How can we reconcile the doctrine of limited atonement with 1 John 2:2?

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That’s a great question, and it’s been asked since at least the seventeenth century with the Synod of Dort and the advocacy of the doctrine of particular redemption.

What does “world” mean? I’ve been in all the world. I’ve been in Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan, India, and probably every country in Europe that you could name. I’ve been all over the world, but I’ve never been in China. I’ve been in Japan and Taiwan, but I haven’t been in China. I can hold my head up high and say with absolute truthfulness that I have been all over the world. However, I have not been in China, Iceland, Venezuela, or multiple countries in Central Africa, but I’ve been all over the world. What does “world” mean?

“World” can mean different things in different contexts. John’s gospel says, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16)—who is saying that, John or Jesus? I think it’s John rather than Jesus, but that’s my personal opinion. What does John mean by, “For God so loved the world”? Does he mean every single person that ever was, is, and shall be? Or does he mean that God’s love is so great and so vast that it is global? There isn’t a nation in the world where God’s love does not extend.

God wants His elect from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation to come to Jesus. As the Great Commission says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). So, “world” does not necessarily mean “every individual person” in every context.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.