Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 10, 1964
NUMBER 18, PAGE 3,11b

"Love Not The World"

James E. Cooper

Christians need to be constantly reminded of the dangers in worldliness. Many misunderstand the nature of worldliness and have relaxed their guard against the "wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). Others try to justify themselves by that which they approve (Rom. 14:22), and try to feel that they do not sin.

"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 vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

What Is The "World"?

This text enjoins against loving the "world." As the Bible uses the word in three senses, we need to understand the sense in which it is used here. "World" sometimes refers to the physical universe, as in: "The God that made the world and all things therein" (Acts 17:24). We cannot conceive it improper to have an appreciation of the universe as the work of God's hand, an illustration of his perfection and almighty power. When we look on God's universe, we can with wonder exclaim with the Psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Psa. 19:1).

"World" sometimes refers to the inhabitants of the earth, as in "we are made a spectacle unto the world" (1 Cor. 4:9), and "Lo, the world is gone after him" (Jno. 12:19). It is not wrong to love mankind, and to have attachments to our kindred and friends, even though they are not Christians. God "so loved the world" that he sent his son to die that "whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jno. 3:16). God loved all mankind, even sinners (Rom. 5:8). Surely God would not demand of us a different attitude than which he himself displayed.

This leaves one other possibility. "World" refers to those persons who live in reference to this life only, and to the objects for which they particularly seek, and the principles by which they are actuated. Jesus used it in this regard: "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (Jno. 15: 18-19). Paul said, "But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world bath been crucified unto me. and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). In this same epistle John said, "For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith, And who is he that overcometh the world. but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (Jno. 5:4-5). In his prayer for the apostles Jesus said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jno. 17:16).

Hence, John is exhorting us not to fix our attention on worldly objects — on what the world can furnish — as our portion, with the spirit with which they do who live only for this world, regardless of the life to come. We are not to allow this world to become the object of our chief affections; we are not to be influenced by the maxims and feelings which prevail among those who do. The aim and principles of Christians are of the higher and nobler sort.

This Is Timely Admonition

There are many in the church who are characteristically lovers of the world. (1) They conform to the world in all which the world is distinguished from the church. (2) They seek companionship among the worldly rather than among the saints. (3) They prefer the amusements of the world to the services of the church where spiritually minded Christians find their chief happiness. (4) They pursue the same pleasures that the people of the world do--with the same expense, the same extravagance, the same luxury, and the same sensual pleasures. (5) They make their worldly interests the great object of living, and everything else subordinate to that.

This spirit exists in every case where no worldly interest is sacrificed for Christ and his church, where anything that Christian living peculiarly requires is sacrificed for the world. "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me." said Paul, "and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory, is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Phil. 3:17-19).

The seriousness of worldliness is observed in James 4:4. "Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God". Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24). When men set their minds on carnal things, they shut God out. No man can put both God and the world first (cf. Matt. 6:33). It is impossible for one to have the love of the world and the love of the Father in him at the same time.

Three Classifications For Sin

Notice that "All that is in the not of the Father." There is an antithesis between that which is "in the world" and that which is "of the Father." The word "all" shows that every type of worldliness is not of divine origin. Further, every type of worldliness can be considered under the three classifications suggested by John — "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life." Dramatically, these three phrases stand in apposition with "all that is in the world."

The word "lust" is significant in this context. The word translated "lust" in the New Testament is epithinnia, meaning "desire." The type of desire, whether good or evil, must be learned from the context. As it appears in a good sense, it is translated "desire" in such passages as Lk. 22:15, Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 2:17, etc. When the context denotes an evil desire, it is translated "lust" as in Mk. 4:19; Jno. 8:44; Rom. 1:24; 6:12; 7:7; 1 Jno. 2:16.

The "lust of the flesh" refers to evil desires of the flesh. The "works of the flesh" are mentioned in Gal. 5:19-21. This expression describes the inordinate desires of the body, all that is connected with unlawful gratification of the animal appetites. A large part of mankind lives for little more.

The "lust of the eyes" refers to evil desires for what is seen with the eyes. Covetousness is such a sin. One's attitude toward that which he sees is herein involved. Remember that the devil appealed to this desire when he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the World (Matt. 4:8).

The "vainglory of life" or the "pride of life" refers to human pride in all its manifestations. To Eve it was the thought that she could be as wise as God (cf. Gen. 3:4-6). Satan appealed to the vanity of Jesus by challenging him to "show me" that God would take care of him (cf. Matt. 4:5-8). It may refer to whatever that is an index of pride, such as ostentatious display of dress, material possessions, etc.

The Future Of Worldliness

Those whose aim in life is to satisfy their lusts, and concern themselves only with the here and now, do not realize that there is a future to worldliness. They don't like to think of the future, but this does not change things at all. The Bible teaches that "they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21), but rather "their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

One day the scenes of this life with all that is the object of physical desire shall pass away. John said, "The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof." Just think of the vanity of living for this world only. Its pleasures are only temporal, they shall pass away. Jesus said, "For what shall a man be profited if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?" (Matt. 16:26). Friend, if you gain the world at the cost of health, happiness, home or heaven, you will have been cheated.

Think of the permanence assured the man who "doeth the will of God." John said, "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." He does not mean to say that he will not experience physical death, as "it is appointed unto man once to die" (Heb, 9:27). But, he "abides forever" in the sense that he has built his hopes on things eternal, upon that which is secure within the veil, and that which can never pass away (cf. Matt. 7:24-27).


The Great Searcher of Hearts cannot be deceived, and soon our appropriate place will be assigned to us. Our eternal destiny depends on whether we are friends of the world — or whether we are friends of God. Whose friend are you? Examine yourself!

— 733 Mill St., Leitchfied, Ky.