
God’s law written in our hearts and imprinted in our minds assures us that Jesus became sin for us. He was not a sinner; He never transgressed the law. There is no sin in Him, and yet He became the act of transgression. Oh my soul, what love and grace is found in Him for sinners like me! In Jesus were the words of Psalm 85:10 fulfilled: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” When we come to this understanding of Him, He becomes our dwelling place.
In the beginning of this letter, John plainly told us that we are all sinners (1Jn 1:8-10). Now John says that when we abide (dwell) in Him we do not sin. I believe the key to this lies with the word “manifested.” Jesus is the Savior of sinners. Whether or not this is ever revealed to an individual, it does not change the truth of the matter. When it is revealed (manifested) so that this truth is made real in our hearts, it changes everything for us. He was literally our Savior before it was revealed to us, but the joy and peace of that truth comes to us when it is made manifest in our hearts and minds.
The law of God in us reveals to us, through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus has taken our sins away and there is no sin in Him. If He has taken our sins away and there is no sin in Him, then we know that our sins are not just hidden: our sins have ceased to exist. The revelation that our sins are non-existent before the Father because Jesus is our dwelling place assures us that we are freed from sin (even though sin is condemned in the flesh).
As long as we are trying to satisfy the law from an external perspective, then we are still under the law service and not grace. We are not abiding in Jesus; it is not manifested (made real in our hearts) that He has taken away our sins. Until I know that He has taken my sins, I am still condemned as a sinner. I have not seen my Savior and I do not know my Savior from an experiential standpoint. Not knowing our Savior does not equate to not having a Savior, but it does mean we do not yet know His peace.
May we trust the word of God to put His law in the hearts and write it in the minds of His people to our peace and His glory in Jesus Christ!