“…and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.”
We don’t often, in our modern lives, talk about sin and wrath, do we? Perhaps on occasion the pastor of your church will talk about sin and its consequences and how Jesus has dealt with them (I hope he does anyway). But in our regular day to day lives, wrath and sin and atonement are not often-used words, are they?
Here in 1 John 2.2 we see a not-commonly used Greek word, too: ἱλασμός (“hil-as-moss”). If you look it up the definition will be something like “atoning sacrifice, sin offering, propitiation, expiation” . So it’s an uncommon Greek word that is translated into English words also uncommonly-used. So, what does John mean when he says that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One…is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world?
There is much debate on a deep and academic level as to what it meant by ἱλασμός. The NET has “atoning sacrifice”, the ESV has “propitiation”. Again then, what is being said and what does it mean for you and for me?
Some scholars hold that it has the meaning that Jesus, with His death on the cross, turned away God’s rightly-felt wrath against sin. Some say no, His work on the cross defeated sin itself, not just the consequences. For a deeper dive try The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris .
So for you and for me, despite sin and wrath not being part of our everyday vernacular, they are very real in God’s Word. On the cross, Jesus has propitiated (satisfied, met in full) the holy and righteous demands of God against sin (Romans 3.25, Hebrews 2.17). The demands having been met so thoroughly means that “grace and mercy are [now] abundantly available to both saved and unsaved alike” .
This is where you and me come in. Saved or unsaved, committed believer in and follower of Jesus or on the periphery of a life of faith, there is grace and mercy available to all regardless of current condition (not only for our sins but also for the whole world). The inescapable consequences of sin and evil dealt with, there is now a way to be reconciled to right relationship with God, should you wish (Revelation 22.17).
No matter who you are, what state you’re currently in, there is grace and mercy on offer because of the all-conquering and all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.