Beware Of The World

1 John 2:15

imagesJohn begins this verse by issuing the command that the believer is not to love the world or anything in the world. Initially this command sounds strange given the fact that John 3:16 says clearly and beautifully that God loves the world and the fact that 1 John 2:2 says the Son made atonement for the sins of the world. What is the difference? The difference is found in the way John uses the term kosmos in each instance. Contextual considerations are crucial. In these epistles and the Gospel, John employs this term in three distinct and basic ways: (1) the created universe (3:17; 4:17; John 1:10); (2) the world of human persons (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2); and (3) an evil organized earthly system controlled by the power of the evil one that has aligned itself against God and his kingdom (4:3–5; 5:19; John 16:11). In these verses John uses the third meaning. One should note that John is not advocating an ontological dualism or a dualistic cosmology in which the creation is evil. He is advocating a temporal, ethical dualism in which there is a constant battle going on between the realms of darkness and light. That this dualism is temporal and not eternal is made clear by the transient nature of the world and its lust in v. 17.

The verb agapaō, used in this context to describe both the love of the world and the love of the Father could carry a different meaning in each usage. The difference in these uses is not the emotion that is felt by the individual but the application of that emotion, or attraction, in a positive or negative manner. When an individual believer fulfills the love command by showing compassion to a brother or sister (2:10), this love is properly motivated and properly directed. When people love the world, they are misapplying this human emotion in a way that will lead to their demise. In a sense love is neutral. The object of one’s love or affection is decisive. John charges us to love neither the world in general nor the things of the world in particular. The command is comprehensive. Our allegiance must not be divided. Our affection must be focused and specific.

1 John 2_4_6The correct application of love springs from the fact that the believer has a singular loyalty and commitment to the Father. This verse states clearly that one cannot love the world and love God at the same time. The absolute nature of this statement is striking and compels careful and serious reflection. The stakes are high. Because the Father’s kingdom is at war with the kingdom of this world, the two will never coexist peacefully. To pledge allegiance to one side is to declare opposition to the other.

Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, pp. 108–109). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.