12 May, 2018

John 1:29—“… the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

This verse is cited by Pelagians, Arminians, Amyraldians, and “Free Offer” men to support the idea that in some sense Christ died for all men, bar none, including the reprobate.
The keyword here is “world,” and it is thought to refer to the world in an absolute sense: every single person who has ever existed and will exist in the whole of human history.


Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: The Triple Knowledge, vol. I, pp. 641-642; emphasis added]

This dare not be understood in the sense that He suffered and died and brought the sacrifice of atonement for every man individually, nor even that it was His intention to do so. Nor may the expression that occurs elsewhere in our Confessions (Canons II, 3) that the sacrifice of Christ is “of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world,” be understood in the sense of general atonement. Christ suffered for His elect. Them and them alone He represented according to the counsel of God. For His own, for the sheep His Father had given Him, He laid down His life. He did not suffer more than was necessary to redeem them. Not one drop of blood that was shed by the Saviour was shed in vain. Those for whom He suffered are surely redeemed and saved. However, also the Scriptures employ similar expressions as occur in our Confessions. John the Baptist points Him out as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And the apostle John writes: “And he is the propitiation for our sin: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” But these expressions, as well as similar terms, must be understood organically, rather than individualistically. They refer to the whole organism of the race, to the elect from every nation, and tongue, and tribe, and not to every individual man. After all, mankind, and not a few individuals, is saved; but it is saved in the elect. The world is redeemed, but it is the world of God’s love, not every individual man. And it is in that same sense that the words of the Catechism must be understood that Christ sustained the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind. For those, in whose stead and in whose behalf, He bore the wrath of God, are surely redeemed by His blood. Everlasting righteousness and eternal life He obtained for them. And what He obtained for them by His suffering, He surely bestows upon them by His sovereign grace.



Louis Berkhof (1873-1957)

[Source: Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth, 2005), pp. 395-396; emphasis added]

a. There are passages which teach that Christ died for the world, John 1:29; 3:16; 6:33,51; Rom. 11:12,15; II Cor. 5:19; I John 2:2. The objection [to the doctrine of limited atonement] based on these passages proceeds on the unwarranted assumption that the word “world” as used in them means “all the individuals that constitute the human race.” If this were not so, the objection based on them would have no point. But it is perfectly evident from Scripture that the term “world” has a variety of meanings, as a mere reading of the following passages will prove conclusively, Luke 2:1; John 1:10; Acts 11:28; 19:27; 24:5; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6. It also appears that, when it is used of men, it does not always include all men, John 7:4; 12:19; 14:22; 18:20; Rom. 11:12,15; in some of these passages it cannot possibly denote all men. If it had that meaning in John 6:33,51, it would follow that Christ actually gives life to all men, that is, saves them all. This is more than the opponents themselves believe. In Rom. 11:12,15 the world “world” cannot be all-inclusive, since the context clearly excludes Israel; and because on that supposition these passages too would prove more than is intended, namely, that the fruits of the atoning work of Christ are actually applied to all. We do find in these passages, however, an indication of the fact that the word “world” is sometimes used to indicate that the Old Testament particularism belongs to the past, and made way for New Testament universalism. The blessings of the gospel were extended to all nations, Matt. 24:14; Mark 16:16; Rom. 1:5; 10:18. This is probably the key to the interpretation of the word “world” in such passages as John 1:29; 6:33,51; II Cor. 5:19; I John 2:2; Dr. Shedd assumes that the word means “all nations” in such passages as Matt. 26:13; John 3:16; I Cor. 1:21; II Cor. 5:19; and I John 2:2; but holds that in other passages it denotes the world of believers, or the Church, John 6:33,51; Rom. 4:13; 11:12,15. Kuyper and Van Andel also assume that this is the meaning of the word in some passages.



Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898)

[Source: Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth, 2002), pp. 524-525; emphasis added.]

The usual explanation, offered by the strict Calvinists, of these texts [John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:51; 12:32; I Cor. 15:22; II Cor. 5:14,15; 5:19; I Tim. 2:6; 4:10; Heb. 2:9; I John 2:1,2 etc.] is this: that terms seemingly universal often have to be limited to a universality within certain bounds by the context, as in Matt. iii:5; that in New Testament times, especially when the gospel was receiving its grand extension from one little nation to all nations, it is reasonable to expect that strong affirmatives would be used as to its extent, which yet should be strained to mean nothing more than this: that persons of every nation in the world were given to Christ. Hence, “the world,” “all the world,” should be taken to mean no more than people of every nation in the world, without distinction, &c. There is a certain amount of justice in these views; and many of these passages, as I Cor. xv:22; Jno. i:29, and xii:32, may be adequately explained by them.



More to come! (DV)


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