THE CHURCH, NOT OF THIS WORLD
THE CHURCH is composed of the
"called out" ones. II Corinthians 6:17 reads, "Wherefore come out from
among them [the people of the world], and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." Then the word
"holy" means separate, and "saint" (applied to all Christians) means those
who have been separated, set apart.
In talking to the Father, Jesus said that his disciples were not of this
world, but realizing that for now they had to live here, he prayed, "I
pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou
shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). Consequently the apostle
Paul admonishes in Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but
be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what
is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." In the same vein,
he further admonishes in Colossians 3:2, "Set your affections [mind] on
things above, not on things on the earth." We are strangers and pilgrims
here (I Peter 2:11). We are not to love this present world (I John 2:15-17).
Ideally, we are in the world but not of the world. But whether we like
it or not, no man (or church) is an island. We rub shoulders daily with
those about us and are continually bombarded by the concepts and mindset
of this world. Simply by living in a particular country or society presented
its problems in early New Testament times. Evangelizing on the island of
Crete, Titus was to be mindful of what he was up against. "One of themselves,
even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil
beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons]. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke
them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:12,13). Likewise,
Corinth was a degenerate city, and reference to Corinth was a byword for
degeneracy in the ancient world. One only has to read the epistle of I
Corinthians to see how it spilled over into the church. We could present
other illustrations from the Scriptures.
Special problems confront Christians living in America today, as well as
in other societies. Overall, materialism is destroying the church. Divorce,
immorality, and loose living abound (and are not uncommon in religious
circles). Then the fuzzy, tolerating mindset of a pluralistic society is
a great hindrance to coming to strong religious convictions. And the spiritually
neutralizing impact of humanism is subtly felt more in some parts of the
country than others (and the church doesn't even know it).
We could go on, but let us be warned. Be not deceived. Ungodly influences
subtly bombard us from every angle. But the church is not of this world.
If we don't realize this, we are in trouble.