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In the World—Not of the World

We are often told that Christians are in the world but not of the world (Col. 2:20; 1 John 2:16). Just what does this mean? Are we to act like visitors from outer space and shun all contact with the natives? Are we to begrudge the very air we breathe because it’s worldly air? It seems that some Christians feel this way while others take the opposite view and embrace the world in an attempt to evangelize. To get God’s answer we need to go back to the beginning of history.

When God completed His creation work with the creation of man, He declared it all good (Gen 1:31). There were no flaws; the world was a good world. We know, of course, that afterward, with a total world population of only two persons, it went sour. Adam and Eve decided they didn’t need God’s directions and decided to follow Satan’s advice. The world population, in a single step, went from Christian to humanist and subsequently all their descendants, every new member of the human race, was born into this faith as well. They were all what God referred to as the Seed of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). God, though, didn’t give up on His world; at that same point, He promised a deliverance from the evil that had the race in bondage. He said that there would be a Seed of the Woman that would be placed in opposition to the Seed of the Serpent and would crush the Serpent’s head. We know from Scripture that that Seed was Christ and that it includes His Body—all Christians (1 Cor. 12:12-27).

When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty that had been pronounced on all unbelievers. He released all those that believed in Him from Satan’s bondage and they became members of His Body. They were thereby translated from their previous membership in the Seed of the Serpent to the Seed of the Woman (Col. 1:13). His death and resurrection resulted in the formation of the promised Seed of the Woman, the Seed that would oppose and crush Satan.

God placed enmity between the two seeds (Gen. 3:15); they were not to be friendly companions but were to be in opposition to one another in this world. The servants of God (all Christians) were to be perpetually at war with the servants of Satan (all unbelievers). Why warfare and not friendship? Because God knows us better than we know ourselves and knew we would be inclined to compromise and make concessions with unbelief in an effort to end the conflict and reach peace. But righteousness cannot compromise with evil without losing its purity and God’s people must be pure as He is pure (Matt. 5:48).

Separation from the world then, is required of Christians but we are also told to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Are these mutually exclusive? How can we be salt and light if we’re separate? One way, of course, is by example; we can stay separate but still be visible. We can influence the world by demonstrating the great advantages of living under God’s law, without subjecting ourselves (and especially our youth) to its temptations. We can also send emissaries (missionaries and others) to teach them how to obey their true Lord and Master. What we must not do is allow them to influence us. Our youth and weaker members must be protected from the evil influences such exposure would entail. We see in God’s commandments to the nation of Israel how dangerous such exposure can be (Deut. 7:1-6).

The Christian goal is to crush the head of the Serpent, to reduce Satan’s forces to total impotence, and to make this world what God originally created it to be, a Christian world (Gen. 1:26-28). This is to be accomplished, not through the use of force, but by teaching the nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20). As many as believe are converted, become Christians, and join the ranks of the Seed of the Woman. The rest die off and are lost but the process continues until they are rendered impotent and Satan’s head is finally crushed. Christ crushed it in principle on the cross and is doing it in practice by His Body in history.

We cannot choose to disobey either of God’s commandments; so we must find a way to be separate and at war with the world and yet be the salt and light our Savior requires of us. The Christians that were once in control of this country have neglected the command to be separate and we are now suffering the consequences of their disobedience. The humanism that Adam and Eve submitted to is now in control of our schools, the news and entertainment media, the financial world, the government and virtually the entire culture outside the churches. Christians are forced to try to raise godly families in the face of obstacles even the early church didn’t see in the days of the Roman persecution. We are losing our country to atheistic humanism because we have not obeyed God and kept ourselves separate from, and at war with, the evil influences of the world.

This situation might have been readily easy to correct a century or two ago but now it presents us with a formidable task, one that will require the efforts of true believers for generations. The first step must be education; we must teach ourselves, and any that will listen, the truth of what God expects of us and do this in the face of opposition, even from our own leaders and teachers. They are the reason we have come to our present impasse and are not likely to be much help to us. They have given up the challenge Christ set before us and have reduced the scope of the gospel and the Great Commission to merely the salvation of a few. The idea of a Christian world has long ago been set aside. It must and eventually will be revived but the revival will originate in the pews and not the pulpits.

Secondly, we need to extract ourselves out of the cultural morass in which we are presently ensnared. The early church did this by refusing to acknowledge Caesar as lord. This made them outcasts and subjected them to much tribulation but they realized that lord meant lawgiver and for them that had to be Christ and Christ alone. They obeyed as much of Roman law as they could without disobeying God but refused to obey any laws that would compromise their faith. We must do likewise and, using the liberties we still have, should protest as strenuously as we can any laws or regulations that contradict God’s law. We need to recognize, as those early saints did, that we must obey God and not men. We must declare, as vocally as possible, that Christ the Creator of the universe, is both Lord and Lawmaker, not of just us Christians but of the whole world and that, rightfully, every living soul should bow to His will. By the way, this is just what the Muslims do today. Should we let them put us to shame?

A few Christians, such as David Green of Hobby Lobby, have already begun taking some of these steps. They need our support; indeed, Congress and the Supreme Court should now be inundated with mail denigrating the godless actions they’ve already taken and urging change. They are not swamped with mail because most Christians have never been taught and don’t understand that this is really their responsibility. We see by the attendance at churches that the American people are hungry for God. If this message gains traction, change could take place rapidly. Those of us that understand what it is that God requires of us must deliver the message with whatever energy we can bring to bear on the task. All is in God’s hands but it is in our hands as well. We can’t expect God to do for us what He has commanded us to do. It is the Seed of the Woman that must crush the head of the Serpent by teaching the nations to obey the King of kings and Lord of lords.