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 3:16which
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
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
In fact let me share an example where loving the world
is used in the aorist. 2Tim
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
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.
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
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
What kinds of things do the worldly give themselves to?
The accumulation of wealth and material things, social status, and
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
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.