1 John 2:2

We will examine 1 John 2:2

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Does 1 John 2:2 teach that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and therefore everyone will be saved? Or does it teach that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and everyone will have the ability to be saved? Or does it teach something else?

Some of this post comes from a previous blog entry, but much of it is new.

We have to realize that while it might appear that Christ is the propitiation for everyone, we must realize what scripture actually says concerning Christ being the propitiation.

Notice that the high priest Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus was going to die  not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

John 11:49-52

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

In Romans 2:21-26, we see that the righteousness of God through faith in Christ for all who BELIEVE. Indeed, Christ is a propitiation in His blood through faith. Thus we see Christ is not the propitiation for everyone, but for those who have faith.

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So going back to 1 John 2:2, the world Greek translated as ‘whole’ means ‘all’, ‘whole’, ‘completely’. But we must examine what the word world mean here.

The Greek word translated as ‘world’ is transliterated as Kosmos. This is the word we get cosmos from, which means universe. But this word has many connocations, many meanings:

  1. an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government
  2. ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts’, as the ornament of the heavens. 1 Pet. 3:
  3. the world, the universe
  4. the circle of the earth, the earth
  5. the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family
  6. the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
  7. world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
    1. the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ
  8. any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort
  9. the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (Rom. 11:12 etc)
  10. of believers only, John 1:29; 3:16; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19

So, there are times when the phrases “all” or “whole world” do not automatically mean “every individual in the entire world.”

We see one example in Luke 2:1-3

 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Obviously “all the inhabited earth” did not mean “every inhabitant of the world.” Caesar’s decree did not apply to people who were not of the Roman empire, so it could not have means everyone in the world. The context was limited to those of the Roman empire.

Another example is when the Pharisees were speaking about everyone following Christ in John 12:19

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

The world did not go after Him – only those who followed Christ did, there were plenty left (in the local area and in the entire world) who did not.

So one meaning would be universe, another world, another all the people of the world, another all the people who hate God, another all the people who love God.

By itself, this verse can not be used to show whether God is speaking of everyone everywhere or of people who would be come believers only.

We see in 2 Cor. 5:17-21 that God is “reconciling the world to Himself.” Now, before we think that “the world” means everyone in the world, we have to read the REST of the verse: “not counting their trespasses against them.” So the world is those people whose sins are not counted against them, namely: believers.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Notice in Hebrews 2:16-17 that Jesus gives help to the descendant of Abraham. We know from Romans 9:6-8 that the descendants of Abraham are the children of the promise – believers from both Jews and Gentiles. These are the people for whom God makes propitiation for sins.

16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

So then what does it mean that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world?

1 John 2:2
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

I see a number of possibilities for what ‘whole world’ means:

  1. This COULD mean that Jesus atoned for the sins for everyone – whether they would come to believe or not.
  2. This COULD mean that Jesus atoned for the sins for everyone who might believe, regardless of whether they will 0r not. I fail to see how this is any different than the first option.
  3. This could mean that Jesus atoned for the sins of everyone and everyone will be saved. We know from other scripture that not everyone is saved (Matthew 7:21-23), so it can not be this one.
  4. This could mean that Jesus atoned for the sins of everyone, but it only is effective, it is only applied, when one has faith in Christ.
  5. This could mean that Jesus atoned for the sins of all kinds of people, people of every nation – which sounds similar to what we see in
Revelation 5:9
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation

Personally, I think both #4 and #5 fit the text well.

But what DOES Limited Atonement mean? It means that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, but only effective for some. We see this in scripture.

Jesus’ blood was poured out for many – Matthew 26:28

for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

Christ lays down His life for the sheep – so… does that mean for everyone?

John 10:11

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

John 10:15

even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

We see in Matthew 25:32-46 that the sheep are the righteous ones and not the goats, who are the unrighteous ones.

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Indeed, Jesus interceded only for those given to Christ by the Father

John 17:6-9

6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours

The church is what Christ purchased with His blood – not everyone.

Acts 20:28

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood

Just as Christ bought the church with his own blood, just as Christ was given people out of the world, just as Christ laid down His life for the sheep,  just as Christ was slain, and purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, is the propitiation for those who have believed, do believe, and will believe in Christ.

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