Limited Atonement and 1 John 2:2 - Answering Objections

Does 1 John 2:2 contradict the doctrine of limited atonement, since it says that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? Learn the solution.
Calvinism
Limited Atonement
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Quick Answer

1 John 2:2 parallels John 11:51-52, so the phrase "the whole world" parallels "the children of God who are scattered abroad." Both passages are referring to "the children of God," and "the whole world" in 1 John 2:2 means the children of God across the whole world, or "scattered abroad."

The Argument

Some argue that 1 John 2:2 is Scriptural evidence that the doctrine of limited atonement is unbiblical. Here is the relevant verse:

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The Answer

1 John 2:2 parallels John 11:51-52

John 11:51-52 says this:

51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

In this passage, the high priest unwitting prophesied that Jesus would die for "the children of God," which is support for the doctrine of limited atonement because "the children of God" does not include people who are not the children of God.

Here are the parallels between the two passages:

1 John 2:1-2 John 11:51-52
He Jesus
is the propitiation for would die for
our sins the nation
and not only for ours only but also and not for the nation only, but also
for the sins of the whole world to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad

From this table, we see that "the whole world" parallels "the children of God who are scattered abroad." So, 1 John 2:2 is saying that Jesus is the propiation for the sins of "the children of God" who are all over the world.

There is lots of biblical support for limited atonement

Contrary to what some believe, there are many passages in the Bible that teach the doctrine of limited atonement. To view a list of these passages, visit 10 Bible Verses about Limited Atonement

The logic of limited atonement

The doctrine of limited atonement also makes logical sense. Regarding who Jesus died for, here are the two most common views:

  1. Jesus died for all of the sins of everyone.
  2. Jesus died for all of the sins only God's elect.

If the first option is true, then there is no reason why anyone should suffer punishment for his sins, yet the Bible is clear that all non-Christians will suffer for their sins.

The common response to this is that people need to believe in order for Jesus' death to apply to them. But then, we need to ask the question, "Is unbelief a sin?"

If unbelief is a sin, then Jesus would not have actually died for all of the sins of everyone. We would instead need to say that Jesus died for almost all of the sins of everyone, which is an insult to Jesus' work of atonement.

The second option glorifies Jesus because it teaches that Jesus did indeed die for all of the sins of His people. He fully saved God's elect. He did not die for only most of their sins, leaving them to overcome the great sin of unbelief by their own effort.

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