Archive for the ‘Calvin and 1 John 2:2’ Category


Allan Clifford on Calvin and 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


8. I John 2:2, unlike John 3:16, contains an explicit reference to the atonement: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.’ Owen insists that the verse is not a statement about general redemption, but about the provision of grace for believers throughout the world. In short, holos kosmos is no more than the ekklesia katholike: the church universal, or the elect of God everywhere.104 Owen carefully observes that the Apostle is seeking to ‘give consolation’ to believers by linking Christ’s death with his present intercession for them (v. I ).105 But in calling believers ‘all nations’, he effectively particularizes a general expression to suit his theological purposes. That said, he has the partial support of Calvin, who maintains that ‘John’s purpose was only to make the blessing’ of Christ’s propitiation ‘common to the whole church.’106 However, since Calvin was opposing the idea of an absolute universalism, even embracing the possible salvation of Satan himself, he needlessly went beyond his usual solution. In fact, he admits the truth of the sufficiency-efficiency distinction, while denying that it fits the passage. But Calvin’s view of a universal satisfaction, as well as a twofold intercession, distances him from Owen’s basic approach to J John 2:2.

Alan C. Clifford, Atonement and Justification (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 154-155. [Some reformatting; footnote values and content original; and underlining mine.]


104DD 336.

105Ibid. 332 ff.

106Comm. I John 2:2.


Charles Bell on Calvin and 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Because the extent of Christ’s work is universal, it is offered likewise to every person, as noted above. However, the most common doubt among men is that the benefit of Christ’s death, which is ‘available and ready for all’, is personally available for them.14 Although Christ is offered to all, we readily see that not all receive him. This, states Calvin, is due to their hardness and unbelief.15 However, Calvin teaches that those who so reject Christ are ‘doubly culpable’ since they have rejected ‘the blessing in which they could share by faith’.16 It would be inexcusable to argue from this that Satan and his demons, as well as the ungodly, benefit from Christ. Nevertheless, Calvin maintains, an important distinction exists between the demons and the ungodly, and that is that ‘the benefit of redemption is offered to the ungodly, but not to the devils.’17 Even the ungodly are included precisely because Calvin consistently teaches that ‘no one is excluded from this salvation’ wrought for all by the death of Christ, provided they believe.18

Were this all Calvin had written on the subject, we might expect more agreement as to the universal character of Christ’s atonement in his teaching, for clearly he taught that Christ died for all. Unfortunately, Calvin complicates matters by stating in several places that ‘all’ does not mean each individual, but rather all ‘kinds’ of men. For instance, concerning I John 2:2, Calvin excludes the reprobate from the term ‘all’ and refers it to ‘those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered’ throughout the world.19 Letham thinks that this statement places Calvin’s so-called universalist passages in a new light. ‘If “all” means all without distinction as he says it does, rather than all without exception, Calvin cannot be said to have taught universal atonement in any sense.’20 In fact, in one instance Calvin does insist that the term must always be understood to refer to ‘classes of men but never to individual.21

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Kevin D. Kennedy on Calvin and 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Universal Atonement in Calvin’s Polemical Writings

One would expect that in his disagreements with other theologians, had Calvin held to limited atonement, he would have taken the opportunity to argue for his position when combatting the beliefs of those who held to universal atonement.53 Upon examination however, this proves not to be the case. For example, it has been widely recognized that in Calvin’s refutation of the decrees from the Council of Trent, Calvin did not disagree with the statement on universal atonement.54 Indeed, he specifically mentions the decree dealing with the extent of the atonement and states that he is not in disagreement with it.55 Calvin quotes the decree as follows:

Him God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood for our sins, and not only for ours; but also for the sins of the whole world. . . . But though he died for all, all do not receive the benefit of his death, but only those to whom the merit of his passion is communicated.56

The wording in this statement is explicitly universal with regard to the atonement, and yet, Calvin indicates no disagreement with it. Had Calvin held to particular redemption, it is difficult to believe that he would not have taken the opportunity to dispute the Council of Trent on this point.

There is one particularly significant passage in Calvin’s polemical writings that goes far to demonstrate that, not only does Calvin not hold to particular redemption, neither does he hold to certain theological presuppositions that are at the heart of the particularist position. In the second half of his treatise Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, Calvin defends his doctrine of predestination against Georgius, a Sicilian monk who had spoken out against Calvin’s teaching on predestination. The particular passage in view is rather lengthy and is found near the beginning of Calvin’s refutation of Georgius’ position. The passage reads as follows:

Georgius thinks he argues very acutely when he says: Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and hence those who wish to exclude the reprobate from participation in Christ must place them outside the’ world (Ergo extra mundum reprobus constituant oportet qui a Christi participatione arcere eos volunt). For this, the common solution does not avail, that Christ suffered sufficiently for all, but efficaciously only for the elect. By this great absurdity, this monk has sought applause in his own fraternity, but it has no weight with me. Wherever the faithful are dispersed throughout the world, John extends to them the expiation wrought by Christ’s death. But this does not alter the fact that the reprobate are mixed up with the elect in the world. It is incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the whole world (Controversia etiam caret, Christum expiandis totius mundi peccatis venisse). But the solution lies close at hand, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but should have eternal life On 3.15). For the question is .not how great the power of Christ is or what efficacy it has in itself~ but to whom He gives Himself to be enjoyed (Nec vero quails Sit Christi virtus, vel quid per se valeat, nunc quaeritur: sed quibus se fruendum exhibeat). If possession lies in faith and faith emanates from the Spirit of adoption, it follows that only he is reckoned in the number of God’s children who will be a partaker (particeps) of Christ.57

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