1 John 2:2
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.And he is the propitiation for our sins - The word rendered "propitiation" (ἱλασμός hilasmos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 1 John 4:10 of this Epistle; though words of the same derivation, and having the same essential meaning, frequently occur. The corresponding word ἱλαστήριον hilastērion occurs in Romans 3:25, rendered "propitiation" - "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood;" and in Hebrews 9:5, rendered mercy-seat - "shadowing the mercy-seat." The verb ἱλάσκομαι hilaskomai occurs also in Luke 18:3 - God be merciful to me a sinner;" and Hebrews 2:17 - "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." For the idea expressed by these words, see the notes at Romans 3:25. The proper meaning of the word is that of reconciling, appeasing, turning away anger, rendering propitious or favorable. The idea is, that there is anger or wrath, or that something has been done to offend, and that it is needful to turn away that wrath, or to appease. This may be done by a sacrifice, by songs, by services rendered, or by bloody offerings. So the word is often used in Homer - Passow. We have similar words in common use, as when we say of one that he has been offended, and that something must be done to appease him, or to turn away his wrath. This is commonly done with us by making restitution; or by an acknowledgment; or by yielding the point in controversy; or by an expression of regret; or by different conduct in time to come. But this idea must not be applied too literally to God; nor should it be explained away. The essential thoughts in regard to him, as implied in this word, are:

(1) that his will has been disregarded, and his law violated, and that he has reason to be offended with us;

(2) that in that condition he cannot, consistently with his perfections, and the good of the universe, treat us as if we had not done it;

(3) that it is proper that, in some way, he should show his displeasure at our conduct, either by punishing us, or by something that shall answer the same purpose; and,

(4) that the means of propitiation come in here, and accomplish this end, and make it proper that he should treat us as if we had not sinned; that is, he is reconciled, or appeased, and his anger is turned away.

This is done, it is supposed, by the death of the Lord Jesus, accomplishing, in most important respects, what would be accomplished by the punishment of the offender himself. In regard to this, in order to a proper understanding of what is accomplished, it is necessary to observe two things - what is not done, and what is.

I. There are certain things which do not enter into the idea of propitiation. They are such as these:

(a) That it does not change the fact that the wrong was done. That is a fact which cannot be denied, and he who undertakes to make a propitiation for sin does not deny it.

(b) It does not change God; it does not make Him a different being from what He was before; it does not buy Him over to a willingness to show mercy; it does not change an inexorable being to one who is compassionate and kind.

(c) The offering that is made to secure reconciliation does not necessarily produce reconciliation in fact. It prepares the way for it on the part of God, but whether they for whom it is made will be disposed to accept it is another question.

When two men are alienated from each other, you may go to B and say to him that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of A are removed, and that he is disposed to be at peace, but whether B will be willing to be at peace is quite another matter. The mere fact that his adversary is disposed to be at peace, determines nothing in regard to his disposition in the matter. So in regard to the controversy between man and God. It may be true that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God are taken away, and still it may be quite a separate question whether man will be willing to lay aside his opposition, and embrace the terms of mercy. In itself considered, one does not necessarily determine the other, or throw any light on it.

II. The amount, then, in regard to the propitiation made for sin is, that it removes all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God: it does whatever is necessary to be done to maintain the honor of His law, His justice, and His truth; it makes it consistent for Him to offer pardon - that is, it removes whatever there was that made it necessary to inflict punishment, and thus, so far as the word can be applied to God, it appeases Him, or turns away His anger, or renders Him propitious. This it does, not in respect to producing any change in God, but in respect to the fact that it removes whatever there was in the nature of the case that prevented the free and full offer of pardon. The idea of the apostle in the passage before us is, that when we sin we may be assured that this has been done, and that pardon may now be freely extended to us.

And not for our's only - Not only for the sins of us who are Christians, for the apostle was writing to such. The idea which he intends to convey seems to be, that when we come before God we should take the most liberal and large views of the atonement; we should feel that the most ample provision has been made for our pardon, and that in no respect is there any limit as to the sufficiency of that work to remove all sin. It is sufficient for us; sufficient for all the world.

But also for the sins of the whole world - The phrase "the sins of" is not in the original, but is not improperly supplied, for the connection demands it. This is one of the expressions occurring in the New Testament which demonstrate that the atonement was made for all people, and which cannot be reconciled with any other opinion. If he had died only for a part of the race, this language could not have been used. The phrase, "the whole world," is one which naturally embraces all people; is such as would be used if it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that Christ died for all people; and is such as cannot be explained on any other supposition. If he died only for the elect, it is not true that he is the "propitiation for the sins of the whole world" in any proper sense, nor would it be possible then to assign a sense in which it could be true. This passage, interpreted in its plain and obvious meaning, teaches the following things:

continued...

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.

and—Greek, "yet."

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 [2640]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].

And he is the propitiation for our sins: the adding of these words, shows that our Lord grounds his intercession for pardon of sin unto penitent believers, upon his having made atonement for them before; and therefore that he doth not herein merely supplicate for favour, but (which is the proper business of an advocate) plead law and right; agreeably to what is said above, 1Jo 1:9.

And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world; nor is his undertaking herein limited to any select persons among believers, but he must be understood to be an Advocate for all, for whom he is effectually a Propitiation, i.e. for all that truly believe in him, {Romans 3:25} all the world over. 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.

And he is the {b} propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the {c} whole world.

(b) Reconciliation and intercession go together, to give us to understand that he is both advocate and high priest.

(c) For men of all sorts, of all ages, and all places, so that this benefit being not to the Jews only, of whom he speaks as appears in 1Jo 2:7 but also to other nations.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 John 2:2. καὶ αὐτός = et ipse, idemque ille; καί is here also the simple copula, and is not to be resolved either into quia (a Lapide) or nam.

αὐτός refers back to Ἰησ. Χριστὸν δίκαιον, and the epithet δίκαιον is not to be lost sight of here; Paulus, contrary to the context, refers αὐτός to God.

ἱλασμός ἐστι] The word ἱλασμός, which is used besides in the N. T. only in chap. 1 John 4:10, and here also indeed in combination with περὶ τῶν ἁμ. ἡμῶν, may, according to Ezekiel 44:27 (= חַטָּאת), mean the sin-offering (Lücke, 3d ed.), but is here to be taken in the sense of כִּכֻּרִים, Leviticus 25:9, Numbers 5:8, and no doubt in this way, that Christ is called the ἱλασμός, inasmuch as He has expiated by His αἷμα the guilt of sin. This reference to the sacrificial blood of Christ, it is true, is not demanded by the idea ἱλασμός in itself,[84] but certainly is demanded by the context, as the apostle can only ascribe to the blood of Christ, in chap. 1 John 1:7, the cleansing power of which he is there speaking, because he knows that reconciliation is based in it.

[84] In the Septuagint not only does ἱλασμός appear as the translation of the Hebrew סְלִיחָה (Psalm 129:4; Daniel 9:9), but ἱλάσκεσθαι is also used = to be merciful, to forgive (Psalm 65:4; Psalm 78:38; Psalm 79:9),—quite without reference to an offering.—The explanation of Paulus, however: “He (i.e. God) is the pure exercise of compassion on account of sinful faults,” is not justifiable, because, in the first place, God is not the subject, and secondly, the ἱλασμός of Christ is not the forgiveness itself, but is that which procures forgiveness.

REMARK.

In classical Greek ἱλάσκεσθαι (as middle) is = ἱλεων ποιεῖν; but in scripture it never appears in this active signification, in which God would not be the object; but in all the passages where the Septuagint makes use of this word, whether it is as the translation of כִּפֵּר (Psalm 65:4; Psalm 78:38; Psalm 79:9), or of סָלַם (Psalm 25:11; 2 Kings 5:18), or of נִחַם (Exodus 32:14), God is the subject, and sin, or sinful man, is the object; in Hebrews 2:17, Christ is the subject, and the object also is τὰς ἁμαρτίας. The case is almost exactly similar with ἐξιλάσκεσθαι, which does not appear in the N. T. at all, but in the O. T., on the other hand, is used as the translation of כִּפֵּר much more frequently than the simple form; it is only where this verb is used of the relation between men, namely Genesis 32:21 and Proverbs 16:14, that the classical usus loquendi is preserved; but elsewhere with ἐξιλάσκεσθαι, whether the subject be God (as in Ezekiel 16:63) or man, especially the priest, the object is either man (Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 6:7; Leviticus 16:6; Leviticus 16:11; Leviticus 16:16-17; Leviticus 16:24; Leviticus 16:30; Leviticus 16:33; Ezekiel 45:17) or sin (Exodus 32:30; both together, Leviticus 5:18, Numbers 6:11), or even of holiness defiled by sin (the most holy place, Leviticus 16:16; the altar, Leviticus 16:18; Leviticus 27:33, Ezekiel 43:22); only in Zechariah 7:2 is found ἐξιλάσκασθαι τὸν κύριον, where, however, the Hebrew text has לְחַלּוֹת אֶת־פְּנֵי יְהֹוָה. Ἰλασμός, therefore, in scripture does not denote the reconciliation of God, either with Himself or with men, and hence not placatio (or as Myrberg interprets: propitiatio) Dei, but the justification or reconciliation of the sinner with God, because it is never stated in the N. T. that God is reconciled, but rather that we are reconciled to God.[85]

[85] Comp. Delitzsch in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, on chap. 1 John 2:17, p. 94 ff. But it is to be noticed that Delitzsch, while he states correctly the Biblical mode of representation, bases his opening discussion on the idea of the “self-reconciliation of the Godhead with itself,” an idea which is not contained in scripture.—It is observed by several commentators that ἱλασμός, as distinguished from καταλλαγή = “Versöhnung” (reconciliation), is to be translated by “Sühnung” or “Versühnung” (both = Engl. expiation, atonement). It is true, Versöhnung and Versühnung are properly one and the same word, but in the usage of the language the distinction has certainly been fixed that the latter word denotes the restoration of the disturbed relationship by an expiation to be performed; only it is inexact to assert that the idea ἱλασμός in itself contains the idea of punishment, since ἱλάσκισθαι does not include this idea either in classical or in Biblical usage, and ἐξιλάσκεσθαι, though mostly indeed used in the O. T. in reference to a sacrifice by which sin is covered, is also used without this reference (comp. Sir 3:28).

Grotius, S. G. Lange, and others take ἱλασμός = ἱλαστήρ; of course that abstract form denotes the personal Christ, but by this change into the concrete the expression of the apostle loses its peculiar character; “the abstract is more comprehensive, more intensive; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:30” (Brückner); it gives it to be understood “that Christ is not the propitiator through anything outside Himself, but through Himself” (Lücke, 2d ed.), and that there is no propitiation except through Him.[86]

The relation of ἰλασμός to the preceding παράκλητον may be variously regarded; either παράκλητος is the higher idea, in which ἱλασμός is contained, Bede: advocatum habemus apud Patrem qui interpellat pro nobis et propitium eum ac placatum peccatis nostris reddit; or conversely: ἱλασμός is the higher idea, to which the advocacy is subordinated, as de Wette thus says: “ἱλασμός does not merely refer to the sacrificial death of Jesus, but, as the more general idea, includes the intercession as the progressive reconciliation” (so also Rickli, Frommann); or lastly, both ideas are co-ordinate with one another, Christ being the ἱλασμίς in regard to His blood which was shed, and the παράκλητος, on the other hand, in regard to His present activity with the Father for those who are reconciled to God through His blood. Against the first view is the sentence beginning with καὶ αὐτός, by which ἱλασμός is marked as an idea which is not already contained in the idea παράκλητος, but is distinct from it; against the second view it is decisive that the propitiation, which Christ is described as, has reference to all sins, but His intercession, on the other hand, has reference only to the sins of the believers who belong to Him. There remains, accordingly, only the third view as the only correct one (so also Braune). The relationship is this, that the intercession of the glorified Christ has as its presupposition the ἱλασμός wrought out in His death,[87] yet the sentence καὶ αὐτός is not merely added, ut causa reddatur, cur Christus sit advocatus noster (Hornejus, and similarly Beza, Lorinus, Sander, etc.), for its independence is thereby taken away; the thought contained in it not merely serves for the explanation or confirmation of the preceding, but it is also full of meaning in itself, as it brings out the relation of Christ to the whole world of sinners.

περὶ πῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν] περί expresses the reference quite generally: “in regard to;” it may here be observed that ἐξιλάσκεσθαι, in the LXX. is usually construed with περί, after the Hebrew כִּפֵּר עַל. The idea of substitution is not suggested in περί.1 John 2:2. Our Advocate does not plead that we are innocent or adduce extenuating circumstances. He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground of our acquittal. He stands in the Court of Heaven ἀρνίον ὡς ἐσφαγμένον (Revelation 5:6) and the marks of His sore Passion are a mute but eloquent appeal: “I suffered all this for sinners, and shall it go for naught?” περὶ ὃλου τοῦ κόσμου, Proverbs totius mundi (Vulgate), “for the sins of the whole world”. This is grammatically possible (cf. Matthew 5:20), but it misses the point. There are sins, special and occasional, in the believer; there is sin in the world; it is sinful through and through. The Apostle means “for our sins and that mass of sin, the world”. Cf. Rothe: “Die ‘Welt’ ist ihrem Begriff zufolge überhaupt sündig, ein Sündenmasse, und hat nicht blos einzelne Sünden an sich”. The remedy is commensurate with the malady. Bengel: “Quam late patet peccatum, tam late propitiatio”.

Observe how the Apostle classes himself with his readers: “we have,” “our sins”—a rebuke of priestcraft. Cf. Aug.: “But some one will say: ‘Do not holy men pray for us? Do not bishops and prelates pray for the people?’ Nay, attend to the Scriptures, and see that even the prelates commend themselves to the people. For the Apostle says to the common folk ‘withal praying for us’. The Apostle prays for the folk, the folk for the Apostle. We pray for you, brethren; but pray ye also for us. Let all the members pray for one another, let the Head intercede for all.”2. And He is the propitiation] Or, And He Himself is a propitiation: there is no article in the Greek. Note the present tense throughout; ‘we have an Advocate, He is a propitiation’: this condition of things is perpetual, it is not something which took place once for all long ago. In His glorified Body the Son is ever acting thus. Contrast ‘He laid down His life for us’ (1 John 3:16). Beware of the unsatisfactory explanation that ‘propitiation’ is the abstract for the concrete, ‘propitiation’ (ἱλασμός) for ‘propitiator’ (ἱλαστήρ). Had S. John written ‘propitiator’ we should have lost half the truth; viz. that our Advocate propitiates by offering Himself. He is both High Priest and Victim, both Propitiator and Propitiation. It is quite obvious that He is the former; the office of Advocate includes it. It is not at all obvious that He is the latter: very rarely does an advocate offer himself as a propitiation.

The word for ‘propitiation’ occurs nowhere in N. T. but here and in 1 John 4:10; in both places without the article and followed by ‘for our sins’. It signifies any action which has expiation as its object, whether prayer, compensation, or sacrifice. Thus ‘the ram of the atonement’ (Numbers 5:8) is ‘the ram of the propitiation’ or ‘expiation’, where the same Greek word as is used here is used in the LXX. Comp. Ezekiel 44:27; Numbers 29:11; Leviticus 25:9. The LXX. of ‘there is forgiveness with Thee’ (Psalm 130:4) is remarkable: literally rendered it is ‘before Thee is the propitiation’ (ὁ ἱλασμός). So also the Vulgate, apud Te propitiatio est. And this is the idea that we have here: Jesus Christ, as being righteous, is ever present before the Lord as the propitiation. With this we should compare the use of the cognate verb in Hebrews 2:17 and cognate substantive Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5. From these passages it is clear that in N. T. the word is closely connected with that special form of expiation which takes place by means of an offering or sacrifice, although this idea is not of necessity included in the radical signification of the word itself. See notes in all three places.

for our sins] Literally, concerning (περἱ) our sins: our sins are the matter respecting which the propitiation goes on. This is the common form of expression in LXX. Comp. Numbers 29:11; Exodus 30:15-16; Exodus 32:30; Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 4:35, &c. &c. Similarly, in John 8:46, ‘Which of you convicteth Me of sin?’ is literally, ‘Which of you convicteth Me concerning sin?’ Comp. John 16:8; John 10:33. Notice that it is ‘our sins’, not ‘our sin’: the sins which we are daily committing, and not merely the sinfulness of our nature, are the subject of the propitiation.

and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world] More literally, but also for the whole world: ‘the sins of’ is not repeated in the Greek and is not needed in English. Once more we have a parallel with the Gospel, and especially with chap. 17. ‘Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word … that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me … that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst Me’ (John 17:20-23): ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29): ‘We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:24). Comp. 1 John 4:14. S. John’s writings are so full of the fundamental opposition between Christ or believers and the world, that there was danger lest he should seem to give his sanction to a Christian exclusiveness as fatal as the Jewish exclusiveness out of which he and other converts from Judaism had been delivered. Therefore by this (note especially ‘the whole world’) and other plain statements both in Gospel (see John 11:51 in particular) and Epistle he insists that believers have no exclusive right to the merits of Christ. The expiatory offering was made for the whole world without limitation. All who will may profit by it: quam late peccatum, tam late propitiatio (Bengel). The disabilities under which the whole human race had laboured were removed. It remained to be seen who would avail themselves of the restored privileges. ‘The world’ (ὁ κόσμος) is another of S. John’s characteristic expressions. In his writings it generally means those who are alienated from God, outside the pale of the Church. But we should fall into grievous error if we assigned this meaning to the word indiscriminately. Thus, in ‘the world was made by Him’ (John 1:10) it means ‘the universe’; in ‘This is of a truth the Prophet that cometh into the world’ (John 6:14) it means ‘the earth’; in ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16) it means, as here, ‘the inhabitants of the earth, the human race’. But still the prevalent meaning in both Gospel and Epistle is a bad one; ‘those who have not accepted the Christ, unbelievers.’ In the Apocalypse it occurs only thrice, once in the usual sense, ‘The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord’ (John 11:15), and twice in the sense of ‘the universe’ (John 13:8, John 17:8).1 John 2:2. Αὐτὸς, He Himself) This word forms an Epitasis [See Append. on this figure]: a most powerful Advocate, because He Himself is the propitiation.—ἰλασμός ἐστι, is the propitiation) The word ἰλασμός, and ἐξιλασμὸς, is of frequent occurrence in the Septuagint: it denotes a propitiatory sacrifice: ch. 1 John 4:10; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:21 : that is, the Saviour Himself. There had been therefore enmity (offence) between God and sinners.—ἡμῶν, of us) the faithful. There is no reference here to the Jews; for he is not writing to the Jews: ch. 1 John 5:21.—περὶ ὅλου) respecting (for) the sins of the whole world. If he had said only, of the world, as ch. 1 John 4:14, the whole must have been understood: now, since of the whole is expressed, who dares to put any restriction upon it? ch. 1 John 5:19. The propitiation is as widely extended as sin.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). And He (καὶ αὐτὸς)

The He is emphatic: that same Jesus: He himself.

The propitiation (ἱλασμός)

Only here and 1 John 4:10. From ἱλάσκομαι to appease, to conciliate to one's self, which occurs Luke 18:13; Hebrews 2:17. The noun means originally an appeasing or propitiating, and passes, through Alexandrine usage, into the sense of the means of appeasing, as here. The construction is to be particularly noted; for, in the matter of (περί) our sins; the genitive case of that for which propitiation is made. In Hebrews 2:17, the accusative case, also of the sins to be propitiated. In classical usage, on the other hand, the habitual construction is the accusative (direct objective case), of the person propitiated. So in Homer, of the gods. Θεὸν ἱλάσκεσθαι is to make a God propitious to one. See "Iliad," i., 386, 472. Of men whom one wishes to conciliate by divine honors after death. So Herodotus, of Philip of Crotona. "His beauty gained him honors at the hands of the Egestaeans which they never accorded to any one else; for they raised a hero-temple over his grave, and they still propitiate him (αὐτὸν ἱλάσκονται) with sacrifices" (v., 47). Again, "The Parians, having propitiated Themistocles (Θεμιστοκλέα ἱλασάμενοι) with gifts, escaped the visits of the army" (viii., 112). The change from this construction shows, to quote Canon Westcott, "that the scriptural conception of the verb is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which, from without, occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship. Such phrases as 'propitiating God,' and God 'being reconciled' are foreign to the language of the New Testament. Man is reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18 sqq.; Romans 5:10 sq.). There is a propitiation in the matter of the sin or of the sinner."

For the sins of the whole world (περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου)

The sins of (A. V., italicized) should be omitted; as in Revelation, for the whole world. Compare 1 John 4:14; John 4:42; John 7:32. "The propitiation is as wide as the sin" (Bengel). If men do not experience its benefit, the fault is not in its efficacy. Dsterdieck (cited by Huther) says, "The propitiation has its real efficacy for the whole world; to believers it brings life, to unbelievers death." Luther: "It is a patent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world; so that thine heart cannot deceive itself, and think, the Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me." On κόσμου see on John 1:9.

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