Walking in the Light (1:5–2:2)
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not put the truth into practice. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar, and his word has no place in our lives.
2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Although the prologue to the Epistle has given strong hints that the problem facing the writer was the existence of doubts about the historical revelation of God the Father in his Son, Jesus Christ, he begins his main discussion at a different point. His aim was that his readers might stand in a position of real fellowship with himself and so with God and Jesus. But there are conditions attached to such fellowship, and in addition to the doctrinal condition already hinted at (which will be developed later) there is also a moral condition which arises out of the character of God.
God is light. This description of God is admittedly not found in the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels in so many words. The coming of Jesus, however, was regarded as a revelation of light (Mt. 4:16; Lk. 2:32; Jn. 1:4–9; 3:19–21). According to John Jesus identified himself as the light of the world (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; cf. 12:35f., 46), and Matthew tells us how he commanded his disciples to take up the same role (Mt. 5:14–16). All this implies that the character of God himself is light, and that Jesus was the incarnation of divine light for men. To speak of God in this way was to employ a well-known symbol which was capable of several facets of meaning and which was used in many religions. Fundamentally John’s thought was derived from the Old Testament. Light was an obvious symbol for God, especially since on occasion God revealed himself in fire and light. God could be said to be clothed in light and glory (Ps. 104:2) and hence too bright for man to behold (1 Tim. 6:16). Specifically two notions became associated with God as light. One was that of revelation and salvation (Ps. 27:1; 36:9; Isa. 49:6). Light provides illumination in dark places and is an appropriate symbol for the way in which God reveals himself to men to show them how to live. The other is that of holiness; light symbolizes the flawless perfection of God. The comparison of good and evil with light and darkness is a familiar one, and it was current in the ancient world. It was typical of Iranian religion (Zoroastrianism) and was taken up in Gnosticism, but it was also at home in Jewish thought: in the Rule of the Qumran sect the members were exhorted to love all the sons of light and hate all the sons of darkness (1QS 1:9f.). 2
The author takes up this symbolism when he announces his basic thought: God is light. He is fond of emphasizing his propositions by a restatement of them in negative form, and so he at once adds “in him there is no darkness at all.” The contrast between God and darkness is expressed as strongly as possible. The point is not so much that God did not create darkness 3 but rather that living in the darkness is incompatible with fellowship with God. This makes it clear that the writer is thinking of light and darkness predominantly in ethical terms; it is his way of saying: “God is good, and evil can have no place beside him.”
6 This basic thesis is now followed by a series of criticisms of positions which are incompatible with acceptance of it. John takes up three claims which people make, but which must be assessed in the light of their real character and in relation to this thesis. It is probable that these claims were real statements made by people in the church to which John was writing, and that they reflect the outlook of the people who were causing trouble in the church. The claims were:
(1) We have fellowship with him.
(2) We are without sin.
(3) We have not sinned.
In each case, the writer’s reply is to compare the statement with the actual way of life of the persons who made it and hence to show that the claims were false. Then he goes on to indicate in each case how people who wished to have fellowship with God could really have it.
The first claim was made by people who alleged that they had fellowship with God; they probably claimed to have a true relationship with God without accepting the particular teaching of the writer. The writer combatted their claim by alleging that they were still living in darkness. 4 Now there is a sense, of course, in which all Christians live in the darkness. They live in this world which is opposed to God (see 2:15–17) and characterized by darkness. But the situation of the Christian is like that of a person walking on a dark stage in the circle of light cast by a spotlight which is focused on him; he moves slowly forward so that he can walk in its light without fear of stumbling and losing his way. To live in the glare of the spotlight involves living a life that is compatible with being in the light, a life that is free from sin. To live in the darkness means to live without the benefit of divine illumination and guidance and so to live in sin. What John is saying is that it is not possible to have fellowship with God and yet to live in sin because to have fellowship with God means walking in the light while to live in sin means to walk in the darkness. It is improbable that the people actually said, “We can have fellowship with God and yet walk in darkness”; that was a contradiction that they would not have accepted any more than John would. Rather, John was drawing attention to certain features of their way of life and branding these as sinful, and hence as signs of living in the darkness.
Such persons were deceiving themselves. They claimed to have fellowship with God, but because of the incompatibility between the character of God as light and their own character as men living in the dark they were self-deceived. They were deceived in thinking that they could have fellowship with God while they practiced sin, and they were deceived in thinking that the experience which they thought was fellowship with God was really fellowship with him. This last point is implied in the writer’s comment that they do not put the truth into practice. 5 We have seen already in 2 John that the truth is the ultimate reality of God revealed in Jesus and in the Christian message, and that this reality is moral in quality. To practice the truth means to live according to the way revealed by God and so as those who belong to the divine sphere. John says that those who practice sin demonstrate that they do not belong to God; in other words, they do not have fellowship with God.
7 Now comes the writer’s contrast. The opposite of living in the darkness is living in the light, i.e. being responsive to the divine revelation of the truth which shows us how we ought to live. To live in the light is to come into the sphere where God himself is to be found, or rather to live in the same way as God himself. The metaphors used are quite plastic, so that there is nothing strange in the writer saying both that God is light and that he is in the light. It follows logically that those who live in the light have fellowship with God, since these two expressions refer to different aspects of the same reality. To live according to God’s light brings a man into the relationship of fellowship with God. But this is not in fact what the writer says. Earlier he had written that his purpose was that his readers might have fellowship with himself and his colleagues; now, using the preacher’s “we,” which includes speaker and congregation or writer and readers, he says that walking in the light brings us into fellowship with one another, i.e. with the whole company of God’s people. This is an interesting surprise. Haas puts the point neatly: “The false teachers whose opinions he is quoting and refuting in these verses boasted of their fellowship and communion with God, but they neglected the fellowship with men. John wants to remind them that they cannot have fellowship with God unless they have fellowship with other Christians.” 6 Persons who cut themselves off from fellowship with other Christians cannot have fellowship with God. But if they are prepared to live by God’s light, they will come into fellowship with them and with God himself.
As soon as a person does this, however, he will become conscious of his sin; the very thing which separates him from God is shown up in the light. What is he to do? He may simply dodge back out of the circle of light into the darkness because he knows that his deeds are evil, and he does not want them to be shown up, nor does he want to be separated from them (Jn. 3:20). Alternatively, he comes, sin and all, into the light, and to his amazement discovers that the dark blemishes disappear. The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses from sin. This thought is essential to what the writer is saying, and scholars who regard it as a secondary addition to the text by a pedantic redactor 7 have misunderstood the situation. “Blood” is a symbolical way of speaking of the death of Jesus. In the Old Testament the “blood” was the result of the death of the sacrificial victim, and its application to the person offering the sacrifice indicated that the effects of the sacrifice applied to him. The effect of the death of Jesus was to purify us from sin. To say that the blood of Jesus purifies us is to say that our sin is removed and forgiven; 8 its defiling effects no longer condemn us in the sight of God. Although as Christians who walk in the light we may be conscious of sin, yet this does not prevent our fellowship with God, for God himself removes our sin. 9
8 We have seen that in verse 6 the writer accused his opponents of claiming fellowship with God although they walked in the darkness, i.e. committed sin. It would appear that their response to this accusation was to deny it. “We are without sin,” they replied—whether this was their actual answer to John or the answer which he could imagine them making to his accusation is unimportant. 10 They argued that they did not need cleansing from sin because they had no sin from which to be cleansed. Actions which John evidently regarded as sinful—we shall see later what they were—did not appear sinful to them.
To John it was self-evident that these men were sinners. His reply to them is simply that they are deceiving themselves and the truth is not in them. This doesn’t mean simply that they are telling a lie, but that they have no share in the divine reality despite their claims to the contrary. There is a certain paradox in this statement. The converse is that if we do say that we are sinners, the truth is in us; the resolution of the paradox is that to admit our sin is to face up to reality instead of pretending, and it is as we confess our sin that it is cleansed and no longer stands against us. If, however, we do not admit our sin, it remains unconfessed and unforgiven, and hence the truth is not in us. The temptation to deny one’s sin is common to both the non-Christian and the Christian. John’s opponents included persons whom he did not regard as Christians (2:19), who had cut themselves off from forgiveness by their denial of their sin and of Christ’s ability to save; he feared that others in the church might follow their example and claim a sinlessness which could interrupt their fellowship with God. Later on, he will argue that the Christian does not, and cannot sin (3:6, 9; 5:18); the resolution of the further paradox occasioned by that statement in relation to the present one must be attempted in due course.
9 Again, as in verse 7, the writer presents the contrary position to that which he has just outlined. Instead of claiming that we are without sin, we ought to confess our sins. Although the statement lies in a conditional clause, it has the force of a command or obligation: we ought to confess our sins, and, if we do, he is faithful and just.… To confess sins is not merely to admit that we are sinners, but to lay them before God and to seek forgiveness. 11 If we do so, we can be sure of forgiveness and purification on the grounds of God’s character. He is faithful and just 12 to 13 forgive confessed sin. The faithfulness lies in his adherence to his promises that he will forgive his people: “Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever because he delights in steadfast love.… Thou wilt show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old” (Mic. 7:18–20). The justice lies in the inherent rightness of the act; if the conditions are fulfilled, God would be wrong to withhold forgiveness. His forgiveness is not, therefore, an act of mercy which stands in opposition to his justice, for his mercy and justice are ultimately one. The description of God’s act is an expansion of that in verse 7. The thought of purification from sin is expanded in terms of forgiveness of sin and purification from unrighteousness. Sin is regarded as making us guilty in the sight of God, and therefore in need of forgiveness, and also as making us unclean in God’s sight, and therefore in need of purification. Most commentators regard the two terms as synonymous, but it is possible that purification signifies the removal not only of the guilt of sin but also of the power of sin in the human heart. 14
10 For the third time John takes up the kind of things said by his opponents and members of the church who might be misled by them. He cites their statement, “we have not sinned.” It is puzzling to see why he quotes this saying after verse 8, “we are without sin,” and commentators have attempted to find some difference in emphasis between the two statements. Westcott thought that verse 8 referred to the presence of the sinful principle in a man; a person may recognize “the natural permanence of sin as a power within” and “may yet deny that he personally has sinned.” 15 This view is followed by many commentators. Since, however, John has interpreted the claim in verse 8 in terms of the need for forgiveness of sins (plural) in verse 9, it is unlikely that he saw the claim in verse 8 merely as a denial of the presence of a sinful power within. It is possible that there were people who both denied present sinfulness (v. 8) and past acts of sin (v. 10): even if you claim not to sin now, you certainly sinned in the past, may be the thought in John’s mind. Perhaps, however, we should regard the two claims as virtually identical; if so, John is making the point that those who make such claims do not merely deceive themselves (v. 8); they actually make God a liar (v. 10) by denying his verdict on men that they are sinners. 16 Paul’s statement that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) is no isolated remark; it sums up the teaching of Scripture on the universality of sin. 17 Not only so; the scriptural revelation of God emphasizes his character as a God who forgives sin, and this description would be pointless if men had no sins to be forgiven. Those who deny their sin thus fall into the serious sin of making God out to be a liar. By no stretch of the imagination can they be said to have his word in them. The message of God, mediated through Christian tradition, has not affected their belief or their conduct. 18
2:1 At this point there is a brief pause in the thought, indicated by the writer’s address to his readers as “my dear children.” 19 In the preceding verses he has had his opponents very much in mind, and has been citing the kind of things which they said, by which other members of the church might be led astray. Now he turns his attention more directly to the members of the church and issues an appeal to them. His choice of the term “children” indicates the affectionate concern which he feels for them. When he describes them as God’s children, he uses a different Greek word (3:1). 20 It is interesting that although the disciples were commanded not to call one another “father” (Mt. 23:9), the relation of the pastor to his congregation is often likened to that of a father to his children, and the pastors had no compunctions about addressing their congregations as “children” (e.g. 1 Cor. 4:14, 17; Gal. 4:19; 1 Tim. 1:2; Phm. 10; 3 Jn. 4).
It was possible that the readers might interpret what John had just written 21 with its emphasis on the fact that Christians were not free from sin as a license to sin. If sin was a characteristic of Christians, and forgiveness was freely available, the readers might well have reacted like the people who asked, “Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1). John, therefore, had to make it quite clear that his purpose was that Christians should not sin. Unconfessed sin was incompatible with fellowship with God. John’s aim, therefore, was that his readers would both recognize their sin and confess it—and also seek to live without sin. It is easy to live without sin if one denies that one’s acts are really sinful. John wished that his readers would recognize the all-pervasive character of sin—and yet live without sinning.
Having inserted this almost parenthetical note, he returns for the third time to the question of forgiveness. There is a remedy for those who sin and confess it, and it lies in the fact that “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” This is the NIV’s paraphrase of a Greek word which is generally rendered as “advocate.” The English word is based on the Latin advocatus, which in turn corresponds to the Greek word paraklētos, and literally means “one called alongside (to help).” In the present context the word undoubtedly signifies an “advocate” or “counsel for the defense” in a legal context. It means a person who intercedes on behalf of somebody else. That this was one of the meanings of the Greek word is well attested, and the idea of intercession before God was at home in the Old Testament and Jewish background of the New Testament. Paul too speaks of Jesus as the one who is at God’s right hand and makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:34), and he also refers to the work of the Spirit as the one who assists us in our feeble prayers by his intercession for us (Rom. 8:26). This is the idea that is present here. We have nothing that we can plead before God to gain us forgiveness for our sins, but Jesus Christ acts as our advocate and enters his plea for us. 22 He is described as being righteous. John is fond of this adjective with reference to Jesus, especially when he is thinking of Jesus as an example for Christians to follow (2:29; 3:7). Peter also described Jesus in this way when he contrasted the innocence of Jesus with the wickedness of those who put him to death (Acts 3:14; cf. 7:52), but above all he spoke of him as the righteous One who died on behalf of the unrighteous so that he might bring them to God (1 Pet. 3:18). 23 It is this thought which is present here. Jesus Christ not only has no sins of his own for which he must suffer; but as one who is not contaminated by sin he is qualified to intercede for others. He can, as it were, plead his own righteousness before God and ask that sinners be forgiven on the basis of his righteous act. 24
2 But what precisely is the ground on which the Advocate rests his case? John goes on to elucidate the thought by describing Jesus as “the atoning sacrifice” (hilasmos) for our sins. This word, which is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in 4:10, 25 has aroused considerable debate, not to say controversy. When the word appears outside the Bible, it conveys the thought of an offering made by a man in order to placate the wrath of a god whom he has offended. It was a means of turning the god from wrath to a favorable attitude, and it operated by giving the god something that made up for the offense that he had suffered. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, however, the meaning is debated. Westcott and Dodd both argued that, while in secular Greek the corresponding verb takes as its object the god who has been offended, in the Old Testament the object is the offense itself, and from this they concluded that “the scriptural conception … is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which from without occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship.” 26 This view was strengthened by noting that God himself may be the provider of the sacrifice. The conclusion was that in secular sources the word means “propitiation,” i.e. a means of placating an offended person, but in the Bible it means “expiation,” i.e. a means of neutralizing and cancelling sin. Since neither of these words is in common usage today, most modern translations offer a paraphrase. The NIV, with its rendering “atoning sacrifice,” combines the two ideas, since “atonement” is something made for sin, and “sacrifice” is an offering to God. The TEV rendering, “the means by which our sins are forgiven,” is neutral, while the NEB has “the remedy for the defilement of our sins,” which stands closer to “expiation.”
Westcott and Dodd’s interpretation of the evidence has been strongly challenged by L. Morris and D. Hill. 27 These two scholars have shown that in the Old Testament the idea of placating the wrath of God or some other injured party is often present when the word-group in question is used. They conclude that the same is true in the New Testament. The meaning of the present passage would then be that Jesus propitiates God with respect to our sins. 28 There can be no real doubt that this is the meaning. In the previous verse the thought was of Jesus acting as our advocate before God; the picture which continues into this verse is of Jesus pleading the cause of guilty sinners before a judge who is being petitioned to pardon their acknowledged guilt. He is not being asked to declare them innocent, i.e. to say that there is no evidence that they have sinned, but rather to grant them pardon for their acknowledged sins. In order that forgiveness may be granted, there is an action in respect of the sins which has the effect of rendering God favorable to the sinner. We may, if we wish, say that the sins are cancelled out by the action in question. This means that the one action has the double effect of expiating the sin and thereby propitiating God. These two aspects of the action belong together, and a good translation will attempt to convey them both. 29
The atoning sacrifice is, of course, the death of Jesus. This is clear from the fact that in the parallel statement in 1:7 it is the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from sin; blood is a metaphor for a sacrificial death.
Two important points must be noted. The first is that Jesus is both the advocate and the atoning sacrifice. What he pleads on behalf of sinners is what he himself has done on their behalf. It is this that constitutes him a righteous advocate for them. The second thing is that the language of advocacy and sacrifice appears to place Jesus over against God as if God had to be persuaded by a third party to forgive us. It is an inherent weakness in the picture which is employed here that it is in danger of presenting God as an unwilling judge from whom forgiveness has to be wrested by the advocate for sinners. But this would be a false conclusion to draw. Already in 1:9 John has emphasized that it is God himself who is faithful and just and forgives our sins, and in 4:9f. he adds his powerful voice to the New Testament chorus which declares that it was God the Father who gave Jesus his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is God himself who provides the means of our forgiveness and pays the cost of it. The language of advocacy is thus ultimately inadequate to express the paradox of the offended God who himself pardons our offenses by giving his own Son to be our Savior.
Nor is that the full extent of the wonder. 30 With one of his typical afterthoughts John adds that the efficacy of this sacrifice is not confined to the sins of his particular group of readers. It reaches out to all mankind. 31 The universal provision implies that all men have need of it. There is no way to fellowship with God except as our sins are forgiven by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus. At the same time John rules out the thought that the death of Jesus is of limited efficacy; the possibility of forgiveness is cosmic and universal. As usual, Charles Wesley has caught the thought admirably:
The world He suffered to redeem;
For all He hath the atonement made;
For those that will not come to Him
The ransom of His life was paid. 32
John’s teaching in this section stands fast against errors in the church of today that reflect those of the first century. The message that “God is light” has received new emphasis in Great Britain at the beginning of the last quarter of this century in a campaign to expose what is ugly and sordid for what it really is and to demonstrate that in the light of truth, righteousness, and love there is the possibility of rich and satisfying life. But two errors still die hard. One is that acts of sin do not cut us off from access to God. Modern men treat sin lightly, and insofar as they do believe in God, they believe that he makes considerable allowances for our weaknesses and failures. The message that God is light is not taken with sufficient seriousness. Probably few people would deny that acts of deliberate, clear-cut evil are incompatible with true religion. What they do deny is that any of their own acts fall into that category. There is a refusal to measure actions by the standards of God. The other error is the claim to be sinless. Whatever may be said later in this Epistle, John here stands firm against all claims to perfection that Christians may make. None of us is free from sin; none of us can claim that we do not need the cleansing offered by Jesus for sinners.
1 John writes of the message which has been heard from him (ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ). His use of pronouns in this Epistle is sometimes vague, but here the reference to hearing and the fact that the content of the message is about God both suggest that Jesus is the author of the message (cf. Jn. 1:18; 3:32). John bases his teaching, over against that of his opponents, on the authority of what he has heard in the historical revelation of God in Jesus. ἀκούω is normally constructed with παρά, but here John uses ἀπό (cf. Acts 9:13).
2 On “light” see H. Conzelmann, TDNT IX, 310–358; there is a brief note in Stott, 70–72.
5 “To put the truth into practice” translates a phrase which appears to have a Semitic background; cf. 1QS 1:5; John 3:21.
8 It was in connection with this verse that Westcott, 34–37, developed his extraordinary thesis that “The Blood always includes the thought of the life preserved and active beyond death.” Despite the support which has been given to this view, it undoubtedly misrepresents biblical teaching; see J. Behm, TDNT I, 172–176; A. M. Stibbs, The Meaning of the Word “Blood” in Scripture, London, 19542; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, ch. 3. For καθαρίζω see below, 114 n. 14.
9 O’Neill, 10, argues that the subject of the clause was originally God. He also argues that instead of ἀλλήλων in the first part of the main clause we should read αὐτοῦ, which has weak textual attestation. Both conjectures are highly improbable.
10 It is not clear how far John is citing actual slogans of his opponents in the Epistle. It is probable, however, that he accurately depicts the kind of things that they said, although “to have sin” is a Johannine expression (Jn. 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11; Brooke, 17f.).
11 ὁμολογέω is used elsewhere of confession of faith (2:23; 4:2, 3, 15; 2 Jn. 7); ἐξομολογέω is more commonly used of confessing sin (Prov. 28:13; Mt. 3:6; Acts 19:18; Jas. 5:16). The practice of confessing sins is found in the Old Testament (Lev. 16:21; Ps. 32:5; Prov. 28:13; Dan. 9:20) and Judaism (1QS 1:24–2:1; CD 20:28f.). Schnackenburg, 85f., holds that public confession before God by the individual is meant, but denies that the church acts in any way as God’s intermediary in forgiving the sins confessed.
13 The ἵνα clause expresses the way in which God expresses his faithfulness and justice; it is equivalent to an infinitive of result (BD 3915).
14 To purify is to remove the defiling effects of sin, either by the avoidance of sinful acts (2 Cor. 7:1; Jas. 4:8) or by the pardon of sins already committed (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 1:3; 10:2). Here the thought is primarily of pardon through Christ’s atoning blood, but the fact that John speaks of both forgiveness and cleansing may suggest that he is also thinking of the destruction of sinful desires which defile us in God’s sight. See Calvin, 241; Westcott, 25. “Unrighteousness” is a synonym for “sin” (cf. 5:17).
18 The word of God is here tantamount to the truth (v. 8). Cf. John 17:17. The reference is not to the personal Word of God, which is not said to dwell in men. Rather John is speaking of hearing and accepting the Christian message.
19 The Greek τεκνίον, literally “small child,” a diminutive form expressing affection, is rendered “dear child” by the NIV.
21 ταῦτα refers back to what has just been written, but the author may be thinking of the Epistle as a whole; cf. 5:13.
22 The meaning of παράκλητος in John 14–16 may be different from what it is in the present passage; it does not need to be discussed here. See J. Behm, TDNT V, 800–814; R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, New York, 1967, and London, 1971, II, 1135–1144; O. Betz, Der Paraklet, Leiden, 1963.
26 Westcott, 85–87; C. H. Dodd, “ἱλάσκομαι, its cognates, derivatives and synonyms in the Septuagint,” JTS 32, 1931, 352–360; reprinted in The Bible and the Greeks, London, 1935, 82–95.
27 L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, London, 19653, chs. 5 and 6; D. Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings, Cambridge, 1967, ch. 2. See further R. R. Nicole, “C. H. Dodd and the Doctrine of Propitiation,” Westminster Theological Journal 17, 1954–55, 117–157; idem, “ ‘Hilaskesthai’ Revisited,” EQ 49, 1977, 173–177; N. H. Young, “C. H. Dodd, ‘Hilaskesthai’ and his critics,” EQ 48, 1976, 67–78.
29 The problem is whether the action envisaged is primarily concerned with expiating the sin or with propitiating God. The common argument, that propitiation cannot be in mind because it is God who provides the means, cannot apply in the present passage because God is the object of the Son’s advocacy. (For this reason, H. Clavier is wrong when he interprets the passage more of God offering the propitiation to men to win them over from their opposition to him: “Notes sur un mot-clef du johannisme et de la sotériologie biblique: hilasmos,” NovT 10, 1968, 287–304.) The fact would seem to be that the word-group can have different nuances in different contexts, and in some cases it bears more the sense of expiation (cf. 2 Kings 5:18; Ps. 25:11; Sir. 5:5f.), while in others it bears more the sense of propitiation. See further J. D. G. Dunn, “Paul’s Understanding of the Death of Jesus,” in R. J. Banks (ed.), Reconciliation and Hope, Grand Rapids/Exeter, 1974, 125–141, especially 137–139.
30 Note the odd use of δέ very late in this clause (BD 4752).
31 The NIV has “but also for the sins of the whole world,” supplying the words italicized from the context; cf. John 1:29. Westcott’s view (44f.) that we should translate “but for the whole world” seems over-subtle.