1 John 2:2 - Does Grace Extend to Everyone? (Part 1)

Introduction

A literal translation of 1 John 2:2 reads as follows: “And He a propitiation He is for the sins of us, not for those of us only, but also for those of the whole world.” At first glance the verse seems simple enough, but there has historically been startling disagreement regarding its intended meaning.

John MacArthur concludes that the passage cannot mean that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, insisting that, “Jesus didn’t pay for the sins of Judas … or Adolf Hitler.”1 MacArthur supports his view with an appeal to John 11:52,2 which he says indicates that Jesus died only for the children of God. The passage reads, “… 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.”3 John Piper’s explanation of the passage is similar, as he, like MacArthur, supports his 1 John 2:2 interpretation from an appeal to John 11:52.4 R.C. Sproul explains 1 John 2:2 as follows: “He is the “propitiation” for us, the one who endured the wrath we deserve so that divine justice is fulfilled, not set aside. Christ is the propitiation for “the whole world,” not because He made atonement for every sinner, but because He redeemed not only Jews but people from all parts of the world” [emphasis mine].5

How can a verse so seemingly simple be construed to say almost the opposite of what it seems intended to say? To put it simply, there is theological turf at stake. If the literal translation (that Christ is the propitiation for the whole world) reflects the intended meaning, then the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement collapses, and with it, the other four points of Calvinism as understood by contemporary Reformed thinkers. Note Sproul’s recognition that, “if a person really understands the other four points and is thinking at all clearly, he must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic.”6 But what if limited atonement is debunked by 1 John 2:2 (or other passages)? Sproul makes a telling admission: “I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death.”7 I don’t think we want to believe…

The Reformed Doctrine of Limited Atonement

In order to understand why Sproul might make such a statement, let’s examine some basics of the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement. The essential premise of the doctrine is that the atonement is sufficient for all men, but efficient only for the elect. On its face that doesn’t sound too problematic, but the problem becomes evident when we consider what is meant by the term efficient. Sproul explains it this way: “It wasn’t just a hypothetical atonement, it was an actual atonement. He didn’t offer a hypothetical expiation for the sins of His people; their sins were expiated.”8 Piper’s conclusion is similar. He asserts, “When Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for us…He decisively accomplished that for His own. His sheep. His elect…He didn’t just make it accomplishable. He accomplished it.”9 From this understanding, Piper considers the term triumphantly effective atonement as preferable to the more traditional limited atonement.10 Sproul likewise re-­‐labels the term. He says, “I prefer not to use the term limited atonement because it is misleading. I rather speak of definite redemption or definite atonement, which communicates that God the Father designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to providing salvation for the elect, and that Christ died for His sheep and laid down His life for those the Father had given to Him.”11 This redefinition helps explain why the Reformed view demands that regeneration precedes faith – because in this perspective salvation for the elect was accomplished at the cross, and not when the elect actually believed.

Further, notice the distinction Sproul suggests between meritorious and full value of the atonement: “…its meritorious value is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, and certainly anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ will receive the full measure of the benefits of that atonement.”12 The full value is conditioned upon trust or belief. But Sproul adds another subtle yet important condition: “…the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents.

Obviously the merit of the atonement of Christ is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins” [emphasis mine].13

It is noteworthy that Sproul views the merit of the atonement as conditional based on repentance of sins, because never in the Bible is there such a condition identified. Fifty-­‐six times in the NT repentance is mentioned. In eight instances the NT refers to repentance that leads to the forgiveness of sins.14 There are five instances in Revelation, one referring to “Jezebel,”15 and the others to unbelievers who have not repented of similar deeds.16 The only other context connecting repentance and sin is 2 Corinthians 12:21, in which Paul describes mourning for believers who have not repented of their impurity, immorality, and sensuality. Repentance from sins is simply not a Biblical condition for salvation. But what about 1 John 2:2? Does that passage refute or support the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement? We cannot dismiss the passage by referring to a distant and unconnected context, nor by quoting a catechism or creed, nor by repeating a theological supposition. We can only answer the question by exegeting the passage itself.

(Presented to the 2015 Free Grace Alliance National Conference 10/13/15. Tomorrow: An Exegesis of 1 John 2:2.)

Notes

1 John Macarthur, “Limited Atonement: Explained – 1 John 2:2” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DepxyWF8euA.

2 “ … 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.”

3NASB.

4 John Piper, “John Piper on Limited Atonement” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZEIPPgMkFA.

5 R.C. Sproul, “Our Righteous Advocate,” Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/our-­‐righteous-­‐advocate/.

6 R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 142.

7 R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement,” Ligonier Ministries, November 19, 2012 at http://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and‐reformed‐theology‐limited-atonement/.

8 Sproul, The Truth of the Cross, 150.

9 9 John Piper, “John Piper on Limited Atonement” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZEIPPgMkFA.

10 Ibid.

11 Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement.”

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Mk 1:4, Lk 3:3, 17:3,4, 24:47, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31, 2 Cor 12:21.

15 Rev 2:21.

16 Rev 2:22, 9:20,21, 16:11.

Christopher Cone 2015 Bio


Dr. Christopher Cone serves as Chief Academic Officer and Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Southern California Seminary. He formerly served as President of Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, Professor of Bible and Theology, and as a Pastor of Tyndale Bible Church. He has also held several teaching positions and is the author and general editor of several books. He blogs regularly at drcone.com.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's early, since most of the meat and potatoes posts tomorrow. But I do want to point one thing out right away: nobody but universalists reads 1 John 2:2 "at face value." What the text seems to say, read natrually, is that everybody's going to heaven.

But as with so much of John, he's being very terse and has to be interpreted in light of what we know from elsewhere.

What I have to give the Reformed view credit for is working hard at interpreting Scripture with Scripture and avoiding universalism here. Of course, the question arises, but do they go too far? I'm not personally all that interested in answering that question, but I do think it's the right question.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Someone at SI must think its time to crank up a little excitement.  This article is guaranteed to generate interest and heated discussion.

What I John 2:2 seems to say will depend largely on the interpreter's understanding of the world "world."  (cosmos)  If it is assumed to mean every person on planet earth, the verse teaches universal atonement.  (Or more likely, as Aaron pointed out, universalism or universal salvation.)  Before accepting that interpretation, why not do a word study of cosmos, and see how often it is used in the NT of everybody on earth?  In my investigations, I find that it almost never means everybody in all the world.

A key to Biblical interpretation is finding out how inspired authors used various words, and how they defined them.  The question is not, "What does this verse seem to mean to me?"  But, "What was the Apostle John communicating by this statement?"  When you know how John understood the word cosmos, you will be a lot closer to understanding what he intended to say in I John 2:2.

G. N. Barkman

Don Johnson's picture

I don't agree that universalists are the only ones who take 1jn 2.2 at face value. 

I don't agree that the interpretation hinges on the understanding of the word "world" -- the key word, in my opinion, is "atonement."

however... It is probably best to save the arguments until the other shod drops! (i.e., part 2)

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Thought I’d add Criswell’s thoughts on 1 John 2:2:

“I’ve never been able to understand how the Calvinists, some of them, believe in a ‘limited atonement.’ That is, the sacrifice of Christ applied only to those who are the elect, but there is no sacrifice of Christ for the whole world—when John expressly says He is the sacrifice, the atoning, dedicated gift of God in our lives for the whole world [1 John 2:2]. And it is just according to whether we accept it or not as to whether the life of our Lord is efficacious for us in His atoning death.”
-W. A. Criswell (AD 1909-2002), pastor First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX; SBC president.
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2014/06/w-criswell-on-calvinism-pred...

David R. Brumbelow

alex o.'s picture

Got no takers when I posted Cone's link in the thread I started about this verse. As mentioned: the issue is not 'believers vs. world' but 'Jews (John and his team) vs. world (Gentiles)'. So its a Jew/Gentile issue instead of believer/unbeliever statement. The believer/unbeliever position makes no sense at all. 

John, I  believe, could have very well not assimilated fully being an apostle whose ministry was primarily in the land of Israel. After the conflict of 70 C.E., John relocated to Ephesus eventually along with other Jewish refugees who remained closely linked.

Peter had heard Jesus say that whatever food goes into a person does not defile but whatever proceeds from inside a person defiles. Yet in Acts 10 when Peter received the vision of the lowered sheet full of unclean animals, he says: "nothing unclean has ever entered into my mouth." So Peter remained a committed observer of Jewish diet despite previous teaching. It was not wrong for him to observe these restrictions but probably didn't judge others as severely as previous. This was a fluid time.

These were Jewish men who occupied a transitional period so it was not unusual for John to cloister himself with other Jewish scholars and write to churches who were comprised of mostly Jews and former proselytes to Judaism. John is affirming the opening of God's floodgates of mercy. No longer would Gentiles have to go through all the Jewish conversion steps to be accepted by the only true God who exclusively only related to the Jewish people previously. This was what the disciples could not bear (Gentile inclusion) during Jesus' ministry.

We really need to think in terms of the setz im leben of what it was like to be Jewish during that time. I do not think the Spirit required the Jews to become like Gentiles in all aspects and hence, the statement.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Wayne Wilson's picture

This article is sort of all over the map here. I thought it was about Limited Atonement, and it turns out to be about the Lordship controversy over repentance. Too much to tackle in a comment. I will say this though, I like and accept the expression "the atonement is sufficient for all men, but efficient only for the elect" as consistent with my own 4-point views. But Calvin himself categorically rejected that formulation. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

"The Atonement is sufficient for all men, but efficient only for the elect" is also consistent with my five point understanding.  It's a phrase that is not detailed enough to be specific.

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

It seems that both sides limit the atonement.

One side seems to say that God limits its application to the elect.

The other side seems to say that man limits its application by their rejection of it.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It really does come down to definitions, but more than one. John's kosmos is, as with other NT writers, not static in meaning. He uses it sometimes of the world order as in 1 John 2:15-17. Most of the time he uses it of the general population of the lost who are under the dominance of that order, as Jesus does in John 15:19 and John does in 1 John 3:1.

But in 1 John 2:2, defining kosmos has to be informed in part by 

(1) the contrast with "our" in "ours only"

(2) larger theological context of the NT

I do not believe there is any avoiding taking a theological system to 1 John 2:2. If you read it independently of theological context, it says everybody's sins are propitiated. Which puts everybody in the choir of the Redeemed.

So this is what I mean when say "taking it at face value" -- taking it in isolation from larger NT (and even OT) context.

The old hermeneutical principle is a good one: interpret the clear from the unclear. Or, as in this case, interpret the less clear from the more clear. John's statement is so brief, it has to be approached almost like we do one of the Proverbs (when we are approaching the Proverbs properly, that is!)

G. N. Barkman's picture

Ron Bean is correct that everyone limits the Atonement (except those who teach Universalism).  Calvinists believe the atonement is limited according to design.  The Atonement was designed to secure the salvation of the elect.  Others believe it is limited according to effect.  Though designed to save everyone, man limits the effective scope by his unbelief.  This position raises many problems, not the least of which relates to the character of God.  Did God intend to save everyone, but failed in His intent?  Did Christ shed His blood with the hope of saving everyone, but is disappointed with the results of His death?  These questions have sobering implications, and should be considered carefully.

G. N. Barkman

Jay's picture

GN, 

As someone who believes "sufficient for all, efficient only for the elect", these two sentences are silly and borderline blasphemous / offensive:

Though designed to save everyone, man limits the effective scope by his unbelief.  This position raises many problems, not the least of which relates to the character of God.  Did God intend to save everyone, but failed in His intent?  Did Christ shed His blood with the hope of saving everyone, but is disappointed with the results of His death?

I understand if you disagree with our position, but saying that we have to believe that God failed or Christ is disappointed with the results because not all will be saved attacks God's Person and Character.  It also demonstrates that you either don't understand our position or that you intended malice towards those you disagree with.  I'm pretty sure that you aren't intentionally doing either.

Those who reject salvation are condemned in and of themselves for their own rejection, a point that John makes abundantly clear in his gospel.  It has nothing to do with God's 'failing' or Christ's 'insufficiency'.

C'mon, man.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Christ died for all mankind, yet gave man a free will to accept or reject His salvation. If a man rejects Jesus, that does not mean Jesus failed, it means man failed.

During Jesus’ early ministry many rejected Him, that does not mean Jesus failed.

God commands everyone to repent. Has God failed if everyone does not repent? Of course not.

David R. Brumbelow

G. N. Barkman's picture

Jay, as one who believes Christ's atonement is sufficient for all, yet efficient for the elect, I am puzzled by your response.  Since you really did not directly engage the statements you quoted, I can only acknowledge your objection, and speculate as to the reasons.  The statements seem silly and offensive to you, but I'm not sure exactly why.  They seem perfectly logical to me.  However, when I think back about forty years, I realize I might have registered similar objections at that stage in my life.  My thinking changed gradually as I wrestled with this issue and continued to study Scripture.  Who knows, perhaps something similar may happen to you?  (:

G. N. Barkman

Jay's picture

Hi GN-

You said:

Calvinists believe the atonement is limited according to design.  The Atonement was designed to secure the salvation of the elect.  Others believe it is limited according to effect.  Though designed to save everyone, man limits the effective scope by his unbelief.  This position raises many problems, not the least of which relates to the character of God.  Did God intend to save everyone, but failed in His intent?  Did Christ shed His blood with the hope of saving everyone, but is disappointed with the results of His death?  These questions have sobering implications, and should be considered carefully.

Here's why I say that this is silly talk.  On what plane can we ever refer to God as failing in His plans, purposes, or being?  The triumph of the joint God (Father, Christ and Holy Spirit) rings throughout scripture.  To argue that God could fail is to acknowledge that there is something deficient in Who He is or What He has done - and that runs contrary to the Bible. It's a logical and scriptural impossibility, given passages like these:

  • To the choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm. Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah (Psalm 66:1-4 ESV)
     
  • Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:4-8 ESV)
     
  • Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea....the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:13-20 ESV)
     
  • But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
     
  • I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 ESV)
     
  • These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:13-14 ESV)

I realize that some of those passages are pointing towards the future, but they are future promises based on God's ability to perform what He has promised, even if they are not realized as of yet.  Some of the other verses are based on the names that God uses to describe Himself - to distinguish between Himself and all other kings/lords/sovereigns.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

apward's picture

While many others are discussing the important issue of the atonement, I thought I should add some info to the repentance issue. Dr. Cone says that,

Fifty‐six times in the NT repentance is mentioned. In eight instances the NT refers to repentance that leads to the forgiveness of sins. There are five instances in Revelation, one referring to “Jezebel,” and the others to unbelievers who have not repented of similar deeds. The only other context connecting repentance and sin is 2 Corinthians 12:21, in which Paul describes mourning for believers who have not repented of their impurity, immorality, and sensuality. Repentance from sins is simply not a Biblical condition for salvation.

There are several passages that speak of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. My 2 favorites are:

Luke 24:46-47 He [Jesus] also said to them, "This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day,  47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Acts 2:38  Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

It is the clear and consistent testimony of scripture that John the Baptist, Jesus, and Peter preached repentance for the forgiveness of sin. But people ask, “Repent from what?” Many people have suggested that the Greek word for “repentance” does not mean we are repenting of our sin, but only changing our mind toward believing in God. Jesus’ use of the word in Matthew 12:41 and the parallel passage in Luke 11:32 indicates otherwise.

Matthew 12:41  The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation; and look-- something greater than Jonah is here!

In both Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32 Jesus uses the Greek word for repent to describe the actions of Nineveh. Of what did the Ninevites repent? They repented of their sins.

Jonah 3:10  When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Furthermore, the context of Matthew 12 and Jonah indicates that Jesus is speaking of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, not of a repentance for sanctification at some point after justification.

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Jay, it appears that you have just proved my point.  You are right.  God cannot fail in anything He desires to accomplish.  That is why He designed Christ's atonement to accomplish the salvation of he elect.  If He designed it to save the whole world, then His purpose has been thwarted by man's unbelief, and that is impossible.

G. N. Barkman

Jay's picture

G.N. -

No, we're in disagreement on this, but at least I know where the issue lies.  I can't go down the road you do that the atonement was 'designed...to accomplish the salvation of the elect'.  I'm assuming that you mean the salvation of 'only' the elect when I say that. John's Gospel, again, seems to indicate otherwise.  I'm short for time so I can't get into the greek, but that's pretty clear that there is not a limit to the scope of Christ's work.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42 ESV)

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:44-48 ESV)

I could continue but I'll stop there.  I really have no desire to get into another Calvinist/Arminian discussion on SI...I just want to point out that your theory seems to conflict with John.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

JohnBrian's picture

Jay wrote:

I'm short for time so I can't get into the greek, but that's pretty clear that there is not a limit to the scope of Christ's work.

The verses you quote do imply "a limit to the scope of Christ's work."

That limit restricts the scope to only those who believe, the phrase you have highlighted a few times in your quotes.

The John 4:42 reference to Christ being the Savior of the world can be understood to mean not just Jews but Samaritans and other Gentiles as well.

Rev. 7:9 speaks about "a great multitude that no one could number,from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb..."

That's the whole world, but not every individual in the whole world. That verse gives great impetus for world missions, the knowledge that no ethnic group will be unrepresented in eternity, but that in a sense the whole world will be saved.

CanJAmerican - my blog
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G. N. Barkman's picture

Jay, it seems your reasoning is something like this:

Major Premise:  Christ died savingly for everyone who has ever been born in all the world.

Minor Premise:  God cannot fail.

Conclusion:  Therefore, failing to save all the people for whom Christ savingly died cannot be considered failure.

My reasoning is different:

Major Premise:  God cannot fail.

Minor Premise:  If God failed to save people He purposed to save, He failed in HIs purpose.

Conclusion:  God could not have purposed Christ's death for the salvation of everyone who has ever lived.

G. N. Barkman

Rolland McCune's picture

I concur with Aaron's opening post here that this text, if not the whole question of the extent of the atonement, must be answered finally by comparing Scripture with Scripture, commonly called the analogy of faith. I.e., interpretation begins with the findings of exegesis of the text but must end with the consent of other Scriptures pertinent to those findings. Allow me to give a barebones outline with a few pertinent texts.
1. The extent/design of the atonement must be gleaned from Scriptures that reveal what atonement actually does in its application to creation (i.e., the universe, all that is not God).
2. Sufficiency: Universality. ("The living God is the savior of all men")
a. Infinity, thus fully sufficient to address all the effects of sin everywhere.
b. The atonement entails both redemptive and non-redemptive benefits but not with equal ultimacy, i.e., not applied equally to every aspect/person of the universe.
c. The universal redemptive design of the atonement. Redemption is available to all humans and all are invited to partake. Seen in:
1 The unrestricted language of invitation. Jn 3:16; 7:37; 2 Cor 5:19
2 The universal love of God. Jn 3:16; Lk 6:36
3 The universal mandate to evangelize all. Mt 28:21; Lk 24:47
4 The universal gospel message. Acts 17:24-30; so-called "duty faith"
5 The universal objects of Christians' prayers. 2 Tim 2:1-5
6 A universal sanctification. Heb 10:29; 6:4-6; 2 Pet 2:20-21; 1 Cor 7:14
7 A universal general call to be saved, to all who hear the gospel. John 12:23
8 A restraint of sin and many general blessings. 2 Thess 2:6-7; Mt 5:45; Acts 14:17
9 Benefits that extend even to the non-rational creation. Rom 8:19-22; Col 1:16-17, 20; Isa 11:6-9

3. Effeciency: Limitations. 1 Tim 4:10 "especially to believers"
a. An effectual to salvation, the "all things of Rom 8:28 ff, esp v. 32; 1 Cor 1;23-24
b. The gifts of repentance and faith. 1 Thes 1:4-5; 1 Cor 12:3; Acts 14:27; Heb 12:2
c. Certainty of final salvation. Rom 8:31-39; 1 Thes 5:10
d. Other.
1 Forgiveness of sin. Rev 1:5
2 Sanctification. Heb 10:10, 14; 1 Jn 1:9
3 Personal access to God's very presence. Heb 10:19-21

All the benefits within the design and intent of the atonement are accomplished and applied by divine guaranty to each person and situation. Christ in a real sense is a substitute for all sin and sinners but the difference is in the benefits themselves. There are the blessings of common grace to all on the one hand, and there are the blessings of saving grace to personal eternal life that are restricted to some on the other. All are by divine design and intent. Jesus became "sin"; He did not become cancer, Dutch elms disease, headaches, etc. Sin and all its effects must have a remedy or resolution based on infinite and eternal ethics. If not, nothing and no one can be helped, saved or kept safe from relentless justice of the living God.

Rolland McCune

Don Johnson's picture

Hear, hear, Dr. McCune

to add my 2c, in Lev 16 we see the law of the Day of Atonement. That ceremony created access for the whole nation to God every year. Atonement made it possible for every Israelite individually to have access to God, whether the individual was believing or not and whether the individual took advantage of the possibility or not. Atonement propitiated God, making him willing to hear individual prayers and receive individual offerings.

in the same way, the atonement of the cross makes the way open for any individual to receive the benefits. Justification, the application of the benefit, depends on individual response (faith) in what God has done.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

pvawter's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

God cannot fail in anything He desires to accomplish.  That is why He designed Christ's atonement to accomplish the salvation of he elect. 

This seems to me to be a non sequitur. Of course God cannot fail in anything he desires to accomplish, but that reality has no bearing on the nature of his purpose in the atonement. That must be explained and proved from Scripture itself. It cannot be simply assumed. If the Father designed Christ's atonement to accomplish the salvation of the elect, then it must indeed do so, but you have to prove the antecedent before you can assume the consequent.

paul

Rolland McCune's picture

Don:

RE yours of 10-24, yes, I can see the distinctions you make about the Day of Atonement. In fact there is quite a bit of that phenomenon in Israel's religion. Since Israel was a theocracy with a religious/political  form, or union of church and state as it were, there was created a unique polity--a mandatory, scrupulous civil religion (Yahweh worship), supported and enforced by the state, that operated out of the nation's central altar in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. There were many Levitical forms that were "national" in purpose, e.g., two daily burnt offerings, the weekly sabbath offerings (that doubled the daily sacrifices), and the monthly new moon offerings. In themselves they were non-salvatory but propitiated God who could and did respond positively as you note, probably as long as there was a believing, covenant-keeping remnant. When apostasy infested and overtook the people, the theocratic kingdom declined and eventually collapsed. My own view of the OT offerings is that, if offered in true faith in God and the Covenant, they granted real forgiveness and a "practical" but not a permanent expiation of sin. Moral finality came when God ratified the Levitical forms in the once-for-all expiation of sin at the cross.

 

I have noted for some time that there is strong resistance to the thought  of non-salvific benefits in the biblical idea of atonement. The atonement is usually  worked out within an either-or, limited-unlimited, universal-particular soteriological paradigm. I find that approach a little too simplistic and reductionist in determining the divine intent and design of the atonement. A multi-dimentional approach would on the surface seem to be more productive. Letting the Scriptures themselves (OT and NT) round out the contours, design, and divine intent of the atonement would appear to be a preferred method.  A binary approach often ends in haggles and bizarre interpretations of particular verses that resist the two columns of pre-ordained options.  E.g., the "sheep debate" over John 10 among others. They bring to mind the sign that hung over the old blacksmith shop: "All kinds of twisting and turning done here." An appeal to an obscure, virtually never-used word possibility or verb form is usually not very convincing. Chasing a moveable nu throughout the Greek NT or an enclitic mem in the Hebrew OT always has the feel of special pleading. I once saw the supposed demolition of the judicial, federal headship view of the imputation of Adamic guilt of sin in favor of a version of the personal, seminal view based on the rarely-used gnomic aorist!

 

My ideas here are not an end-all to the difficulties of hermeneutics and theology. But I often wonder how productive the conclusions of tedious grammatical-syntactical studies really are. The same would go for the need to do an exhaustive historical study of a verse, clause, word, grammatical form, or an idea. Such may be helpful, certainly, but its status (for many) of a hermeneutical norm or directive is questionable. The interpretive principle of the fundamental perspicuity of Scripture sometimes seems to get lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

arted

Rolland McCune

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