Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—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. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17—NKJV)

John’s first letter is written in order to identify qualities of authentic faith and Christianity and to identify and help a believer weed out the residual habits of his sinful, old nature. Believers are glad for this valuable assist from the apostle John because the old nature has been with us as long as we can remember and will not be completely silenced until we go home to glory.

The world around us is masterminded and strategically structured to traffic in things that appeal to our old nature. This blatant fact is what leads the awakened believer to own his obligation to do daily battle. In these three verses John lays out before us the avenues and the progression of Satan’s strategy of entrapment. His goal is to neutralize any effective Christian testimony you may have to offer for the use of your Lord Jesus Christ. Though Satan knows he cannot have a believer (for the Christian is lost to Satan forever through the efficacy of the powerful blood of Jesus Christ) he still desires to sift, devour, accuse, and deceive believers so that the label of “castaway” may be stamped upon them.

In verse 15, John expresses the overriding principle that the love of God and the love of the world are mutually exclusive actions. The Greek word for world is kosmos. It is the word from which we get “cosmetics.” It signifies a world ordered as a system (John 15:18–19). His system design is to oppose the righteousness and plan of God, both overtly and covertly. Wuest points out that Satan’s system may even appear to be religious, cultured, refined, and intellectual, but it is always anti-God and anti-Christ. The system’s prime activity is to seduce men away from the true God, by whatever means necessary, while its ultimate goal is the destruction of mankind, since man bears the image of his Creator, the Almighty.

No believer is to love this systemic poison of the world. John chooses the familiar Greek word agapao to identify the responsive attraction to the world known as “love.” It is a precise term which signifies, as Wuest says, the “love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved (like Demas, in 2 Timothy 4:10, loved the present age, finding it precious and thus came to love it). The believer is to stop loving it because loving it means he cannot be loving his heavenly Father. Verse 16 explains the mechanism and the progress of the poison of the worldly system. John explains that it has a three-pronged trident used to harpoon the saint. The first two are described as “lust.” This is a term used to describe natural desires which can range from the innocuous to the sinful. Here it speaks to a strong desire for evil things.

  • The lust of the flesh is symptomatic of man’s desire to enjoy. Things appeal to our urges of the flesh. This thought seems to focus right in on our heart, what makes us feel good, appeals to our senses, our motivating drives.
  • The lust of the eyes goes a step further in the progression. It describes man’s desire to have, just as Eve fell prey to the fruit that seemed good to her. The thought seems to focus on man’s propensity to rationalize, covet, and be generally unsatisfied.
  • The pride of life takes us to the final step in the progression, man’s desire to do. Being alive is pretty heady stuff. Vincent says the Greek word signifies “empty, braggart talk or display, swagger.” Thayer says it is an “insolent and empty assurance which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.”

These three “selfisms” are not out of God, they are out of the world. Every unregenerate man operates by these principles and fulfills the root, shoot, and fruit principle in his life (root of selfishness leading to the shoot of sinful acts culminated by the fruit of prideful arrogance in the face of his Holy Creator).

John’s admonishment in verse 17 is that the fashions of the world are ephemeral while the one who does the will of God abides forever. A note I wrote in my Bible, probably gleaned from a thoughtful preacher long ago, states, “The things you are living for should be worth dying for.” Worldly vices, baubles, and priorities are not worth being labeled a “castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Live to love and do the things of God. Trust and obey.