Allan Clifford on Calvin and 1 John 2:2

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Calvin and 1 John 2:2


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.

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