We interrupt our series of articles on I Peter 1:1ff. to call attention to the meaning of I John 2:15-17.

In the first place we do so because we feel that a little diversion of subject matter might be welcome to the reader; we might be mistaken in this matter of desired diversion with every reader; however, on general principles I believe that we are right.

In the second place, we believe it appropriate to consider in a couple of articles some passage of the Word of God to give direction to our thoughts and life in the passing away of the “old year” and in the matter of God’s ushering in the “new year”.

Such a fitting passage, we believe, to have at hand in the well-known words of I John 2:15-17. The text reads as follows: “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 vain glory 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”.

This passage from the Word of God will afford us ample food for thought, so that our hearts need not be troubled, but that as the righteous we may place our confidence obediently in the Lord.

In general we may remark concerning this Scrip­ture passage, that its point of departure is such, that it speaks to the redeemed saints, God’s “little children” in Christ Jesus. It speaks to the church militant in this world as she must triumph over this evil world, waxing valiant and strong in faith. In this present world of time, in contradistinction from the “ages to come”, the church and the world have all things in common, except grace! Hence, the church lives, and must live out of God, the Father, and thus live the life of the antithesis!

Such is always the lot of God’s people; such is emphatically the comfort of God’s people, with the passing of time, in her pilgrimage to the abiding city of God.

As to the various elements in the text we would call attention to the following:

In the first place, we must notice the strong pro­hibition in this passage of Scripture. It is: love not the world, (kosmos) neither the things that are in the world,”

Shall we understand just what this prohibition, that we love not “the world” implies, then it is im­perative that we first understand the meaning of the concept “world” in our text. Looking at the very sur­face of our text, we count six different instances of its usage. And each time this concept “world” refers to something that we are not to love at all, but is in­dicative of that which we are to flee, as much as we love our soul’s salvation.

The term employed here by John for “world” in the original Greek is “kosmos”. As was said the term “kosmos” as employed in our text refers to some­thing ethically evil. There is in this “world” as referred to in our text nothing that a child of God can or may love; it is either-or in our text. Love this world and one is an enemy of the heavenly Father, or love the Father and one is an enemy of this world. The two are mutually exclusive.

Rut someone interrupts us and reminds us that this term “kosmos” is also employed by John in a good sense, as the “kosmos” for which Christ became the propitiation, so that he is the advocate with God the Father for the whole “kosmos”, that is, the world! Fact is, that John thus speaks of this “kosmos” in this very chapter. In verse 2 of this chapter we read: “and he is the propitiation of our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world“.

How to account for this, you ask?

That is a good question and calls for an an­swer. Especially since there are many other instances and passages in the Word of God where the term “kosmos” is used both in a good sense and in an evil sense.

The term “kosmos” is employed in a good sense in such passages as John 3:16-17 and John 4:42, not to mention others. In John 3:16-17 we have the well-known passage “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” The Samaritan people, after hearing Jesus preach, exclaim: “for we have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world!”

Such is the usage of the term in a good sense.

There are also other passages which clearly show that in a certain sense the world, the kosmos, is evil and wholly under the dominion and power of sin. Says John in John 5:19 “and we know that we are out of God, and that the world lieth in darkness.” Again in John 14:30, 31 Jesus acknowledges that the world is evil. Says He “I will not speak much more with you, for the chief one of this kosmos (world) cometh and he has nothing in Me, but that the world may know, that I love the Father, and even as He gave Me a commandment, thus I do”. And finally of this world, in an evil sense, Jesus speaks in John 16:33, when he says “These things I have spoken unto you, that ye may have my peace in you. In the world (kosmos) ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have (even up to this very present moment) overcome the world (kosmos). And, to quote but one more passage of this term in an evil sense, we call attention to I John 5:3-5, where we read “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His com­mandments are not grievous, because every one that is born out of God overcomes the world (kosmos). And this is the victory that overcomes the world (kos­mos), even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world (kosmos) but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ.”

From the foregoing it is abundantly evident, that the term “world” is employed by John, both in his gospel account and in his epistle, in a twofold sense.

Once more the question forces itself to the fore­ground: how do we account for it?

It ought to be kept clearly in mind, first of all, that the term “kosmos” in the Greek writings of the Classics refers to an “apt an harmonious arrangement or constitution, order”. When this definition is applied to the universe of God, heaven and earth and all that it contains, the term “kosmos” is indicative of the or­derly arrangement of the entire world of heaven and earth, angels and men, and animals as taught in the Scriptures in Genesis 1 and elsewhere. It refers to God’s beautiful and well-arranged creaturehood, con­cerning which we read: And God saw all that He had made, and, behold, it was very good!

Such, is the idea of the “kosmos” in Scripture.

That notion of the “kosmos” we need to explain why Scripture speaks of this “world” both in an ethi­cally evil and in a good sense.

For, mark you well, both the powers of darkness with Satan at its head, and the Kingdom of God in Christ—both, I say, claim this entire kosmos as its own. The latter claims this world in righteousness, liberating it from sin’s dominion, and the former as an evil usurping power and dominion. Listen to Sa­tan say to Jesus, in the temptation in the wilderness when he showed Him all the kingdoms of this world (kosmos in Matthew 3:8): “to thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been de­livered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” These kingdoms of the world are very really the en­tire world in its cosmological development throughout all of time apart from God. They are the nations that imagine vain things against the Lord and against His Anointed Son.

But Christ does not listen to Satan, and, what is more, He gives the lie to Satan’s bold assertion. Christ will receive this entire “world” from the Father, Who, bringing His Son into the world, says: let all the an­gels of God worship Him. Yea, at this very moment the angels come to minister unto Christ’s needs in the desert. And presently they sing: Worthy is the Lamb!

Behold, then, the antithesis!

How wholly different this is from all speculation of the Greeks about the duality of good and evil. Ac­cording to this theory, part of the world was good and part of it was bad; both of these were such in their very nature and, therefore, this state of affairs was eternal. The world of man’s soul, the spirit world was good and immortal (had an endless existence) while the world of the material and tangible was e­vil. Such was the evil teaching that was creeping into the church in John’s day in the name of sound doctrine.

Such is the dualism.

But John maintains the antithesis.

The “whole world” lies in darkness. All is under sin. Man’s soul and body are both corrupted with sin. And all sin is iniquity. But Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil, and the true light already shineth; the darkness is past, the day has dawned in Christ Jesus. His are all things. Satan is cast out because he has nothing in Christ.

And these two domains we cannot bring together in spiritual unison. The table of Christ and of the devil have nothing in common. Light and darkness cannot go hand in hand. God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all. And the children of God and the children of the devil will surely come to mani­festation antithetically in this evil world; they shall do so very concretely.

To bring to light the children of God in an evil world John admonishes the children not to love this world, as it wholly lies in sin and subjects all things under the power and dominion of sin. Nothing is sanctified by the world and set in the service of God. Its very religiousness in theory and in practice (dual­ism and self-improvement) is godlessness.

In this world we live as people of God on “old year’s eve”; into this world we will continue to move in the year before us.

But He that sitteth on the throne is great in power and excellent in judgment. He keeps us by His Word and power in the faith that conquers the world. He says to His beloved children: Little children, keep yourselves unpolluted from this evil world. Simply say in obedience: it is written in the book of the testimony of God concerning His Son that I shall not love the world!                                                                     

G. Lubbers