Posted by: stpowen | August 19, 2015

Two Tough Texts for Calvinists (Part 1)

2 Peter 3:16. ‘……Some things hard to understand…….’

In recent days, I have been participating on a discussion forum where there has been much lively debate on the subject of Arminianism and Calvinism, especially on the subject of General or Particular Redemption; that is, whether Christ died for mankind in general or for a particular people given to Him by the Father. Such discussions usually generate more heat than light, and this forum has been no exception. However, it does appear that many on the Arminian side are basing their arguments upon two texts which they regard as proof-texts against the Reformed Doctrines of Grace. I though therefore that it might be as well to examine these verses to see if they really will bear the weight that is being put on them.

The first text is 1 John 2:2.

1 John 2:2 (NIV). ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’

1 John 2:2 (AV). ‘And he himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.’

1 John 2:2 (NKJV). ‘And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world.’

I leave on one side the faulty translation in the NIV of the Greek word hilasterion as ‘atoning sacrifice’ rather than ‘propitiation’ and press on. The argument of those who uphold a General Redemption is that since the Lord Jesus has died for the sins of ‘the whole world,’ He cannot have died for the Elect alone. They assume that the Greek word kosmos, which has the basic meaning of ‘the created order,’ must mean here ‘all the people in the world.’ There is no firm evidence for that; kosmos has a variety of meanings in the New Testament. But whatever it means here, it cannot mean ‘all the people in the world,’ since the Bible teaches very clearly that God is actually not propitiated towards everyone in the world without exception. ‘He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’ (John 3:18). So God is not propitious towards unbelievers. Is it possible that our Lord Jesus would make a propitiation that would fail? One that would not propitiate the Father?   Surely not! ‘For I always do the things that please Him’ (John 8:29).

So who or what is this kosmos for whom Christ has made propitiation? There are two possible answers. The first is to look at the uses of ‘world’ and ‘all’ in the New Testament. A. W. Pink has shown {1} that there are up to eight different uses of kosmos and only rarely does it mean ‘all the people in the world.’

He writes:

“The word “kosmos,” and its English equivalent “world,” is not used with a uniform significance in the New Testament. Very far from it. It is used in quite a number of different ways. Below we will refer to a few passages where this term occurs, suggesting a tentative definition in each case:

“Kosmos” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17: 24 – “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17: 24 – “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.”

“Kosmos” is used of the earth: John 13:1; Eph. 1:4, etc., etc.- “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” “Depart out of this world” signifies, leave this earth. “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This expression signifies, before the earth was founded—compare Job 38:4 etc.

“Kosmos” is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out”— compare Matt. 4:8 and I John 5:19, R. V.

“Kosmos” is used of the whole human race: Rom. 3: 19, etc.—”Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

“Kosmos” is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not “hate” Christ, so that “the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where “the world” cannot mean “you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be “judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view. is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not “hate” Christ, so that “the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where “the world” cannot mean “you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be “judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

“Kosmos” is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Rom. 11:12 etc. “Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fulness.” Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, “the world” cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

“Kosmos” is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12;47; I Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of “the world” in each place.”

 I would personally go further and say that this last category of ‘believers’ speaks specifically of ‘people of every race and language’ and this is clearly the meaning in 1 John 2:2. The Lord Jesus is not the propitiation for the sins of every person in the world, but He is the propitiation for the sins of people from all over the world. ‘After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb”’ (Rev. 7:9-10). This is the world for whom Christ made propitiation, and notice that they ascribe salvation to God who has decreed salvation for them (Eph.1:3-5), and to the Lamb who has redeemed them, not to themselves for believing, for ‘it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’ (Rom. 9:16).

But I believe that there is another, possibly better explanation of 1 John 2:2. The words ‘the sins of….’ Do not appear in any Greek or Latin manuscript; they have been supplied by most of the English translators (wrongly, in my view) to help the sense. The N.I.V. and the E.S.V. add them without any indication that they are not in the original. The A.V. and N.A.S.B. put the words in italics to show that they have been added, but only the N.K.J.V. omits them altogether. What the Apostle is saying is that on the cross, the Lord Jesus did not only make propitiation for our sins, but He also made propitiation for the world- Planet Earth.

In Genesis 3, after the Fall of Adam and Eve, we learn that because of their sin, a curse had come upon the earth (v.17). Weeds choke the crops; disease and blight kill them; the work is hard, the rewards often small and over it all there is the spectre of old age and death. This is not how God’s creation was when He finished it and pronounced it ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31). This curse is mentioned again in Gen. 5:29. In Romans 8:18ff, we see that the curse is extended into the New Testament, but now there is a blessed new dimension. ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope (v.20). It is God’s righteous judgement that sinful men and women shall not live in a perfect world, but in His mercy He has given His beloved Son not only to pay the penalty for the sins of His elect people (Eph. 1:4), but also to take away the curse on the earth. ‘Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (v.21).

When you go into a hospital labour ward, you hear cries of dreadful pain and see medical staff running to and fro; you might think that someone was dying. But quite the reverse is true; someone is giving birth and a new life is appearing. So it is with the world: ‘For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now’ (v.22). The earthquakes, typhoons and famines that we see are not the signs of a dying world, but a new one coming to birth! The blood of the Saviour that purchased Christians from death and hell also paid the price to take away the curse of the world. ‘And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads’ (Rev. 22:3-4). What 1 John 2:2 is saying is something amazingly wonderful! That Christ’s death has not only secured for us eternal life, but a new heavens and a new earth for us to spend it in (2 Peter 3:13)!

Note

{1} A.W. Pink:  The Meaning of “Kosmos” in John 3:16.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Dear Martin,
    I feel you rather complicated matters declaring what kosmos means or does not mean as you treated it as a primary part of the argument thought it is secondary, dependent on what happened to sin when Christ bore both it and its penalties. Once this is understood, your kosmos problem takes care of itself. Furthermore, I feel that your theories of what kosmos could and could not mean, confuses your problem rather than solves it. In giving a variety of overlapping meanings, you have not proven which one is meant in the texts. Indeed the three passages you give are not sufficient as laid out by you to give the solution for which you strive.
    We need to add at least Daniel 9:24 where Christ is said ‘to finish the transgressions, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness’. 2 Cor.5:21 tells us that Christ was made sin for us and Rom. 8:3 that sin was condemned in Christ’s flesh. In other words though we know that those who carry with them a body of sin, that is the whole multitude of mankind past present and future, until the resurrection, there will be no sin to meet them afterwards because Christ’s death and resurrection condemned and put an end to sin in eternity. After the resurrection, there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth where righteousness reigns and sin will be known no more.
    There are two problems, I admit, with what I say: The first is that people have obviously sinned after Christ’s resurrection. The Bible teaches this, so it is nothing new. All in Adam die. The wages of sin is death. However, when this punishment is given, there will be no more dying because of sin because there will be no more sin. The second argument I hear is that ‘surely, those in Hell will still sin’. I always add here, ‘How do you know? The only reply is ‘It stands to reason’. Thus that argument is lost. To sum up: Christ has put an end to sin – all sin. Satan has had his time on earth but is, as far as his seducing mankind will be concerned, robbed of any future powers.
    I just wanted to give you this quickie. Of course my argument could be drawn out further but I only wanted to emphasise that sin will be no more, so whatever interpretation of Kosmos you have, it will not come under the heading ‘Sin lies here’ after Christ comes in Glory and God opens the Judgement Books.

    George

  2. I find the post good, in the main. George has dealt at length with things, some of which I find helpful. However, I wonder whether I may make a very simple point.

    Christ’s death was sufficient to atone for all sin. Simply because one individual (or another) does not repent and turn to the Lord doesn’t mean Christ’s death would not, in that case, atone for their sin as well.

  3. Dear Dominic,

    Thank you for your comment which either I have perhaps not quite understood or you did not quite understand me. I was not speculating about the extent of atonement possibilities and probabilities but about what Christ did to sin as sin. He put an end to it. This does not mean he atoned vicariously for all men, even for those who rejected Him, on the chance that they might one day accept him. He paid a fixed price for a fixed number which fulfilled the promises made to our father in the faith Abraham in His choosing out a people for Himself. I think the idea that Christ’s blood was wasted on those who would not accept a vicarious atonement for them too speculative to have anything to do with the concrete teaching of the Bible. It is not that Christ failed to save all but that he saved the very people whom He meant to save through reasons known only to Him and paid the exact price for that particular people and did not need to pay anything more or less. The idea that the atonement was sufficient for all but worked only for some is, I believe, an insult to God’s Grace. The glorious point of Christ’s becoming sin for us is that He put an end to sin so that we can share in His resurrection in a New World where sin will not exist.

    George

  4. I think John ch 11 v 51 and 52 may shed some light on 1 John ch 2 v 2:

    51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: