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Written by W.M. Mitchell   

The Gospel Messenger—December 1884

 

PROPITIATION FOR SINS

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. — I John ii. 2.

In giving our understanding of the above text, in answer to the request of Bro. A. J. Taylor, of Louisiana, we wish it distinctly understood that neither our views nor that of any other uninspired m are to be regarded as the standard of either the faith or practice of the Lord’s people, except as sustained clearly and fully by the infallible standard of God’s word as set forth in the Scriptures. By this standard alone we must determine what is truth and what is error; what is right and what is wrong; and by it we, with our doctrine and practice, must stand or fall, be justified or condemned.

It can avail us nothing to theorize and speculate upon unrevealed things, nor to put strained or forced constructions upon the word of God in order to carry our point and establish our favorite theories. God will sweep away such a refuge of lies, and destroy the hiding place of all who seek to shelter under them.

We are aware that thousands of persons, in reading, meditating or commenting upon the scriptures, are governed more by the mere sound of a word or phrase for its meaning than by the united testimony of the scriptures, or by the connection in which it stands. For instance, when one is naturally inclined to believe in the doctrine of universal atonement, as most men naturally do, it is easy for him to be persuaded that he has strong scriptural support for such a belief when he finds it written that the “Lamb of God taketh away the in of the world;” “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” and that “He is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” He does not seem to regard the word “world,” nor the phrase “whole world,” in other sense than setting forth and including the whole human race collectively, and every one of them individually.

If this is the true application of the words “world” and “whole world” in the texts quoted above, and in all other places where the same or similar words are used, then the scriptures, instead of being one unbroken chain of revealed truth, would become to us as a jumble of absurdities and contradictions.

The apostle of Christ says the saints shall “Judge the world.”—l Cor. vi. 2. And yet they themselves are a part of Adam’s race, chosen of God, and redeemed from among men. It is also written that “All the world wondered after the beast.”—Rev. xiii. 3. If the phrase “all the world,” in this text, means all the human family, collectively and individually, then of what race are those men and women who are represented by that terrible beast? Of what race of men and women are those whom the world are said to hate for the truth’s sake? What world and “whole world” is it, in distinction from the Church of God, that is deceived by Satan, and which the saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony?—Rev. xii. What “world” is that “lieth in wickedness,” and yet there are other persons mentioned in distinction from it?—1 John v. 19. The decree that, “Went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed,” embraced but a very small part of the human family. This decree extends only to the Roman government, and yet it is to “all the world.” So, also, in the scriptures, unbelievers, heathens or Gentiles, are called the world, in distinction from the Jews, or from the saints of God, even as we now say the “church and the world.” Having made these remarks we will now come a little more directly to what we consider the true application of the text.

“He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Propitiation signifies to pacify, reconcile, or atone. And when the apostle presents Christ Jesus as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for “our sins” in the above text, none but Jewish disciples, or those manifested by a spiritual birth, were included. So, also, at any age or period of the world, all who are called by grace and manifested as the Lord’s people, may very justly say in truth, that he is the propitiation for our sins. They know of no other name under heaven nor among men where by they must be saved. The Lord has so dealt with them, in giving them a discovery of their vileness, as contrasted with his holiness, that they are bound, “Always to give thanks unto God, because he has chosen them unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and a belief of the truth.” They know of a truth that their eternal salvation and eternal glory is not by works of righteousness which they have done, but according to God’s mercy he hath saved them by the washing of regeneration and renewing power of the Holy Ghost. Christ Jesus, in his holy offering of himself, without spot unto God, is the Propitiation for our sins. No part of the work of atonement for sins is left for the sinner to do, else he would, in that part, be the propitiation for his own sins.

But it is also written that He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. The reader will please notice here that it is not said He has propitiated for the sins of the whole world, but that “He is the propitiation.” Even if we should regard the words “whole world” here in the broadest sense, as applying to all the human family, they would not then necessarily teach universal deliverance of all sinners from eternal death. For whether all sinners are saved eternally or only a few, neither the world of mankind nor their sins can possibly have any other propitiation or atonement for sin than that which is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But we regard the clause, “Sins of the whole world,” as applying to all God’s chosen and redeemed people throughout the world, especially those “other sheep” among the Gentile nations, who had not yet been called by grace to a knowledge of the truth, nor to a knowledge of their inheritance in Christ. The Lord has but one system of salvation for sinners in any age, kingdom or country. He is the God of the whole earth—of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; and all sinners, whether Greeks or Jews, old or young, who are saved from their sins, are “Saved and called of God, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began.”—2 Tim. i. 9. And the blessed Son of God, according to this purpose and grace of God that was in him, said of unborn millions of Gentile sinners: “Other sheep I have, which are not of this (Jewish) fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”—John x. 16. This last quoted text is in perfect harmony with the one heading this article. It embraces the same people and the same number. The Lord Jesus is the propitiation for their sins, and claims them as his own sheep, for whom he, as the Good Shepherd, lays down his life. He not only propitiates and satisfies divine justice for their sins, but he brings them to the fold—” They shall hear my voice.” There are no conditional offers of mercy or of salvation in this. It is all of grace.

The sins of the whole world, for which Jesus is the propitiation in a special and peculiar sense, embraces all that “great multitude” that John saw standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb, which no man could number—of all nations, kindred, and tongues, and people—” Clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, crying with a loud voice, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Rev. vii. 9.

We submit what we have written upon the text to the unbelievers, heathens or Gentiles, are called the world, in distinction from the Jews, or from the saints of God, even as we now say the “church and the consideration of Bro. Taylor, and all others who may feel interested therein, knowing that it will stand or fall according as it is sustained or condemned by the word of God.—M.

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