Propitiation in 1 John 2:2

(A Doctrinal Study on the Extent of the Atonement)

Dr. Gary D. Long

This article is “Appendix II,” entitled, Definite Atonement, Philadelphia:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1977, pp 85-101.

Introduction

In discussing the design or extent of the atonement, there are three key doctrinal terms which are related to the priestly sacrifice of Christ on earth, that is, to the finished work of Christ. These terms are redemption, propitiation and reconciliation. Evangelical Arminians and Calvinistic “four point” universalists or modified Calvinists 1 hold that there is a universal design of the atonement which provides salvation for all mankind without exception or which places all of Adam’s posterity in a savable state. They contend that there is a twofold application of these three doctrinal terms — an actual application for those who believe, a provisional application for those who die in unbelief. The historic “five point” or consistent Calvinist 2 asserts that these terms have no substitutionary reference with respect to the non-elect. In contrast to the former who hold to an indefinite atonement, the consistent Calvinist, who holds to a definite atonement, sees no purpose, benefit or comfort in a redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate or a reconciliation that does not reconcile, which would be the case if these terms were applicable to the non-elect.

For those who have wrestled with the extent of the atonement, they are acutely aware that there are three problem verses 3 which the five point Calvinist must scripturally answer if he is to consistently sustain a biblical position before the modified Calvinist that the saving design of the atonement is intended by the triune God only for the elect. These verses are II Peter 2:1, which pertains to redemption; I John 2:2, which pertains to propitiation; and II Corinthians 5:19, which pertains to reconciliation. If the particular redemptionist can scripturally establish in any of these verses that God’s design of the atonement does not extend to the non-elect, then the theological case for the unlimited redemptionist crumples. In summary, if universal propitiation in I John 2:2 cannot be biblically established, then what purpose does a universal redemption in II Peter 2:1 or a universal reconciliation in II Corinthians 5:19 serve? Can it be true that God the Son redeemed the non-elect for whom God the Father’s wrath will never be propitiated (satisfied or appeased) by virtue of Christ’s death or that God the Father has been reconciled by virtue of Christ’s death to the non-elect upon whom His condemning wrath eternally abides (John 3:36)?

The purpose of this doctrinal appendix (the second in a series by the author on problem verses relating to the extent of the atonement) is to theologically approach I John 2:2, which relates to propitiation—the second of the three major doctrinal terms. May those who have believed through grace find this appendix of much help in their doctrinal study of the Word of God. Read more»

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