FIVE COMMUNION MEDITATIONS ON 1 JOHN 2:1-2 – NUMBER 4
CHRIST THE PROPITIATION FOR THE WORLD
Jack Cottrell — Summer 2017
In First John 2:1-2 the Apostle John says that Jesus is our Advocate – our defense lawyer who helps us escape the punishment for our sins. He says Jesus is our Righteousness – the One who has satisfied the law’s requirement for punishment in our place. And he says Jesus is our Propitiation – the One who turned the Father’s wrath away from us by taking it on Himself.
Here I want to call attention to something else John says in verse 2 about Jesus as our propitiation. He says that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; AND NOT FOR OURS ONLY, BUT ALSO FOR THOSE OF THE WHOLE WORLD”! Now, a large part of the world’s population are good, decent, kind, well-meaning, obedient human beings. You can probably name a few that you know! And we can see why Jesus would want to save them, by turning God’s wrath away from them by taking it on himself. But John says – “the WHOLE WORLD”! Jesus gave Himself as a propitiation for the meanest, vilest persons you know! He died for every criminal in every prison in the world; He took on Himself the punishment due to the sins of Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Jack the Ripper, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Sadam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, and Osama bin Laden.
The Apostle Paul puts it like this: “Christ died for the ungodly! For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man, someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). And as John says, “for the sins of the whole world.”
The sad thing is that some who wear the name “Christian” deny this. I am talking about most Calvinists, those who accept all five of the TULIP doctrines: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Note the “L” doctrine: LIMITED atonement, LIMITED propitiation! These Calvinists say that Jesus’ propitiation was intended only for the sinners God has selected for eternal life, and the number of those actually saved is “few” (see Matt. 7:14). Thus these folks are saying that Jesus was NOT the propitiation for the sins of the whole world—in fact, not even for most, but for just a few.
But John says (and so I say) that Jesus is the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world. Jesus paid it all; He purchased tickets to heaven for every human being—even pagans who never hear about Him! Even anti-Christians who mock and ridicule Him! Even false religionists like Muslims and Hindus! Even atheists!
But if Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, why isn’t everyone saved? Because this sacrifice of Jesus does not apply to everyone automatically. Jesus says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth [i.e., on the cross], I will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32, see v. 33). But one must respond to this drawing power of the gospel by hearing its message, opening his or heart to it in faith, and fully obeying the gospel. In Romans 10 Paul explains why so many Jews were lost: “they did not all obey the gospel” (v. 16). “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (v. 18).
In presenting Himself to the Father as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, Jesus actually made up for (satisfied the wrath of God for) every sin. This is comparable to his depositing in the grace account in the bank of heaven an amount of forgiveness that can cancel out the punishment for every sin that will ever be committed. But any sinner who wants that payment applied to himself or herself must make a withdrawal from the grace account and have it transferred to his or her own account by simply obeying the gospel commands of believing, repenting, confessing faith, and being baptized. Those of us here for the Lord’s Supper have done that; that is why we are gathered now around the Lord’s Table in praise of Jesus our Propitiation!
But when we realize that Jesus is the Propitiation not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world, how should that make us feel just now? Here are some suggestions: we should feel deep sadness, and grief, for all those for whom Christ died yet who have turned their backs on Him. We should feel some guilt—and repentance—in view of the fact that we have not done more to be a witness to Christ’s sacrifice, and have not done more to support our missionaries. Finally, we should feel sincere determination to do more in these areas.