What is the meaning of “the world” which the disciples of Christ are not of?

That the disciple of Christ is in the world but not of it is a matter of common remark. John 17:11-16 are verses which supply ample authority for the statement.

But what is the world which we are in but not of?

We are certainly in the world — not only on the earth but in the great world system, i.e. the whole society and structure of things, which has grown up amongst fallen men as a result of sin, and of which Satan is the god and prince. This society carries its own influences, its atmosphere, so to speak, and where civilization has held sway it has taken on an attractive outward appearance; it wears an elegant mask. In all this we are, in a physical sense.

But of it, in a moral and spiritual sense we are not. Born again, redeemed, possessing life and the Spirit, we spring from a new and incorruptible source (1 Peter 1:23), we stand in new and heavenly relationship (Eph. 2:13-19). We can discern the true character of the world system and know it to be but the flimsy creation of man’s will, showing, if analysed, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” as its sole ingredients (see 1 John 2:15-17).

The believer thus is entitled to regard himself as sent into the world by the Lord after His own example, his business therefore being to represent his Master as He represented the Father (see John 17:18).

A word of caution is needed. There are many matters of daily life which are not of the world system, inasmuch as they have their origin not in man’s will but God’s appointment. Such, for instance, are the institution of work, marriage, authority, vested in “powers that be,” etc. Such matters must not be confounded with the world system.

F.B. Hole
S.T. 1919