Love Not The World : 1 John 2 : Bible Study

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

1 John 2:15‭-‬17 ASV

God so “loved the world” that he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16), but “world” here has a different meaning. “It is an inclusive term for all those who are in the kingdom of darkness and have not been born of God.”

It also regards the material and temporary character of it. It is “visible” and therefore must be classified among those things which “are seen,” contrasting with the things which “are unseen” and designated by Paul as eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It is the world-system organized in rebellion against God which is in view – the current climate of opinion, as we might say.

The word “love” is different here from that used in John 3:16. “In John 3:16, it is self-sacrificing love; here it is acquisitive love.” John will further explain his meaning in the next verse.

Love of the world … love of the Father … This strongly suggests the “love of God” contrasted with the love of mammon in Matthew 6:24; and John’s statement that the love of the Father is not in one who loves the world corresponds with Jesus’ declaration that “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

John has a little trick of “emphasizing a word by simply repeating it. He used world three times in this verse and another three times in the next two verses.”

John used this word “more than twenty times in this epistle,” and in more than one sense. Hoon thought that the “world” has the “sense of creation as contrasted with the Creator.”

For all that is in the world … is not of the Father … This has the effect of explaining what John meant by his use of “world” in 1 John 2:15.

It is that aspect of it which is “not in the Father.” It is therefore incorrect to accept “world” in these verses as meaning God’s glorious natural creation, described by the Father himself as “good” (Genesis 1:10,12,18,21,25).

Jesus said the world loves its own (John 15:19); Paul said, “Be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2); and John declared that, “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

In the light of these and many other passages in the New Testament, it is clear that John was here speaking of that phase of the world of people which is antagonistic to God.

Lust of the flesh … lust of the eyes … vainglory of life … For ages, students of the New Testament have seen in this triad suggestions of the triple temptation of Eve: the fruit was good to eat … beautiful to see … and would make one as God, knowing good and evil; and likewise the triple temptation of Christ: he was hungry … Satan showed him all the kingdoms of the world … such an exhibition of Jesus’ power as that of leaping from the parapet of the temple unharmed would have been a vainglorious triumph.

From such comparisons, the things mentioned by John in this verse have come to be called “the three avenues of temptation.”

The sins in view have been variously classified: sensuality, materialism, ostentation; voluptus (sensuality), avaritia (avarice), superbia (vain-glory); appetites of the body … desire to possess material things … egotism, etc.

A number of scholars are reluctant to allow that any correspondence of this passage with the temptations of Eve and of Christ is intended; but David Smith did not hesitate to affirm that, “Here is a summary of all possible sins, as exemplified in the temptations of Eve (Genesis 3:1-6), and of our Lord (Matthew 4:1-11).”


Lust of the flesh

All temptations which have their roots in appetites and needs of the body are included in this; but the appetites of the body are not in themselves sinful. Therefore, “flesh” is used here in “the ethical sense, meaning the old nature of man, or his capacity to do that which is displeasing to God.”

Lust of the eyes

The eyes have been called the gateway to the soul, hence the point of entry for many temptations. ‘tin John’s day, the impure and brutal spectacles of the theater and the arena would have supplied abundant illustrations of these.” It is no less true of our own times.

Pride of life

The central lust of the ego itself is indicated by this. The utterly selfish instinct in all human life that insists upon achieving the fulfillment of the person itself, the inherent passion of the soul to do its own will, fulfill its own desires, glorify its own ego, and to occupy the inner control-center of life – that is the pride of life. Salvation in Christ requires that this be denied. Macknight’s comment on this was:

John means all things pertaining to this life, of which men of the world boast, and by which their pride is gratified: such as titles, offices, lands, noble birth, honorable relations, and the rest, whose efficacy to puff up men with pride and to make them insolent, is not of God.

All of the vain things that so charm, seduce and dominate the lives of people during their brief pilgrimage upon earth are actually endowed with no more permanence than a mirage.

Whatever glory or eminence may come to man is only for the fraction of a moment; he builds for himself a house, a palace or an empire; but the whirling suns brush him into the grave, and where is he?

Whatever achievement, success or honor may place upon his head for an instant some distinction or accolade, tomorrow cannot remember it.

This tragic quality of all human glory is the reason why the apostles taught Christians to look to the unseen, the invisible realities of hope and faith in Christ for their true fulfillment.

As Paul put it:

We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Paul’s words are an excellent supplement to what John wrote in this verse.

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