Lesson 19 – Particular Redemption
In the following lesson, we will continue to examine some Scriptures which are used by some to teach the doctrine of universal redemption.
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
(I John 2:2)
First we must examine the word “propitiation.” The idea of propitiating is that of appeasing one who has been offended. The offended one has been pacified–his good will has been won or regained. Thus the basic idea is that of satisfaction–the offended party has been satisfied.
So we can see that whoever Christ is the propitiation for–satisfaction has been made to God for them. For, here God is the offended party. His righteous law has been broken by mankind and His holiness has been offended. He would have forever remained offended at all mankind had not Christ made satisfaction.
The question is, who did Christ make satisfaction for?
If He is the propitiation for every human being, then every human being will be saved.
But we know that not every human being is saved so who constitutes the “whole world” spoken of in this text?
The answer is essentially the same that we gave on John 3:16 in the previous lesson. As was pointed out there, the word “world” is used in many ways in Scripture. Sometimes this term means only a relatively small part of the world, as when Paul wrote to the church at Rome that their faith was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). No one but other Christians would praise these Romans for their Christian testimony. The world in general didn’t even know that such a church existed at Rome. So the reference to “world” here was only the believing world, which constituted an insignificant part of the entire world.
Shortly before Jesus was born, “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). The “world” here was only the comparatively small part of the total world which was controlled by Rome.
In ordinary conversation we speak of the business world, the sports world, the world of politics, etc. But we always understand each of these “worlds” in a limited sense.
If in I John 5:19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness,” the author meant every individual of mankind, then he and those to whom he wrote were also in wickedness, and he contradicted himself in saying that they were of God.
The “our” in I John 2:2 refers to Jewish Christians, for John was an apostle to the “circumcision” (Galatians 2:9) and these were the people to whom he ministered primarily. The “whole world” in I John 2:2 refers to God’s elect scattered among the Gentiles. To understand the meaning of I John 2:2, we would do well to consider John 11:51-52. That the expression, the “whole world” is not an unlimited one, is clear from Revelation 12:9 compared with Matthew 24:24.
To repeat for emphasis what was in the previous lesson, there was a good reason for the New Testament writers to use such expressions as “the whole world,” “world,” “all the world,” etc. These expressions were used to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews only. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (that is, He died for Jews and Gentiles alike) but they are not intended to indicate that Christ died for all men without exception (that is, He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner).
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
The same statements apply to this verse as apply to John 3:16 and I John 2:2. If the world here is every human being, then the sins of every human being have been taken away and there will be no one in hell. But we know that this isn’t the case because of Scriptures like John 8:24.
It is also interesting to note that a portion of the human race was already in hell when Jesus spoke these words. This compels us to admit that the world here is not the entire human family.
We must emphasize again that we often use general terms like this when we want to express a general principle. When we read that a certain city is smitten with a smallpox epidemic, no one concludes that every individual in it has contracted the disease.
In every Scripture where the word “world” is used in a similar sense the above statements will apply.
The Scriptures very plainly teach definite or particular redemption. We have already seen this from such passages as John 10:11, John 17:9, etc. Scripture doesn’t contradict itself. The only contradictions are found in the minds of sinful men. Therefore, when the Bible speaks of the “world” in connection with the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ, it does not teach something contrary to the plain Scriptural teaching of definite atonement.
1. What is the basic idea in propitiation?
2. Who made up the “whole world” spoken of in Romans 1:8?
3. Who made up the “world” spoken of in Luke 2:1?
4. What are some of the ways in which we use the word “world” in ordinary conversation?
5. Who are the “our” spoken of in I John 2:2?
6. Who are the “whole world” spoken of in I John 2:2?
7. Why did the Bible writers use such expressions as “world,” “the whole world,” “all the world,” etc., with reference to salvation?
We have memorized Matthew 1:21, John 10:11, Matthew 20:28, Hebrews 9:12, and I Peter 1:18-19.
Let us memorize I Peter 2:24.