Jul 21, 2010

John 1:29, John 3:16-17, John 4:42, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:14 - William Styles

“The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) “For God so loved the world,” etc. (John 3:16), and “sent His Son, that the world, through Him, might be saved.” (John 3:17) “This is the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42) “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (1 John 4:14). These passages admit of two interpretations. (1) That the design of salvation was absolutely universal: That God sent Christ to expiate the sins of the whole of Adam’s race: and, That all the sins of all sinners have been removed by His oblation. If a universal sense of the word “world” be insisted on, we contend for nothing short of this. The verses do not express the idea that Christ died to give all men a chance of salvation—or that He died for all, if they are willing to accept Him. Whatever may be the scope of the word “world,” the force of the other expressions is too plain to be evaded. Theologians, therefore, who insist that the word “world” in the above passages, means every sinner who ever has lived, or will live, must behold in the case of every lost soul a frustrated God, and an inefficacious atonement—or they must believe with the Universalists in the final salvation of the whole human race. (2) But surely a more consistent interpretation may be found. The word world is used in the Bible in a great variety of sense. Thus in Psalm 93:1, it means the material earth; in Col. 1:6, all to whom Christianity is a subject of interest; in Matt. 28:20, time; in John 12:19, the majority of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; in Luke 2:1, the nations which were subject to Rome at the time of the nativity; in Rom. 5:12, the whole human race; and in John 7:7, sinners who oppose the gospel. It is therefore disingenuous to employ it as if it always had one unvarying and definite meaning. Like all universal terms its range must be decided by the context. Its meaning in the texts before us may readily be determined by considering the evident scope and design of their writer.

The range of the salvation of Israel after the flesh was limited to one nation, while that of the gospel is world-wide, sinners of all nations being interested in it. This fact demanded declaration by all that were first commissioned to proclaim the gospel of Christ, especially as it was regarded with disfavour by the Jews. As embodying and enforcing this truth, we regard the passages quoted, “Behold the Lamb of God!” the benefits of whose sacrifice shall avail not for one nation only, but for sinners of all nations—the term being employed in an anti-national sense. Christ “is the propitiation,” not for converted Jews alone, as some were incorrectly contending, but ”for the sins of the whole world,” or (omitting, as is preferable, the italicized interpolation), “the whole world.” Those interested in the propitiation of Jesus are scattered over the habitable globe. Hence the gospel commission to the disciples to “go out—not into Jewish territories alone, but—into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The elect of God are dispersed in all countries. Hence the declaration, that “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

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