1 John 2:15-17 – What’s Wrong With The World?

the-world-in-hurricaneThere is a battle for truth in our world today. We have, so far, seen that true fellowship with God is marked by:

  1. An increased consciousness of sin (1 John 1:6-10)
  2. A growing likeness to Christ (1 John 2:1-6)
  3. God’s light shines in God’s law and in Christian love and conviction (1 John 2:7-14)

Now we ask, what is wrong with the world and what does it mean to not love the world?

The World

Christians can get confused about what should be their attitude to the world. On the one hand we know “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) On the other hand we see “The whole world is in the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and we are told in our passage “Do not love the world…” How should we understand this?

The world (Kosmos gk) has different shades of meaning. In the Psalm we read, “The Earth is the LORD’S and everything in it” (Ps.24:1) In the Creation narrative we learn that man is to rule over the whole earth (Gen.1:26) and is the pinnacle of God’s “good” creation (Gen.3:16)

In his gospel, however, John refers to the darkness of the world (Jn.1:5) meaning the organised system of human civilisation. In this respect, James tells us that “friendship with the world is hatred towards God” (James 4:14) So it is that John warns us “Do not love the world.”fallen-world-cs-lewis

How do we compromise with the world?

John, in verse 16 of our text, describes the world in this same sense of man’s rule and organisation. He identifies three marks of this “world”:

  1. The cravings of sinful man

  2. The lust of the eyes

  3. The boasting of what he has and does

It is not the world in our first sense, the natural world, he has in mind but the world of sinful man in the world (Mk.7:20-23) The origin of this sinful world can be seen in the fall of man. There we see parallels with what John is saying:

There were three stages by which Eve was brought to sin and rebellion

Three key things are identified in John’s letter as dangerous to the Christian life
Gen 3:16

The fruit satisfied her appetite for food

It looked good to the eyes

It boosted her ego in giving “wisdom”

1 John 2:16

The cravings of sinful man

The lust of the eyes

Boasting of what you have/have done

The Cravings of Sinful Man

The physical appetites are not evil but God-given and essential. Our fallen sinful nature demands a level of satisfaction that involves breaking God’s laws, going to excess. We can’t love God and live this way – love the world.

The Lust of the Eyes

The desire to see things for sinful pleasure is not healthy. We see, we crave, we must have it, we make it ours. This is how advertising works. Christians can’t love God and be slaves to consumerism.

Boasting of What he Has and Does

God’s gifts are to be used wisely and humbly. We are not to seek to impress others, boast of our material possessions. There is no such thing as a “glamorous Christian.”

Too often when we face temptation we ask, “Is there anything wrong with it?” We should be asking, “Is there anything right in it?” (1 Cor.6:12;10:23) The world’s attractions fail to satisfy and cannot last (1 Jn.2:17) So why should heirs of the eternal world so concentrate on the passing glory of this world? To the one who craves satisfaction from this world, the things of this world will never be enough. For the Christian who loves God there is always satisfaction and fulfilment.

The Godly Alternative

“But the man who does the will of God lives for ever.” (1 Jn.2:17)

We face a choice: doing and getting what we want, or obeying God’s will and following his purposes. Which is the guiding principle of our lives? Remember, we don’t get to heaven by the things we do, by our works (Jn.6:29) But we need not drift on the world’s tide towards God’s judgement. Instead we can surrender our lives to God who saves us, making Jesus our Lord and loving him and obeying him.

1 John 2:18-23 – The Battle for Truth

Believe and Behave

John here addresses the battle for truth in the church and in the world. Truth is threatened these days by the same challenges:


As long as your sincere it doesn’t matter what you believe

That’s true for you but not true for me

There are no absolute truths

What is important is choice and tolerance

“Religion” is a private matter and I am glad you have found something for you

If we apply this thinking elsewhere it can be disastrous. Nobody would say “gravity is true for you but not for me.” No one would allow their children to eat poison because it may not be poisonous for them. What would happen if we allowed this relativism into the church? What would our message look like? There are absolutes in this world, a structure of reality. The same is true for the spiritual realm.

John writes about the last hour. This carries the same meaning as the last day; the period between the first and second coming of Christ. This is the age of the gospel and is marked by hostility from the world, error and persecution. We are to be on our guard, then, against those who oppose truth.


Recognising anti-Christ

Only John uses this term, anti-Christ (1 Jn.2:22; 4:3; 2 Jn.7) Jesus warned of “pseudo-Christs,” or false Christs, and false prophets. (Mt.24:24) and Paul talks about “a man of lawlessness” who proclaims himself to be God (2 Thes.2:3-4) These will all be a focus for anti-Christian forces. There are two broad categories:

  1. The first is a rival to Christ, claiming to have all Christ’s power – a usurper
  2. The second stands in opposition to Christ – an open enemy

How would we recognise and oppose such forces?

Belief – verses 22-23

Everything depends on what someone believes about Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples in Mk.8:29, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s answer is, “You are the Christ.” Do we understand that he is God’s own Son; the Christ; sent from the Father; Emmanuel, God with us?

Belief systems that deny the deity of Christ are anti-Christ.

Those in the church who deny either the full humanity or the full deity of Christ are anti-Christ.

John makes clear that to deny Christ is to deny the Father. Gordon H Clark said:


“False doctrine is a lie; it is the opposition of truth; and no amount of putative [commonly accepted] devotional experience can substitute for it.”


Behaviour – verse 19

Anti-Christs disassociate themselves from the body that holds the orthodox doctrine. They see themselves as elite. Apostasy begins with separation. Christians, on the other hand, seek fellowship with other Christians.

Countering anti-Christs

We counteract anti-Christs by firmly holding to the truth. Look at how John describes Christians:

“But you…” (v 20); “As for you…” (v 27); “But we know…” (3:2); “But you know…” (3:5)

The Christian stands in opposition to the error because they know:

Belief – 20-21

You have an anointing. Christ is the Anointed One, and we are anointed in him. “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Eph.4:7-8) It is the Spirit’s ministry to guide God’s children into God’s truth (Jn.16:13) We only know God’s truth because of the ministry of God’s Spirit. Verse 21 is saying “hold on to what you already know.” The answer to doubt is not so much faith as truth. We have faith in the truth!

Behaviour – Verse 19

We need one another, to encourage one another in the truth. Therefore, we continue in fellowship. Every temptation, be it doubt, troubles, novelty, is met with truth in fellowship.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Pet.5:8-9)