15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[a]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:15-17)
The Apostle John gave a simple but significant prescription of what it means to be truly converted: “3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”(I John 2:3-6)
I John 2:15 gives the believer in Christ one of God’s commandments: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” To not love the world is a present, active imperative or command from God. It is also a negative proposition or truth.
To not love the world means that believers in Christ are not to have a self-sacrificial love (ἀγαπᾶτε; agapate) for the world (κόσμος; kosmos). The world, in this context, does not refer to the physical planet as much as it does to the fallen, anti-God system of thought and behavior. However, no one should worship the creation instead of the creator either (Romans 1:18-32).
One commentator explains that, “The world” here means “man, and man’s world”, in his and its state as fallen from God. “God loved [with the love of compassion] the world,” and we should feel the same kind of love for the fallen world; but we are not to love the world with congeniality and sympathy in its alienation from God; we cannot have this latter kind of love for the God-estranged world, and yet have also “the love of the Father in” us.”
Following a general command against loving the world, the apostle then refers to specifics: “or the things in the world.” What are the “things” to which John refers? What does the fallen world honor and worship above everything else, including God? What does the fallen world desire and pursue above everything else, including God. I can think of three things: riches, power and pleasure. These three categories contain many component parts, which are the results of riches, power and pleasure. Riches, power and pleasure are not in and of themselves bad, when framed within the confines of Scripture. However, they can become disastrously deadly and destructive when pursued without thought to the obedience to God.
What is John’s conclusion if any individual, even a professing believer in Christ, continually pursues a love of the world and the things which are in the world? “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
John speaks in basic terms. For him there are no grey areas when it comes to following Christ. You are either in or out. You are either committed to obeying God’s commands as a testimony of your conversion, or you are lying to yourself and to God about your lack of conversion (I John 1:5-7).
John’s statement is framed in his familiar “cause and effect” structure. If this is true, then this is also true. If any professing believer continually loves the fallen world and the things which are in it, the love originating and sourced in God the Father is not within him. This individual is not a child of God.
Each believer struggles with loving the world. However, John is not talking about an occasional temptation to follow the world, but rather a pattern of behavior. Additionally, when the believer in Christ is tempted to love the world, there is a resulting struggle and anguish about this temptation rather than a continual fascination for it.
What three areas of temptation does John mention which seeks to cause individuals to love the world? We will begin to examine them next time. Until then, ask God to reveal to you what it is in this world that you find yourself tempted to love instead of God.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!