My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. — 1 John 2:1-2
Context is key to understanding any part of Scripture; we must identify and follow the flow of not only the immediate context, but the contextual phrase-use as found throughout all of holy writ. When we do this concerning 1 John 2:1-2, it becomes clear that “the whole world” cannot mean every single person born into the world and must refer to the world of God’s elect. Yet, it isn’t enough for me to merely assert this, as in to simply opine; I must prove this, as a means of aiding others in testing/trying/proving all things.
First consider my understanding of what the passage is declaring:
“MY LITTLE CHILDREN [refers to the true believers to whom John is currently writing], these things write I unto YOU [with the “you” referring to the true believers to whom John is currently writing], that YE [the true believers again] sin not. And if any man sin, WE [both John and the true believers unto whom He is writing] have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for OUR [i.e. for John’s and for the true believers’ to whom he is currently writing] sins: and not for OURS [John’s and the true believers’ to whom he is currently writing] only, but also for the sins of the WHOLE [G3650] WORLD [G2889], the “HOLOS KOSMOS” [which I maintain, is the elect, even all those who will become true believers by God’s free and sovereign grace, whether Jew or Gentile; with this portion evidencing that *all* of what proceeded from “My little children” forward also pertained/applied to the entirety of the elect, as in *all* those who will become saved, though they were not yet born again, or even born, when John wrote this general epistle].
Now, how do we know this? How can we prove this? Surely many will say “the whole world,” the “holos kosmos” means every single person in the world! They will argue that it simply cannot mean the elect of God alone, and that there are no grounds to even think it means the elect alone. After all (they say), it says “the whole world” right? Well, no… it isn’t right. Please consider the following:
Mark 14:9 “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever THIS GOSPEL shall be preached THROUGHOUT [literally, en, G1722, which means in, by, amongst, with, throughout, or through] the WHOLE [G3650] WORLD [G2889], [this] also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
1 John 5:18-19 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. [And] we know that we are of God, and the the WHOLE [G3650] WORLD [G2889] lieth in wickedness.“
Now, concerning ‘every single person ever born into the world’ (after John wrote these words in Mark 14:9), did they all hear the Gospel? Did every single person ever born into the world hear the story of the woman with the ointment in Mark 14? Was the Gospel preached, or the account of the woman told, by/through/amongst every single living person? Clearly, the answer is… No.
Now what about 1 John 5:18-19? Doesn’t the whole world here mean every single person born into the world after John wrote those words? Let’s hope not. Think about it; isn’t it safe to say that not every single person born into the world lieth in wickedness? It is true that along with the reprobate, which are the non-elect, the elect start off as such, for we indeed start off lying in wickedness. However, when we are quickened and converted, we no longer do so — but how can we prove this?
That word lieth [keimai/G2749] means to be laid up [unto]; to be laid down (as in immobile in the location or state of being at issue]; to be made [to be]; to be set; to be appointed; to be established; or to be destined [unto]. Is the whole world, including born again believers, set to/in wickedness; made to be wickedness; laid down by God in wickedness; appointed to wickedness; or destined to wickedness? Surely the context does not allow for such a dismal, disheartening, and erroneous interpretation. Therefore, the word “world” does not mean everyone born into the world in these, and many other, cases/passages. Rarely is world, or even whole world, used in the sense of every single person ever born into this world. Consider also:
Romans 1:8, which states “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout [literally, en, G1722, which also means in, by, amongst, with, or through] the WHOLE [G3650] WORLD [G2889]“
Does anyone believe that Romans 1:8 should be interpreted as ‘First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of by, amongst, with, or through every single person born into this world.‘ A consistent hermeneutic, and an accurate exegesis, will not allow for such a foolish interpretation — so why try to force such a one on 1 John 2:1-2 seeing that there is no warrant, right, or reason to do so (other than to promote error).
Conclusion… So what does the word “world,” or “kosmos,” mean? As stated before (by myself and others), many people live in cosmopolitan regions (orderly arrangements of the citizenry); women wear cosmetics (for the orderly arranging/adorning of their appearance); we exist within the cosmos (the orderly arrangement of the universe — the opposite of chaos in the Greek). The word world, or Kosmos (our cosmos) therefore, simply means orderly arrangement. To determine what has been orderly arranged, we must look to the immediate and greater context. God has orderly arranged everything in this world but He uses kosmos (in its various grammatical forms) to describe such varied things as the (1) physical world, (2) the material things in/of the world, (3) the wicked in the world, (4) the elect in the world, and (5) the entirety of mankind as a whole.
In the case of 1 John 2:1-2, world simply means all of those who will come to believe the truth by God’s sovereign grace, both those living and those not yet living; both those already born again and those not yet born again; both believing Jews and believing Gentiles as well — whether rich or poor, free or bound, male or female, young or old, healthy or infirmed, etc.
The ethnic Jews in Christ’s day thought, for the most part, that salvation was exclusive to them and to the very small number of Jewish converts/proselytes amongst them. However, the Lord, and the Apostles (by the Holy Spirit), made it abundantly clear that salvation was for the entire world, Jew and Gentile (and not Jew only); however, they never meant “the entire world” to imply that it was for “every single person born into the world” because even the Jews knew that not all Jews, and definitely not all Gentiles, would be saved. Likewise, they knew that God never intended for every single Jew, let alone every single Gentile, to be saved (or to even have the “possibility” of salvation). They knew salvation was for the elect, the chosen few, the remnant; they simply thought it was limited to those amongst their own, and amongst the proselytes with them; God said, ‘not so,’ my salvation is for all of My Sheep without regard to ethnicity, nationality, or tongue. The Lord Jesus put it this way:
John 10:14-16 “I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other [Gentile] 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.”
There is simply no room for the Arminian, Semi-Pelagian, American Pelagian, Sacramental, and related errors in the true Christian faith. Those who twist scripture to support such heresies do so at their own eternal peril.
To God be the glory,