Bible Answer

How are we to “not love the world”?

Can you explain 1 John 2:15-17?

In 1 John we read:

1John 2:15  Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

John wrote to believers in his letter to abstain from evil. In v.15, the term "world" (kosmos) refers to the ungodly system of values, priorities, and beliefs that all unbelievers hold. It is a moral and spiritual system designed to draw people away from God by acting as a rival to God. It is a seductive system that appeals to all people – believers as well as unbelievers – and it demands our affection, participation, and loyalty. Satan controls this system, and believers should shun it.

John says that if a person is in agreement with the world’s system then they are, by definition, not in agreement with godliness. In that sense, the love of God is not presently in (i.e., in control of) that person, since they have elected to give their allegiance to the world’s system instead. In some cases, consistently agreeing with the world may indicate a lack of saving faith in such a person.

Nevertheless v.15 was not intended as a litmus test for whether a person is truly saved, because believers can and often do get caught up in loving the world at the expense of their Christian witness, and in those moments the love of God (in the sense of a love for His way) is not in them. In that sense our willingness, or lack thereof, to reject the world serves as a general measure of our spiritual health.

Regarding v.16, Pastor Armstrong recently explained 1 John 2:16 as part of his teaching on the temptations of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. Please listen to Lesson 4B.