Warnings Against Unfaithfulness (2:15-17)

"In the world, but not of it"—this is a phrase commonly used to characterize the Christian's relationship to the world. And yet many and varied are the opinions about what constitutes "worldliness." Many religious groups and denom inations forbid, either explicitly or implicitly, certain behaviors. In some circles smoking is forbidden; some groups look down on drinking al coholic beverages, dancing, rock music or attending movies. And yet in other groups, cultures or countries, other strictures may be in place, while those just listed are not. A Christian from an Eastern European country once told me that in his circles attending public sporting events was frowned upon. Some stricter groups have avoided the use of modern machinery and automobiles.

The common thread in avoiding "worldliness" is the desire to con form one's life to the will of God and not to the dictates of the world. Obviously this is a laudable goal. And although the present passage does not give us rules and regulations, it does make plain the incompatibility of love for the world and love for God. But the conception of worldliness in this epistle goes far deeper than the idea of outlawing some behaviors that non-Christians tolerate. We are called to an active devotion to God that shapes all that we are and do. Barclay captures the essence of the passage when he entitles it "Rivals for the Human Heart" (1976:55). The world is not simply a passive entity, but a rival for the allegiance of every person.

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