Summary: John’s epistle has reminded us to exercise love (1 John 2:7–11)—the right kind of love. Now it warns us that there is a wrong kind of love, a love that God hates. This is love for what the Bible calls “the world.”
The Test of Spiritual Maturity
Scripture Reference: 1 John 2:12 – 17
A group of first-graders had just completed a tour of a hospital, and the nurse who had directed them was asking for questions. Immediately a hand went up.
“How come the people who work here are always washing their hands?” a little fellow asked.
After the laughter had subsided, the nurse gave a wise answer:
“They are ‘always washing their hands’ for two reasons. First, they love health; and second, they hate germs.”
In more than one area of life, love and hate go hand in hand. A husband who loves his wife is certainly going to exercise a hatred for what would harm her. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Ps. 97:10). “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cleave to what is good” (Rom. 12:9, NASB).
John’s epistle has reminded us to exercise love (1 John 2:7–11)—the right kind of love. Now it warns us that there is a wrong kind of love, a love that God hates. This is love for what the Bible calls “the world.”
There are four reasons why Christians should not love “the world.”
I. Because of What The World Is
The New Testament word world has at least three different meanings. It sometimes means the physical world, the earth: “God that made the world [our planet] and all things therein” (Acts 17:24).
It also means the human world, mankind: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Sometimes these two ideas appear together: “He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world [earth] was made by Him, and the world [mankind] knew Him not” (John 1:10).
But the warning, “Love not the world!” is not about the world of nature or the world of men. Christians ought to appreciate the beauty and usefulness of the earth God has made, since He “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). And they certainly ought to love people—not only their friends, but even their enemies.
This “world” named here as our enemy is an invisible spiritual system opposed to God and Christ.
We use the word world in the sense of system in our daily conversation. The TV announcer says, “We bring you the news from the world of sports.” “The world of sports” is not a separate planet or continent.
It is an organized system, made up of a set of ideas, people, activities, purposes, etc. And “the world of finance” and “the world of politics” are likewise systems of their own. Behind what we see, in sports or finance, is an invisible system that we cannot see; and it is the system that “keeps things going.”
“The world,” in the Bible, is Satan’s system for opposing the work of Christ on earth. It is the very opposite of what is godly (1 John 2:16) and holy and spiritual. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19, NASB).
Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). The devil has an organization of evil spirits (Eph. 6:11–12) working with him and influencing the affairs of “this world.”
Just as the Holy Spirit uses people to accomplish God’s will on earth, so Satan uses people to fulfill his evil purposes. Unsaved people, whether they realize it or not, are energized by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1–2).
Unsaved people belong to “this world.” Jesus calls them “the children of this world” (Luke 16:8). When Jesus was here on earth, the people of “this world” did not understand Him, nor do they now understand those of us who trust Him (1 John 3:1).
A Christian is a member of the human world, and he lives in the physical world, but he does not belong to the spiritual world that is Satan’s system for opposing God.
“If ye were of the world [Satan’s system], the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18).
“The world,” then, is not a natural habitat for a believer. The believer’s citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20, NASB), and all his effective resources for living on earth come from his Father in heaven.
The believer is somewhat like a scuba diver. The water is not man’s natural habitat, for he is not equipped for life in (or under) it. When a scuba diver goes under, he has to take special equipment with him so that he can breathe.
Were it not for the Holy Spirit’s living within us, and the spiritual resources we have in prayer, Christian fellowship, and the Word, we could never “make it” here on earth.