We find a number of explanations for Jesus coming into this world, the event we celebrate this time of year. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Related reasons are scattered throughout the New Testament.
In his first epistle, John lays out two reasons for Jesus’ appearing, His coming in the flesh. He presents these reasons almost in the same breath. “He appeared to take away sins” (1 John 3:5). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). A mere two verses separate these differing explanations.
Certainly, John is not contradicting himself. How, then, do these two reasons for the Christmas incarnation converge? They converge on field of battle set forth in Genesis 3:15, where the seed of the woman would confront and crush the seed of the serpent.
We get an idea of the nature of the battle to be waged by looking at qualifications unique to Jesus in these verses from 1 John. Jesus had “no sin” (v. 5). He was “righteous” (v. 7). He was “the Son of God” (v. 8). Only Jesus carried these credentials as the Christ, qualifications necessary for the work to be done.
Jesus came to “take away” sin. The Baptizer pointed to Jesus declaring, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” How do we understand “take away”? As beneficiaries of Christ’s work, can we say our sin has been taken away? Earlier in his epistle John insists we admit that we continue to sin and to wrestle with sin. So it can’t be that sin is gone from our lives, not experientially, at least not yet.
It’s helpful to understand take away like the defusing a bomb. Jesus atoned for the guilt of our sin. The explosive charge is neutralized. The guilt of sin cannot result in the destructive power of the wrath of God. That’s the sense behind Jesus being the propitiation for our sins. Upon Him was discharged the wrath of God that we deserved, wrath He endured by virtue of the guilt of our sin being laid upon Him as the sinless One.
But what about the second reason presented by John, that Jesus became incarnate to destroy the works of the devil? Here another image serves us.
Imagine a courtroom where a sinner is on trial – you. Behind the bench is the Judge of all the earth. No evidence is needed, because nothing is hidden from His sight. The thoughts and intentions of the heart are laid bare, and for each you will be required to give account.
The prosecutor is Satan, his very name means “to accuse” and he rises as your adversary. He is not without ammunition. The charges against you are lifelong. They include thought, word and deed; action and inaction. Guilt found in only one misdeed is enough to convict and condemn you.
You have no answer. The charges are true. No legal loopholes. No plea bargaining. Justice is required.
But beside you your defense attorney stands. For each of the charges raised by the accuser, your Advocate says, “I took away that sin.” “I atoned for that transgression.” “I gave my life to pay the penalty for each wrong.”
The hold of your enemy is broken by Him who came as your substitute to destroy his works. By faith in Jesus you are freed from sin’s guilt, freed from sin’s power, and freed from sin’s penalty. Your Adversary has been disarmed, defeated, and will one day be destroyed.
Good news of great joy: “You are free to go.”
God rest you merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r, when we had gone astray.
Sin is taken away. The works of the devil have been destroyed.
O tidings of comfort and joy!