Scanned and Digitized from The Christian Pathway publication.
[Excerpted from an article entitled “Series of Comments”]
“And he (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
This particular Scripture is a prime example of the necessity for rightly dividing the word of truth. This verse of Scripture is always in the forefront of those who advocate a general or universal atonement. However, most advocates of a general atonement will also allow that there will be some of the human race who will be eternally lost. Thus there are many who delight in quoting this text for the purpose of upholding a general atonement, but who finally will be forced to deny the atonement accomplished in this passage. This passage speaks of a propitiation, or satisfaction, for sins. If Christ is indeed the satisfaction for the sins of every human being, the simple question is, “What can damn one of them?” Unbelief may be named. But is unbelief a sin? Christ is the satisfaction for sins and this must also include unbelief if Christ in indeed the propitiation for the sins of every human being. The key to the right dividing of this word of truth is the understanding of the term “the whole world.” Some suggestions to different meanings associated with the word “world” are found in this same chapter. Notice the word “world” in these verses: Verse 15, “Love not the WORLD, neither the things that are in the WORLD. If any man love the WORLD, the love of the father is not in him.’ Verse 16, “For all that is in the WORLD, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the WORLD.” Verse 17, “And the WORLD passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the Father abideth forever.” There are other references to the term “world” in the and 4th chapters of 1 John. But your attention is especially called to 1 John 5:19, “And we know that we are of God, and the WHOLE WORLD lieth in wickedness.” The term “whole world” in this verse embraces a mass of persons who are different from the “we” who are mentioned as the second word in this verse. Even so, the term “whole world” in 1 John 2:2 does not embrace every person universally. The simple truth is that there is a mass (the elect world whose sins are propitiated by Christ) called the “whole world” in 1 John 2:2, and there is a different mass (those left lying in wickedness) which constitutes another and different “whole world” as mentioned in 1 John 5:19. Everywhere in the Bible that the word “world” is used there is need for right dividing of the word of truth. For another illustration look at Luke 2:1, “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that ALL THE WORLD should be taxed.” In this passage it should be obvious that “all the world” would be limited to the domain of Caesar Augustus. Then finally look at the opening part of James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire, a WORLD of iniquity.” This last mentioned verse should suffice in the recognition that the word WORLD does not always mean the same thing or embrace the same quantity of number. The use of the term ‘whole world” in 1 John 2:2 means that Christ made propitiation for the sins of the elect among the Gentiles as well as among the Jews.
– Elder Gene Thomas
[The above article by Elder Thomas made me think of two other passages that show the use of the word “world” not meaning the whole human race. John 15:18-19: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. if ye were of the world, the world would love his own. hut because ye are not of the world, hut I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 17:9.’“I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” In both these passages, Christ uses the word “world” to mean a group of people that does not include every member of the human race. Here the word is referring to those who are not a part of the “world” referred to in John 3:16. In, John 3:16, the “world” is the whole group of the people of God, the chosen, the elect. In John 17:9 and John 15:19, the “world” is all of the wicked who are not the elect of God, and who perish in their sins. – A.G.]