That our calling, in this present evil world is a very serious one, we have pointed out in our first article on this passage.
We noticed, that our calling is, to live the life of the antithesis; we are to claim all things as ours in the Name of Jesus by faith, liberating it in faith and hope in Christ and placing all things in the service of God. Not dualism of good and evil in the creature is to be the principle of our life, but we are to live the life of grace in this world of sin, having the entire created “kosmos” in common with the world, grace excepted!
Such, we saw, was our holy calling.
Unto this John admonishes us in this passage from Holy Writ.
However, in thus admonishing us, he also assigns the spiritual motive and reason for our not loving the world.
In a word it is: it is impossible for those, who are engrafted by a true faith into Christ and all His benefits, to live any longer in this world as being of her.
Wherefore John writes: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him . . . Because all that is in the world, the lust of the fleshy the lusts of the eyes, and the vain glory of life, is not out of the Father but is out of the world”.
There are two pivotal truths from which John proceeds in His polemic with those who believe that truth and error, light and darkness, righteousness and sin can go hand in hand.
The first is, that God is a light and that there is no darkness in Him at all. Dogmaticians may argue about the exact meaning and scope of the term “light” in the phrase “God is light”, but the truth here expressed has a very practical principal import over against all dualism. The truth is that God is not both light and darkness. God is one. He is all His virtues. And in this perfection he is simple as the light. Evil cannot be “explained” out of God’s being; we need to bow down in worship and confess the testimony that came to us from the very beginning. It is the a-b-c of all Christian living. God is light; darkness is not in Him at all. God is not an excuse for sin. That God is “light” is the death-blow to all Manichean, Anabaptistic-Antinomian reveling in sin.
The second axiomatic truth of John is that God always demands that we confess Him to be light, and that we thus approach Him in worship in the whole kosmos. In this world (kosmos) the children of God live. And here we are to be of the party of the living God. We are to live in covenant fellowship with God. And the only guarantee of such fellowship is that we walk in the light, even as He is in the light.
It is not a relative matter, whether we walk in the light: it is most absolute.
The standard, the norm of life is absolute.
We are so to conduct ourselves in this world, in Christ, our Lord, that we sin not! No, John is not interested in our sinning less; that we improve our habits, that we touch not, taste not, handle not. John does not want a little religiousness, a tear, a sigh. John writes: “I write you little children, that ye sin not.”. And, again, he writes: “If anyone truly keeps His word, in him is the love of God perfected”.
We must not sin; love must be “perfected” in us!
Hence, love not the world, for that is “sin” and is not “the love of God perfected”.
John is not writing this admonition to the “world”. In the context he addresses the church; he calls the church the “little children whose sins are forgiven”; the “fathers who have known God” in the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins; the “young men”, who are strong by virtue of the word of God in their hearts, and who overcome the evil one!
To these he writes.
And the point of departure is not the law as law, as a mere confrontation of mankind in general, but it is most definitely that which is proclaimed to the church concerning the Word of life. John’s introductory sentence, sounding the key note is “that which was from the beginning, that which we have here, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, and was manifested unto us; that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, and that ye also may have fellowship with us; yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ: and these things we write, that your joy may be full”..
The point of departure is not in the law of Moses but in the Word of life, the crucified, and risen Christ, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification. In Him old things have passed away for us; the darkness is past and the true light already shineth. What is true in Jesus should also be true in us. Love must be perfected in us; God’s love for us; must fully come to fruition.
Hence, we have here a word of admonition to the church, that we shall not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. For, let it be noticed, when such love for the world is present then there is no love of God in our hearts.
It simply is a dreadful fact that love for the world and love of God do not do hand in hand, and it is certainly spiritually impossible for the saints to attempt both.
That John says: for all that is in the world . . . . is not out of the Father, but out of the world, is not a mere truism. It is not simply: what is out of the world is out of the world. These words are, in the contrary, full of dread meaning for the wicked, and are warning sufficient for those, who desire to obey the precepts of the gospel.
This word of warning is an appeal to the spiritual sensitiveness of the church, which can discern the things that differ!
The little children of God, the fathers in the faith, the young men, who are vigilant in the battle, are deeply concerned with doing only that which is out of the Father! It is true we still are in the body of this death; we still must contend daily with sin and all the weaknesses and corruption of the flesh. But principally we are new creatures, and we know God, as our God.
Hence, we know also that, which is out of God.
Now there is in the while world, that lies in darkness, nothing that is out of the Father. All that is in the world is evil.
In the first place, there are the lusts of the flesh. Lusts are the characteristic of the world of Satan and his hosts, and also of all evil men. “Lusts” are simply sinful desires. Satan desired to be as God, to dethrone Him. That is lust. Lust is the quintessence of sin. Thus it was with Eve. She believed the word of Satan, that God was keeping something from them. She lusted after the forbidden tree. Now lust of the “flesh” are lusts that have their origin in “flesh”. These lusts are not merely the lusts in the sense of sensual immorality, but they are lusts in the sense that man’s evil nature will not subject itself to the will of God. None of the commandments are kept by the flesh. It will not subject itself to God. In the whole “kosmos” there is nothing that the “flesh” can set in the service of God. It is simply flesh, enmity against God. It sets the whole creation apart from God. It makes man the center of all things, the one and all. God is not in all their thoughts. Him it does not know. It is not at all concerned with the will of God in Christ, the Savior of the kosmos! The flesh is Godless!
Secondly, there is the lust of the eyes. The eyes are the medium of drinking in the whole of the kosmos.
I take it, that John is here using the term eyes as synecdoche, a part for the whole. It refers to the sum total of all man’s ability to apprehend the world, the kosmos, and to set it in the service of sin. The light of the body is the eye. And this eye is evil, and so the entire life is wholly polluted. All things are in the service of sin.
Thirdly, the vain glory of life. “Life” must here be taken in the sense of the things of this tangible life, of the purely earthly. And “vain glory” is here the glorying in earthy riches and temporal success in life. The highest glorying in this sense we hear from Satan himself, when he says to Jesus, having shown him all the kingdom of the world, and the glory of them, “all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt worship me”. And possibly the greatest glorying recorded in Scripture is the proud boast of Nebuchadnezzar, when he say: Is this not the Babylon, that I have built?!
In this threefold evil life of the world there is nothing that fits in the life of the saints, who are told “not to sin”. We, who daily seek our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteousness, cannot will to walk with this evil world; here our love will never be perfected in the doing of the will of God all along the line.
Nay, this is the “world that passeth away and the lust thereof”!
The world of Nebuchadnezzar passes away. Presently it is swallowed up by the kingdoms of the Medes and Persians. The latter is again destroyed by the kingdom of the Macedonian, Alexander the Great, who in turn is again destroyed by the legions of the Roman Empire. Constantly the kingdom of this world passeth away under the wrath of God.
And not only this kingdom passes away. Also the “lusts” pass away. Its glory fades and vanishes. Their lusts do not satisfy and can to their own extremity. It is said of Alexander, who died an old man at the age of thirty years, that, when he had conquered the world, he wept. When asked the reason for his weeping, he is said to have replied, “because there are no more worlds to conquer”. The blood of the conquered could not satisfy.
And this is written for our comfort, that our joy may be full. A full cup of bliss must be ours. Shall this be the ease with us, who love the Father’s will, then we must see what our heavenly Father is doing with the very workers of iniquity, with His and our enemies. He leads them to the slaughter. Theirs is a dismal end.
And we? We are shown a new scene. It is the New Jerusalem in the new Kosmos, where righteousness dwells. The just shall dwell there.