Saturday, September 22, 2007

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 3

by JM
Here’s a third reason Pink gives for thinking 1 John 2:1-2 conclusively doesn’t teach unlimited atonement (You can refer to the previous posts for the first and second reason, as well as a little bit of background involved in this debate). Here’s Pink in his own words:

In the third place, who are meant when John says, "He is the propitiation for our sins"? We answer, Jewish believers. And a part of the proof on which we base this assertion we now submit to the careful attention of the reader.

In Galatians 2 :9 we are told that John, together with James and Cephas, were apostles "unto the circumcision" (i.e. Israel). In keeping with this, the Epistle of James is addressed to "the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad" (1:1). So, the first Epistle of Peter is addressed to "the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion" (1 Pet.1:1, R. V.). And John also is writing to saved Israelites, but for saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Some of the evidences that John is writing to saved Jews are as follows.
(a) In the opening verse he says of Christ, "Which we have seen with our eyes . . . . and our hands have handled". How impossible it would have been for the Apostle Paul to have commenced any of his epistles to Gentile saints with such language!

(b) "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning" (1 John 2 :7). The "beginning" here referred to is the beginning of the public manifestation of Christ—in proof compare 1:1; 2:13, etc. Now these believers the apostle tells us, had the "old commandment" from the beginning. This was true of Jewish believers, but it was not true of Gentile believers.

(c) "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him from the beginning" (2:13). Here, again, it is evident that it is Jewish believers that are in view.

(d) "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us" (2:18, 19).These brethren to whom John wrote had "heard" from Christ Himself that Antichrist should come (see Matt. 24). The "many antichrists" whom John declares "went out from us" were all Jews, for during the first century none but a Jew posed as the Messiah. Therefore, when John says "He is the propitiation for our sins" he can only mean for the sins of Jewish believers.
Here’s a summary of the above argument: John is writing to Jews. As such, John’s declaration in 2:2 is merely to instruct these Jewish believers that Christ’s propitiation is trans-racial, not that everyone in each race is propitiated for. Pink gives four reasons for thinking that John’s audience was Jewish.

(a) Pink feels that John includes his audience in being eye-witnesses to Christ. So when John says “Which we have seen with our eyes,” “our” refers to both John and his audience. If this is true, then John’s audience were probably Jews.

Response: Pink’s argument is unfounded. In the very text he quotes, John differentiates between those who were eye-witnesses and those to whom he is writing. Note:

1 John 1:3 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John is clearly saying that his audience were not eye-witnesses of Christ. In all probability, John is probably referring to the apostolic witness of Christ’s ministry when he says “we“ “us“, etc.

(b) Pink believes that when John refers the “commandment” which his audience had from the beginning, this commandment is related to the public ministry of Christ. As such, only Jews could relate to this.

Response: However, it’s not clear that “the beginning” has to refer to Christ’s ministry. It can simply refer to the beginning of their faith. To the “children” of the faith (certainly, these are not eye-witnesses), John says:
1John 2:24, “24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
(c) Pink argues that John must be referring to Jews in that he refers to them as “Fathers” who have known Christ from the beginning.

Response: First of all, this ignores that John was also writing to “young men” and “children” of the faith, people who probably weren’t eye-witnesses to Christ’s ministry and perhaps Gentile. Furthermore, it seems that Pink has misquoted the text. It doesn’t say that the Fathers have known Christ from the beginning, but that the Fathers have known Christ “who has been from the beginning.” John isn’t speaking about the audience’s relation to the beginning, but Christ’s.

(d) Pink argues that the anti-christ is Jewish. That is, only Jews can pose as the Messiah. So when John speaks of propitiation, he can only mean the sins of Jewish believers.

Response: To be honest, this sound incoherent. Suffice it to say, the spirit of anti-Christ that John is referring to is far broader than a Jewish man. In fact, the text deals mainly with a non-Jewish (Hellenistic) heresy of Gnosticism.
Against Pink, it is quite probable that John is writing to both Jews and Gentiles. Many scholars date these epistles as late 1st century works directed towards churches in Asia Minor. If these assertions are reasonable, then John’s attempt to clue in Jewish believers about God’s relation with Gentiles is anachronistic given the "Jerusalem council", Paul's and Timothy's teaching and Paul's letters, common knowledge of the composition of Christ's body universal, the immediate knowledge of the composition of their own fellowships, which most probably included more Gentiles than Jews.

Putting that aside, the immediate context of this book serves to substantiate the contention that "the whole world" refers to something outside of the elect. After a discussion about our belief in Christ rendering us victorious over the "world" and ourseparation from the "world," John says in chapter 5:19,

"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."
Certainly we wouldn’t want to import Pink’s interpretation, for this would read, “We know that the Jewish Christians are of God, and that Gentiles lie in the power of the evil one.” This is the same construction we find in chapter 2. Us verses the Whole world. Does the "whole world" in 5:19 include the non-elect? If the answer is yes, then the immediate context of John's letter gives far more credence to chapter 2 also including the non-elect.