VERSE 2: The Atoning Sacrifice
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Verses one and two explain God’s redemptive plan and function as the crescendo of John’s gospel message: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was necessary to restore our lost fellowship with God and atone for our sins.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins”: to understand why atonement for our sins on the cross was necessary requires us to understand God’s righteous indignation against sin:
Isaiah 59:2 (CSB) But your iniquities are separating you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not listen.
Romans 1:18 (CSB) For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth
God is provoked to righteous indignation by sin because “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all”; God’s righteous wrath will bring justice to every human sin.
But what could we possibly give to settle our accounts and make right our wrongs?
Matthew 16:26 (CSB) For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?
We needed the expiatory sacrifice of Christ to justify our debt to sin – which requires death – and satisfy the righteous wrath of God because we provoked his wrath by our willful rebellion against divine truth.
Atonement for our sin was made by the blood of Christ:
Romans 3:25-26 (CSB) God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
1st John 1:7, 9 (CSB) If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Christian gospel declares that our confidence for atonement is in the blood of Christ to pay for our sins and erase their record by the grace of God.
Therefore, Christ has become our heavenly advocate, having been tempted in all ways as we are tempted and having made atonement for our sins, we can come confident in his grace to find help and mercy in our time of need:
Hebrews 2:17-18 (CSB) Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement, for the sins of the people. 18 For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.
“Not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”: the atoning sacrifice of Christ was provided for the whole world – not only for one select group of people – and demonstrates the righteousness of God in this present time.
Here careful attention is required.
Sanctification is limited to believers alone:
1st John 1:7 (CSB) If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1st John 2:1 (CSB) My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
Atonement extends as widely as sin extends:
John 3:16-18 (CSB) For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
2nd Peter 2:1 (CSB) There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.
Think of Christ’s atonement as a great resevoir. There is enough water for everyone to drink, but only those who come to the fountain can drink; so the provision for our atonement was generously provided for the whole world, but the sanctifying ministry of that atonement only occurs in those believers who follow Christ having confessed their sins with their heavenward hope set solely on Christ.
“The whole world” cannot be restricted to the believing portion of the world:
1st John 4:14 (CSB) And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior.
1st Timothy 4:10 (CSB) For this reason we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
God’s plan of redemption isn’t to save the Jews through Jesus, save the Chinese through Buddha, and the Arabs through Allah; there is only one who occupies the office of Savior for the whole world, and his name is Jesus Christ. Anyone who wants to be saved from the wrath of God must come to Jesus Christ and receive salvation from him, the only true God and eternal life.
As Martin Luther wrote:
Thou, too, art part of the world, so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.
The atonement has real efficacy for the whole world; to believers it brings life, to unbelievers death:
2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 (CSB) But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things?