The World. When scripture uses the word “world” it usually means one of three things:
- The World-place (“the planet”). In the most basic sense, the term refers to the literal planet earth. An example of this is Romans 1:20; “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
- The World-people (“the people”). In another sense, the term refers to all the people living in the world. A classic example is John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- The World-system (“the program”). In a third sense, the term is used to describe a system that exists in independence of God. This “world” is positively against God and God’s people. A good example of this is in John 15:18; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”
The World System. The world is a vast system set up by men, energized by Satan, in which men may live in independence of God. The world provides manufactured resources to fill the void that exists in every human heart. Where did the world come from? What is the world characterized by? Where is it going? These are important questions to ask and have answered from the Word of God.
- Origin. If we go back to the beginning, we find the origin of the world-system in Genesis 4. “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord… and builded a city” (Gen. 4:17). Cain himself is known for bringing a bloodless sacrifice to the Lord, and committing murder. Then he went out from the presence of the Lord and set up a system in independence of God. This is the birth of civilization without God. Following Cain was a line of descendants that further developed aspects of that system; “Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle… Jubal was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ… Tubalcain was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron” (Gen. 4:20-22). All of these things – commerce, art, science – are calculated to occupy the attention and blind the eyes of men.
- Present State. The present state of the world is that it under the sentence of judgment. This sentence was passed when the world cast out the Son of God, as Jesus could say; “Now is the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). We find also that Satan is the “god” of this world (religiously, 2 Cor. 4:4), and also the “prince” of this world (politically, John 12:31). The present state of the world is that it “lies in the Wicked One” (1 John 5:19). Therefore, the believer is to be separate from the world, as crucified to it (Gal. 6:14), for “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).
- Destiny. The destiny of the world-system is judgment. Prophetic events reveal the storm of judgment that is ahead for this world.
Worldliness and its results. Worldliness is the character of being like the world. The world is set in direct opposition to Christ. Even "the things of the world" should be shunned by the believer (1 John 2:15). A believer cannot walk with Christ and with the world. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). As we survey the Word of God, we find that worldliness is at the root of many troubles that Christians experience. Worldliness leads to the following:
- Offends the heart of God and Christ (Gal. 6:14; James 4:4; 2 Cor. 6:15; Hos. 3:1).
- Destroys communion with the Father and Christ (1 John 2:15; 2 Cor. 6:15, 18; Hos. 2:13).
- Weakens our appetite for spiritual food (Num. 11:5; Hos. 2:5).
- Loss of moral discernment (Judges 16; Hos. 7:8-11).
- Leads us into sin (1 Cor. 15:33).
- Brings emptiness into our soul (Jer. 2:13; Psa. 106:15)
- Dampens the affections for fellow-believers (2 Cor. 6:14; Amos 3:3; Hos. 4:11).
- Spoil our effectiveness in service (2 Cor. 6:14; Hag. 1:6; Gen. 19:14).
- Brings down the government of God on us (Gal. 6:8; Hos. 2:9; 4:17).
Nay, world! I turn away,
Though thou seem’st fair and good;
That friendly outstretched hand of thine
Is stained with Jesus’ blood.
If in thy least device
I stoop to take a part,
All unaware, thine influence steals
God’s presence from my heart.1
How to Overcome the World? In 1 John 5:4-5 we learn how we can overcome the world. The secret of overcoming the world is faith. “For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Faith in the believer apprehends Jesus as the Son of God. When we consider Him, the lowly, subject One, as the glorious Son of God, we get a victory over the world. His personal glory eclipses all that this world has to offer, and when we consider what the world did to Him, we will want nothing to do with it. It isn’t by fasting, isolation, or self-flagellation that victory is gained. It is through faith in the Son of God as the center of another world altogether! The world pales in comparison to the Son, and we become willing to bear the shame and reproach, knowing that the world has crucified our Lord.2 We can take courage knowing that Christ has overcome this same wicked world; “In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
- Margaret Mauro, The Young Christian.
- Unspeakable mystery of the knowledge of Jesus! a crucified One is the Son of God! Faith knows this Saviour rejected by the world, and clings to Him. The name of Jesus has an all-powerful attraction for faith; and finding a blessed portion in Jesus it joyfully accepts the place of the Saviour here below. What can the world do against the faith that sees things thus? It is not astonishing that faith in Jesus should be in conflict with the world; for if a crucified one be the Son of God, what an overthrow of the order of things in belonging to this world! But this rejected One has overcome the world and faith shares in His victory. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle of John.