Ye Are Not of the World: Something That Is a Fact

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In John 17, Jesus, praying to His Father, said: "And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." vv. 1316. And in John 15:18, 1918If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:18‑19): "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
These two scriptures show clearly that the Lord's people are not of the world, even as He, and that as the world knew Him not, but hated Him, so must we meet with its hatred also. There is not a single thing in unison between the Christian and man's world. "The whole world lies in the wicked one." 1 John 5:1919And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (1 John 5:19); J.N.D. Trans. But Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from" (out of) "this present evil world." Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4).
The term, "world," is used in Scripture in different ways. We read of God making the worlds by His Son (Heb. 1:22Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Hebrews 1:2)). It expresses too the moral condition of unconverted men without God, living for self, time, and sense, so that the Lord said to His own, "If the world hate you." It also sets forth the system that men have built up on the earth, without God, whose elements are totally opposed to Him. Hence we find that John, in exhorting those classed as young men in his first epistle, says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:15, 1615Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15‑16).
Yet, although Christians are not of the world but, as elsewhere presented, a heavenly people, the greater number are left a while upon the earth to glorify God in their bodies till Christ returns. Hence we find ourselves in the midst of a vast system of things totally opposed to the new life which God has given us in His Son, and to everything that that life delights in. But we have also the Holy Spirit who is the power of that life and, walking by faith, we overcome the world, and pass through the midst of it unscathed by its manifold evil influences.
At the same time it is important to distinguish between worldly elements contrary to God, and things which are needful for the body in the circumstances in which we may be placed. There is a wide difference between the two. We have died with Christ, and hence we are dead to sin (Rom. 6) but not to nature. We are now risen in Christ, and can enjoy communion with God. And if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (which of course remains in us, and lusts the moment it is allowed), nor yield to the evil of the world while seeking to use natural things in the fear of God, and for His glory, watching always lest even any natural blessing that He has given us should in any way become our snare.
Now Satan uses the world in different ways to hold men in his power, and to draw away the hearts of Christians from God and the simplicity which is in Christ. We may divide the moral state of the world around us under at least five heads; namely, wicked, worldly, social, political, and religious. Christ, as we have already cited, gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from (out of) this present evil world (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)), and that in every form in which we come in contact with it. Let us seek briefly to present what we mean by these different terms.
First, the wicked world. We speak thus of the world of the ungodly, of men following their own unbridled will, and the lusts and desires of their evil hearts. Ungodliness abounds—all kinds of license, revelry, and open and secret wickedness. Men, with no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:1818There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:18)), indulge their lusts and passions, and the desires of their hearts and minds, in gluttony, drunkenness, immorality, infidelity, blasphemy, etc., etc. Now surely no one with any pretensions to Christianity would sanction such manifest evil for a moment. Even the natural conscience of thousands is shocked at such things. Men of the world themselves would not believe in the Christianity of the man who followed such practices. A Christian is saved to sin no more, and it would be difficult to find one who would not own at once that these things were sins, and must be wholly refused and shunned.
Second, the worldly world. By this term we would present the world of fashion and vanity, folly and pride, etc. Alas! how many true children of God, as well as carnal professors, are more or less ensnared by the world in this aspect. There are numbers of believers who are sheltered from judgment under Christ's precious blood, who seem to have no idea that His death has not only saved them from the consequence of their sin, but also laid them under obligation to refuse the world. It is only too often the case that there is no real deliverance in the soul; they have never learned that they have died with Christ (Rom. 6), and are now before God in Him, privileged and responsible to live Christ henceforth. And did that blessed, perfect One follow the fashion, vanity, folly, and pride of this world? Far be the thought. All these things are of the flesh, and the flesh was judicially dealt with at the cross, and set aside by God once and forever as utterly incorrigible and worthless. We are saved to give no place to the flesh, and to refuse all worldliness as part of that system that Satan and men have built up here without God.
Third, the social world. All our readers doubtless know the meaning of the word "social." Now this is one of the most specious forms in which Satan presents the world to our hearts, in order to allure us from Christ and the things unseen and eternal. Thousands who refuse the wickedness of the flesh, and the gross worldliness of Vanity Fair, readily excuse themselves and others for a little social worldliness. We might give details of what we mean, but it would carry us beyond our limits in this paper. But think for a moment of the thousand and one things that Christians go on with every day in the home circle, and the social intercourse of life, which are merely for selfish pleasure, or to please others, regardless of whether they are pleasing to God. How often the exercised Christian hears the words, "I don't think there is any harm in this or that"; or "So-and-so does it, and therefore there cannot be any harm in it" (very low ground, to say the least)—and no thought whatever as to whether it is according to the Word, and for the glory of God. Is the practical Christianity of the Bible to go world-bordering, as nearly as possible, without openly going into it? or is it a positive thing? "To me to live is Christ," said Paul. This is a sure test. Not "Is there any harm?" but, "Is it Christ?" "Is it Christ-like?" "Is it suited to Him?" "Is it according to the Word of God?" "Will He be glorified by it?" He who loves us as He loves His own Son, withholds no joy or pleasure from His people that is good for us, and expressly forbids all that is bad. He has connected His glory with us, and it is only the study of His Word, under the teaching of the Spirit, that will enable us to know what is suited to Him, and what will glorify Him.
Fourth, the political world. The meaning of this familiar expression is well known. The question is, What is the relation of the Christian to it? God has His' ways in government in the world, as well as His ways in grace; and we read that there is no power but of God, and the powers that be are ordained of God (Rom. 13:11Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)). If our readers will weigh the opening verses of this chapter, they will see that the whole teaching is that the Christian should be subject to such, rendering tribute, custom, fear, honor, etc., to those to whom they are due. But there is not one word about our taking part in the rule. And why? Because Christians are a heavenly people, and their citizenship is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:4848As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:48); Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)). What has a foreigner to do with the government? Nothing whatever. All he has to do, if he lives
in a country, is to be subject to the rulers and the laws. So also the Christian is a stranger and a pilgrim here (1 Pet. 2:1111Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (1 Peter 2:11)). He belongs to another country, and, therefore, as long as he dwells upon earth, he has but to be subject to the laws of those ruling. This simplifies matters immensely for us, if we will only be simple about it all. If we begin to reason about it, we shall form mere human conclusions which are contrary to the Word of God. Faith acts in simple, wholehearted obedience to what God says. Minding earthly things is one of the characteristics of the enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18, 1918(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:18‑19)).
When Christians get linked with the world, whether in government or anything else, they are sure to become losers in their own souls. It is impossible to get the political world to act on Christian principles according to the Word of God (although it may be more or less influenced by Christianity), and therefore, sooner or later, as has often been practically proved, the Christian necessarily succumbs in some measure to worldly principles, unless he breaks away to go on with God. What part has he that believes with an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14-1814Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14‑18))? The Christian's ruling time is future. When the Lord judges and reigns, we shall judge and reign with Him (1 Cor. 4:8; 6:28Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. (1 Corinthians 4:8)
2Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? (1 Corinthians 6:2)
; 2 Tim. 2:1212If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: (2 Timothy 2:12)).
Fifth, the religious world. This is the worst form of evil before God, because it is the corruption of that which is most immediately connected with Himself in His relations with men. Nowhere, and in no way, have men more grievously sinned against God than in connection with holy things. All around us at the present moment, more or less throughout Christendom, we see the results of Satan's power and man's self-will. Vast religious systems, formed of mixed principles of Christianity, Judaism, and heathenism, are maintained and carried on to a very great extent by unconverted men, or by converted and unconverted together—worldly elements of all kinds abound to suit the eye and heart of man, though ostensibly for the glory of God. All sorts of worldly practices (in some instances even unrighteous) are resorted to, to support them. "My people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jer. 5:3131The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:31)). Oh, what indeed?
What is the Christian's path? Separation. Separation from all evil, doctrinal or practical, as proved by the sure Word of God, and a path in fellowship with all who do the same (2 Tim. 2:19-2219Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:19‑22)). Thousands are misled by the subtleties of Satan, who clothes worldliness with religious titles, or introduces a little religion to make worldliness less objectionable, so that those who otherwise would have a bad conscience become his dupes. Nothing but cleaving to God's Word and making a clean sweep of all religious worldliness, is worthy of Him whose holy name we bear, and "who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world," in its religious as well as in any other form.
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:1616They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)), saith the Lord. This is unmistakably plain. We are responsible then to refuse the world, and the things in it, in whatever form Satan may present them to our hearts, whether wicked, worldly, social, political, or religious. "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:44For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:4)). May the Lord graciously exercise the heart of every Christian who reads these lines, that we may be occupied with Him and heavenly things, in simple faith rising superior to all in the world, so leaving it practically behind us, and pressing on to the glory until we behold Him face to face, for His own precious name's sake.