We must love the people in the world in the way that God commands us to, but we must not love the world itself—that is, the material world itself or the material things in the world. The world in 1 John 2 cannot be talking about the people of the world for we are commanded to love them, including worldly people.
- “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16-17).
The world He mentions in 1 John 2 is the world that will pass away one day. The people of this world will not pass away; they either go to heaven or hell. The material world will pass away. Jesus never was in the world in the sense of the worldly people, but simply in the material world.
- “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb. 1:6).
The brethren are not in the world in the sense of the worldly people, but all of us are in the material world.
“Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:9).
This material world will pass away and everything in it.
- “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
- “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” (2 Pet. 3:10-11).
So many have such a hard time with giving up their love for the creation (Rom. 1:25)! We should be long past the stage where we have to focus on the wonders of creation to remind us that the world has a Creator! The Holy Spirit testified through Paul that this truth is the first truth every person should understand, because He reveals it to all men (Rom. 1:19-20). Anyone who has accepted this visual testimony should have no business “kissing the hand” toward the sun or standing around staring, gawking, gaping in adoration at the stars, planets or the beautiful things on the earth.
Final thoughts: Connect the two scriptures (Rom. 1 and 1 John 2) via Colossians 3:1-7 along with the theme of Ecclesiastes: the world passeth away and the lusts thereof, so the only thing useful is to serve God, and work for spiritual good, not involve ourselves in a love for what will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10-11). Romans 1:23 and Colossians 3:5 show that love of material and living our lives for material is (as Luke 16 explains) impossible to mix with serving God. IF we are truly risen with Christ (dead to our old man), then we should really have our affections elsewhere than on what Christ came to overcome! Perhaps that can be made clearer by understanding that the things of the world and our flesh actually war against the things of the spirit.
- Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (1 Pet. 2:11).
- This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Gal. 5:16-17).
- Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (5356. phthora; decay, i.e. ruin—Ecc.2:11); but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Gal. 6:7-9).
- If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2).
Our minds may be convinced all this is right and good, but now try doing what we know to do! That change is not easy because we already love this world and the things in it. We have much work to do to change our habits. We need to grow more and more in our love for spiritual things. Naturally our love for material will grow less and less. Remember: we start out as babies, but the Lord expects us to grow. We cannot do it all in one day. We must acknowledge what we are, where our thoughts are and then ask God to cleanse our hearts. Gradually we need to set our minds more and more on those things above.