I was somewhat amazed to find that the word world is used more than 200 times in the New Testament. That’s more frequently than love or Holy Spirit appear. God must have felt it quite important that we clearly understand its meaning. The Greek word in Scripture for world is kosmos. It has three primary uses:
One: To reference the material universe or Earth. “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matthew 13:35).
Two: To reference the inhabitants or people of the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Three: To reference the moral and spiritual systems we call society. It’s that realm of the world developed through human effort rather than created by God. It consists of political and governmental systems, economic and financial systems, educational systems, religious systems, entertainment systems, legal systems, medicine, the arts, science and technology, and so forth. Eliminate such elements, and you do away with a society. The Bible refers to this third use when it says that Satan is the world’s ruler. “We know that we [Christians] are children of God, and that the whole world [societies] is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
Until a person has been born again, he or she is a member of the kingdom of the world, which is under Satan’s spiritual influence. Most of what has been developed by mankind falls into the realm of the kingdom of the world. They are not of God’s Kingdom; i.e., they are not under the control and influence of the Holy Spirit. “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 the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit [Satan] 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 [born this way] objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5).
So there is a mind behind society—a controlling spiritual influence— referred to in the Bible as the “prince of this world” and “he that is in the world.” “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies–the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world” (Ephesians 6:12, The Living Bible). When Satan tempted Jesus, he “took Him up and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the Devil told Him, ‘I will give you all these splendid kingdoms and their glory—for they are mine to give to anyone I wish’” (Luke 4:5-6, TLB). Jesus did not contest Satan’s claim of authority over the kingdoms of this world.
This is not to say that elements of the world cannot be converted and used for the glory of God, just as man can be. But on the whole, God warns us that our spiritual enemy controls these systems that make up society. This is important to remember, because the world system is one of Satan’s key attack vehicles to tempt Christians and wage spiritual warfare against them. It is through these that he often keeps Christians from fulfilling God’s mission to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
This is why we find several Scriptures of warning: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (society), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). Religion that God, our Father, accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted (spotted) by the world (society)” (James 1:27). “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world (society) is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world (society) becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). “Do not love the world [become attached to the things of society] or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world comes not from the Father [they are under Satan’s influence] but from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world (societies)” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Jesus and the Apostle Paul sum up the Christian’s position in the world. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world (the spiritual kingdom of the world). That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Paul calls himself spiritually dead to the world: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
After we have been born again, we too are dead to the kingdom of the world and alive in God’s Kingdom. Our function here on Earth is to represent His Kingdom, to be a shining light and a preservative salt. There is a reason why there are such strong warnings in Scripture about society or the kingdom of the world. Although we have been “rescued … from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13), Christians still retain the sinful nature we are born with. God knows that after we become Christians, Satan will constantly tempt our sinful nature, using the kingdom of the world as his vehicle. In this sense we are in spiritual warfare every day!
Society is one of Satan’s main attack vehicles. We need only look at our own society in recent years to know this to be true. One of the reasons for the change in America has come through the influence of electronic media such as TV, movies and the Internet. They barge right into our homes every minute of the day. This fallout has affected our schools, our businesses, even our churches.
WATCH FOR MY NEXT BLOG “The Two Spiritual Kingdoms (Part 2)” on April 12th, 2010.Tags: born again, Holy Spirit, Kingdom of God, kingdom of the world, kosmos, light of the world, love, renewing of your mind, salt of the earth, sinful nature, society, spiritual systems, spiritual warfare, transformed