1 John series: (post #6)
Up until this point in our series on 1 John’s evidences of salvation, we’ve named things the genuine Christian will do. He or she will desire to fellowship with other Christians, will walk in the light of Christ’s teachings, will keep Christ’s commandments, and will love their fellow Christians. Now, for the first time, let’s name something the genuine Christian won’t do: he or she won’t love the world.
Here’s what John has to say on the subject (all of these references from the N.K.J.V.):
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13)
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1 John 5:19)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21)
The word “world” in each of these passages translates the Greek word kosmos. This word can refer to this ball of rock that we call planet Earth (Acts 17:24; Romans 1:20) or it can refer to all the people who live on this planet (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Most frequently, however, the New Testament writers use it in reference to the world “system” that dominates life on this planet.
We do this same kind of thing with our language today. When we talk about “the world of finance,” we aren’t talking about just one bank or one banker, are we? No, we are talking about a system of banking that covers the entire planet. When we talk about the world of fashion, we aren’t talking about just one designer or one store, are we? No, we are talking about a system of fashion (the garment industry) that covers the entire planet. When we talk about the world of sports, we aren’t talking about just one player, one coach, one team, or even one sport, are we? No, we are talking about a system of athletics that covers the entire planet.
So, in these passages from 1 John, John isn’t saying that the Christian should hate God’s created planet or God’s created people; he’s saying the Christian should hate the societal system that reaches to all parts of the globe and drives human civilization onward. And what is this system? It is Satan’s system for opposing God’s work upon the earth.
Did you know that Jesus called lost people “the children of this world” (Luke 16:18)? Obviously, He wasn’t talking about lost people merely being inhabitants of planet earth. He was, instead, talking about them being the children of the Satanic system that opposes God’s work upon the earth.
As the children of this world, unsaved people are out there right now doing Satan’s bidding (either unknowingly or knowingly) in the realms of banking, fashion, sports, politics, entertainment, advertising, technology, etc., etc., etc. And since all of these realms are woven together to create the matrix of what we can call the world system, it isn’t hard to figure out who the ruler of it all is. It is Satan. This explains why Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (referring to the world system) in John 12:31. It also explains why 1 John 5:19 says the whole world (the world system) lies under the sway of the wicked one.
It is this Satanically inspired and Satanically energized system that John says the authentic Christian will hate. The Christian will hate the system because the system hates the Christian (1 John 3:13). And why does Satan’s world system hate the Christian? It’s because it recognizes that the Christian isn’t a part of it. As John says of Christians, “…the world does not know us, because it did not know Him (Jesus).
As we’ve seen with some of John’s other quotes from 1 John, all he did with that one was play off something that he’d once heard Jesus say. In John 15:18-19, Jesus says to His apostles, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (N.K.J.V.). John was personally present to hear Jesus say that, and so, years later, writing under the inspiration of God, he picked up on that theme and ran with it.
I trust we can all agree that the case John presents for the legitimate Christian not loving the world system is a solid one. First, everything that is part of the world system can fit into one of three categories — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life — and nothing from any of those categories is of God (2:15-16). Second, the world system, complete with all its lusts and pride, is always passing away and never destined for eternal permanence (2:17). Third, the world system didn’t know (understand, acknowledge) Jesus and doesn’t treat His followers (Christians) any better (3:1). Fourth, rather than know (understand, acknowledge) Christians, the world system literally hates them (3:13). Fifth, rather than embrace the world system, the Christian will see it as something to be overcome by walking in faith in the midst of it (5:4-5).
By the way, you might have noticed that I included 1 John 5:21 on my list of references even though that verse doesn’t specifically use the word “world.” In that verse, rather than mention the “world,” John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (N.K.J.V.). I included that verse because an idol is very much a thing of the world system, whether that idol be a graven image in ancient Israel or a house, a car, a job, a sports team, or even a person in modern-day America. The bottom line is that if you are practicing some form of idolatry, you are unquestionably practicing a version of worldliness.
So, in closing, what have we learned in this post? We’ve learned that even though God remains sovereign over every nut and bolt of His creation, for now Satan’s work is humming along upon planet Earth by way of the Satanic world system that dominates all the various realms of civilization. This world system inherently hates Christians, and Christians will inherently hate it right back. We’re talking oil and water here, two separate entities that can never and will never jive. True Christians will always view the world system as something to be overcome on the way to heaven, but thankfully they can rest in the promise that their overcoming is guaranteed to happen through their saving faith/belief in Jesus. Remember that Christians are born again through Jesus Christ (John 3:1-8), and John says in 1 John 5:4, “…whatever is born of God overcomes the world.”