Summary: This article was written and published Nov. ’14. There are three great antagonists to Christian discipleship: the devil, the flesh, and the world. This article speaks of the last enemy on this list. The world has many different tentacles it wants to attach to the Christian to make him one of its own. But if we truly follow Christ in our walk, the world will hate us. And that’s perfectly fine because this place is not our home. We are only here for a short time; we are only passing through.
What is the world? How would Scripture define it? The world is that system fashioned by man for his own comfort and enjoyment when he was chased away from God. Cain was cursed from the earth and became a fugitive and a vagabond on it. He was driven out and was destined to be hidden from the face of God. Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city (Gen. 4:11-17). In the biblical sense, Cain went out and built the world. It is all that man has brought about separated from God. It was a consequence of the fall of man. And if Satan had his part in man’s fall, then certainly he had his part in building the world. The devil eventually became the little god of it all (II Cor. 4:4).
What else can be said about the world? When God took on human flesh and came into the world that He had created, what was its response? Jesus came in mercy and goodness, and they cast Him out. They hated Him without a cause (John 15:22-25). They crucified Him and put Him to death. The Jews rejected Him, and in Pilate the world rejected Him (John 1:10-11). Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for it (John 3:16). Yet it is obvious that when He did give His Son the world hated and killed Him. Can we not legitimately say that the world rejected God and cast Him out?
We quote verses like “God so loved the world…” and romanticize our beliefs about the world that are only the results of poor and improper understandings. When God so loved the world, the world rejected His love and killed the Son that He sent. In the same gospel, by the same gospel writer, we see all the consequences for the world because of this rejection.
Before His last evening with His disciples, and when the cross was weighing heavily on His mind (John 12:27), Jesus says this concerning the world, “Now is the judgment of the world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31) Because the world rejected the Son whom He sent, because they would not believe on Him, God condemns the world in judgment. The world today stands condemned. The very God who so loved the world has now fully judged and condemned it. Satan, its ruler and god, stands condemned. Title to all this has been secured by the work of the cross. It simply awaits the end of the age for these judgments to be physically carried out by God.
Later that evening with His disciples Jesus says something concerning the world that is very revealing.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine…”
There are a few great understandings in this short passage — the sovereignty of God, His choices, His election, and that Jesus always prays and intercedes for His own — but our subject here is the world. Jesus says He does not pray for the world. Why would He? The biblical reality, and we should ever be mindful to only desire to deal in biblical realities, is that to Him, and it should be for us as believers, the world stands condemned. Jesus does not pray for the condemned world. He never prays for it, not in all of Scripture.
There is another interesting thing Jesus said that evening.
“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I do not demand that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them out of evil. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.”
Jesus is not of the world, and neither are any true believers. God doesn’t encourage us to have any connection to the world. We may have been left here to live in the midst of it, as He does not pray that we be taken out of the world at this time, but we are to be kept out of all its evil. We are not to have any of the world’s values or associations. We are not to desire anything that the world has to offer us, any of its things, its cares, its methods and ways. Our lives are to be so noticeably different from the world that it would hate us and persecute us for those differences. Then John says in his first epistle:
I John 2:15-17
“Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because 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.
And the world is passing away, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity.”
The world, and everything in it, is passing away. God has judged it. Jesus will return to destroy all the evil in it. Why would you want to have any association with what God has judged and condemned? Why would you want to have any part in what Jesus returns to destroy? The world is a system that man formed to comfort and entertain himself when apart from God. Like Cain, the world and all that associated with it will be cursed from the face and presence of God. By the work of the cross there is title to it all passing away. It must all come to an end.
When Jesus comes to get His bride and take us to the Father’s house, I do not want to be found having any connection to this world. I believe that would be very embarrassing. I want all the affections of my heart to be for Him. I want to ever be looking for the Bridegroom, anticipating His coming, prepared in all ways for His return. This is what the bride does – always looking out the window or at the door, saying, “Is He coming!” And her preparations are all about making herself presentable and fit for His presence. This is her entire responsibility.
The evil servant said in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming…” (Matt. 24:48) This is a servant in God’s house, in Christendom. So many have lost all cognizance of the blessed hope of the church – His promised appearing to take His bride away (Titus 2:13). So many have sunk down into the mentality of the evil servant. We scoff at the promise of His return, we make light of any talk of it. It is not part of the thoughts of our minds, nor any part in any way of the things we occupy ourselves with. It is missing from our preaching and teaching. Our hearts are not filled with affections for Christ, or anticipation of His coming. And it is easy to see that the mentality of the evil servant has its automatic effects – its character is worldliness and abuse (Matt. 24:49). Instead we are found to be occupied with the world.
We have this thought in our hearts, “Lord, do not come back now!” We are thinking we are to busy with life; we have so many things to do, to experience, to enjoy; we have become connected to the life that the world offers (John 12:25). We are connected to the world. This is a sad place for any true believer to be.
The church will not be the means of changing the world. The church will not rise up and win America. These are all wrong and pretentious thoughts. Their source is the evil leaven of humanism that all of Christendom has embraced. The church has no commission to change the world. The world will not change. It will only go on in its evil, taking care to grow and ripen this fruit to the end. The world continues to grow its evil as much as God allows and does not restrict (II Thess. 2:6-7). What in the world is going on? Just that the world continues on unchanged, ripening its evil forms, heading for its judgment at the end of the age.
There is one more point I would like to make that has a connection with the world. If we are not mindful of scriptural principles, our involvement with this connection becomes a dangerous snare for the believer/church. I believe most of us would agree that civil power and authority, the government of “the state” in all its myriad forms that exist, is directly connected with the world system. Civil power is what forms the governments of the world. These authorities are all “of the world” and have this direct connection. I do not see how this connection could be disputed.
I fully understand that it is God who sets up all civil authority (Rom. 13: 1-2). This is true from kings and presidents, down to the lowliest of magistrates. God sets them up in His providence, but once in power they all are under the principle of human responsibility. That principle is this: Responsibility attaches itself to every creature that can be conscious of a relationship with God, the Creator. Whenever there is awareness of this relationship, there is obligation in it to God. The Creator expects obedience in the creature, and therefore looks for the production of this fruit or result. This is also true for every civil authority God places in position. They all will give account to God.
Most governments do not answer to God. America put its best foot forward at its beginning as to having some accountability before God. “In God we trust” was printed on all our legal tender. The founders believed that the nation could best be governed if the people and the civil authorities saw themselves responsible to God. Unfortunately responsibility always fails in fallen man. Sooner or later, and this is usually sooner, man gives himself to doing his own will, and will not obey the will of God. It is also clear from scripture that evil and corruption ripens to the end. By any sound judgment America is not where it once was, and in her we can easily see the development of the course of this evil age. But to make my point I quote again John:
John 17:13-17 (NKJV)
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
Jesus is not of the world. He actually was rejected by this world (John 1:10). Our portion with Christ will be to be rejected by the world as He was and is. He instructs us that we are not of the world. The teaching goes further. He says the world hates us because we are not of it. Now I will say that the true believer has a choice to make. If you look like the world, act like it, and generally fit in with the world, then you will be loved by the world – the world loves its own and you can look like you belong to it and are one of them. In this case they will not hate you. But the true believer is to walk as Jesus walked (I John 2:6). If we do we will be hated by the world as He says in the above quoted passage and elsewhere (John 15:18-19). Jesus was hated by the world. If you walk like Jesus, you will be hated by the world. You will be persecuted (John 15:20). In the world you will have tribulation (John 16:19).
Now if you walk as Jesus walked and are hated by the world, it is hard to reason that you could work for the world as a civil authority in government. If the world hates you because they see your walk with Jesus as a Christian, how are you to govern the world or any little part of it? No. You have to be loved by the world, or at least liked by the world, in order to work for it. They only love their own (John 15:19). If you truly walk as Jesus walked, the world will hate you. They will not want you to rule over them.
If a believer works for civil government he will constantly be under pressure to compromise his walk. It is more serious than this. You will constantly be under pressure to disobey God. The state has laws and makes new ones all the time that are not the will of God. The will of man is only sin. But when working for the state there will be the demand that you obey and enforce all the laws of the land, regardless of your Christian belief and walk. The pressure to compromise is there or lose your position. It is trying to serve two masters – “…for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.”
You are not king David in a palace in Jerusalem and you are not Daniel in Babylon. These are Jewish examples involved in civil authority. With David God’s principle of government of the earth was associated with Israel. David and Solomon governed in a theocracy. In Daniel’s time the principle of government was given to the Gentiles and the “times of the Gentiles” began. But Daniel was used by God to serve in civil authority because the principle of calling was still associated with Israel as the people of God. This calling for Israel is earthly and as part of the world. The principle of government is associated with the first creation, the earth, and the world. The Christian examples are Paul, Peter, and John. The Christian is not associated with the world – “…not part of the world.” The believer is in an entirely new position. We are the new creation of God. We are no longer in the first Adam, the head of the first creation under sin. This is where Israel is and remains. The believer is in the second Adam, the new creation of God, and with no association with the world.
Do Paul, Peter, or John ever teach believers to aspire to civil office? Do they every teach Christians to enter into politics? They teach that we should be subject to the governing authorities, but never teach that we should seek to become such (Rom. 13:1-2). Further, some teach that Christians have a God given directive to rise up in arms to throw off all and any evil governments they feel are not good for mankind. But again, I do not see Paul, Peter, and John teaching such a directive. The Roman empire under which they lived was evil, idolatrous, violent, tyrannical, oppressive, and inhumane. Daniel’s vision confirms this assessment of the character of the empire from God’s perspective (Dan. 7:7). It would be the worst and most terrible of the four beasts. Yet this was the fourth of four Gentile world empires that the providence of God brought into existence. Jesus acknowledged its place in the counsels of God by saying, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…” He did the same again before Pilate, the Roman representative of Caesar, only this time acknowledging Pilate’s God given authority to decide His fate as the present civil power (John 19:11). There would be no violent overthrow of the evil government at that time:
John 18:36 (NKJV)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
His kingdom is not of this world and is not from this world. Jesus said earlier in prayer to His Father, speaking of Himself and the disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” If His kingdom is not of this world, why would we ever have a reason to fight while we remain down here? While in this world it is impossible for any believer to fight for His kingdom. Therefore why fight? For what? There is no proper biblical reason, especially after rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).
When you learn God’s biblical principles you will be able to see the following: The principle of God’s government of the earth, although intimately associated with the nation of Israel when Jehovah’s presence dwelt among them, and in the future millennium when Israel is restored in the land the principle returns to them as well as the Presence, is never a biblical principle associated with the church, the body of Christ – at least not in this present age. The church has no business involving itself in civil government. John sees a vision of the Babylonian harlot in Revelation seventeen (17). She is the one who the kings of the earth commit fornication with, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication (Rev. 17:1-2). She represents Christendom in the world. God sees her as guilty of having an elicit relationship with the civil powers of the earth. Christendom has done this most of her history.
What in the world is going on? A lot of things, mostly the growth and ripening of evil. How about in Christendom? In general, as a corporate entity, she is corrupt and in ruin. Jezebel in Thyatira is corruption. Sardis is dead. Laodicea is nauseating. Take your pick, none of this in the “organized church world” is good. Philadelphia? They are the small faithful remnant with little power, that gathers together by the Spirit at the end, keeping the word of His patience (waiting for Him – Rev. 3:7-13). Jesus sets an open door in front of them, and they go through it up into the heavens.