Possibly the most famous Bible verse begins with these words, “For God so loved the world” (John 3.16).
The extent of God’s love for the world is further highlighted in the verse. “He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
How is it that the author of the Gospel could also write, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2.15)?
The answer to this question involves how “the world” is understood.
In John 3.16 “the world” is the people who reside on planet earth. The entire redemptive plan of God for humans is motivated by his love and grace for them.
The World’s System
No one loves humans more than Jesus, both in his earthly life and continued heavenly ministry.
Jesus interceded for humans in his High Priestly prayer in John 17. He continues to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 7.25).
However, Jesus does not pray for the world, meaning the world’s system.
“I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours” (John 17.9).
Jesus doesn’t pray for the world’s system and his followers should not be devoted to or love it.
Later in John’s letter, he wrote, “We know that we are God’s children and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (1 John 5.19).
The world’s system is controlled by the evil one and is a major opponent in conflict with God’s purposes for humanity.
John’s command is that followers of Jesus should break free from any allegiance to the world’s system.
His reasoning is as follows: “The love of the Father is not in those who love the world,
“For all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.
“And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God abide forever” (1 John 2.15-17).
Attitudes and actions that are part of the world’s system are common to humans but are in opposition to God.
“Desire” is too soft of a picture of what is involved when we join forces with the world’s system.
I may see an ice cream cone and desire one myself. If I trick the person with an ice cream cone and steal what belongs to them, I have done what “desire” in this passage means.
The “flesh” is one of the three main opponents to God – the world’s system, the flesh, and the devil and his demons.
The world’s system inspires human flesh (life apart from God) to strive for what the goals and objectives it sees as important.
Money, sex, and power are the “big three” items on the world’s agenda. Nationalism is another of the world’s big ticket items.
Love not the world.
When John tells us to not love the world, he is calling us to stop being devoted to the world’s system.
Jesus’ High Priestly prayer further explains why followers of Jesus should break free from the influence of the world’s system.
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17.14-18).
Below are a few bullet points based on Jesus’ prayer.
(1) Someone has said, “If you didn’t meet the devil today, it’s because you were walking in the same direction.”
This saying could easily have been, “If you weren’t opposed by the world’s system today, it’s because you are compromised by it.”
(2) Jesus’ followers are called to be “salt” and “light” in a corrupt world’s system. Jesus sends his followers into the world of humans to display his love to them.
(3) We are his “sanctified” people. As sanctified people, we are set apart to be God’s people, just as the Hebrew nation was to their pagan neighbors in the Old Testament.
As we embrace the truth of God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we will be his examples to the world’s system.
Rudy Ross and I continue our study of 1 John today. Our video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.