|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1,2 When have an Advocate with the Father; one who has undertaken, and is fully able, to plead in behalf of every one who applies for pardon and salvation in his name, depending on his pleading for them. He is Jesus, the Saviour, and Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed. He alone is the Righteous One, who received his nature pure from sin, and as our Surety perfectly obeyed the law of God, and so fulfilled all righteousness. All men, in every land, and through successive generations, are invited to come to God through this all-sufficient atonement, and by this new and living way. The gospel, when rightly understood and received, sets the heart against all sin, and stops the allowed practice of it; at the same time it gives blessed relief to the wounded consciences of those who have sinned.
Verse 2. - And he (not quia nor enim, but idemque ille) is a Propitiation for our sins. Ἱλασμός occurs here and chapter 1 John 4:10 only in the New Testament. St. Paul's word is καταλλαγή (Romans 5:11; Romans 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19). They are not equivalents; ἱλασμός has reference to the one party to be propitiated, καταλλαγή to the two parties to be reconciled. Ἀπολύτρωσις is a third word expressing yet another aspect of the atonement - the redemption of the offending party by payment of his debt (Romans 3:24, etc.). Although ἱλασμός does not necessarily include the idea of sacrifice, yet the use of the word in the LXX, and of ἱλάσκεσθαι (Hebrews 2:27) and ἱλαστήριον (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5) in the New Testament, points to the expiation wrought by the great High Priest by the sacrifice of himself. It is ἱλασμός, and not ἱλαστήρ, because the prominent fact is Christ as an Offering rather than as One who offers. With the περί, cf. John 8:46; John 10:33; John 16:8. Our sins are the subject-matter of his propitiatory work. And not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. Again we seem to have an echo of the prayer of the great High Priest (John 17:20, 24). The propitiation is for all, not for the first band of believers only. The sins of the whole world are expiated; and if the expiation does not effect the salvation of the sinner, it is because he rejects it, loving the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). No man - Christian, Jew, or Gentile - is outside the mercy of God, unless he places himself there deliberately. "It seems clear that the sacrifice of Christ, though peculiarly and completely available only for those who were called, does in some particulars benefit the whole world, and release it from the evil in which the whole creation was travailing" (Jelf).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he is the propitiation for our sins,.... For the sins of us who now believe, and are Jews:
and not for ours only; but for the sins of Old Testament saints, and of those who shall hereafter believe in Christ, and of the Gentiles also, signified in the next clause:
but also for the sins of the whole world; the Syriac version renders it, "not for us only, but also for the whole world"; that is, not for the Jews only, for John was a Jew, and so were those he wrote unto, but for the Gentiles also. Nothing is more common in Jewish writings than to call the Gentiles "the world"; and , "the whole world"; and , "the nations of the world" (l); See Gill on ; and the word "world" is so used in Scripture; see John 3:16; and stands opposed to a notion the Jews have of the Gentiles, that , "there is no propitiation for them" (m): and it is easy to observe, that when this phrase is not used of the Gentiles, it is to be understood in a limited and restrained sense; as when they say (n),
"it happened to a certain high priest, that when he went out of the sanctuary, , "the whole world" went after him;''
which could only design the people in the temple. And elsewhere (o) it is said,
"amle ylwk, "the "whole world" has left the Misna, and gone after the "Gemara";''
which at most can only intend the Jews; and indeed only a majority of their doctors, who were conversant with these writings: and in another place (p),
"amle ylwk, "the whole world" fell on their faces, but Raf did not fall on his face;''
where it means no more than the congregation. Once more, it is said (q), when
"R. Simeon ben Gamaliel entered (the synagogue), , "the whole world" stood up before him;''
that is, the people in the synagogue: to which may be added (r),
"when a great man makes a mourning, , "the whole world" come to honour him;''
i.e. a great number of persons attend the funeral pomp: and so these phrases, , "the whole world" is not divided, or does not dissent (s); , "the whole world" are of opinion (t), are frequently met with in the Talmud, by which, an agreement among the Rabbins, in certain points, is designed; yea, sometimes the phrase, "all the men of the world" (u), only intend the inhabitants of a city where a synagogue was, and, at most, only the Jews: and so this phrase, "all the world", or "the whole world", in Scripture, unless when it signifies the whole universe, or the habitable earth, is always used in a limited sense, either for the Roman empire, or the churches of Christ in the world, or believers, or the present inhabitants of the world, or a part of them only, Luke 2:1; and so it is in this epistle, 1 John 5:19; where the whole world lying in wickedness is manifestly distinguished from the saints, who are of God, and belong not to the world; and therefore cannot be understood of all the individuals in the world; and the like distinction is in this text itself, for "the sins of the whole world" are opposed to "our sins", the sins of the apostle and others to whom he joins himself; who therefore belonged not to, nor were a part of the whole world, for whose sins Christ is a propitiation as for theirs: so that this passage cannot furnish out any argument for universal redemption; for besides these things, it may be further observed, that for whose sins Christ is a propitiation, their sins are atoned for and pardoned, and their persons justified from all sin, and so shall certainly be glorified, which is not true of the whole world, and every man and woman in it; moreover, Christ is a propitiation through faith in his blood, the benefit of his propitiatory sacrifice is only received and enjoyed through faith; so that in the event it appears that Christ is a propitiation only for believers, a character which does not agree with all mankind; add to this, that for whom Christ is a propitiation he is also an advocate, 1 John 2:1; but he is not an advocate for every individual person in the world; yea, there is a world he will not pray for John 17:9, and consequently is not a propitiation for them. Once more, the design of the apostle in these words is to comfort his "little children" with the advocacy and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, who might fall into sin through weakness and inadvertency; but what comfort would it yield to a distressed mind, to be told that Christ was a propitiation not only for the sins of the apostles and other saints, but for the sins of every individual in the world, even of these that are in hell? Would it not be natural for persons in such circumstances to argue rather against, than for themselves, and conclude that seeing persons might be damned notwithstanding the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, that this might, and would be their case. In what sense Christ is a propitiation; see Gill on Romans 3:25. The Jews have no notion of the Messiah as a propitiation or atonement; sometimes they say (w) repentance atones for all sin; sometimes the death of the righteous (x); sometimes incense (y); sometimes the priests' garments (z); sometimes it is the day of atonement (a); and indeed they are in the utmost puzzle about atonement; and they even confess in their prayers (b), that they have now neither altar nor priest to atone for them; See Gill on 1 John 4:10.
(l) Jarchi in Isaiah 53.5. (m) T. Hieros. Nazir, fol. 57. 3. Vid. T. Bab. Succa, fol. 55. 2.((n) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 71. 2.((o) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 33. 2.((p) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 22. 2.((q) T. Bab. Horayot, fol. 13. 2.((r) Piske Toseph. Megilla, art. 104. (s) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 90. 2. & Kiddushin, fol. 47. 2. & 49. 1. & 65. 2. & Gittin, fol. 8. 1. & 60. 2.((t) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 48. 1.((u) Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 16. (w) Zohar in Lev. fol. 29. 1.((x) Ib. fol. 24. 1. T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 38. 2.((y) T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 88. 2. & Erachin, fol. 16. 1.((z) T. Bab. Zebachim, ib. T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 44. 2.((a) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 87. 1. & T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 45. 2, 3.((b) Seder Tephillot, fol. 41. 1. Ed. Amsterd.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. And he—Greek, "And Himself." He is our all-prevailing Advocate, because He is Himself "the propitiation"; abstract, as in 1Co 1:30: He is to us all that is needed for propitiation "in behalf of our sins"; the propitiatory sacrifice, provided by the Father's love, removing the estrangement, and appeasing the righteous wrath, on God's part, against the sinner. "There is no incongruity that a father should be offended with that son whom he loveth, and at that time offended with him when he loveth him" [Bishop Pearson]. The only other place in the New Testament where Greek "propitiation" occurs, is 1Jo 4:10; it answers in the Septuagint to Hebrew, "caphar," to effect an atonement or reconciliation with God; and in Eze 44:29, to the sin offering. In Ro 3:25, Greek, it is "propitiatory," that is, the mercy seat, or lid of the ark whereon God, represented by the Shekinah glory above it, met His people, represented by the high priest who sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on it.
ours—believers: not Jews, in contrast to Gentiles; for he is not writing to Jews (1Jo 5:21).
also for the sins of the whole world—Christ's "advocacy" is limited to believers (1Jo 2:1; 1Jo 1:7): His propitiation extends as widely as sin extends: see on 2Pe 2:1, "denying the Lord that bought them." "The whole world" cannot be restricted to the believing portion of the world (compare 1Jo 4:14; and "the whole world," 1Jo 5:19). "Thou, too, art part of the world, so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me" [Luther].
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