Mitch and I have been discussing 1 John 2:1-2. Some of the mistakes Mitch makes are common ones I see in Calvinists circles, so I thought I would address them.
1Jo 2:1-2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1. The whole world = meaning all Christians throughout who ever were, are or will be
2. “you” = the Jews
3. propitiation and advocation and are inseparable and co-extensive
4. Propitiation means “has propitiated”
1. The whole world = everyone
2. Christ is the propitiation for everyone, but only advocates for believers
3. Propitiation is the only basis for advocation, but they are not inseparable or co-extensive
4. Since Christ is the propitiation for everyone, He can cleanse everyone
5. I am not sure who “you” is, but whoever they are, they are believers
Mitch’s problems with my view
1. He thinks my distinction between advocation and propitiation is unjustified
2. “can cleanse” makes cleansing possible rather than actual
3. My view leads to universalism
My Problem with Mitch’s view
I have three issues with Mitch’s interpretation of the text.
1. His use of “world” is a special pleading
2. Changing “Christ is the propitiation” to Christ “has propitiated” switches noun to verb and present to past
3. The context teaches the conditional application of Christ’s blood (1 John 1:7-9)
These three issues lead to three systematic theology issues withing Mitch's view.
1. Conflating the two aspects of Christ’s work by deny the provisional aspect of the atonement
2. Implicitly denying justification by faith
3. Denying that Christ died for all
My Response to Mitch’s Problems with my view.
The distinction between propitiation and advocation is clear. Christ is the propitiation (i.e. the atoning sacrifice) for sins. This harkens back to the Levitical sacrifice system where the animal was slain and offered to God. Advocation is Christ's pleading with the Father for us. Sacrifice and pleading are two different concepts. On the other hand, they are related. Christ advocates on the basis of His being the atoning sacrifice.
The idea of a provisional or possible aspect of Christ’s work is well founded in scripture. Christ’s work is in two phases: the shedding of His blood and the application of His blood to the believer. Just as the Passover lamb in the OT had to be slain and his blood had to be applied to the door post, so to, Christ died and his blood is applied to believers. This is the difference between Christ’s death and justification. Christ both died and He also intercedes for us. His work is in two parts. The first part is provisional, the second part is effectual.
My view doesn’t lead to universalism, because Christ doesn’t advocate for all, He only advocates for believers. Both aspects of Christ’s work are necessary for salvation.
Explanation of my Problems with Mitch’s View
1. Let’s pretend I said “I am going to rob a bank”, the bank gets robbed and I find myself in court. I am told your statement is incriminating. If I responded, by "rob" I meant “invest my money”, do you think that would fly? They would responded, no dictionary defines “rob” that way and no one uses the term that way, and I would be stuck. My definition would be a special pleading.
In the same way, Mitch’s definition of” world” is a special pleading. Setting passages that speak of Christ’s death for the world aside, no passage in the NT use world that way. The definition pops up, just to get Calvinists off the hook.
2. The switch from “Christ is the propitiation” to Christ has propitiated” is an obvious change from noun to verb (i.e. what Christ is to what Christ does) and a change from the present to the past. This change is unjustified. This move is an attempt to conflate the two aspects of Christ’s work (i.e. His death with His advocation). But it’s contrary to the text.
3. The inbound context makes it very clear that cleansing is conditional.
1Jo 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Systematic Theology Issues
Christ both died and He intercedes. If His death without intercession or the application of Christ’s blood saved, then intercession and applying His blood is completely irrelevant. Christ’s death is the only foundation of salvation and the application of His blood actually saves.
If Christ saved all the elect on 33 AD, then I was born justified. Before I repented and believed, I could have gone to God and demanded access to heaven. If I never had converted, it wouldn’t have mattered, I would still be saved. But scripture teaches we are justified by faith.