Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Atonement for All the World

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1John 2:1-2 AV)

That seems to be a strong statement in support of the universal extent of the work of the atonement at Calvary however our Calvinist friends are quick to dismiss the scope of the atonement by insisting the phrase whole world is exclusive to the elect of the whole world. I have never understood how they think themselves capable of projecting such a philosophy upon the passage. Is it reasonable to suggest the Apostle John had such a scheme in mind when he wrote this epistle? I believe it is a very hard stretch to make this passage fit the Calvinist paradigm especially when we consider how John used "world" elsewhere in his epistle.

"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1John 2:12-17 AV)

The above passage, taken from the same letter makes a sharp contrast between the saints and the entirety of the world from which we came. It strikes me as incredulous that the Apostle could be referring to the unrevealed elect through the use of "whole world" when he made such a strong contrast shortly following that statement. We find this again latter in the same letter.

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. [And] we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." (1John 5:18-21 AV)

How could it be that the whole world could ever mean the unrevealed elect in our midst when the world, the whole world, that same whole world mentioned in 2:1-2 lies completely in wickedness. The contrast between those that lie in wickedness and the saints that have received an understanding through the coming of the LORD is stark and undeniable. The whole world spoken of by the Apostle can only represent that whole world each of the saints once was a part of and have now come out of. It commands an understanding of the universal provision of the atonement rather than the philosophical reaching of a limitation in order to buttress an aberrant view.

While I do not hold that a limited atonement as devised by Calvinists (married and one with the unconditional election of Dort) constitute an anathematized doctrine as the elders of Orange determined, it certainly sits as a rebutted, aberrant doctrine by the words of the Apostle and one teaching in particular that is justified in being completely rejected by the saints of God. ( Similar arguments have been made by others concerning these particular passages. I recently encountered Robert Picirilli making very much the same argument)