"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Christ: Savior of the World

That agreeably thereunto, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And in the First Epistle of 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.”

- Article 2 of the Remonstrance by the Arminian Party in the Netherlands

The most prominent argument against the idea that the Bible teaches an atonement that was commissioned for the elect and accomplished fully and actually for them and is not committed for the unelect is the wording of the Bible itself. Some of the verses have already been cited. 1 John 2:2 identifies Christ as the propitiation for "our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 4:14 states "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."

Does this settle the manner? In our way of using the English word, when we say "world," don't we mean everyone? What purpose does calling Jesus the Savior of the world serve?

What being "Savior of the World" means:

Let us look at an extended episode in which this phrase is used in John 4. Many know basics of the story of the woman at the well. It is important that we are told that this woman is a Samaritan (John 4:7). When Jesus speaks to her, two boundaries have been crossed. Most focus on the gender difference, which is important. But the bigger boundary is the racial boundary. The woman does not answer Jesus' words, but merely replies "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" as John supplies the observation: "(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" (John 4:9).

Differences are discussed such as where the Jews worship and where the Samaritans worship (John 4:20-24). The Samaritans have their hope for a Messiah, yet are separated from Jews and their worship. Jesus declares that such barriers are being brought down. When the woman believes and tells the village, it gives a hope to the people who say "we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:42)

Why would the people say such a thing? Is it because they believe in universal redemption of every single person? Certainly not. Is it because they believe in a universal atonement that is a propitiation for every person? Nope. They say Jesus is the "Savior of the world" because they now see that Jesus is not just the savior of the Jews. Jesus is from the Jews, but He is not only sent to be the Savior of that people, but all peoples in all the world. We can see that John's emphasis in using the word "world" is that John uses that in contrast to "Jew" or "Israel" or "Jewish." John uses "world" to communicate that Jesus is not a national deity, but the universal Savior of all peoples, not just the Jews.

What being "Savior of the World" certainly doesn't mean:

So to use the phrase "Savior of the World" as a case for saying Christ died for every single person is illegitimate. A meaning is explained in John 4. But we also know what "world" does not mean (i.e. every single person) by proper thinking through what someone is saying when they claim such a thing.

Let us think of what we are saying if we say “Jesus is the Savior of the world” as meaning “Jesus is the Savior of every single person.” This can mean 2 things:

1. You are a Universalist and believe no one suffers hell.

If we look at 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.” And we insert our gloss in, we see John combating provincialism. Christ's death is not merely for some in the race of the Jews, not merely for your particular group (Those in Asia Minor, Romans, Americans) but for members of every people group. However if we insert the Arminian gloss of “every single person” then universalism would be a logical conclusion of Christ being the propitiation of the sins of every single person. Propitiation means Christ was the object of God's infinite wrath against sin. How would God have wrath left over for anyone if Christ suffered propitiation for them? Indeed, logically if world means “every single person” all are saved. However, if we take the Bible at its word, then hell is a real place with a numbered population. For one who accepts the Scriptures as infallible and the true teaching of God, they cannot accept such a conclusion.

2. You believe Jesus is the Savior of those in hell.

People have said this. Rob Bell says there are forgiven people in hell. If a proponent of Unlimited Atonement is honest, they must say that Jesus is the Savior of those who are not saved. The problem with this of course is that this is nonsense.

We do not say that God is the savior of those who are not saved. If I talked about saving the life of a person that drowned and died, that is nonsense. If they were saved, they would not have drowned. If God is the savior of those who are not saved, salvation means nothing, for it has no essence, it communicates an action that has not taken place. When God told Israel that he was their savior from the Egyptians, this was not because he let them drown in the sea. Such a statement would call for no praise, but merely ridicule. If one is saved, they do not suffer hell.

Therefore, we really only have one true answer for how “Jesus is Avior of the world.” World must refer to all types of people. For:

* Jesus is not the Savior of every single person, for some suffer hell.

* Jesus is not the Savior of those who are not saved, for this statement would make no sense and is only deserving of ridicule for God, not praise.

* Thus, we must say: Jesus is the Savior of those from every people, nation and tongue.


Andrew said...

Again Jared, I really don't mean to be offensive but you have only used logic and grammar to attack the unlimited atonement of Christ. There isn't a bible verse that says Christ didn't die for the unelect.

To be fair, let's take an issue where the Reformers accuse Catholics of the same thing: The intercession of the saints.

There is no biblical proof of the dead in Christ in heaven praying for Christians on earth. This doctrine is based on tradition and logical inferences of early church practices and liturgy as well as the doctrine of intercessory prayer.

You won't let us get away with the idea that glorified Christians hear our prayers and pray for us, so why do you allow for limited atonement when the bible doesn't teach it explicitly.

Christ earned salvation on the cross, but if I "became a Christian" (sola fide and rejection of Catholicism) you would have to say (i think) that in some way at 7pm on Aug 29 2009 Christ's sacrifice was applied to me in a salvic way. Why is it wrong to say that Christ's once and for all sacrifice can be applied to only some but still have the potentiality for all?

I assume this has to do with Calvin's atonement model (God pouring wrath on Christ penally for the elect).

At the end of the day you can use Anti-Arminian rhetoric about Christ dying for nothing, but you still can't prove from scripture the limited atonement penal substitution model.

The verse still says "but for the whole world" you can say St. John is philologically an idiot for using the phrase, but he still used it.

Jared Nelson said...

Sorry Andrew, I didn't get a chance to look at this until today.

I am a little confused as to what you meant that I can support my case grammatically and logically but that is not supporting it Biblically. My case absolutely is not that John was an "idiot" and using the world "philosophically." I merely showed the way in which world was meant, to communicate something legitimate and necessary. Do you disagree with my assessment of John 4? Can we begin there? Do the people name Jesus the Savior of the World to correct the view that only saw Jesus as the Savior of Israel, or do you believe that phrase means the people had an idea of potential atonement for every single person. If the latter, please expound and defend such an interpretation my friend. I have given my case, you give yours rather than just dismissing my argument as calling John an idiot.

M. Jay Bennett said...
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M. Jay Bennett said...

Roman Catholicism is immune to the need for biblical defense on any point. In theory, the doctrine of the supremacy of the Petrine ministry banishes all questionable interpretations of Scripture.

In other words, Andrew has the argumentative high-ground. He can ask Protestants to defend their views biblically till the cows come home without ever needing to do the same for his own view. That's the kind of privileged only enjoyed by those whose consciences are submitted to a man (at least as long as that man maintains the continuity of his own supposed supremacy).

Andrew said...
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Andrew said...

Reformed Protestantism is immune to the need for Tradition which is the measure of orthodoxy. In my Tradition we allow one man, the bishop of Rome in union with one body, the magesterium, interpret scripture and tradition. In Reformed Protestantism, either Calvin or everyone for themselves is the Pope and Magesterium.

So this common acceptance of an infallible interpretor may be significant common ground between us Catholics and you Presbyterians.

Except of course we locate this authority in different people.

God bless.

Jared Nelson said...


The Reformed Tradition specifically does not accept many of Calvin's interpretations: The John's Baptism was Christian Baptism, Calvin's view on the Sabbath, etc.

But how do you get around Pope Honorius teaching, promoting and spreading Monothelitism? Are you allowed to admit that a Pope messed up? How can we know he was wrong if there is no standard beyond his authoritative interpretation?

M. Jay Bennett said...

Andrew, Reformed Protestantism wouldn't exist without tradition. We are heavily dependent on it, especially when evaluating competing interpretations of Scripture, whether on more central or more peripheral doctrines. Technically speaking in Roman Catholicism, Rome is not dependent on tradition. On the contrary, tradition is dependent on Rome. In other words, Rome is both the source and interpreter of tradition. After all, there is no true tradition outside communion with Rome, right?

Also, Reformed Protestants don't believe any one person has the ability to interpret Scripture infallibly. That's why we're so dependent on the illumination of the Spirit in the church through the ages (i.e. tradition).

I admit, the thought of having one guy to look to for my understanding of Biblical essentials (and, perhaps, some not-so-essentials) sounds like a very comforting option, unless, of course, you believe in total depravity. Then the counsel of many through millennia seems a bit more comforting.