Warring Against the World
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”- John 7:7
Commitment to Christ cannot be halfway; it requires a single-minded intent to press on and obey Him even when the going gets tough (Luke 16:16). We do not work up this intent ourselves, but it is a gift of God’s grace, and it is something that we should ask the Lord to grant us continually. Moreover, as we understand our primary enemies to Christian growth, we will see all the more the reasons why we need such a drive to serve Jesus.
Martin Luther said that Christians face three enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Obviously, these foes are interrelated. Our flesh—the remaining tendency toward sin in our lives—is co-opted by the devil to love the world and not the Savior. Yet, we can distinguish among these enemies, and today we are considering the opposition of the world.
When we are talking about the world as an enemy, we are talking about the fallen world system that sets itself in opposition to Christ. In itself, the world was originally very good (Gen. 1), but in the fall of Adam, it was set against its Creator. It hates Jesus because of His testimony about its fallen system of pride and ungodliness, and thus it gains the capacity to hate all who are united to Christ (John 7:7).
The world is that sphere, or that group of people, that has no affection for the things of God. It exists in antithesis and opposition to and tension over against the Lord’s kingdom. Yet our Creator loves the world even in its fallenness, and having sent His Son to save the world, commissions us as ambassadors of grace to the world (John 3:16; 20:21). As those who have been sent into the world, we are tempted to adopt the world’s ways, so Jesus has prayed for us that we would not be of the world and under the sway of Satan even as we remain in the world (John 17:14–16). This call to be in but not of the world is critical, emphasizing the biblical point that God does not save us in order to snatch us out of the world or that we might live in isolation in our own Christian ghettos. Instead, like Jesus, we are to minister in the world wherever we are to people no matter where they are from.
As we are seeking to share the gospel with others, there will be pressure to conform to the world, to water down the gospel so that we become more acceptable in its eyes. The danger of vain philosophy lurks around every corner. But the solution is not to ignore such things or to change our message to make it more acceptable. The answer is to remain in the world and confront the world—graciously, of course—with the truth of the gospel.
First Peter 3:15 gives us the prescription for dealing with the world. We are not to be recluses but are to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. That presupposes that we are in the world and that the world has reason to ask us about our hope because our manner of life is attractive. We should be ready to confront the world with God’s truth, but we should not do so in a cantankerous or caustically confrontational manner.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 2:15–17