1 John Lessons

1John 2:15-17 Literalize

vs 15  Do not take up a lifestyle loving the world or the things in the world. If anyone does so, the love of the Father does not exist in him. (Counter example of Aorist love of the world - 2Tim 4:10)
vs 16  For all (of what I'm referring to) that exists in the world——that is, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life——is not of the Father but is of the world.
vs 17  And the world is in the process of passing away, and the lust of it; but he who characteristically does the will of God continues on dwelling forever.

The theme of 1John is distinguishing false Christians from true, and everything in 1John is related to that theme, including these verses. There are very few commands in 1John as the content is mostly descriptive. In fact virtually every command that is given throughout 1John is followed by a clause or verses diagnosing a person's salvation status, as is the case here.

Starting from vs 15, we are commanded to not take up a lifestyle loving the world. What strikes many first about that command is the fact that love is commanded throughout the Bible and indeed much of first John instructs us to love. Furthermore, one of the most popular verses in the world is  John 3:16 which starts, "God so loved the world ..." Yet here loving the world is referring to a much different sense than in John 3:16. It speaks of a forbidden love.

Back in my college days where "friendship evangelism" was the catch phrase we used to speculate as what the distinction was between friendship evangelism and friendship with the world evangelism. For example some would practice evangelistic dating, which to me wreaks of friendship with the world evangelism given Paul said, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" 2Cor 6:14-15

This is not to say we are restricted from associating with non-Christians as acquaintances, as Paul said, 1Cor 5:9,10 "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." But he's speaking not of friendships, of associations that define who you are, but of mere acquaintances to which you are not bound. Of course given the shallow relationships with have here in the US, to say someone is a "friend" is just to say they are an acquaintance. Thus "friendship evangelism" should be more accurately coined "acquaintance evangelism".

But here John is not simply alluding to interpersonal relationships, but to the attributes associated with worldliness, of which I hardly need to elaborate upon as they are a common experience inherent in the human condition. The flesh lusts for things that are sinful. The eyes lust for things that are sinful. And pride is inherent of human nature. By the way, as a side note, the word for "flesh" here, and throughout the New Testament is the word "sarx" σαρξ, which the NIV often, though inconsistently,  translates "sinful nature", as is kind of implied here. I say this to keep you aware that whenever you see the word "flesh" in the New Testament, there's always the possibility that its referring to the sinful nature inherent in the human condition. And some places, if you interpret it that way, it may knock you sarx off! But as for the human condition Paul writes in Eph 2:1-3 of our state prior to being saved, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Thus by world here in 1John he means the ways of this world, of which Paul alluded to in the Ephesian's passage.

Worldiness as an Indicator

Now right after the command he gets into the issue of indicators - things which give us an indication, a diagnosis of a person's status, which is the theme of 1John. First he notes that worldliness is an indicator that a person does not have the Father's love existing in him. And in case you don't realize the implications of that, he later says in 1John 4:8 that "He who does not love does not know God". Those who are characteristically worldly, regardless of their claim of being Christian, do not know God.

But again, as is the case for most of 1John such indicators are a function of a person's characteristic behavior.  The present tense used here and throughout 1John, as I mentioned before in Greek it  indicates characteristic behavior. He is not making a statement concerning behavior which may be uncharacteristic of the person.  In this case he's referring to those who characteristically love the world - their chosen lifestyle.

By the way most of 1John speaks in the lifestyle sense, utilizing the present tense. Most of 1John is not about that which may be uncharacteristic of a person, but rather it speaks of the person's lifestyle. The most common misinterpretations of 1John is reading the present tense as if it were the aorist tense. Because of that, for example 1John 1:9 is one of  the commonly misinterpreted verse in the New Testament.
In fact let me share an example where loving the world is used in the aorist.  2Tim 4:10a "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." Demas, whom Paul commended in Colossians and in Philemon where Paul referred to him as his fellow worker, loved the world. So based on 1John 2:15, can we say that the Father's love did not exist in Demas and therefore he did not know God? No, we can't come to that conclusion based upon 1John 2:15 because the verse about Demas uses the aorist, speaking not of his lifestyle but of a particular event that occurred in his life.
It's essential to understand the distinction between the present and aorist when interpreting and applying what John is saying. Now if you're studying 1John and want a translation which makes a clear distinction between the aorist and present, you can reference my literalized version of 1John available online.

Passing Away

Those who are worldly set their desires on that which passes away. Contrast, for example, the attitude Paul advocates, "This I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away." 1Cor 7:29-31

Likewise Peter provokes the Christian community to consider this question. "The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" 2Pet 3:10-11 And as you get older your mortality because even more evident. Years ago when I turned 50 it dawned on me that I was not going to live as many years in the future as I had up to that point. How do the implications of your faith affect your attitude towards this passing lifetime you have and of the things which are destined to perish?

What kinds of things do the worldly give themselves to?
The accumulation of wealth and material things, social status, and power.
The seeking after pleasure to make their life all about having fun.
To be liked by others.
To destroy those they don't like.

What we can say is that God's love doesn't exist in those walking according to the pattern of this world. We're command in Rom 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world." The advertising industry tries to get us to crave after that which we don't need. By far the most popular sites on the web are pornographic sites, appealing to the lusts of the eyes. In the world one's worth is measured in monetary terms and popularity. Greed is the norm. The world runs after celebrities as role models. The world inflates the vice of pride, or masks it in terms like self-esteem, while the virtue of humility is devalued. But while the vast majority of music the world puts out is about what they refer to as "love", in fact the the love of the Father does not exist in the world.

Doing the Will of God

As for the last phrase, eternal life is reserved for those whose lifestyle can be characterized as doing the will of God. In Mt 7:21 Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Those who accept Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord, will perish. They are not saved. But also those who simply call Jesus "Lord", but don't treat Jesus as Lord by living a lifestyle in compliance to His will, they don't have eternal life either. They are not saved.

So as I said previously in this series, that 1John is about distinguishing whether or not a person is born of God. This is another distinguishing mark whereby you can identify whether or not one has eternal life.

Now one last thing. One other place were the phrase "does the will of God" is used in the New Testament is found in Mark 3 and the parallel passages in the synoptics which records an incident  were in  Mark 3:20,21 it says, "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" Who his family was is alluded to in Matt 13:55,56 where someone noted, "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?" Anyhow at this time his family thought he was nuts. Interesting to note further in Mark who actually showed up to take Jesus away to the funny farm in a straight jacket, for it says in Mark 3:31,32 "Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, 'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.'" Yes there was a time when Mary thought her son Jesus was nuts. And you may have experienced this in your own family. But Jesus goes on to seemingly disown his family, including his mother. For he responds to this by saying, "'Who are my mother and my brothers?' he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.'" Mk 3:34,35 Fortunately this was not a characteristic behavior of Mary, and many of his family later did come to faith, such as James and Jude. But even if you had given birth to Jesus or had grown up with him as brother or sister, that would not be particularly significant to Jesus. And again in Luke 11:27,28 it says, that While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." 

This is the mark of those who are in the family of God, hearing the Word, accepting it, and acting on it. The danger of not identifying false Christians is that you might be led to follow their example of worldliness.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 27,2018