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The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2

by Stephen Hebert on Tuesday - 13 February 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the sixth part in an ongoing series on the Epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
He is the propitiation of our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου.

Oh boy. Big word alert! What to do with “propitiation”?

First, a definition (Oxford American Dictionary): “the action of propitiating or appeasing a god, spirit, or person.” Is this in fact what the Greek word ἱλασμός means? That is a difficult question and requires a serious and extensive word study. Most major translations render this word as “propitiation”—even the Vulgate has propitiatio. I’ll just go on record as saying that Louw and Nida disagree, and they might be right (but probably not). Is that wishy-washy enough for you?

So, we’re gonna say “propitiation” here. What does all of this mean? Who is doing this propitiation? Jesus, as we saw in 1 John 2:1, he is our advocate (paraklete for those taking notes at home!), and Jesus is clearly the antecedent of the word “he” in verse 2.

OK, so Jesus is the propitiation of our sins. What does that mean? Essentially, what we’re getting at is that Jesus is the means by which our sins are forgiven. Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice that appeased God, and atoned for our sins. This advocate that we have went to the ultimate extreme in his advocacy. He endured what is commonly considered to be one of the most painful and humiliating forms of execution so that he could be a sacrifice of atonement.

What we’re talking about is substitution. Jesus took our place, went to the cross, and took upon himself our sin. Further, it is not just the sins of you and me. No—it was the sins of all the world, and for all time.

I was speaking with a friend this morning who was talking about the pain and suffering he witnessed as he sat in a hospital cafeteria watching folks going through the line. The realization of their pain was so profound that it moved him to prayer.

When we think of the pain that Jesus went through on the cross, we must remember the non-physical pain along with the physical. Jesus is God. God hates sin. Jesus took all the sins that the world ever committed and put them on his back that day. How painful must that have been? Jesus experienced an infinite amount of human suffering, pain, and sin as he hung on the cross. Take my friend’s experience and extrapolate it out to infinity—that is the pain that Jesus felt.

Forgive me for being tangential, but I must indulge. The cross, for lack of a better word, is the crux of human existence. It is the point where the fabric of divinity and humanity intersect. It is a microcosm of our world. Everything that ever mattered somehow finds its beginning and its end at the cross. I can assure you that these ideas are the subject of an upcoming series of posts that I’m working on right now. But, I just want to introduce it here and get the brain juices flowing.

Everything that ever mattered finds its beginning and its end at the cross.

So, when we talk about the crucifixion, let’s not just dumb it down to this idea of atonement or substitution or propitiation or whatever. It’s all of these ideas and more. Let’s be bold and think hard and long about it. 1 John 2:2 gives us a glimpse at just one side of the issue. More will come!

Everything that ever mattered finds its beginning and its end at the cross.

I feel like this is becoming my mantra…

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

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