Whose World Is It, Part 5 – In, But Not Of


One last important point for us to understand regarding the issue of who’s ruling the world.

First some linguistic background. The Greek word for world is kosmos (which you may recognize as the source for the English word cosmos). According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, the Biblical meaning of the word can be outlined as follows (excluding several points that seem irrelevant to this discussion):

3) the world, the universe

4) the circle of the earth, the earth

5) the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family

6) “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ

7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly

    a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

I’ve always assumed that context made it clear which of these meanings applied to a particular verse, but now I see that some people might take a verse like John 3:16 and read into the word world, not “the inhabitants of the earth,” as I do, but “the world, the universe.”

I still think context reveals meaning. For example, John 3:16 follows “For God so loved the world” with “whoever believes in Him,” clarifying that this use of world relates to entities with the capacity to believe — humans.

Perhaps the most telling passage in this discussion is I John 2:15-17 because John clearly uses the world in several of its meanings. In other words, he puts the universe and the aggregate of things earthly together, under the same admonition:

Do not love the world nor 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 and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. [emphasis mine]

James echos a portion of these thoughts when he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The Christian, then, is to be distinct. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, reject loving the world and things in the world.

But what about “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”?

I haven’t done an exhaustive study of the word “world” to say categorically that I know this to be absolute, but I have reason to believe that, rather than rejecting love for the world of lost sinners, the Christian is directed to love each.

One passage that leads me in this direction is Philippians 3:18-19 where Paul says, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (emphasis mine).

Why would Paul be weeping unless he felt great sorrow at the condition, including the destruction, of these enemies of the cross?

“Enemies” brings me to the second reason. We are instructed in Scripture to love our enemies. In addition, Christ told us that we would be hated in the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:19; see also John 17:14)

On the strength of this hatred, I conclude “the world,” meaning, “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ” encompasses the enemies I am to love.

So here’s this final point: not loving the world but loving those trapped by their own sin nature in the system that hates God and teaches them to do likewise puts the Christian in a tenuous place. We must be close enough to “the ungodly multitude” so we can love them but far enough from “the aggregate of things earthly” that we don’t start loving them. Therein lies the tension of being in the world but not of it.

The significance for writers is this: while there is a place for writing to encourage, instruct, or admonish fellow believers, our call as a group is not limited to that type of writing. We have a responsibility to “the ungodly multitude” too. Who else do we think is going to see the light we are to be, in a crooked and perverse generation? (See Phil. 2:14-15)

As Jesus reminds us, light needs to be displayed prominently, not hidden away. Writers, including bloggers, aren’t exclusive in this opportunity, but working with words makes our light-showing job all the easier.

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Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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