I tremble to contradict the pyromaniac, but I am afraid that I feel that his handling of 1 John 2:2 is almost certainly an example of trying to squeeze the bible into a doctrinal mould. In fact such exegetical gymnastics are only required for a view of the so-called “limited atonement” that I find totally alien even though I would describe myself as a five-point calvinist.
It seems to me that it is not what you say you believe that matters most, but rather your whole approach to the bible. I struggle to accept any interpretation of a verse that doesnt seem to take it at face value.
I think that there is a danger in what I call “over-systematising” the bible. I love systematic theology, but we have to accept that God did not give us a ready-made systematic theology. Thus, our efforts are always going to be less than perfect and therefore slightly raw and unfinished. We have to interact with the bible on its own terms, and personally I would rather allow the scripture to speak even if it means I become slightly less confident of my so-called “system”.
So how do I see 1 John 2:2 which says, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”?
Well, I believe there is a simple explanation of this scripture when seen together with a selection of texts I rarely see placed together. These are as follows-
1 Tim 4:10 which says “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”. The second is Romans 1:23 which says that Jesus death was necessary for God to be just because “in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins”. The final verse, 2 Peter 3:9, says that the reason for the delay of the end of the world is that God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
It strikes me that if a judge should delay punishment then we would rightly feel that justice had not been done. Thus, the overall message of these verses seems to me to be that what thelogians call “common grace” was in fact purchased by Jesus’ blood. In other words the only reason God can lavish goodness on the righteous and unrighteous alike on earth is that Jesus death is in some way applied to EVERYONE in the world. God is described as patiently delaying the end eager for all to turn in repentance to him. Believers and unbelievers alike whilst on earth thus benefit from this grace because it was purchased for them by Jesus.
I honestly believe that there is a genuine gospel offer made to EVERYONE to believe. In fact, everyone everywhere are COMMANDED to believe. (Acts 17:30) No one will ever be able to say I trusted in Jesus to save me and he let me down.
It is sadly true that although we are all freely offered an opportunity to respond to this gospel message, left to our own devices we all feely choose to reject it. The wonder of wonders is that despite this opposition to him, God makes the dead unbeliver alive in Christ (Eph 2:1-9)
Thus, as the old saying says “God should get all the credit for salvation, man should get all the blame for condemnation”
In John 6:37, Jesus makes two statements which our systematic theology must allow to both be true “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out”
Spurgeon was a preacher I respect greatly- he refused to fall into the trap of bending the bible to suit his theology- take this example which I quoted in a post where I argued against the idea of double-predestination.
“There are two things, then, this morning I shall have to talk about. The first is, that the work of salvation rests upon the will of God, and not upon the will of man; and secondly, the equally sure doctrine, that the will of man has its proper position in the work of salvation, and is not to be ignored…….
Are there not some of you here present, who are being fitted for destruction? God is not fitting you, you are fitting yourselves, by daily developing and indulging the depravity of your heart. You are seeking out every new pleasure, and every new sin,and though often warned to turn from your course of evil are there not some of you who are rushing headlong to destruction? Are not many of you by a course of sin and folly, ripening yourselves for the great harvest of the Lord? Are you not making yourselves ready to be as stubble fully dried, cast into the oven of his wrath? This is not to be laid to the charge of God, but at your own door the guilt must he. If you perish any one of you, on your own head shall be your blood. The eternal God is not guilty of the murder of men’s souls, they that die and sink in hell are suicides; they have rejected mercy, they have despised the Savior, they have chosen sin and hated holiness. As was their choice, such is their portion; as was their rebellious will on earth, such must be their tormented destiny for ever…….”