THE SEEMING CONTRADICTIONS REFUTED CONCERNING THE TERM “WORLD”
Always in the history of the church in the world there have been those who pervert the Scriptures to their own destruction. Every heretic likes to quote his selected Scripture passages without any regard to the total message of the Scriptures. Sometimes he is so bold and arrogant as to allege his own well-nigh infallibility, “If I am wrong the Scriptures have deceived me!” And as it is with every heretic on every point of doctrine so it is also with these heretics who allege that the term “world” must refer to all men, to every man, head for head, whatever came out of the loins of Adam. And with a rather conceited and imaginary triumphant look they call your attention to such passages which seem to substantiate their error! Why, have we never read that the Bible says “Jesus loves the world?” (John 3:16) And who can deny that the Bible teaches that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world?” (John 1:29) And do we not read that “Jesus came not to destroy that world, but that the world might be saved through him?” And truly who can be so blind as to overlook that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their sins unto them?” And surely in our text under discussion a simple reading of the text ought to persuade the most incredulous that “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, but not only for ours, but for the sin of the whole world?”
It would seem that only for these few texts, those who teach that Christ died only for “his people” and who thus hold to the Reformed teaching of “limited atonement,” ought to yield the field and retire in shameful silence. However, no one who has taken any pains to study what the united teaching of the Scriptures is on this score, will throw in the cudgel, but will stand his man in battle to the end, that the truth of the Gospel may stand!
The reader will, therefore, not merely bear with this writer when he treats of this question a bit more broadly and profoundly, but will deem that we had done him and all our readers a service in so doing. Without refuting the error of the proponent of “common grace” directly, we will merely quote a few passages, which none other than the late Dr. A. Kuyper Sr. chose in his book entitled “That Grace Is Particular” for this purpose, and demonstrate the negative proposition that the term “world” by no means simply means anywhere and everywhere “every man” head for head! One must be out of his sober and right mind to attempt to maintain this position. But heretics die hard! How one will attempt to explain Luke 16:8 of every man is hard to understand. The text reads “for the children of thisworld are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” For the term “world” here is “age,” the present time, the world in its development at any given moment in history under the providential direction of the Most High. This cannot mean “all men!” Again, we read inRomans 12:2 “And be not fashioned (conformed) according to this world.” Here, too, the/term “world” is the translation of the term “age.” And how any one can hold to the proposition that the term “world” always refers to all men in Scripture is conclusively shown to be impossible when we read Luke 9:25, “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world (ton kosmon holon) and lose (suffer loss) of his own soul.” Here the term refers to the entirety of the world’s possession, honor, prestige, power and dominion. It by no means refers to “all men.” And to silence the flippant interpreter of Scripture forever on this score we also quote from the very Chapter from which we have chosen a text to explain. We refer to I John 2:17, “And the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Here the term “world” means: the physical universe, the world with all its present relationships: marriage, money, (mammon) its greed and boastful possession of things! All these are passing away; like a mighty rushing current they are carried forward to destruction! It does not mean “all men” at all.
We have now not yet stated what the term or concept “world” does indicate in the plain teaching of Scripture. This task now awaits us so that at the conclusion we may be able to give a proper interpretation of the phrase in question “. . . but for the sin of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-3)
THE POSITIVE EXPOSITION OF THE TERM “COSMOS” (WORLD) IN SCRIPTURE (I John 2:3)
Any good Biblical Greek Lexicon will tell you that the term “kosmos” comes from the verb “kosmew” and means: regular disposition and arrangement. The late Dr. Kuyper, from whom we have learned much on this subject, says that the term “kosmos” is creation as brought forth with Divine power as a beautiful artistic framework and organism. He insists that the phrase “from the creation of the world” refers to the creative act when the world was made in the Six Day Creation week, as a beautiful organic whole, wherein the history can move forward as in a mighty framework. We must, therefore, distinguish between what God created in the primary creation which resulted in the “earth being void and without form” and the creative acts of God whereby the creation came into being as a beautiful artistic whole. God made the world and all things which are therein. (Acts 17:14; Matt. 24:21; Matt. 13:35) The world which was void and without form was not the habitable world nor was it yet divided into ages. This God definitely brought about in the six day Creation-Week. This is the world which was the rejoicing of the personified “Wisdom” in the habitable part of the earth.
When God made the earth which was void and without form into a habitable world for men and angels, then he made the “cosmos,” the world. The scope of the world is given us in the first sentence of the Bible “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)
This conception of the term “Kosmos” (world) is basic to our understanding of the truth of the Gospel that Christ is the propitiation for the sin of the whole world!
In this beautiful arrangement, this masterful edifice of the Triune God, man is to occupy the chief place among the creatures. And strictly speaking, this “man” is none other than the “Son of Man.” It is true, that, speaking historically, Christ was not yet on the scene in the flesh in the first Paradise prior to the Fall of Adam. Still, it must be conceded that in the plan of God with Kosmos, all things were made by this Son of God, the eternal Logos (John 1:1-3) and all things were made unto Him. (Col. 1:16) Yea, he is before all things, so that in all things he should have the preeminence. For it pleased God that in Him all the fulness should dwell. He is the Firstborn of all creatures, he is above the angels (Hebrews 1:5-13) and He is constituted Head of His body, which is the church. All things are sustained together in Him. The one grand whole is formed and kept in one totality in Him. Without Him there is no world. For the variegated creaturehood: is the product of the Father, through the Son (Logos) and in the Spirit. And whereas Christ became man the truth stands which is prophesied in Psalm 8:5-7 “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels (than God) and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beast of the field: the fowls of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. . . .” Here we see a picture of the greatness of Adam only as he is the type of Christ. (Rom. 5:14)
This explains that there can be no sin but what it is aworld-sin! There can be no sin, but what it is is the sin of the whole human race. No man sins but as a member of the whole human race. The Bible knows nothing of the false, nominalistic individualism of the Pelagian and the Arminian! The Bible knows the truth of organic solidarity. The truth is expressed in Romans 5:12 “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by (this one) sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all had sinned. . . .” No one, therefore, can speak of sin in his own terms, nor concerning the world in his own terms, but must explain in the light of the basic teachings of Scripture concerning both! And, therefore, we hold that sin of the world is the sin, the terrible breaking of the law as this affected the whole world, heaven and earth, in all its creatures and relationships, each according to his kind.
Let it be then understood that when Adam fell, the “world” fell into the power and the curse of sin. All came under the grip and curse of death. And whereas sin has its origin in the “prince of darkness,” Satan, the Devil, that Old Dragon, we must see the place of this fallen angel, too, in the “sin of the world.” Basically it is his sin, he is the father of the lie, because he did not remain standing in the truth. The truth was not in him. He would carry and did carry his lie into this. He, Satan would be like God, and man must attempt to be like God. The head of creation must now try to be more than Servant. He must assume to be GOD! That is sin. It is disobedience and wicked pride. It is being “puffed up.” And thus in a sense Satan did become the prince of this world. He tries to create his own “sinful world” in God’s world. He is the great usurper of power. He says to Jesus: all these kingdoms of the earth will I give you, if you will do obeisance to me just this once! He is the prince of the earth, of the world. His is power in the sons of disobedience. His is the power of a great army of demons. He is a world-ruler. And when his rule is broken, his rule of the world is broken. Satan is cast out, cast down from heaven as that great Lucifer. Only through the fall of Adam could Satan obtain a grip in the present world, this present age. Now it is true that the whole world lies in the evil one. And this world of Satan we must not love. For all that is in this world is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. This “sin” of the world must be removed. It must be utterly taken out. God destroyed in the flood the world of wicked men. (II Peter 2:3) He did not destroy in the flood his own beautiful architectural arrangement, but he destroyed all that Satan wrought evilly in this world through man!
But this world of God is redeemed. God sent His own son that the world, the “kosmos” might be saved. Yes, this means the propitiation for the sins of all the elect in Christ, who shall one day reign with Him in glory. And he is the only propitiation for our sins. But he is not only the propitiation for those sins which are strictly our sins, but He is the propitiation, who made peace between heaven and earth, uniting under Him all things as under one Head. And He is the propitiation for our sins. When we sin we have such a great advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One!