My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
Jesus Christ is the advocate for His people. He speaks on the church’s behalf in Heaven’s courtroom. He takes the bowl of His New Covenant blood into the holy of holies and sprinkles it upon the mercy seat. He is a living, righteous and successful advocate.
The interpretation of verse 2c is frequently debated. One interpretation suggests that “whole world” means every person without exception. But is this viable when Christ’s propitiatory work effectually provides life for those who sin (vv.1-2a)? Another interpretation suggests that “world” in 1 John 2:2 means every person without distinction.
I think the latter view is preferable. John’s point is regarding peoples and not people.
WARNING: GREEK ALERT
1 John 2:2b reads: kai autos hilasmos estin peri ton hamartion hemon (and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins). hemon is Greek for “our.” Now look at verse 2c: ou peri ton hemeteron de monon alla kai peri holou tou kosmou (and not for ours only but also for those of the world). hemeteron is translated “ours.” hemeteron is often used when there is a personal connection between the author and his audience.
Verse 2b-c seems to be a zoomed-in analysis of 2a, clarifying who hemon (our) is talking about. In other words: John isn’t saying anything new in verse 2b-c that he didn’t say in verse 2a. Here’s a paraphrase: “Christ is the propitiation for our sins – and when I say ‘our,’ I don’t mean just you and I. I am referring to a people from all over the earth.” This interpretation is synonymous with the N.T. Gospel mystery, that Gentiles are grafted into the olive tree and share in the blessings of Jesus Messiah (Ro 11:17; Eph 2:11-22).
A People from All Peoples
John’s brief excursus in verse 2 communicates the universal nature of the church. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…’” (Rev 7:9, emphasis mine). “World” in 1 John 2:2 demonstrates that ethnic, geographic, political, and cultural distinctives raise no barrier to the atoning work of Christ.
Notice that Christ satisfied God’s wrath for the sins of a universal church, and in accordance with that propitiation (v.2) He intercedes with His blood (v.1). The death and intercession of Christ are one work in which Christ deals with the sins of His people. According to 1 John 2:1, when you sin, your hope is that Christ died and intercedes for you.
So here’s the bottom line: Christ died for a people from all peoples. He purchased for Himself a bride made-up of every culture and skin-color on earth. She is, in rich and powerful ways, humanity. God has seen fit, in His wisdom and glory, to build an orchestra composed of every instrument – and the performance in Heaven will be breathtaking!
Racism, the Scrooge
By propitiating God’s wrath on behalf of a universal church, Christ essentially looks at every race and says, “I want you.” So, what is racism? If I am prejudice against 2nd-generation South Koreans living in Little Rock, AR, what am I really doing? In reference to 1 John 2:1-2, I am opposing the blood of Christ.
Racism is like a scrooge who wants to sway Christ’s blood from the full range of its propitiatory effect. Christ says, “I want the 2nd-Generation South Koreans in Little Rock, AR,” and you say, “Meh, but I don’t.” So you refuse them the love of Christ. You segregate them in direct opposition to the command of your Lord: “Make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). Jesus died and labors to redeem them, and yet you labor towards the opposite end.
Oh I know – of course – that you would never say, “I want (insert specific race here) to be damned,” and I believe you don’t want that. I really do. But tell me, sister: how is your racial prejudice not pitting your agenda against that of Christ’s cross? Tell me, brother: how is the willful segregation of tribes resembling the fruit that Christ labors for in the church? Racism looks at Christ’s universal work and responds, “Bah-humbug.”
Do you realize that racial prejudice, by opposing the propitiatory work of Christ, actually tries to refuse Christ His bride? He has purchased for Himself a bride from all ethnicities, and you have the audacity to treat certain ethnicities as though they are not loved by Him. Yikes.
Withholding Christ’s love from a certain race is abusive to Christ’s church. It’s locking the bride in the bridal suite, in a futile attempt to keep the marriage from taking place. You don’t like her, so you mistreat her. Well bud, the groom will arrive soon. I don’t reckon He’ll be too happy to find you playing Cinderella with His wife.
But if you’re prepared to come between Christ and His church, be my guest. I don’t have the guts.