In, Into and for but Not of the World

Paul R. Raabe, Faculty

Gospel of John open with crown of thorns on top of it

The question stares us in the face every day: How should Christians live in the world in the year 2021? The challenges, debates, hostilities and opportunities multiply and confuse us. How do we make sense of it all in our present place and time? A good place to look for orientation is in the Gospel of John. It can give us a God-pleasing perspective on how Christians relate to the world.

The Gospel of John uses the noun “world” over 75 times when referring to humankind. The world was created by God through his Son the Word (John 1:3, 10). Yet the world fell into sin and rebellion against its Creator. John emphasizes the world’s lost condition, its darkness, its sin-and-death-bound condition. Despite the world’s hostility to its Creator, He still loved it and sent His only begotten Son into the world for the benefit of the world; to be the Savior of the world and to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 4:42).

We ourselves used to be of the world and hostile to God. Jesus chose us out of the world to belong to him and to his Father. For John, those are the only two possibilities: to belong to the world or to belong to God. Yet Jesus does not remove us from the world to become a separate, isolated sect. We live in the world. He prays to his Father: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). In fact, we have been sent into the world. Jesus goes on to pray to his Father: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). For what purpose? To spread his gospel and to love the neighbor as Jesus has loved us.

As we do that, we will face hostility from the world. Jesus says to his disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). When pressured with its hostility Jesus calls us not to conform to the world’s perspective and not to become worldly.

The Gospel of John’s prepositions give us the proper perspective. We Christians live in the world. We have been sent by Jesus into the world to spread the gospel and serve the neighbor in love, and this activity is for the world’s benefit. Yet we will face the world’s hostility because we are not of the world. We belong to the Lord and are called to remain faithful to him. “In, into and for, but not of”—these prepositions can help us Christians live wisely and faithfully in the year 2021.

Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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