I John 2 – Part 8

“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.” I John 2:15

In a recent article entitled “Tech’s reality check: How the industry lost $7.4 trillion in one year,” the author states, “At this time in 2021, the Nasdaq Composite had just peaked, doubling since the early days of the pandemic. Rivian’s blockbuster IPO was the latest in a record year for new issues. Hiring was booming and tech employees were frolicking in the high value of their stock options.

“Not one of the 15 most valuable U.S. tech companies has generated positive returns in 2021. Microsoft has shed roughly $700 billion in market cap. Meta’s market cap has contracted by over 70% from its highs, wiping out over $600 billion in value this year.

“In total, investors have lost roughly $7.4 trillion, based on the 12-month drop in the Nasdaq.” 1

Because of the melt-down of high-tech stocks whereby people lost millions and billions of dollars, you might ask, “Where can I find a safe and secure investment?” I believe the apostle John can answer that question. But he will not be talking about investing in financial markets. He will advise us to invest our lives (not finances) in something that is safe and secure. Something that is permanent (God) and not passing (the world). 2

In our verse-by-verse study of the book of I John, we discovered that the apostle John did not write this epistle to tell his readers how to receive eternal life but about how to have fellowship or intimacy with God (1:3-4). John’s primary concern for his readers is not the genuineness of their salvation experience or subsequent spiritual growth. He just affirmed these when he addressed them as “little children… fathers… young men” based on their position in Christ (2:12-14). His concern is that their enemies may jeopardize their fellowship with God.

We have already mentioned that there are three barriers or enemies to our fellowship with God: personal sin, the world, and the Devil. John addressed our internal personal sin in I John 1:5-2:2. One of the most damaging personal sins to our fellowship with God is hating a Christian brother or sister (2:3-11). Our next two enemies or barriers to fellowship with God are not internal; they are external. They include the world (2:15-17) and the devil along with his false teachers (2:18-28).

For the next three lessons, we will look at the world as a threat to our fellowship with the Lord. One of the reasons John assures his readers of his awareness of their spiritual advancement as “little children… fathers… young men” based on their position in Christ (2:12-14) prior to addressing their conflict with the world (2:15-17), is because assurance is foundational to spiritual growth and victory.

The apostle probably listed the “young men” last (2:12-14) because he was preparing his readers for the battlefield which is “the world” (2:15-17). Young men in the military are known for their vigor and readiness for battle. John assures his readers that as “young men” they were strong by allowing God’s word to abide in them as they prepare to face their next enemy (2:14b).

Evans writes, “When the moon shines, it’s actually reflecting the light of the sun. Sometimes the earth gets in the way, though, so that the moon’s light is diminished. Similarly, we have an enemy that prevents us from reflecting the Son’s light on us. That enemy is called the world.” 3

The first way Christians can invest their lives in what is permanent and not passing is seen in verse 15. “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.” (I John 2:15). When John mentions the “world” (kosmos), he is talking about an entity that is hostile to God (I John 4:4) and whose seductive influence (I John 5:19) Christians are always to resist (John 15:18-19; James 4:4). 4  

“When John talks about ‘the world,’ he’s not talking about planet earth. He’s talking about an organized system headed by Satan that draws us away from God’s love and will.” 5

“It is a moral and spiritual system designed to draw people away from God. It is a seductive system that appeals to all people, believers as well as unbelievers, and calls for our affection, participation, and loyalty (cf. John 3:16-17, 18-19; James 4:4). Satan controls this system, and believers should shun it (cf. 5:19; John 12:31; 14:30). As noted, here kosmos does not refer primarily to the created order, though that order is also passing away (1 Cor. 7:31; 2 Pet. 3:7-13; Rev. 21:1-4).” 6

John instructs us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world (2:15a).” The world competes for the love of Christians, and one cannot love both it and God the Father at the same time. 7 If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15b). The word “If” assumes that some Christians will love the world (third class condition in Greek), 8 which is not something believers want to openly admit.

“John is not saying that God does not love those who love the world, but that God’s love is not working in and through those who love the world. It is impossible to love both the world and God at the same time.” 9

The reason Christians cannot love the Father and the world at the same time is because they are polar opposites (cf. 2:16). The Father is eternal since He is God (2 John 1:3; cf. Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 11:31), but the world is temporary since it is “passing away” (I John 2:17a). As “the ruler of the world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), Satan seeks to desensitize people to their need for God through the world system’s human governments, economies, educational systems, media, entertainment industries, and false religious systems. He will use these systems to manipulate peoples’ thoughts and feelings, so they are drawn away from the true God and led down a path toward self-destruction.

For example, the world’s educational system teaches atheistic evolution as a fact instead of a theory. This theory explains the origin of the universe leaving God out. According to this belief system, all the matter and energy in the universe suddenly appeared in a single spot billions of years ago. For some unknown reason, this matter expanded and stretched into the universe that it is now. 10 Yet evolutionists cannot explain the origin of the matter and energy that suddenly appeared billions of years ago. Unfortunately, there are Christians who embrace this theory in the form of theistic evolution which says God oversaw this evolutionary process which is contrary to the Bible. 11

How does a Christian know when he or she loves the world? “You love the world when it owns your affections and governs your choices by getting you to exclude God.” 12

Anderson writes, “We cannot love God and the world at the same time—the love of one displaces the love of the other in our hearts. Love is capable of only one primary focus.” 13

Christ said it this way, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” (Luke 16:13). Both God and money (or the world) demand total allegiance. Love for God will result in money having second place in our lives. Conversely, love for money or the world results in God having second place in our lives. We cannot love both at the same time.

James the half-brother of Jesus put it this way, 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?” (James 4:4-5). James says that Christians who try to love God and the world at the same time are committing spiritual adultery. When believers pursue worldly desires, this friendship with the world is “enmity” or hostility toward God and makes them “an enemy of God.” The church is the bride of Christ (Ephes. 5:22-23), and Jesus does not want to share His bride with the false gods of this world. 14 When Christians try to love God and the world at the same time it makes “the Spirit who dwells in us” jealous (cf. Exod. 20:5; 34:14). We cannot be on good terms with God if at the same time we are trying to be friends with the world. If we pursue friendship with the world, we invite God’s painful discipline in our lives.

“Many Christians don’t even split time with God and the world. They pay their respects to God on one day of the week (and only part of that day), while they devote the other six days of the week to the world. Now is it possible to live such a life and still go to heaven? Of course, it is. We can do nothing to deserve our eternal life. Worshipping God seven days a week could not open the gates of heaven for us. But living six days of the week for the world and one day of the week for God will not endear us to His heart; in other words, we will not be very close to Him. He won’t feel loved by us; therefore, why should He manifest His love for us? That’s what this letter [I John] is all about—getting close to God. It won’t happen if we try to love God and the world at the same time.” 15

Pursuing the beliefs and values of the world does not mean a professing Christian does not have eternal life. John makes it clear that the only condition for possessing eternal life is believing in Jesus Christ (cf. I John 5:1, 13; John 3:14-18, 36; et al.). But trying to love the world and God at the same time does mean a believer is not close to God or in fellowship with Him.

Christians may claim to love God while still loving certain sinful aspects of the world. For example, we may speak openly against certain sins such as adultery or murder while showing worldly favoritism toward the rich. This is what the readers of James were doing (James 2:1-11). They were giving special treatment to the wealthy at their church services by offering them the best seats while showing disdain toward the poor by having them stand or sit on the floor (James 2:1-4). Such partiality miscalculates that the despised poor person may actually be rich in God’s sight (James 2:5-7). Failure to avoid partiality in dealing with the rich and poor was also a violation of the “royal law” which commands one to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (James 2:8). 16 Unloving favoritism was just as bad as committing adultery or murder (James 2:9-11). 17 Such worldliness had infiltrated the churches of James’ day and can easily characterize the church today.

What the apostle John is teaching us in I John 2:15 is that the first way to invest our lives in what is permanent instead of passing, is to recognize we cannot love God and the world at the same time. Trying to do this will not bring us closer to God. It will break our fellowship with Him so His love cannot be “in” us in a controlling and guiding way. Our love is to be directed toward the God of the Bible Who is eternal, not the gods of this world which are passing away. Investing in the former will provide purpose and fulfillment. Investing in the latter will always result in disappointment. Which will you choose?

Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for showing us that we cannot love You and the world at the same time because Your character (eternal) and values (holy) are the opposite of the world’s character (temporary) and values (evil). Please forgive us for committing spiritual adultery against You by trying to love the gods of this world while seeking to love You. It cannot be done. Love can only have one primary focus and You alone are worthy of that focus. Please cleanse our divided hearts and enable us to direct our love toward You in a way that brings You the most glory and honor. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.


1. Retrieved from Rohan Goswami’s November 25, 2022 article entitled “Tech’s reality check: How the industry lost $7.4 trillion in one year,” at https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/25/techs-reality-check-how-the-industry-lost-7point4-trillion-in-one-year.html .

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 107.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2939.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3691 to 3696.

5. Evans, pg. 2939.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 49 cites Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary Series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 87.

7. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3696.

8. Constable, pg. 49 cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 128-137.

9. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.

10. See https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/big-bang/en/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang ;  https://answersingenesis.org/big-bang/does-the-big-bang-fit-with-the-bible/.

11. See https://answersingenesis.org/theistic-evolution/.

12. Evans, pg. 2939.

13. Anderson, pp. 108-109.

14. Evans, pp. 2882-2883.

15. Anderson, pg. 109.

16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pp. 548-549.

17. Evans, pg. 2876.