My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2: 1-2

The aim of this essay is to draw out the implicit forms of the argument which are normally assumed in arguments for limited satisfaction based on 1 John 2:2. My goal is to make these implicit arguments or assumptions explicit.1 As with many of the arguments for limited satisfaction, the basic form runs along the lines of a modus tollens axis.2 A premise is alleged, and then a modus tollens argument is enlisted. More formally the argument looks something like this: If Christ died for a person, that person cannot fail be saved.3 This is then simply generalized or converted into a universal statement:

If Christ died for the whole world, then the whole world will necessarily be saved4
It is not the case that the whole world is saved
Therefore, it is not the case that Christ died for the whole world

I argue that this sort of argument lies at the back of the arguments for limited satisfaction based on 1 John 2:2.

The overarching goal of this essay is to remove the alleged logical impediments enlisted to restrict or limit the meaning of “whole world” in 1 John 2:2.

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Revisiting John 17 and Jesus’ Prayer for the World

Regarding Jesus’ prayer in John 17, these facts are always alleged, assumed, and asserted, even though they are never supported by any confirming evidence:

1. That this is a specific and effectual high priestly prayer on the part of Jesus.
2. That the “world” of 17: 9 respects the world of the reprobate.
3. That those “given” in verse 9 represent the totality of the elect.
4. That the extent of the high priestly intercession delimits the scope of the satisfaction.
5. That the two parallel clauses in verses 21 and 23 are systemically overlooked or misread.

This short essay will not attempt to answer 1-4, specifically, but focus on 5: That the two parallel clauses in verses 21 and 23 are systemically overlooked or misread.

The verses read:

17:21: “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe [πιστευω] that You sent Me

17: 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know [γινωσκω] that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Or in short:

21 so that the world may believe [πιστευω] that You sent Me.

23 so that the world may know [γινωσκω] that You sent Me.

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Leon Morris (1914-2006) on John 1:29

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in John 1:29


The verb "takes away" conveys the notion of bearing off.62 It is perhaps not specific enough to point to anyone particular means of atonement, but it does signify atonement, and that by substitution. "Jesus bears the consequence of human sin in order that its guilt may be removed" (Hoskyns). It is removed completely, carried right off. John speaks of sin,63 not sins (if. I John 1: 9). He is referring to the totality of the world’s sin, rather than to a number of individual acts. The expression "the sin of the world" does not appear to be used prior to this passage. The reference to "the world" is another glance at the comprehensiveness of Christ’s atonement. It is completely adequate for the needs of all men. Right at the beginning of his Gospel John points us forward to the cross and to the significance of the cross.

Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971), 148. [Some minor reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote values and content original; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Derrick Merkel for the find]



62The verb is αἴρϖ, which John uses more than any other New Testament writer (26 times). It is found with the object ἁμαρτημα in I Sam. IS : 25, and ἀνοημα in I Sam. 25: 28, both times in the sense "forgive." The idea of bearing sin in Heb. 9 : 28; I Pet. 2 : 24 is conveyed by αναϕερϖ, but there is not likely to be a great difference in meaning. MacGregor, agreeing that the verb αἴρϖ means not "take upon oneself", but "take out of the way," yet says, "But the latter thought, while enriching the former, also includes it, for a lamb can only ‘remove’ sin by vicariously ‘bearing’ it, and this Christ did." J. Jeremias sees two possible meanings of the verb in this passage: "to take up and carry" and "to carry off". He says, "In both cases it is a matter of setting aside the guilt of others. In the former, however, the means of doing this is by a substitutionary bearing of penalty ; in the latter sin is removed by a means of expiation" (TDNT, I, pp. 185f.). In the Johannine manner probably both meanings are in . mind. For the concept of sinbearing see my The Cross in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1965), pp. 322ff.

63John’s interest in the sins of men should not be missed. He uses the noun ἁμαρτια 17 times, the same total as in i John. The only New Testament books which use the term more are Romans (48 times) and Hebrews (25 times).

Synopsis Purioris Theologiae:

20 At this point we should see whether sins, too, fall under divine providence. We assert that it is wrong to say God provides sins in the sense that to provide means to attend and to care for. But we do not doubt that it may, and indeed should be said that God exercises providence concerning sins. For He foresees sins in advance, and wills to permit them; and as they are seen beforehand, He destines them to some universal or particular good, whether for a display of his mercy or justice, or for some other good. And so it is rightly said that He exercises providence regarding them, since He disposes to do well regarding them. But if one considers only that which is real in sin and ‘positive,’ as they say, what others call ‘the matter’ of sin, namely, as an entity or as an action, in this sense sins can be said even to be provided by God, but only in a relative sense and not in itself. That is because the formal structure of sin exists in the absence of being and of good, in a certain deformity and disorderliness, which does not come from God and so cannot have been provided for by Him.

21 Here is a place for a distinction in the ways God handles providence when He implements it—it is either effective, or permitting. The first is the one whereby God works effectually, and in all things generally and individually perfects his work (namely all things both general and specific in nature), not only the essential good—the substances, motions, actions and completions of things—but also the moral good, such as all civic and spiritual virtues. Because, as the highest good, He is also the author and source of all good.

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Having considered Baron’s views in some detail, we are better prepared to reflect upon where his teachings lay on the map of theological opinions current in his day. Some preliminary comments are in order regarding the terms employed to properly situate the doctrine of Baron and his contemporaries.

As intimated in the introduction to this essay, I believe that meaningful assessment of Baron’s doctrine and placement of the same in relation to his contemporaries has, in the past, been crippled by over-reliance on the labels ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ to name the theologies of seventeenth-century Scottish divines. The problems inherent to the use of these terms are several. Taken on its own the term ‘Calvinist’ perpetuates the myth that Reformed theology, in Scotland or elsewhere, was a monolithic reality which looked to Calvin’s teaching as the sole or principal standard of orthodoxy. That myth, in turn, tends to underwrite charges against later Reformed thinkers for departing from the standard on this or that matter; thus narratives pitting the ‘Calvinists’, or at least some of them, against Calvin are constructed–typically towards the end of promoting some present day doctrinal antidote to everything that went wrong in the Reformed theological tradition–while the fact that strict conformity to Calvin’s doctrine was no Reformed thinker’s goal is overlooked.85

Coupled with its would-be antonym ‘Arminian’, the label ‘Calvinist’ assumes other problems. If taken to denote adherence to Calvin’s or Arminius’s precise teachings, these terms prove to be rather too restrictive to capture the diversity of orthodox, or even heterodox, views that existed in Reformed settings on any given theological subject. More often, of course, the terms are used as something like sloppy synonyms for ‘Reformed’ and ‘Remonstrant’, but then they foster the anachronistic tendency to project later, more developed theological concepts and notions on to Calvin and Arminius respectively. Indeed, the ‘looser’ the labels ‘Calvinist’ and ‘Arminian’ become, the more susceptible Calvin and Arminius become to misrepresentation.

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