My little children, I am writing these things to you in order that you would not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, not only for ours alone but even for the entire world.
These two verses strike a chord within me every time I read them, both theologically and personally.
I love the warmth John exudes in his writing, calling the addressees little children and telling them explicitly his reason for writing. John communicates with them to limit their sin. I sincerely believe John wrote these words knowing full well that they would be preserved for posterity, that future generations would heed the warning of this particular letter.
The intention of this letter is not to cause all sin to stop, though that would be wonderful, no John wrote to limit sin and offer a way out from under it (to borrow from Paul). Each person will sin, and though we are to limit our own sin as much as we can (with God’s help, obviously), Jesus intercedes for us when we do fail, as long as we own up to that failing.
The theological “kick in the pants” occurs when John explicitly declares that Jesus died as the sacrifice for the entire world, not just for those who already believe. This is where a Calvinist interpretation does irreparable harm to the text, for Unlimited Atonement (that Jesus’ death was intended for all though effective only for those who believe) is the only conclusion one can draw from this text. John does not say Jesus died for those who are currently Christians and those who will become Christians, no, John says Jesus died for us (the believers) and for the world (the unbelievers). There really is no way around this very plain, very obvious text.
Personally, I find this to be incredible news on the practical level. Think about it just a little: if Jesus’ death was intended for everyone, that means nobody is barred from God’s grace. If Jesus’ death was intended for all, then Evangelism is not for our sake, but for the sake of the lost. The entire world is invited, and it is the job of Christians everywhere to proclaim that invitation. If we do not preach, they will not hear, and it is in the hearing and believing that salvation occurs.
Now, I know there are four point Calvinists, but this is where their argument falls apart as well. If Jesus did indeed die for all people, then the invitation is open to all. The idea of God’s grace being limited such that only the elect receive His “efficacious grace” makes no sense in light of Jesus dying for all, because God’s grace is limited so Jesus’ death would necessarily be limited as well. In other words, it would be like God sending out invitations to everyone, but then intentionally limiting the guest list so that if you showed up even with an invitation, God’s “bouncers” would not let you in.
That does not make much sense, does it?
In the end, this text clearly points to God’s amazing goodness to everyone in that He sent His Son as a sacrifice for all people and peoples, unblocking the way for everyone, and then raised Jesus such that He would be our advocate before God.
Now that is an amazing God indeed!