The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Hal Lindsey explains: “The Israelites thought He came to take away the sin of Israel. He says that He came to take away the sin of the world.” (The Gospel of John)
Both the Jews and 5-Point Calvinists have it wrong.
In terms of Jesus taking upon Himself the sins of the world, 4-Point Calvinist, William MacDonald, explains: “...by His death on the cross, the Lord bought the world and all who are in it. But He did not redeem the whole world. While His work was sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, it is only effective for those who repent, believe, and accept Him.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2295)
MacDonald adds: “The NT distinguishes between purchase and redemption. All are purchased but not all are redeemed. Redemption applies only to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, availing themselves of the value of His shed blood (1 Pet. 18, 19).” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2295, emphasis mine)
5-Point Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, sums up the Arminian viewpoint: “Historic Arminianism embraces particularism: not all people are saved, only a particular number of them. That particular group of people who are saved are those who respond to the offer of the gospel with faith. Only those who believe appropriate the benefits of the saving atonement in Christ.” (What is Reformed Theology, p.165)
Nevertheless, Sproul warns: “What would have happened to the work of Christ if nobody believed in it? That had to be a theoretical possibility. In this case Christ would have died in vain.” (What is Reformed Theology, p.167)
However, how could that be a “theoretical possibility,” when yet at the very moment that Jesus was on the Cross of Calvary, Abraham’s Bosom (as per Luke 16:19-31) was already full of the Old Testament Saints? And what of all those who were alive and believed in Jesus during His earthly ministry? Did Sproul simply slip up in his logic?
5-Point Calvinists interpret “the world” to mean the world of the elect, though John Calvin disagrees:
John Calvin comments: “And when he says the sin of the world he extends this kindness indiscriminately to the whole human race, so that the Jews might not think the Redeemer had been sent to them alone. From this we infer that the whole world is bound in the same condemnation, and that since all men without exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God, they have need of reconciliation. John the Baptist, therefore, by speaking about the sin of the world in general wanted to make us feel our own misery and exhort us to seek the remedy. Now it is for us to embrace the blessing offered to all, that each may make up his mind that there is nothing to hinder him from finding reconciliation in Christ if only, led by faith, he comes to him.” (John: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.37, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “It is incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the whole world.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.148, emphasis mine)
Incontestable indeed. Consider other occurrences of “the world”:
Therefore, no one can say that Jesus didn’t die for them. Jesus takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and His flesh gives life to the world (John 6:51), because He is the Savior of the world. (John 4:42) He died for all. (2nd Corinthians 5:14-15), having given Himself as a ransom for all. (1st Timothy 2:5-6) His grace abounds to all. (Romans 5:15) He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. (1st John 1:1-2)
Calvin writes: “On the other hand, we must remember that while ‘life’ is promised to everyone, to ‘whoever believes’ in Christ, faith is nevertheless not common to everyone. Christ is made known to everyone and seen by everyone, but only the elect have their eyes opened by God to seek him by faith.” (John: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.77, emphasis mine)
Since the world is meant “indiscriminately to the whole human race,” as Calvin states, then why wouldn’t God open everyone’s eyes, whom He “so loved”? (John 3:16) After all, John 1:9 states: “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Challenge the Calvinists to be logically consistent in the usage of the word “world” found in the Gospels. For if God truly loves the world, and died for the world, “the just for the unjust,” then Pass-By Calvinism implodes.
Since Calvinists believe that God has pre-scripted everything, including sin, then you could do a Calvinist paraphrase as follows: “Behold, the Lamb of God who [caused] the sin of the world!”
Here is a related Blog discussion.