This thread was created as an offshoot to my comment made in this thread (about 1 Jn 2:2). I've opened this thread for purposes of any continued discussion/questions of my views.
Let me first copy the bulk of my previous main comment here, along with two answers I've already provided as a starting point.
*** Begin copy of my original comment (with a few extra links back to the originating post) ***
The problem with "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” for one trying to argue an unlimited atonement is that the atonement must be viewed as potential, not actual, and because a substitution cannot be merely potential (once a substitution is done, it has an effect), then Christ really did not die for (in the place of) all people if it is viewed as merely potential for all. This point is one of the most significant ones advanced by limited atonement advocates—a penal substitutionary atonement must be effectual. As Part III here indicates, Dr. Cone [in Part III of his series] has still taken the approach that “God’s grace is provided for all” and then “belief as the means of accessing God’s propitiatory grace.”
This logical failure of viewing a substitutionary atonement as merely potential in effect is one major driving force that propelled my studies of atonement. I felt there were truths that both limited atonement and unlimited atonement people correctly came to, some that at first glance seemed contradictory, but nevertheless which needed a proper synthesis.
In my dissertation (link is external), I have argued from across various Scriptures for a definite universal penal substitutionary atonement that was designed and executed by God to be effectual for all (believers and unbelievers).
The passage of 1 John 2:2 is just one of many Scriptures supporting this fact, but I will attempt to summarize the dissertation here, and then specifically address 1 John 2:2. In the dissertation, I further argue that what has been largely missed in historical discussions (though not by all in history) is that payment of the penalty for sin for all was designed to do one thing objectively of itself (i.e. apart from election)—allow for God’s righteous resurrection of anyone and everyone from physical death—His ordained penalty for sin which mankind was already judged for corporately in Genesis 3. The objective benefit of the payment of the penalty is applied at the resurrection of the individual, whether believer or unbeliever. Thus, Christ did die for (in a substitutionary, in place of sense) all people, which application of freeing (redeeming) from that penalty comes at their individual resurrection.
This is why I have labeled the view Pananastasism (i.e. all-resurrected-ism). God through Christ did this for all people, in order to corporately deal with the corporate penalty Adam brought upon mankind. It is God’s forgiveness of sins (loosing from sins), which forgiveness must be received (acknowledged) by a person in order to have the further benefits God has planned. God’s objective forgiveness is the basis for the call for one to come to repentance (Lk 24:27; Acts 2:38; i.e. after Christ’s work for people, that work becomes the chief basis for why they should repent of their view of God and believe in what He has done for them). But He did His work on the cross specifically to save a particular people for Himself—believing people, those who are both redeemed and are also in Christ, having acknowledged by belief what God has done for them.
I also argue that this saving from the penalty of sin is the lesser eschatological salvation done for “all men,” making Christ the Savior of all from physical death, while there is still a greater eschatological salvation in which God becomes especially a Savior “for those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10). This greater salvation is from His wrath, manifested in the second death, the casting into the lake of fire, which comes from His second judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, which judgment is upon resurrected (physically saved) unbelieving individuals for their lack of proper (perfect) righteousness.
This righteousness is part of what mankind was designed to reflect in being made like God. Unbelievers lack the proper righteousness because they
- have not repented on account of God’s objective work to forgive of sins, have not had God’s righteousness imputed to them through faith,
- have not had their spirits washed from sin by the blood application of Christ’s atonement (note that this is similar, though distinct, from Cone’s approach in Part II of [his] series where blood application is indicated as being distinct from the payment of the price itself), and
- have not had the Holy Spirit regenerate their spirits to be sinless in nature.
Yet they do have the immortality of the resurrected body granted to them as part of the corporate grace shown to mankind (applying to each equally for what it is intended to do), and thus cannot and will not be consumed by the eternal fire.
I additionally point out that this view of a universal atonement, while avoiding universal salvation, also allows individuals holding varying views of election to actually agree about the nature of atonement. That is, if one is convinced God chooses who will believe, this view of a universal atonement fits just fine, because the objective work of the atonement only results in the resurrection; the righteousness application comes from God’s having elected the individual to faith, and the full, greater salvation comes from the combination of the two works of God—atonement and election to faith. However, if one is convinced a person is free to believe or not through the hearing of the Gospel and the illumination of the Spirit, this view of election fits as well, because the righteousness application comes from God having elected individuals because of faith. In other words, it effectively divorces the objective work of the atonement from the discussion of election, which discussion will no doubt continue to occur.
So 1 John 2:2 fits into the Pananastastic argument like so:
- Christ was a “propitiation” for God’s righteous need to inflict the penalty He had demanded, freeing God to righteously bring people out of the penalty through resurrection to immortality.
- “Our sins” refers to John’s own and the little children’s sins (v.1), which I would equate to all children of God (i.e. believers), and not Jews only, as some have attempted to argue. There is nothing in the context of the letter itself that indicates John is addressing Jews apart from Gentiles, but much showing he is addressing children of God as distinct from the world of ungodly unbelievers.
- “Whole world” indicates the entirety of what John often means by “world,” the world of people who are unbelievers. This is evident because other common uses for the term (the entire cosmos, the earth itself, the sinful world system that manifests as animosity to God) do not themselves have “sins” to propitiate—only individuals have sins to propitiate.
The 1 John 2:2 passage becomes one of many texts pointing to the actual, effectual, objective work of God through Christ on the cross to bring about freedom from the penalty of death and free all mankind from that death through the resurrection. There is no concern at all that God does fails and/or Christ is disappointed—all people are graciously saved from the death due their sins, and believers are further saved to God and Christ, away from His wrath; both just as was intended, one as a grace done for all, the other as a grace intended only for those who believe God.
While the concept I argue is not wholly unrecognized in history, the view has not been articulated well and has been overshadowed by the other, more common back-and-forth banter between the typical limited and unlimited atonement positions. I hope that my dissertation (link is external) presents what will be a first step toward a true “rethinking” of atonement by both sides.
I do not believe the “propitiation” is “present and ongoing” as an action (as I understand Cone to be arguing), but rather a completed act. Christ “is” (remains in a present and ongoing state) the locus of that propitiation in His Person and the completed work on the cross. This completed act forms the basis for Him being able to be an advocate for believers. The completion of the One sacrifice is that act that satisfied God such that He is now righteously able to (when He chooses) release people from death through the resurrection (He has not yet done so because He is still working out other purposes).But that act also frees God to righteously cleanse individuals, of which He has chosen to only cleanse those who believe.
The washing and regenerating work of the Spirit falls within a second part of my thesis that is outside the main scope of my dissertation except to help clarify the aspects related to atonement that are not penal and substitutionary in nature, and so are not objective to all people (so if you are expecting much clarification on that in my dissertation, you will not find it). But I will attempt to clarify here.
Scripture indicates there is a washing done through the regeneration (Titus 3:5), which I believe eradicates the believer’s human spirit from sin by changing its nature, and then allows the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believer. But those renewed spirits of believers still dwell within sinful bodies (Rom 7:21-24; until the resurrection of the believer when the body of sin is done away with [Rom 6:6-7] and a new, spiritually related body given [1 Cor 15:44]). The regenerated spirit dwelling in bodies of sin before the resurrection allows for sin to temporarily taint believer’s regenerated spirits (2 Cor 7:1). So I do believe Christ has a continued spiritual cleansing ministry (not propitiatory ministry) performed in heaven on behalf of believers during this present life, where His blood cleanses our conscience from dead works (Heb 9:14) just as the blood of OT sacrifices cleansed the flesh temporarily (Heb 9:13). His blood washes us from the spiritual tainting of our sins (2 Pet 1:9; Rev 1:5), something that is reapplied during our earthly lives as we confess our sins and are cleansed of unrighteousness in this life (1 John 1:8-10). This cleansing ultimately allows us to be clothed in His righteousness eternally (e.g. Rev 7:14), but is needed in this earthly life to maintain fellowship with God (we are to be righteous as He is righteous, so when we are unrighteous, we need spiritual cleansing again to be in right fellowship while still dwelling in sinful bodies but committing sins).
Note that the 1 John 1:8-10 passage on cleansing immediately precedes the passage in question here—1 John 2:1-2. Christ’s finished propitiation to pay the penalty for sins for all people is the basis John is using here to prove His advocacy for anyone who chooses to approach for the cleansing from sin that is needed. The unbeliever can begin to have that advocacy by repenting of that unbelief and believing in what Christ has already done (the initial washing of regeneration comes), whereas the believer can call upon the advocacy afresh when sin occurs, and maintain fellowship with God just as if the believer that sinned had never done so, being cleansed from all the unrighteousness that the believer’s sin brought.
I hope that clarifies for you my view of spiritual washing that occurs and how it relates to regeneration. Regeneration is the initial purge done in conjunction with belief; further spiritual washing is the maintenance to keep sin’s taint from affecting the fellowship a believer should have with the righteous God because of that believer’s unrighteous acts.
Your summary is somewhat accurate, but I will clarify further:
- The atonement was effectual for every individual, therefore every sin is forgiven (ἄφεσις; i.e. every person will be released from the captivity of and pardoned from the penal guilt of having to serve eternally sin’s penalty, physical death).
- The work of atonement is a fundamentally separate work from the work of election in Christ, though the two function jointly for God’s purposes for believers. Like buying a bag of MM’s (price paid for all), but selecting out from among it to only eat the green one’s (because you adore those), the purchase from bondage is distinct from the election to glory (or eating, in the case of MM’s). Also like all Israel was redeemed (loosed) from Egypt, but only true believers that had, from the heart, entered into the covenant with God survived His wrath on the way to the Promised Land—that is, God elected the true Israel, the believers from among the Israelites freed from Egypt to be blessed.
- Individuals who are forgiven (but who are not in Christ) are subject to God’s eternal wrath in the lake of fire (Gehenna; I make a clear distinction of that from hell [Hades]), not as a legal penalty for their sins, but because they lack being righteous by nature as God designed them to be, which nature God only changes if one believes in what He has already done for them. The unbelievers must become a believers to have righteousness imputed and natures renewed, avoiding the second judgment of their works based on whether they were righteous or not (and not simply whether they violated law or not).
Now to address your other particulars:
a. Sinful behavior (works/deeds) is being judged in Rev 20:12-13, but not on the grounds of particular legal violations of a command (law), such as Adam was, but on natural grounds of not meeting the standard of righteousness, which is far more than any set of commands could ever encompass. God’s laws are righteous, but do not express the sum total of being and acting righteous. The unrighteous works express the nature of the person, and this expression of their nature is what condemns them, for even what they deem to be righteous is not so (Isa 64:6), and so their own works fall far short of where they need to be to stand against the plumb-line of God’s righteous nature that mankind was designed to reflect.
b. Eph 1:5-8 is speaking of believers, those that have been chosen to adoption (v.5) and made acceptable “in the Beloved” (v.6). This relationship “in Him” (v.7) is what makes having “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness [loosing] of sins” (the freedom from physical death that sin caused) allow for God’s grace to abound toward those so related (v.8). The equating of election to redemption is a major interpretive flaw to those that hold such a view. God has an intention to save the elect, but being the elect is distinct from the saving of the elect, and likewise the redeeming of mankind (including the elect) is distinct from the adopting of the elect to the blessing of the family of God.
c. I agree Heb 9:12 does indicate the propitiatory atonement is the means to obtain redemption. Redemption is the freeing of mankind from God’s legal penalty of sin (physical death; Gen 2:17) that Satan leveraged to his own power (Heb 2:14-15) by deceiving Eve to tempt Adam to sin (Gen 3:1-7). All mankind is redeemed from this due to Christ’s atoning work, and precisely because that redemption is eternal is why the second death, the experience of the lake of fire, does not re-destroy the body by death.
d. Atonement is distinct from the act of justification, though related to it. There would be no (ultimate) justification possible without atonement, but the atonement is not the totality of what is needed for justification. Notice that Rom 8:28-30 no where mentions atonement (neither the penal substitutionary payment for sin aspect of it, nor the cleansing blood application from it). It mentions God’s calling (twice, v.28 and 30), His foreknowledge, His predestinating to a conforming of Christ, His justifying, and His glorifying. People need their sins’ penalty legally paid for in order for God to justly justify anyone (what the penal substitution provides all people); people also need their sin nature cleansed from sin for God to justly justify anyone (what the blood cleansing provides believers); people also need their relation rightly restored with God for God to justly justify anyone (what the new covenant by His blood provides for those who have entered into it with Him, the believers). So the various ways that Christ’s atoning work functions allow for justification, but the justification itself comes by God accounting it so, which He has chosen to only account faith for that (Rom 4:5, 13). For more on the relation of atonement and justification, see the next answer.
e. Rom 3:23-26 is extensively treated in my dissertation (pages 270-287), so I leave that to explain in more detail. The summary is this—the passage outlines God’s three step plan to justly allow Him to gift righteousness to believers, the three steps being “(1) through redemption [worked out by propitiation], (2) through faith, and (3) locating the believer in Christ’s blood” (page 280, bracketing added here to more directly relate to the question you asked). Propitiation is not one action with justification, propitiation is a part of the actions necessary for justification.
I hope I have sufficiently answered your questions. The dissertation primarily focuses on the texts that demonstrate the atonement functions universally to allow for the resurrection of all people, but I did know that I had to include enough of a sketch of my overall understanding of soteriology (justification being part of that) to help others understand the context of my argument since that argument is atypical from the standard argument schemes brought forth (being a synthesis of points that I believed valid from both Provisionalist [a.k.a. unlimited] and Particularist [a.k.a. limited] viewpoints on atonement).