1 John 2:2 and “the World”
This post was written by SEA member, Roy Ingle
Calvinists insist that the word “world” in 1 John 2:2 cannot possibly mean “the whole world” but instead they take “world” and teach that John means “Jews and Gentiles” or those from the world. They do this because to teach that “world” means “world” would deny limited atonement and they would be forced to embrace unlimited atonement which simply cannot happen otherwise the other four points of Calvinism would be in jeopardy. To see an example of a Calvinist holding firmly to 1 John 2:2 not being “world” but instead “all types from the world” see this post here.
Let’s do this, let’s look at John’s use of “world” in 1 John to see how John would use the term. For this study, I will be using Dr. Robert Picirilli’s book, Grace, Faith, Free Will. The Greek word is “kosmos” and it occurs 23 times in 1 John. Dr. Robert Picirilli notes the use of kosmos in 1 John as follows:
2:15-17 (6 times)
4:1-5 (6 times)
5:4-5 (3 times)
Picirilli notes that the use of “the world” can be used personally by John (3:1, 13) or impersonally (2:15). The use of “world” in 1 John 2:2 is personal.
John consistently uses “the world” against the Church. Only four times in 1 John does he use “the world” to not be negative: 1 John 3:17 and 4:17; 4:9; and 4:14 which is the same meaning as in 1 John 2:2. The Church is not to love “the world” (1 John 2:15-17), does not recognize Jesus nor His disciples (3:1), hates disciples (3:13), has the spirit of the antichrist (4:3-4), is overcome by disciples (5:4-5), and is in the grip of the evil one (5:18-19).
Dr. Picirilli notes at this point that one would be hard pressed to see, given the consistent use by John for “the world”, to mean “the elect of all nations.”
Even stronger is the use of the Greek word “holos” (or “whole”) in 1 John 2:2. The only other place this word is found is 1 John 5:19. How can 1 John 2:2 be “the elect from Jews and Gentiles” while “the whole world” in 1 John 5:19 cannot? I admit that context must determine the usage but Calvinists have greatly read into 1 John 2:2 their own doctrine when it comes to John’s use of “the world” as being only “the elect.”
I also recommend Dr. Picirilli’s remaining comments on the use of the plural “we/us” in 1 John 2:2. He points out that John is consistent also in his usage of the plural and this strengthens the Arminian argument for unlimited atonement.
In my response recently with the same Calvinist author above over his views regarding limited atonement (in which he argued that one must embrace universalism if you hold to an unlimited view), I asked him to show me one verse in the Bible that says Christ died only for the elect. To merely state a verse where it says that Jesus died for someone (or something) does not mean then that He died only for that which it mentioned. Scripture says that Jesus died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), the sheep (John 10:11), us (Galatians 1:4), or Paul but it never says in the New Testament that Jesus died only for the elect. Take Galatians 2:20 where Paul says that Christ died for him. Are we to assume that Jesus died only for Paul? In John 10 where Jesus says that He lays down His life for the sheep, are we then to conclude that He lays down His life for the Church or His friends? To merely assume since someone is not mentioned in the text does not mean that He didn’t die for them when in fact it is clear that Jesus did die for all in places such as 1 John 2:2. I replied to the Calvinist brother, “If I asked you if Jesus died for the church you would say yes and point to Ephesians 5:25. If I asked you if Jesus died for the sheep you would say yes and point to John 10:11. If I asked you if Jesus died for Paul you would say yes and point to Galatians 2:20. But when I point out that Jesus died for the world in places such as 1 John 2:2, you turn and deny this simply because your theology will not allow it and not because of your conviction from Scripture.” Again, Scripture is clear that Jesus died for the sheep, the Church, Paul, us, the world, etc. but not once do we find that He died only for the elect. This must be implied through doctrinal positions instead of Scripture.
One final note is this issue of double jeopardy. Calvinists like to argue that if Christ died for all men’s sins then they should be atoned for when they die since God cannot be just in punishing them for the sins He laid upon Christ on the cross. First of all, no one is saved merely by the atonement of Christ. That Jesus died on the cross or shed His blood saves no one. Even Calvinists acknowledge this. We are saved by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-26). Scripture is clear that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). If Christ died for the elect only then it logically follows that the elect are born saved, regenerated, and sinless. Yet all Calvinists agree that they were sinners and now are saved by grace through faith. How can this be if Christ died for the sins on the cross and paid their sin debt? How can God place the sins of the elect on Christ and then still call people to repent of sins that He has already forgiven them of and did not see because they were in Christ? It is illogical.
The atonement, by itself, saves none. It is faith in Christ that saves. In this sense, Jesus is the Savior of the whole world in that He died for all and made provision for their forgiveness but He saves only those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). Only those who appropriate His atonement are redeemed and forgiven. The elect then are those who place their faith in Jesus, those foreknown by God (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2).
In closing, I asked the same author above when he got saved. He didn’t really answer me for he knew my question was a trap. We get saved when we place our faith in Jesus. This is clear in Scripture (John 3:1-7). The Calvinist will argue that all of salvation is a work of God and no Arminian would disagree. I have been saved for over 20 years and have never heard one person say that they saved themselves when they were saved by faith. While salvation is a work of God (Titus 3:5-7), God does not believe for us. Even Calvinist theologians acknowledge this. Certainly we Arminians agree that the Spirit of God must help a person to place their faith in Jesus. But we believe that the will of God is for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that He has graciously given His Son for this purpose (John 1:29; 3:16). We further believe that God has sent His Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement to come (John 16:8-11). What would be the point of the Holy Spirit convicting the world if in fact God already had sent His Son to die only for the elect?
It is clear that we all are saved by grace through faith. You didn’t get saved when Jesus died on the cross. You didn’t get saved when Jesus rose from the dead. You didn’t get saved when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. You were saved when you placed your faith in the saving, precious, shed blood of Jesus that forgives sins (Acts 13:38-39). In Acts 16:30-34 we read of the conversion of the Philippian jailer and we read in verses 30-31:
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Notice what Paul didn’t say. He didn’t say that this man was already saved (through the cross or universalism) nor did he say that he was already saved to believe (regeneration before faith) but he tells him to believe in the Lord Jesus and he would be saved. This man demonstrates his repentance and is baptized (v.33). The work of salvation was accomplished by Christ and for the glory of God but the man was not saved until he exercised faith in Jesus who alone saves (Acts 4:12).
For the original post, go to: http://arminiantoday.com/2012/12/03/1-john-22-and-the-world/