The Christian and the World

Page Title

Paul Wong

Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the heavenly Father for His disciples:


“I have given them Your word; and the world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified by the truth.  I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” (Jn. 17:14-20)


It appears that a Christian’s life is a dichotomy (contradiction) in regard to his existence in the world.  According to our Lord’s prayer of intercession for His disciples the Christian should be “not of the world” but also remain “in the world.”  A careful study of the Bible will clarify the Christian’s relationship with the world.


When Jesus talked about the world He did not mean the physical universe.  At Creation God was pleased with His handiwork.  After each day’s creation “God saw that it was good.” (Gen. 1:10, 12, 17, 21, 25)  After creating the first humans “then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)  So Jesus was not talking about the human world either.  Read this:


“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn. 3:16-17)


The “world” that our Lord Jesus Christ talked about is translated from the Greek word “kosmos” (Κόσμος,– Strong’s # 2889).  This word primarily means “order, system or arrangement.”  When used in the negative biblical sense it refers to two things.  One, it refers to the spiritual realm or sphere of influence by the devil who has organized the world of unbelieving mankind, upon his cosmic principles of force, greed, selfishness, ambition, and lustful pleasure (Mt. 4:8-9; Jn. 12:31; 14:30; Eph. 2:2; 6:12; 1 Jn. 4:4-5; 5:19).  Two, it also refers to the prevailing condition of human affairs in alienation from and opposition to God (Jn. 7:7; 8:23; 1 Cor. 2:12; Gal. 4:3; Gal. 6:14; Col. 2:8).


Jesus Christ and the World


Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the Pharisees who had questioned His authority, “You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (Jn. 8:23)  Here Jesus made a clear distinction and contrast between His and their origin.  He had indicated two truths.  First, His origin is “not of this world” which means He comes from heaven.   Second, His whole lifestyle and teaching is “out of this world” which means it has nothing to do with the worldly system.  In His prayer to the heavenly Father when He said that His disciples are also “not of the world, just as I am not of the world” He meant that they are also separated from the worldly system. 


The Church is called out of the World


The concept of the Church originates from the Greek word “ekklesia” that means “a called-out assembly”.  The children of Israel that were called out of Egypt is designated as “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38).  The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who were not a people but are not the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9-10)


The Disciples can overcome the World


Our Lord did not promise the disciples they would have an easy time in the world.  On the other hand He had warned them, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)   With these words He told His disciples to take courage.  In spite of the inevitable struggles they would face, they would not be alone.  Jesus does not abandon us to our struggles either.  If we remember that the Lord Jesus Christ had already won the ultimate victory, we can claim the peace of Christ in the most troublesome times.


“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  They are of the world, and the world hears them.”      (1 Jn. 4:4-5)


“Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Php. 4:4-7)


Do not love the World


“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. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn. 2:15-17)


In this passage the term “world” is used to describe the community of sinful humanity that possesses a spirit of rebellion against God (1 Jn. 5:19).  Because of its opposition to God, the world values those things that are contrary to God’s will: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”  Its temptations to the believer are thus threefold: One, lust for the sensual and sexual pleasures of the flesh. Two, lust for the visible and outward form of things. Three, pride in the mastery of life.  None of these things come from God.  They are of the world and will be gone on its way to oblivion.  By contrast, “he who does the will of God abides forever.”



Do not Conform to the World


“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2)


Our Lord Jesus had prayed for His disciples to remain “in the world” yet they are “not of the world”.  Paul reminds us “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” (2 Cor. 10:3) Our battles are fought on a spiritual plane. Here Paul urges us not to conform to this world.  It is a fine line that we walk. We live within the culture, participate in the culture, we are a light unto the culture; to some extent we are even a part of the culture. But we as Christians must never allow the culture to define or control us.   We set the standards for the culture and let the world follow us through the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Today the world is invading the Church, when we should be invading the world. Christianity has been corrupted by a passion for pleasure. Too often we have adopted the culture's rules, goals, methods, and definition of success. How far can we go by trying to impress the world and trying to make ourselves acceptable to the world's wisdom? The church rushes to embrace the latest intellectual fad or social cause. We rationalize our compromise with the world's standards by explaining we are trying to remain relevant, that it is necessary for our witness. But what has been our witness in recent years?  Many of our institutional churches have turned their backs on the Scriptures, even on the basic Christian truths and teachings. We have adopted the ways of the world when we ought to be offering the world a superior way. The Christian must be faithful to the Lord’s commission.  Let us live our lives in this world without being of the world.  We can still work, play, love, laugh, cry and do everything that this life involves without compromising the truth of God. That is God’s mandate for every Christian.


Christians and Human Governments


During the time of our Lord Jesus Christ Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire.  The Jews had the preconceived idea that the Messiah would overthrow the heathen government to set up the Kingdom of God.  Since Jesus did not do that the people did not believe He was the Messiah and they crucified Him.  Throughout our Lord’s ministry He had preached the Kingdom of God and declared it to be a spiritual kingdom and not an earthly one (Jn. 18:36-37; Lk. 17:20-21). 

Jesus did not start a revolution against Rome but taught the people to honor the government and abide by the civil laws by paying the taxes.  He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 22:21)  From this statement our Lord has given us a general principle that we should honor and obey the human governments and at the same time worship and honor God.  Subjection to civil governments is not inconsistent with the reverence and fear of God. 

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:1-7)

The general function of human government, as instituted by God, may be said to be threefold: to protect the law-abiding citizens, punish the evildoers and promote the general welfare of the community where the laws are in effect.  Paul exhorts us to pray for human leaders so that “we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.  Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Pet. 2:13-17)

It is impossible for a believer to be a good Christian and a bad citizen at the same time.  As children of God our responsibility to human government is threefold.

1.          We are to recognize and accept God ordains the government of a country.  “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom. 13:1)  This truth applies even to the governments that are not Christian unless, of course, the nation’s laws are anti-God.  In that situation the believer must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20)

2.          We are to pay our taxes to human governments (Mt. 17:24-27; 22:21; Rom. 13:7)

3.          We are to pray for the leaders in human government (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Without prejudice or bias, although the government of the United States of America is far from perfect yet, I believe, it is still one of the best in the world.  Only the Kingdom of God is perfect.  There are still many facets of our government policies that need to be worked out and improved.  We pray for God’s guidance and blessings for our country, our president and those in government.

May God bless you


This article is based on a sermon preached by Paul Wong

to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on March 16, 2002.

It is published on this Website on August 11, 2009

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