quest for the secrets of the power in the church “As
it was in the beginning” — that is, in the
years immediately subsequent to the great Pentecost
— it is inevitable that we come to its relationship
to the world. This inevitability is forced upon us both
by its spirit and conduct and by the large place of
reference to the world in the New Testament writings. The
Lord Himself is recorded as having some very strong
things to say about the world. John in his gospel uses
the word seventy-seven times. In chapter seventeen alone
it occurs fifteen times. In his letters it is used some
twenty-one times. In Corinthians it is found twenty-two
times, and it is referred to in almost every other
the world, it is said:
1. That it is something that Christ had to overcome, and
which He said that He had overcome.
That in its entirety it lies in the wicked one, and has a
That it is hostile and inimical to God, and that to be
its friend is to be the enemy of God.
That it is something out of which Christians have been
taken, and are prayed for that, although in it, they may
be kept from it.
That it lies under condemnation and is to be destroyed.
more things are said about it, but we do not propose to
enter into an analysis of the word itself or the
difference in Greek words translated into this one word
some may perhaps quote John 3:16, over against the above:
“God so loved the world...”. This great
Scripture indicates the real meaning of what we are going
to say. There is really no contradiction. In order to
understand the contrast we have to ask the question: What
is this thing that is so out of favour with God and on
the other hand, what is it that God so loved?
the first question it can be said at once that, in this
sense of disfavour, “world” does not mean the
framework, the sphere, the material and geographical
structure. Neither does it essentially mean the people
within that structure. God does not hate mankind!
“World” must therefore mean something other,
and we can perhaps indicate this by certain terms such
as: a nature, a disposition, a mentality, a system, a
constitution, a way! It is in all this that what is
alien, hostile, and contrary to God is inherent.
“world” in this respect is outlawed by God
because foreign to His own nature and constitution. It is
here that this whole matter of worldliness rests. This
matter has suffered lamentably from over-simplification,
and has resulted in many people being put into a false
instance, worldliness has been made a question of where
people go (theatres, cinemas, dances, etc., etc.), or how
they dress and behave and talk. It has been said that to
become a Christian such things must be abandoned and
certain other things MUST take their place.
Pamphlets have been written on: Should a Christian go to
the theatre? — Smoke? — Drink alcoholic drink?
— Use make up? and so forth. This is to miss the
point entirely and can become as legalistic as Judaism.
Really, in all this, no less a point is missed than that
of the new birth itself, which, if genuine, —
resulting in the indwelling Spirit and life of God —
will answer all such questions FROM WITHIN.
look more closely at this term “world” in the
light of the Bible.
1. The World is a Nature
we have noted, the world is hostile to God, and God to
it, if it is something to be “overcome”, and
from which the Christian must be separated, if friendship
with it constitutes those concerned “enemies of
God”, then there MUST be something VERY evil
about it, and what is more evil than Satan himself? The
Bible represents Satan as having become “the PRINCE
of this WORLD” and its “god” by
the CONSENT and conquest of man, to whom the
created earth was committed as a trust.
let it be clearly understood that this change of
government was no mere “official” and formal
thing, so that Satan came to rule merely from an external
position. He captured mind, heart, and will and
inoculated man’s soul with his own nature.
Man’s nature was changed. What is that nature?
it is shown to be rivalry with God, that is:
To take the place of God.
To take God’s rights from Him and not let God be
To be independent of God and SELF-sufficient,
knowing better, able to do better, or to do without God.
To be possessed of power, to control, to master, to rule,
to be superior; a revolt against subjection and
is the nature with which, in greater or lesser degree,
humanity has been impregnated. The heart of this whole
issue is “selfhood”, rather than
“Godhood”. How does it work out?
It makes much more of the material and temporal than it
does of the spiritual.
God all things are viewed from the standpoint of
spiritual value. That is His very nature. God is a
Spirit, not impersonal, but a spiritual person. The
significance of persons in the Bible, and even after, is
the measure of the spiritual effect and fruit of their
lives and work.
will absorb and obsess with the material and temporal in
order to rob of the spiritual or to squeeze it out.
It makes everything of the present and blinds to the
we have and can get NOW is the main consideration.
This life is everything! This is the real; the eternal is
unreal to the natural man.
is a great point on which Satan tempted Christ and
offered Him the world. On this point Jesus overcame the
world! In the world the SEEN is what matters; the
natural senses of perception and evaluation wholly
govern. The standard of success is that of what can be
many other ways the nature of this world is in contrast
to that of God; its standards, its point of view, its
values, its aims, its thoughts, its ways, its spirit. One
of the greatest features in Christian spiritual education
is that of learning how altogether different are
God’s thoughts, standards of values and ways from
2. The World is a Prison
keeper of that prison is Satan himself.
Bible represents the souls of men as in captivity, in
bondage, in fetters, in prison, in the power of Satan. It
represents Christ as the anointed Redeemer breaking into
the world to “proclaim liberty to the captives, and
the opening of the prison to them that are bound”.
He is the Stronger than the strong man keeping his house!
escape or deliverance of a soul from the world is fraught
with very intense conflict, and forever after it is a
battle to keep free of its influence, its power and its
The World is a Lie
was at first trapped by a lie, so he remains the victim
of what is false. The more a person has of this world,
the greater the disillusionment at the end. Its pleasures
are a deceitful stream which will fail at last. Its
riches bring no deep heart satisfaction, and the soul
goes out as naked as it came in.
said that to gain the whole world at the expense of the
soul is no bargain. The subtlety by which man was first
captured was in the fact that the TRUTH as to the
ultimate result was not disclosed but hidden. Jesus left
the people of His day in no doubt that they were blind
and demonstrated it by miracles, that is by acts which
only GOD could do.
are degrees of blindness. There is the natural blindness
which is universal, but which can be remedied by the
grace and power of God. And there is the double blindness
of prejudice and pride added to nature, which is fatal.
Such was the blindness of the ruling religious class of
Christ’s time and it cost them everything of hope.
that we have said and all that it implies can be tested
by history and for Christians by experience.
the beginning” the church knew all this, stood in
the truth of it and taught it. Moreover, the Holy Spirit
made this very real. In those days a spiritual complicity
with the world was disastrous. When those who had
marketable goods and properties were turning them to
account for the furtherance of the Gospel, there were two
who took advantage of the “going” to get profit
for themselves. They took hold of the commercial element
of the world and linked it with the things of heaven. It
is later declared to be something put into the heart by
Satan. The result was disastrous for them, and the swift
visitation of judgment laid down for all time the
principle that commercialism in divine things is fatal.
because of the allowed invasion of the world into the
churches that their judgment was effected, as recorded in
Revelation, and in some cases the lampstand removed. The
great deception which is costing the church so much power
is, that in order to influence the world, it is necessary
to be one with it, to come down to its level; to employ
its methods, to use its means and to remove all
distinctiveness between the church and itself. The truth
is that the church’s power over the world is in
proportion to its separation from it. The question of
attraction is to be answered along the line of a
perfectly joyous and satisfied church without any of the
world’s playthings. This, we have seen demonstrated.
There is a magnetism about the joy and enjoyment of
wholly committed and consecrated Christians which makes
the world’s methods vain.
was “in the beginning” despite persecution,
ostracism, and much adversity. The secret of the early
power and growth of the church was the greatness of the
new world which had been opened in Christ, and the
church’s entrance thereinto. Christ ENTIRELY filled
their bill, and they needed no plus. What it meant was
the greatness of Christ and their apprehension thereof.
independence of the world was their power over it. The
sufficiency of Christ made that independence. It
intrigued the world, led to enquiry, investigation and
wistfulness, even if it did provoke the prince of this
world to bitter jealousy and antagonism.
church may have to travel a long way back to recover its
power and influence, but there is no alternative and the
world will prove its undoing, disillusionment, and shame.