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Christ Our Atoning Sacrifice – 1 John 2:2


The Atoning Sacrifice

Text: 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

John brings us back to the historic event of the Cross, where certain things happened – things that could be achieved by no other, things that had profound effects in heaven and earth, things that had eternal consequences, including our forgiveness from sin, and John can’t leave this subject without focussing on what made it all possible.  Every sermon must return to the Cross.  Here’s three great facts simply stated…

1. The Exclusivity of the Sacrifice.

This verse starts with an emphatic pronoun.  And HE, he alone is the propitiation…  Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

The Shorter Catechism explains it like this: Q. 21. Who is the redeemer of God’s elect?  A. The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

An evangelist preached a sermon entitled, “They have done away with the cross”. Be warned: It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you about a great “revival” or moving of the Spirit taking place; it doesn’t matter how many multitudes are involved, or how loud their praises are; it doesn’t matter how “successful” a particular ministry may appear to be.  If the cross of Jesus Christ is not the door through which people come, you can rest assured — it is not a work of God!


2. The Effectiveness of the Sacrifice.  He is the PROPITIATION for our sins.

Propitiation is a word we don’t use much in common speech, the Greek word is ‘ιλασμος (hilasmos) and the nearest modern English equivalent we have is ‘atoning sacrifice’ – but there is no better word to describe the work of Christ on the Cross.  Now, to understand this word we need to understand what God is like, and that’s a real problem for modern men.  God made us in his image, but nowadays, we seem to want to reverse the process… To make God in our image, – the image that we want him to be.

The Bible tells us what God is like.  God has ‘attributes’ – He is all powerful, always present, never changing…  But he also has MORAL ATTRIBUTES.  The Bible tells us what these are:-

Holiness.  God is Holy, separate, undefiled,  Exodus 15:11:  1 Samuel 6:20:  Psalms 99:9:  Isaiah 6:3:  Ezekiel 39:7:  Habakkuk 1:13:  

Wrath.  Now, remember that God’s wrath is not a fit of temper, -.  It reflects his unchangeable character. It doesn’t just die down and go away.

2 Kings 22:13: . John 3:36:  Romans 1:18:  Ephesians 5:6:  

Justice.  Perfect justice, for he sees what no earthly judge can ever see, and his wisdom is all sufficient  Deuteronomy 32:4:  Psalms 103:6:  Isaiah 45:21.

Love.  Everyone knows that God is love.  There is no question about that at all.  But just to be fair:

Psalms 146:8:  Jeremiah 31:3:  John 3:16:  Romans 5:8:   1 John 3:1:  

Now, at the Cross all those moral characteristics of God converged. God’s holiness meant that sin or defilement couldn’t enter into his presence, so in his love He sent his Son Jesus to pay the price for our sin, – so God whose righteous justice demanded that he couldn’t just ‘let is off’ was perfectly just in that the penalty for sin was paid, – and God’s wrath was deflected from us.  Let’s return to that word ιλασμος.  That has three separate meanings in Greek use.

To assuage. Yes God’s wrath was assuaged, his justice satisfied, his holiness undefiled, his love magnified… As we have already seen.

To forgive.  And the outcome of Christ’s sacrificial death was to ensure that every one of our sins are forgiven and buried in the deepest depths of God’s forgetfulness,  but there is a further meaning.

To ‘disinfect’. (As one commentator calls it) You see Christ’s death has an effect on the sinner too, for sin always leaves a stain, – on one’s soul, one’s character.  In his death our sins are ‘disinfected’ – the technical term is EXPIATED.  Washed away, blotted out  not just covered up, but every stain of sin removed.  Washed in the blood of the lamb!

In Christ’ sacrifice all three meanings were fulfilled.  Christ’s death saves us from sin!


3. The Extent of the Sacrificeand not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now, this is a contentious area.  There are three general positions on this, and I’m going to describe them briefly for you:

* The Universalist.  This person believes that if Jesus died for the whole wide world, then, logically, since Christ, as God, is all powerful and omnipotent, then the whole world must be saved.  This is the position of many liberals, who see no difficulty in worshipping with Muslims and Sikhs…  After all, ‘we all worship the same god…’ (They would say).

* The Arminian.  The person who believes that Jesus’s death is for everyone -but in order to avail of its cleansing effects on sin, the sinner must first do something, – must come to Christ, or make a decision or get saved, or go in for salvation….  They believe in the ‘free will’ of the sinner, but we have learned that our free will is corrupted by sin, and that we will never choose Christ on our own, for Satan has blinded our eyes to out lost condition, and we need a work of god, to open them and to come to Christ.

* There is a view called Particular Redemption.  He believes (with much justification) that Christ’s death was only for those whom the father has called to be saved, has predestined and elected to salvation, and he will argue that from another perspective too, that not only did Christ die for us, but that we died IN HIM.    But here too we hit a problem, for that’s not what we seem to be reading here, for it says here FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.   Piper states, “The “whole world” refers to the children of God scattered throughout the whole world.”

We need to explore further, so, what does the text say?  It says that Jesus died for THE SINS of the whole world.    The context is clear.  Not every sinner will know and benefit from Christ’s saving power, for not every sinner will be awakened by God to his need and be saved.  So we simply state here that Christ’s death is SUFFICIENT for every sinner, but EFFICIENT only for those who are his.

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