The Epistles of John part 3          Download in Pdf format

Our passage for this week was 1 John 2: 15 - 29

This section starts off with an exhortation that we are not to love the world. As we have seen in many other scriptures over the past few months, here again (v 15) the love for the world and the love for God is put in stark contrast and opposition to each other. To clarify this, we looked at the following references: Matthew 6: 24   James 4:4    1 Corinthians 7: 31  and  Galatians 6:14

It is important to note what the Greek word behind "The World" is, in v 15. The Greek word is 'Kosmos' which means 'an order of things, a system, way of operation or government'. This is essential to know, because it is not to be confused with appreciating something that is beautiful or well made. Personally, I often marvel at God's creation and I also appreciate things that are well put together such as a piece of furniture or some medical instrument. The concept that is put across here is the 'system of the world, the way it operates'. Leading on from that, we then looked more closely at this 'love' of the world that is spoken of... 1 Corinthians 7:31 reads:

"...those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." (NIV)

 "...and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away." (ESV) 

"...Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. (Living Translation).

It is thus an involvement, a valuing of, a preoccupation with, a being engrossed in, trusting in, the system of this world.

We then spent some time discussing in the group what 'the system of the world' called to mind for us individually. There were several contributions: selfishness, conditional giving, conditional love, being the master of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship, lots of motivational speaking, doing things in your own strength, money is power, little or no integrity, many clever techniques, marketing by way of making people discontented with what they have, outward appearances are very important - to name but a few.  We have these ideas echoed for us in verse 16 as 'the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does' It also makes clear that the world, its system and its desires, is passing away.

We took note of a particularly interesting word in v 17 '...but he who does the will of God lives forever.' The word "does" (also found in v 29 - "...everyone who does what is right..", means 'to bring forth, shoot forth, produce'. This is very important because it calls to mind the image of the vine and the branches in John 15: 1 - 6.

Our passage then shifts focus to a warning against Antichrists. This is interesting, because it seems as if it does not follow on naturally form the previous section which deals with the love of the world and its system...however, as we soon saw, it follows on absolutely perfectly. First of all we looked at what is meant in the Greek with 'Antichrist' and we found that it means 'adversary of Christ, opposite to Christ, other than/outside of Christ'. This lays the foundation for our understanding of how v15 - 17 fits together with v 18 - 29. At this point I made it clear that for the purpose of this study, I did not want to give a teaching on the Antichrist as revealed in Revelation, Daniel and elsewhere, which of course is an interesting subject all on its own. However, there is much to learn from the passage before us about the nature of the Antichrist and how it links up with the love of the system of the world.

First of all we find firmly embedded in the system of the world, the idea of doing everything in your own strength. Self reigns supreme. There is a whole lot of activity and bustling about.. However, the passage before us is directed at Christians and the warning is that the Antichrists have come among them (v 19), into the church. This led us to start thinking about some religious people who, in history, were vehemently opposed to Christ. Des was quick off the mark and mentioned the Pharisees. Upon closer examination we saw that they were preoccupied with 'doing' things. They literally had hundreds of rules that they followed to the letter...they were very proud, they had power, they gave in order to receive back, they relied completely on their own strength and they valued external appearance. This reminded us of our description of the system of the world earlier, and we realised that they belonged very much more to the system of the world than to the Kingdom of God. They also hated Jesus..why? We found an interesting reference in John 7: 7 "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil". We often read about the Pharisees becoming very angry because Jesus revealed the evil in their hearts.  

What is important here is to note that even though the Pharisees were extremely religious, they belonged fully and operated fully, according to the system of the world! Let us remind ourselves again of the start of our passage - that the system of the world stands in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God. Next, we considered what our own personal ideas about the Antichrist are and we had several contributions. Most expressed the idea that Antichrists are going to be easily recognisable because they will be so very evil...However, it is much more subtle than that - it comes into the church inside a Trojan Horse looking religious on the outside, but holding to the world's system, on the inside. Antichrist will look quite acceptable and deceive many.

The passage before us howver, gives us a wonderful guideline to help us. It is clear when we look at v 20 - 29 that there are several references to the Holy Spirit who lives within us and causes us to do and act according to God's will. This is where the Kingdom of God and the system of the world are in stark contrast. In God's kingdom we humble ourselves before Him, there is no boasting or pride; we are aware of our own sinfulness and weakness. Whatever we do, is simply a result of Him living in us (See the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 19 - 26). In us, He use the weak things of the world to shame the strong and when it comes to His church, it is His Spirit within us that overflows to love and good deeds.  This is certainly in stark contrast to what we have learnt about the nature of the system of the world, where it is all Go! Go! Go!

Friends, the system of the world has absolutely no place in the church of Jesus Christ. It does not rely on Christ and His Spirit within us, it promotes self-reliance and reliance on scores of clever techniques, systems and programmes. (2 peter 1:16). One who brings this into and promotes it in the church, can rightly by definition be called an Antichrist, because reliance on something other than Christ, is advocated.

Next, we looked at another very interesting phenomenon in the system of the world - the fact that it runs out of steam...Many of us have testified to seeing this before and it makes for good business for motivational speakers, because they have to constantly motivate or dangle carrots, to get people to do what has to be done. This stands in stark contrast to the kingdom of God where His Spirit living within us, provides a constant, never-ending stream of living water welling up from inside, resulting in a constant flow of love and good deeds. Read John 4: 10 - 14 and John 15:16 - '...fruit that will last...'. also Exodus 3: 2 - 3

We then looked at a very interesting passage in 2 Timothy 3: 8 - 9. This passage speaks about people in the last days displaying a form of Godliness but denying its power. We looked closely at the section about the two magicians who opposed Moses in Pharao's court. Exodus 7:11:
"Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said."

The most important lesson from this for us, is that Pharao could say to Moses and Aaron "Look, my guys can do exactly the same as you! Get out of here! your God is not more powerful than mine!" (Later on, of course, when God raised the bar, they could not do the same miracles) but, this reminds us of people in the world looking into a church which relies on the system of this world, where reliance is not on Christ and His indwelling Spirit, and they say: "hey, look, there is no difference between you and me...I lose my temper when a certain amount of pressure is applied, and you lose your temper at the same point!.. Hey, I lose my patience when such and such happens, and you lose your patience at the same point!.. Hey, I see you are also full of hatred, bitterness and, this God and Christianity business is a load of rubbish!...Friends, we are no witness at all as long as we rely on the world's system in the church. Our own strngth will let us down every time. Therefore, the supreme work of ministers is to bring people into that close relationship with Jesus Christ who restores our fellowship with the Father and causes His Spirit to come and live in us. That is the true work of the church. Everything else follows from that. I can personally testify that I have encountered churches where the is an immense amount of activity and programmes, but the members are spiritually bankrupt, unable to testify at all about their relationship with Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Personally, I must admit that I do not blame people in the world for rejecting God and the church these days. Any sane person would do the same. If the church is running on the same system as the world but just with a christian flavouring, what is the point... They will rather stick to their version of the world then...

We ended with a glorious scripture from Zechariah 4: 1 - 14
This is an image where the lights on the lampstand are burning continously because of the golden oil flowing down the golden pipes from the olive trees...
Verse 6 is especially beautiful; "...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit..."

May God bless to our hearts and minds what we have studied from His Word this week.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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