Spiritual Warfare: The World, Our Enemy (Pt 1)

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After looking at our spiritual enemy, Satan, and the ways in which the Bible tells us to fight against him and his schemes to derail our faith with sin, we now look toward our second spiritual enemy–the world.  As with all of these posts, we want to point out again that this is an introduction to these matters, not an exhaustive teaching. 

1. The World Before the Fall

In Genesis 1 and 2, Moses writes and tells us about how God brought the world into existence and what the end result was –

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  [2:1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. [2] And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. [3] So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Gen 1:31-2:3).

By this time in Genesis, we have seen the creation of an orderly world, filled with all kinds of life – from insects and plants to birds and fish to beasts and humanity.  Within the various species, the world is designed to develop further and replenish itself. Likewise, God establishes humanity to watch over, or care for all that he has created – And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

But as we saw earlier when we looked at the origins of the devil, this very good creation did not last long and so, because of Adam and Eve’s, creation itself was plunged into sin.

2. The World After the Fall

Now, because of humanity’s sin, the relationship between God, humanity, and world are out of alignment.  In Romans 8 Paul explains that through the curse brought upon all of creation because of humanity’s sin, “the creation was subjected to futility, put bondage to decay, and has since been groaning in the pains of childbirth awaiting its redemption” (Rom 8:21-22).

One theologian explains this tension like this:

On the one hand, the whole world belongs to God (Ps. 24:1; cf. 89:11); on the other, while the heavens belong to Yahweh, humanity is responsible for the world (Ps. 115:16). Whereas John’s gospel declares God’s love for the world (John 3:16), John also warns Christians not to love the world (1 John 2:15). The reason for these ambiguities lies in the fact that human beings are charged with taking care of the world as God’s representatives, but have failed to represent God faithfully. In consequence the world is shaped not only by God’s design in creation, but also by human rebellion against God. As God’s creation the whole world is the focus of God’s love and should therefore be the focus of human love and attention as well. As the place of human rebellion against God, it stands in contrast to God’s kingdom, and as an alternative focus of trust and com­mitment it can come to stand over against God himself. (Thomas Renz)

Several words are used to now describe the present condition of the world.  Each one says something different about it.  We want to look at two –

2.1. This Age

This word speaks to the temporal nature of the world.  This age has a beginning and it will have an end.  And so, ‘this age’ is often contrasted with the ‘age to come.’  Paul says very specifically in Galatians 1 that this ‘present age’ is ‘evil’ (1:4).  And in various places in his letters, Paul says that this evil age is ruled by –

  • “the god of this age” – the devil (2 Cor 4:4);
  • along with “the elementary principles of the world” (Gal 4:3,9);
  • who are “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’ (Eph 6:12).

These demonic rulers reign over all those who are not part of the people of God; those who are lost and still in their sins.   These unbelievers live according to the course of this world and so are part of this present age in opposition to God.  This evil age is opposed to God in that it is hostile in character, and opposed to him just as wisdom of the world is opposed to the wisdom of God.

2.2. The Cosmos (world)

This is the more common word used in the New Testament.  It speaks to the collective totality of humanity in all its sinfulness. The expressions ‘nations of the world’ (Luke 12:30) and the ‘kingdoms of the world’ (Matt 4:8), like the references to the ‘kings of the earth and the tribes of the earth’ (Mt 17:25; 24:30), refer to the world of humanity. In the parable of the tares it is explained that the field is the world (Mt 13:38). And in Matt 18:7, a woe – or curse – is pronounced on the world of humanity (Mt 18:7). This reminds us that this world, though the creation of God, is dominated by the demonic.  The world is under the power of evil and needs to be liberated by God.

So it’s not surprising that James, 2 Peter and 1 John all identify the world as people at enmity with God, those who oppose God’s will and purpose. James asks, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (Jas 4:4). Therefore a Christian is “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27). 2 Peter describes the world as the place where antagonism toward God dwells, and believers must escape its “defilements” (2 Pet 2:20).

Knowing this makes John 1 come alive with a heightened sense of amazement at what God did through Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  [2] He was in the beginning with God.  [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  [6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  [7] He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  [8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

[9] The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  [15] (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ “) [16] And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  [17] For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  [18] No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-18)

Here is deep level of humanity’s – Christ came as our savior and redeemer, the very God who made us, and we reject him.  In fact, we not only actively rebel against him, but we crucify him.  We try to kill him. Likewise, the world continues to hate not only God but his people as well. And so John can say, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-21).

In the end, the word ‘world’ – especially as the apostle John develops – comes to mean “humanity as it is dominated by the darkness of false loves, false values, and false knowledge.”

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