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Arminians are incessant in their criticism of the Calvinist's view of the Atonement. They maintain that we do not accurately understand Scripture when we say Christ died only for the elect. Much, of course, depends on what one means by "for." Hodge has more than adequately covered the meaning of "for" indicating that in the strict sense of substitution Christ died only for His elect; but in the general sense of common grace, He died for all. William G. T. Shedd in his theology (vol. 2, p. 466 ff.) has a helpful discussion of the meaning of "for." As Hodge has pointed out, the idea of substitution in the Greek words translated "for" (huper, anti) means that One takes the punishment so that the others go free, or substitution means nothing. If Christ died and those for whom He died are not emancipated, then substitution is meaningless dribble.
But there is another aspect that is implicit all through Hodge's classic study. It is what I call the QUALITY-QUANTITY PROBLEM. To elaborate, the Arminians accuse us of not taking at face value passages that speak of Christ dying for "all." They have failed to realize, though, that the same passages that seem to speak of Him dying for "all" also state that His death accomplished something for those for whom He died. In other words, ALL LIMIT THE ATONEMENT. The Arminians limit the QUALITY of the death of Christ by saying He died for some that will never be saved. He shed His precious blood for nothing for them. They even say that the Lord of glory died for those who were already in hell, like the rich man of Luke 16. What possible benefit this had for the rich man is beyond me and also beyond the Bible. The Calvinists limit the QUANTITY of His death by saying He did not die as a penal substitute for any but His elect. It is our contention that every passage that the Arminian accuses us of "weaseling" on the quantity of some word that they are the ones who "weasel" in not taking seriously the quality of some word in the same verse..
It is not the case that some "weasel" and others do not, but the question is simply how the words are used. This latter point (on usage) is particularly important as Arminians are fond of saying that "world" means "world" and "all" means "all." This is really an emotional statement that only repeats the problem but does not define anything. One cannot define a word (like "world") by repeating it with emphasis, but he must look at the usage of the word. For example, if I say that "splork" means "splork," what have I really said? Nothing! I have only repeated the word--not defined it. However, if I say that a splork is a rare bird on the planet Zuno, then you have some concept of my meaning. I want to demonstrate, therefore, that the problem is for the Arminians and not for the Calvinists, that the one who does not take seriously the words of the text is the Arminian, that he must reinterpret all those passages that speak of Jesus' death as saving to mean that it is the application of His death that saves. Calvinists believe both; that is, that both His death and the application saves. Indeed, it is His death that secures the application and not the reverse! We will show in two ways that it is the Arminians that have problems with the actual words of the texts: first, I shall take a survey through Scripture to elucidate this quality-quantity problem, and then I shall exegete one so-called problem passage in detail (1 John 2:1, 2) to show that such passages are really no problem for the Calvinists.
One more thing. This quality-quantity problem is not fabricated by me. When I was in seminary, one well known professor, Dr. Charles C. Ryrie, wanted to retranslate passages to tone down the strong import of the effectual death of Christ or the quality of His death. One such passage he wanted to retranslate was John 1:29 which says: "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Now Dr. Ryrie wanted to translate this: "Behold, The Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world." Obviously the word "bear" is not as strong as the words "take away." But the Greek (airo) definitively supports the traditional translation that is present in most older and modern versions, namely, "takes away."
Some have said that the limited quantity of the death of Christ may be logical but it is not exegetical, for nowhere does Scripture say that Christ did not die for the reprobate or that He died only for the elect. This is true, but as we survey, consider the following logic:
Christ's death inherently saves.
If Christ died for all, then all are saved. Not all are saved.
Therefore, Christ did not die for all.
If one is going to deny the logic of these statements, he must object to the first premise, for the two middle premises no one would deny, and the conclusion is forced by the premises. For one to deny logic altogether would be to deny doctrines such as the Trinity, for nowhere does the Bible specifically say that God is three equal Persons and one God. We draw these conclusions from the statements of Scripture and systematize them into the doctrine of the Trinity. We would rightly classify as a cult anyone who denied the Trinity. Again, nowhere does Scripture specifically say that Jesus is God and Man in one Person with no mixture of the natures, and yet we again rightly classify as a cult any group that denies either His deity, humanity, or that He is one Person. The Trinity and the Person of Christ are derived LOGICALLY from the statements of Scripture. One doctrine that many consider to be almost sacred is the Pre-Trib Rapture, and I know of no other teaching that is based on so many logical premises supposedly derived from Scripture. It is not that our objector is really against logic in the understanding of Scripture, but that he is against logic when the logic is against him! The Lord Himself was not opposed to using inference in reaching a conclusion not specifically stated by Scripture (Matt. 22:31, 32: If God IS always the God of Abraham, then there must be a resurrection or else Scripture should say that God WAS at one time the God of Abraham).
1 Samuel 3:14. This verse specifically states that there are at least several sins and two persons (Eli's sons) for whom atonement would not be made--FOREVER! "And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering FOREVER.
As one reads these New Testament passages, he should not think that they are the tendential use of the present tense. This usage is the potential idea, saying that one is about to do something but has not done it yet. The tendential usage is reserved mainly for narrative sections of the New Testament. But these verses we shall survey are mostly in the didactic sections and all are clearly statements of an accomplished fact.
Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45: ". . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." The word for "ransom" was used for the ransom money for the manumission of slaves in New Testament times, and is only used in these two verses in the New Testament. The idea is not of money paid so that a slave might or might not go free, nor did the money only make it possible for the slave to go free, but that the slave was freed by the ransom! If this were not so, then I'm sure someone would want his money back! The blood of Christ, His death in and of itself, the ransom price, freed certain slaves. This is the qualitative meaning of "ransom."
Matt. 26:28: "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." The blood shed here is stated to be "for the forgiveness of sins"-it does not say possibility, potentially, or anything about a later application. If one takes the words as they stand, he must say that Jesus' blood is the cause and the necessary effect is "forgiveness."
John 11:51, 52 ". . . he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad." These verses say that Jesus' death, the death itself, brought together all the children of God scattered over the world! His death accomplished unity. By the way, this indicates that the people of God are one body--not two bodies with Israel and the church distinct.
Acts 20:28: ". . . shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." The Lord purchased the church with His blood, not potentially, but actually. As a consequence the church belongs to Him. The verse says nothing about the application later, though this is true. The point is that it was the death itself that purchased the church so that it belongs to Christ! Now who tries to re-define words to make them say what they obviously do not mean?! Not the Calvinist! He takes these words to mean exactly what they say.
Rom. 3:24, 25: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood . . . ." God's people were redeemed and God propitiated by the blood of Christ. Paul does not say that this was "provided" or "made possible" but done, done when He died.
Rom. 5:9, 10: "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if we when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." We were justified and reconciled by the blood of Christ, and justification means that our sins were forgiven (Rom. 4:5-8)! Note, too, that the reason we shall be saved by His life is because His death was effectual, not that His intercession makes His death effectual. In other words, the life of Christ is based on the death of Christ, the intercession based on an accomplished atonement in His death.
Rom. 8:32-34: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." The reason given that no one can bring a charge against God's elect is because Christ has died and now intercedes! His death itself, therefore, must be effectual for His elect. And the reason His intercession is stated to be effectual is because it is based on His death! His death must be, therefore, the ground or reason that God accepts the intercession. This is true all through Scripture. In the Old Testament the High Priest did not dare enter the Holy of holies to pray for the people without an acceptable atonement. The death had to be acceptable before he could approach God. So also with the final High Priest, Christ! The reason He can keep us saved is that His death is effectual (Heb. 7:25). In Isa. 53:12 the intercession is again based on His death. In John 17:9 we see that Jesus the Lord did not intercede for the non-elect, but if He died for them why would He exclude them? Why would Christ not pray for those for whom He died? Or, why would He not intercede for those for whom He died? The only answer is that He did not die for them! For if He had died for them, His blood would have availed for them and He would have interceded for them. If He interceded for them, they would have been accepted by God. If He interceded for them and they were not accepted, then His blood would have been worthless and all without exception would be in hell. The reason God accepted His intercession is because His death was an effectual atonement that redeemed and reconciled the elect and propitiated God's justice. This is why no one can bring a charge against God's elect!
2 Cor. 5:14, 15: ". . . we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." The quality of His death secured grace so that those for whom He died "no longer live for themselves but for Him." What could be clearer?
Gal. 3:13. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law." Does this say the Holy Spirit applied the merit of His death (a truth certainly taught in Scripture), or that it was Christ Himself by His death that effectually secured our release? It is the latter.
Eph. 1:7: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Our sins were formally forgiven by the blood of Christ. We see the application of this forgiveness in w. 13, 14. The Arminian believes the latter but not the former. Paul believed it all: that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world (vv. 3, 4), that choice was not potential or provided but actual; Christ's death forgave us our sins (v.7), not simply provided it; and the Spirit applied the death (w. 13, 14). At all three points the work of the Trinity is effectual. Was the sinner saved when the Father chose him? Yes, though not yet in his personal experience. Was the elect sinner saved when Christ died? Absolutely, though not yet in his personal experience. Was the elect sinner saved when the Holy Spirit applied the merits of the death of Christ? Yes, and this time in his personal experience. At each stage the sinner was secured by the work of some member of the Trinity: the election of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the application of the Spirit. What sense would it make to say the Father chose some and the Spirit will apply the death of the Son to those same ones but to maintain that the Son died for all? Why would Christ die for some whom the Father had not chosen and to whom the Spirit had no intentions of ever applying the death of Christ?
Eph. 2:13-16. Some who were at one time "far off" have now "been made near by the blood of Christ." Christ's death reconciled us to God--not provided for reconciliation. His death is effectual.
Titus 2:14. His death redeemed us from every lawful deed. Does this sound potential? No!
Heb. 10:10, 12, 14. We were sanctified, sins forgiven, and perfected by the blood of the Lamb. How could we be perfected by the blood unless the blood itself guaranteed the application? If Christ died for some who will never be perfected, what does this say about the value of His shed blood for them?
1 Peter 2:24. We have been healed by the wound of Jesus, enabling us to die to sin and live to righteousness. If we live unto righteousness by His death, then His death must have been effectual for those for whom He died.
Rev. 1:5. He "released us from our sins by His blood"--not just the application of the blood. The majority text says He "washed us from our sins in His own blood," which is just as strong. The point John makes is that we are no longer accountable for our sins because Christ died for us.
Rev. 5:9. The Lamb did purchase for God with His blood men from every tribe and nation of the earth. Can one be purchased for God and then not belong to Him?
These are only a few of the passages. We have not looked at Isa. 53 and dozens of others verses in the New Testament. Someone may object, of course, that why should the people have to believe in Christ if His death itself saved them? They are already saved, so why preach to them or why believe? The answer is that the death of Christ secured for the elect their belief. Also, we preach because God said so and because we do not know who the elect are.
The issue is what "whole world" and "propitiation" mean. If the quantity of "whole world" means all without exception, every person who has ever lived on the face of the earth, then the quality of propitiation cannot mean to cover sin or to take away sin, for then all would be saved. On the other hand, if the quality of propitiation denotes the satisfaction of justice so that sin's penalty is taken away, then the propitiation cannot be for the reprobate. This is the quality-quantity problem. If the quantity of "whole world" includes all without exception, then we have a watered-down meaning for "propitiation' ; but if "propitiation" denotes the actual canceling of sin, then "whole world" must be understood in some other way than to include all without exception.
Polycarp. Remember that Polycarp was taught by the Apostle John himself! Note what he said about 50 years after the death of John, apparently alluding to this passage: ". . . Christ suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those that are saved . . . ." 1
Augustine. He lived in the latter part of the fourth century. In his commentary on 1 John, Augustine gives several meanings to "world": (1) In a bad sense it refers to those who love the world; (2) when used in praise, it is heaven and earth and God's works in them; (3) "Also, the world is the fullness of the earth, as John himself hath said, 'Not for our sins is He the propitiator, but (for the sins) of the whole world:' he means, 'of the world,' of all the faithful scattered throughout the whole earth" (p. 491).
Calvin. In his commentary on 1 John: "I pass by the dotages of fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation . . . . Then under the word 'all' or 'whole,' he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world."
A suggested translation:
IF any one sins, [THEN] (1) we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (2) and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.
Note in the above translation that two things follow from the "if": advocacy and propitiation. The words that follow "advocacy" and "propitiation" only further elaborate on the two terms. As in verses 6-10 of chapter one, so also here there is an "if" followed by two results, and the two results are inherently bound together. This means that advocacy and propitiation stand or fall together. We shall see more of this later.
I. THE PURPOSE OF THE VERSES. The stated purpose is ". . . to give consolation to believers against their sins and failings." 2
Believers are to take comfort when they sin because Christ is continually made effectual for them as their propitiation. That this comfort is only for believers may be seen:
1. Only believers have an Advocate (John 17:9; Heb.7:25).
2. Only believers can take comfort in His death, others have wrath (John 3:36).
3. The "little children" of v. 1 are believers (see 2:12, 14).
4. As John Owen said, if the verse were for the non-elect, then ". . . what comfort can arise from hence to them, by telling them that Christ died for innumerable that shall be damned?" 3 In other words, if it is maintained that Christ died for many that will perish, what comfort can His death have for the sinning Christian? After all, His death did not avail for millions so why should it avail for this particular Christian? And if it does avail, why? What makes the difference?
II. THE AND OF VERSE TWO. (First "and"). The "and" continues the thought of verse one and connects the "propitiation" with the "Advocate," giving the Christian's twofold comfort: Christ is the sinning Christian's Intercessor and satisfaction. Furthermore, verse two is the second half of the twofold conclusion (apodosis). Notice:
If anyone sins, we have an Advocate . . .
and He is the propitiation . . .
The construction of a twofold conclusion with the conditional sentence is just what John has used five times in verses 1:6-10! The point I'm making is that the twofold conclusion is in conjunction with the single "if" (protosis); and since the "if" relates only to Christians, so must the conclusion. At least this is what John did in the verses preceding these (1:6-10). Hence since the statement "if anyone sins" applies only to Christians, so does the twofold conclusion: "we have an Advocate AND He is the propitiation for our sins." At this point in the sentence Christ is not a propitiation for nonChristians.
III. PROPITIATION. Hilasmos is used only here and 1 John 4:10 in the New Testament. Hilaskomai is found only in Luke 18:13 and Heb. 2:17, and hilasterion only in Rom. 3:25 and Heb. 9:5. "Hilasmos and hilasterion . . . do signify that which was done or typically [speaking of the mercy seat in the Old Testament] effected by the mercy seat--namely, to appease, pacify, and reconcile God in respect of aversation for sin." 4 Owen further states that hilasmos
. . . is that whereby the law is covered, God appeased and reconciled, sin expiated, and the sinner pardoned; whence pardon, and remission of sin is so often placed as the product and fruit of His blood shedding, whereby He was a 'propitiation,' matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:22 Rom. 3:25; 5:9; 1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev. 1:5. 5
I add the following passages to his list of those that teach that the fruit of His death is forgiveness and/or justification: Rom. 8:32-34; 1 Peter 2:24; Gal. 3:13; 4:5, 6; Eph. 2:13-15; 5:25-27; Col. 2:13-15; Heb. 2:9-17; 9:12-14, 26; 10:10-18, 26 1 Peter 2:24; Titus 2:14; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Isa. 53:5, 6, 11, 12.
For them (believers) the apostle affirmed that Christ is a propitiation; that he might show from whence ariseth, and wherein chiefly, if not only, that advocation for them, which he promiseth as the fountain of their consolation, did consist--even in a presentation of the atonement made by His blood. He is also a propitiation only by faith, Rom. 6:25; and surely none have faith but believers . . . 6
We may conclude the following: (1) propitiation is efficacious, effecting pardon for its recipients. (2) He is a propitiation through faith, thus not for unbelievers. (3) Propitiation is limited to the elect in 4:10 and Heb. 2:17 and is efficacious there. Trace the people in 2:17, beginning at verse nine. (4) Thus propitiation by definition is for the elect only, unless all are saved.
IV. IS (estin). John says that the Lord Christ IS (present indicative) our satisfaction with the Father--not became such later by application nor was such in the past only to be applied later, but He IS. Either that is true or not true. One cannot say He is potentially the propitiation when John says he IS.
If the unlimited redemption people say that "our" is the elect and "world" is the non-elect, then he is saying that the propitiation is effectual for the "our" and not for the "world." How can the same word have two opposite meanings concomitantly?! Or, if the unlimited redemption people say that "our" are the Christians of John's day and "world" both the elect and non-elect of the future, then he is still saying that IS (estin) has two opposite meanings simultaneously. He would be maintaining that Christ IS (indicative) the satisfaction for "our" sins now and POTENTIALLY (subjunctive) for those to come. The unlimited redemption people are always bellowing that we distort the plain meaning of the words of Scripture. "Scripture must denote exactly what it says," they affirm. If they believe this, then why do they change the meaning of "satisfaction" to "potential satisfaction" and "is" to "provided"? Or in the irrefutable words of the prince of the English theologians:
God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, (1) all the sins of all men, (2) all the sins of some men, or (3) some sins of all men. If the last (3), then all men have some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight (Psa. 130:3). If the second (2), that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first (1), why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be [sin], then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then he did not die for all their sins. Let them choose which party they will. 7
I shall elaborate on this powerful dilemma. If God forgives a sinner the sirs of unbelief for which Christ did not die, then why did He need to die for the other sins? If you say that Christ died for their unbelief, then why do people go to hell, especially in light of Heb. 2:9-17; 9:12-14, 22, 26; 10:1018, 26. Also 1 Sam. 3:14 says no atonement would ever be made for this particular sin, and John 8:24, 28 says that some die in their sins, indicating that Jesus the Lord did not pay for them!
Another point about IS. Observe that "advocate" has a present indicative verb (we have) with it so that Jesus is interceding NOW for Christians. But does He only intercede for the saved elect or does He intercede for the non-saved elect now? According to John 17:9, 20, 24 He intercedes for the non-saved elect now and ONLY for them. Furthermore, His intercession is effectual (John 17:9; Rom. 8:32-34; Heb. 7:25; Isa. 53:12).
Now if Jesus IS the Advocate who is effectually interceding NOW for all the elect and for them ONLY, and John connects the propitiation with His present advocacy, and bases the Advocacy on the propitiation, then His death must be limited to the elect. To put it another way, we know that His advocacy is effectual and is based on His death (John 17:9; Heb. 7:25-27; Rom. 8:32-34; Isa. 53:12); thus if His intercession is a fruit of His death, then His satisfaction must be effectual for His intercession to be effectual. If His death is effectual in and of itself, then it must have been for the elect only. Intercession and satisfaction are two sides of one coin and thus inseparable. There is a logical order to them, though, with intercession being effectual because His death rendered the justice of God satisfied Warfield's comments on this cannot be improved:
The advocacy of our Lord is indeed based here on his propitiation. But it is based on it not as if it bore merely an accidental relation to it, and might or might not, at will, follow on it; but as its natural and indeed necessary issue. John introduces the declaration that Christ IS--not WAS, the propitiation is as continuous in its effect as the advocacy--our propitiation, in order to support his reference of sinning Christians to Christ as their Advocate with the Father, and to give them confidence in the efficacy of his advocacy. The efficacy of the advocacy rests on that of the propitiation, not the efficacy of the propitiation on that of advocacy. It was in the propitiatory death of Christ that John finds Christ's saving work: the advocacy is only its continuation--its unceasing presentation in heaven. The propitiation accordingly not merely lays a foundation for a saving operation, to follow or not to follow as circumstances may determine. It itself saves. And this saving work is common to Christians and "the whole world." By it the sins of the one as of the other are expiated, that is to say, as Weiss wishes to express it in Old Testament forms of speech, are "covered in the sight of God." They no longer exist for God--and are not they blessed whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, to whom the Lord will not reckon sin? It is idle to talk of expounding this passage until we are ready to recognize that according to its express assertion the "whole world" is saved. Its fundamental assumption is that all those for whose sins he is--"is," not "was"--the propitiation have in him an Advocate with the Father, prevailingly presenting his "righteousness" to a the Father and thereby securing their salvation. 8
His advocacy is effectual only because His death is effectual, for how can Christ effectually intercede for the elect except on the basis of His effectual death?! If His death is not effectual, then the effectualness of His intercession is then based on something other than His death; at which time it must be asked, "Why did He die at all?" And His Advocacy is only the continuation of His satisfaction--it is not something new or separate from satisfaction!
V. OUR (hemon) Who are the "our"? The unlimited redemption people assume that "our" refers to the elect and "world" to the non-elect, or "our" to Christians in John's day and "world" to all the people after John's time (elect and non-elect). I have never seen them try to defend "our" and "world" by the context or usage. As Owen said above, what comfort would it be to sinning Christians to know that His blood is the penal satisfaction for those sinners in hell? If His blood did not avail for them, maybe it will not avail for us.
Now I understand "our" to be the elect Jews for these reasons:
1. 1 John 1:1-3 could only refer to the Apostles, as only they heard, saw, and preached Him, and they were all Jewish (Calvin, Owen, A. W. Pink).
2. 1 John 2:7 speaks of the commandment they had from the beginning, which was true of the Jews only (see John 13:33, 34). The order of the Gospel was Jew first and then Gentile (Rom. 1:16) 9 Thus John was writing to Jews.
3. Owen argues that 1 John 2:18, 19 handles Jewish errors, since they so opposed the Gospel. 10
4. Gal. 2:9 says that Peter, James, and John were Apostles to the Jews. Thus James to the twelve tribes (James 1:1) and Peter to the Jews in dispersion (1 Peter 1:1). So it is most probable that John wrote to Jews (Owen, Pink).
5. There is no one who would doubt that 1 John reproduces much of the Gospel of John. For instance:
|2:7, 8||13:33, 34|
Thus it seems obvious that John 11:51, 52 is parallel to 1 John 2:2, as the wording and content are the same. Note these parallels: 1 John, "He is the propitiation for our (Jewish) sins"; John, that Jesus "should die for the nation" (Jews). First John, "and not for ours only"; John, "and not for the nation only." First John, "but also for the whole world" (Gentiles); John, "but that He might gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Gentiles). "Those who are scattered abroad" would seem to be the "other sheep" of John 10:16, who are Gentiles! Thus the "our" is Jewish Christians by all that lends evidence.
VI. BUT ALSO (alla kai). This continues the preceding thought in the initial clause of the verse, that is, that Christ is the penal satisfaction for our sins and also for others. What He IS to "us," He IS to the "whole world" Now this does not say He is potentially the propitiation for the whole world, or that He will become their propitiation, but that He IS NOW the propitiation for the whole world. If He is their propitiation, then they are saved--period!
Someone may object that if Christ's death saved the elect even before they were born, then why do they need to believe? The answer is simple--they are not saved in their experience until the Spirit works faith in them. As Eph. 1 so beautifully explains it, the elect were saved by the Father's choice of them (1:4, 5), they were saved by the Son's death (1:7), and they were saved in their experience when the Holy Spirit applied the atonement (1:13, 14)! Some modified Calvinists want to say that the elect were saved by the Father's choice, the Son's death "provided" salvation but actually did nothing in and of itself, and then the Cross-work of Christ "becomes" effectual by the Spirit's application. In other words, Christ died potentially for nothing! Man's belief, they maintain, makes His Cross-work effectual, instead of His Cross-work guaranteeing man's faith. Does Christ's death merit and guarantee our faith, or does our faith merit the value of His death and guarantee its effectualness? Did Jesus do everything for some, or something for every person? It must be the former! "But that's discrimination!" some will retort. Of course it is, God is not democratic, He's autocratic! He dispenses His grace to whom He wills (Rom. 9:16-18).
A. W. Pink has a good note on the "also" here:
If the "whole world" signifies the whole human race, then the first clause and the "also" in the second clause are absolutely meaningless. If Christ is the propitiation for everybody; it would be idle tautology to say, first, "He is the propitiation for 'our' sins and 'also' for everybody." There could be no "also" if 11e is the propitiation for the entire human family. 11
Thus the "but also" argues in favor of definite atonement.
VII. THE ELLIPSIS The ellipsis concerns the phrase in the second part of verse two that says: "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for [ellipsis] the whole world." While Westcott argues against the ellipsis of "for the sins of" the whole world, 12 Robertson 13 and Nicoll 14 say that it should probably be supplied. I agree that it should be left out grammatically, but there can be little doubt that "He is the propitiation for our sins" is understood with both clauses: "not for ours only" and "for the whole world." Thus John is saying that just as Christ IS NOW the penal satisfaction for our sins, so He IS the penal satisfaction for "the whole world." And if He is the penal satisfaction for the whole world, this necessarily implies a satisfaction "for the sins" of the whole world, for Christ died for sins. And if His death is effectual for the "us," it is also effectual for "the whole world," as what He IS to one, He IS to the other. This brings up the question of what "whole world" means.
VIII. THE WHOLE WORLD It is amazing that the unlimited redemption people accuse the Calvinists of "weaseling" when we limit "the whole world" to be the elect, yet they do the same when they limit propitiation to mean potential propitiation, which is like maintaining that God is infallible, almost. They limit the quality of Christ's death by affirming that "He is the propitiation" means "He is the potential propitiation." John, as we have seen, did not use the subjunctive but the indicative. Furthermore, they limit the quality of propitiation in the face of its universal usage always meaning something accomplished. Furthermore, they define "world" not from its usage, but from the word "world" itself, which is circular reasoning. Thus, they give "world" a universal meaning--contrary to its usage in John's writings, as any Greek lexicon will instantly reveal--and they limit the effectual meaning of propitiation--against its usage! The point I'm making is that we Calvinists seek to understand words in the way they are used, not by some "common sense" understanding of "world."
I've often heard them say, "World means world, as anyone can plainly tell." However, may I point out to my Arminian brothers that one cannot define a word by repeating it. If I say that sproik means sproik, I have only repeated the problem--not solved it. Yet these sincere brothers tend to go into a frenzy when we challenge them that "world" may not mean what they say. We must be controlled by usage of the terms--not by what we would like them to say.
From 106 times "world" is used in John's writings, Arndt and Gingrich lexicon lists only five times it could mean all mankind, and 1 John 2:2 is not one of them! Concerning the universal passages (John 3:16, 17c; 6:33, 51; 12:47), the lexicon states that "world" is "of all mankind, but especially of believers, as the object of God's love." Even in the so-called universal passages the lexicon recognizes a limitation! None of the universal passages are listed in 1 John. I have also studied John's usage of "world" (all 106!), and I see no place in John's writings where world means every human. Even in John 3:16 one is forced to limit either the quality of the word "love" to a mushy compassion over which God has no control and limit the qualitative meaning of love, or limit the quantity of "world." Most likely Warfield is correct is saying that "world" in John 3:16 means "sinner"--without stating which ones. This would be analogous to Rom. 5:6 where Paul states that Christ died for the "ungodly"--without stating which ones.
The word "world" is used 23 times in 1 John and only twice could it come close to meaning "all without exception" (2:2; 4:14). Arndt and Gingrich list both 2:2 and 4:14 under the heading of "mankind in general" and add that this sense of "world" is often found in the early inscriptions. Thus the Calvinists have usage and the lexicons on their side. In 1 John alone "world" has these meanings: (1) earth in contrast to heaven (4:9); (2) mankind in general (4:1, 3, 14); (3) world as earthly possessions (2:15a; 3:17); (4) the opposite of God, at enmity with Him (2:15b-17; 3:13; 4:4, 5, 17; 5:4, 5, 19).
Thayer's lexicon agrees with this diversity of meaning for world but is ambiguous as to what he means by the human race under heading 5. Is this all mankind in general, as the Arndt and Gingrich above, or all mankind without exception?
But what about the usage of "whole world"? Does not the word "whole" make "world" universal? No! Again it is usage that we must consider. The phrase "whole world" is used 18 times in the New Testament. Ten times kosmos is used for "world": Matt. 16:26; 26:13; Mark 8:36; 14:9; Luke 9:25; Rom. 1:8; 3:19; Col. 1:6; 1 John 2:2; 5:19, and 8 times "world" translates oikoumene: Matt. 24:14; Luke 2:1; 4:5; Acts 11:28; 19:27; Rev. 3:10; 12:9; 16:14. I shall mention a few of the occurrences of "whole world." In 1 John itself, the same epistle we are studying, in 5:19 we read that "the whole world lies in the evil one." Does this include the Christian? Absolutely not, we are in Christ. And the first part of the verse reads that "we are of God," which is a technical phrase in John to indicate the elect. In Rev. 3:10 "whole world" is not universal because some will not be tested, which excludes them from the world. In Rom. 1:8, did every person in the world hear and speak of the Romans' faith? No. In Luke 2:1 were the people in China taxed? In Rev. 12:9 did the devil deceive the elect? The only place in the New Testament where "whole world" means "all without exception" is in Rom. 3:19: ". . . that all the world may become guilty before God." And how do we know it means "all without exception"? Because the context tells us so: v. 9: ". . . both Jews and Greeks are all under sin", vv.10-12: "There is none righteous, not even one, . . . none who does good, not even one." The context tells what the phrase means and not the reverse!
Therefore, here in 1 John 2:2 I maintain that "whole world" refers to those Gentiles who are elect for these reasons:
1. See Polycarp's statement given earlier in this treatise, where he states that the whole world means all those Gentiles who will be saved. Remember, Polycarp was taught by John himself!
2. The lexicons do not give a universal meaning to "whole world" here.
3. "Our" refers to Jews so "whole world" must refer to Gentiles.
4. The parallel to John 11:51, 52 given above is extremely strong as to the meaning of the phrase. It is typical of John to emphasize that the Gospel is for the "world" or Gentiles (10:16; 11:52; 17:20; 4:42; 20:30, 31). In John 4:39-42 John uses "world" as including races other than Jews (So Paul also: Rom. 11:11 with v. 15).
5. To a people like the Jews who thought that only their race was God's people, it was a shock to them to find out that the people they hated most were to be united with them in one body (Eph. 2:11-22). Thus John and the other Apostles emphasized this by the terms "Gentiles," "world," "uncircumcised," etc. When John says Christ is the Savior of the world, he means two things: (1) He only is the Savior, and (2) the Savior of all races--not just the Jews.
Thus by usage, lexicography, John's disciple Polycarp, parallel passages (especially John 11:51, 52), we see that advocacy and penal satisfaction are both effectual and limited to the elect and from the same line of evidence that "whole world" means the elect Gentiles in contrast to the elect Jews. This is the quality/quantity approach. Every so-called passage that the Arminians adduce must be exegeted this way. Everyone, whether, Calvinist or Arminian, understands the words in a certain qualitative and quantitative way. He cannot waive into oblivion the qualitative meanings of words by emotional statements such as: "World means world" This is true of such passages as 1 Tim. 2 and a few others.
There is another way to handle some "problem" passages: the covenantal approach. Most of the theologies handle this in detail (See Charles Hodge's theology, for one fine example), but I shall give a few passages as examples. It is obvious that God saved at least a million people out of Egypt and called them all His people (Ex. 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15; Jude 5) and yet we are reminded that God "afterward destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5) who had been "long before hand marked out for this condemnation" (Jude 4). What a clear passage Jude is! The people were all saved out of Egypt as the people of God with such blessings as having the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1, 2), and yet some were not believers! Or as Paul says, the true Jew is not the one outwardly but the one inwardly, indicating that one could be in the covenant and called God's people and not be saved (Rom. 2:263:2). Again in Rom. 9:6 we see that "not all Israel is Israel", a phrase that virtually all commentators understand to mean that "they are not all the true elect Israel who are descended from physical Israel." This indicates that one can be in the covenant people of God and not be personally converted. Other passages that handle this idea are: John 15 (Those that do not abide in Him are cast out and burned); Heb. 6:4-6 (Those who were in the covenant and fell away will not be renewed to repentance, for those who stay in the covenant have "things that accompany salvation" (v. 9)); Heb. 10:26-31 (Those who despise the blood of Christ will be cast out of the covenant people of God even though they were sanctified by the blood of Christ); 2 Peter 2 (False prophets had surreptitiously entered the church and yet were said to have been bought by Christ's blood); See also 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; etc. This strong covenantal language is often used of all the covenant people even though "not all Israel is Israel."
Someone may object: "Are these people in Adam or in Christ?" This question is typically irrelevant. We could ask the same of all the people in the Old Testament and even the children who were circumcised and in the covenant. Apparently God considers covenant children to be in the Lord (Eph. 6:1). This is a problem Baptists have and is unique and inherent to their theology, because they cannot imagine anyone being in Christ who may not be personally regenerated. But this is not a problem the Bible has. One can be in Christ, not bear fruit, and be thrown out as a withered branch and burned (John 15:1-6). Nor did the person lose his salvation, but his lack of perseverance only demonstrated that he never had salvation (1 John 2:19). He was a covenant breaker. The Baptists use this "in Adam or in Christ" argument based on their assumption of regenerate or not regenerate. Why can't they see that they argue in a circle with this: assuming that one is either regenerate or not regenerate, they state that one is either in Adam or in Christ, which in turn assumes that one is either regenerate or not regenerate. A nice circle if I ever saw one! This argument shows that the Baptists have not grasped the Presbyterian position; it is not in the least any problem for covenant men. If they will argue against us, they must first understand us and refute our assumption. An appeal to the new birth in John 3 will not affect us either, for this is not the only place that the Bible addresses this topic. We, too, believe that only those born again will inherit the kingdom of God, but we also, based on other passages, believe that one can be in the covenant and called the children of God, whether he is born again or not!
The best way to end this essay is with the penetrating insight of Charles Spurgeon:
We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not." We ask them the next question--Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer "No." They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, "No. Christ has died that any man may be saved if"--and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, "No, my dear sir, it is you that do it." We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will NEVER renounce ours for the sake of it. 15
1.The Apostolic Fathers, p. 115.
2. John Owen, vol. 10, pp. 332, 333.
3. ibid., p. 333.
4. ibid., p. 334.
5. ibid., p. 334.
6. ibid., p. 335.
7. ibid., pp. 173-174.
8. Benjamin B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 1, pp. 173-174.
9. Owen, p. 331.
10. ibid., p. 332.
11. A. W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, (Baker Book House, 1930, p. 318).
12. B. F. Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, (Eerdmans, 1966, p. 45).
13. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Broadman, 1933, Vol* 6, p. 210).
14. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, (Eerdmans, 1970, vol. 5, p. 174).
15. Quoted by J. I. Packer in his "Introductory Essay" to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 14.