God’s People are Outside Common Society – John 17:1-26
I called last week’s message “God’s People are a Part of Society.” But tonight I want to turn that inside out with the title “God’s People are Outside Common Society.”
Here in John 17 we have the true “Lord’s Prayer.” It is an example – the greatest example – of Christ’s conversation with His Heavenly Father. It may be the holiest chapter in the Word of God – it is highly important and highly instructive. And as such there is a word used here which might seem just a little out of place. And yet, because of the way the Lord used it, you might not have even noticed. The word “cosmos” – translated “world” is used nineteen times here, with a variety of different purposes. For example there is verse 5 – “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” In this case the word refers to creation. Then several times Christ prays for His saints – you and me – mentioning that we are “in the world.” “And now I am no more in the world, but these are IN the world…” “While I was with them IN the world, I kept them in thy name.” “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them INTO the world.” But then interspersed between those thoughts we have just the opposite. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me OUT of the world…” “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are NOT OF the world, even as I am not of the world.” “I pray not that thou shouldest take them OUT OF the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” “They are NOT OF the world, even as I am not of the world.” Would it an error in this context to suggest that one synonym of the word “cosmos” might be “society?” And while it is not a Biblical quote, isn’t it correct to say –“Christians are IN the world but not OF the world”?
Let’s return to last week’s message but then take a few steps forward from there.
Homogenous versus Heterogenous Societies.
I should have been a little more specific last week when I said that the family of Adam was the first society. Perhaps I should have pointed out that Adam and Eve in the Garden was the first human society, and the second society was Adam and his family outside of the Garden. The first human society was a homogenous unit with Jehovah in the middle. For a very short period of time, there was total harmony and unity in every aspect of earthly life. But then came the temptation and the fall, creating disunity and a mixed-up, heterogenous society. It was not as variegated as later human societies, but it was on the downward slope. Since almost the beginning, Satan has been attacking and disrupting God’s homogenous government.
We could revisit the early chapters of Genesis, but I hope that you can visualize the days of the flood, Nimrod, and Babel and so on. Several hundred years later – to illustrate His original purpose, God created the nation of Israel. The Lord intended Himself to be the focal point of Israelite life – worship, economics, health, government – everything. But once again, sin quickly stepped in to make a mess of society – replacing harmony with sinful discord. From time to time Satan has tried to establish his own evil harmonious societies, but not even they lasted very long. Sin is guaranteed to disrupt whatever society it enters – even the society of a tiny local church.
But there will one day be a society built and maintained after God’s perfect will and original intent. The Millennial Kingdom will be what Eden should have been – perhaps even better. Christ will be the focal point of everything. When sin will try to raise its head, Christ will cut it off at the neck. “The lion will lay down with lamb, and The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” We are told that Satan and his angels will be bound and cast aside for a thousand years. The world – the “cosmos” – every corner of human society – will be filled with the glory of God. BUT that is a world which is yet to come, and will never be accomplished by the will of man.
Today, Christians find themselves living in Satan’s heterogenous world.
We might consider the city of Ephesus as an example of our society, our city, our country – of all the world. Please turn to Acts 19 – “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus…” Verse 8 – “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul…” Verse 18 – “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Verse 23 – “And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” If he can’t have his own homogenous world, Satan doesn’t mind confusing society mixing heathen religions and heretic religions. The worship of the great goddess Diana may not be fully compatible with the Jew’s religion, but they can mutually agree to disagree and get along just fine. But when the saint of God comes along with the Son of God, the gospel, grace, and miraculous power, cutting into evil society’s profits then that society has a conniption fit.
Don’t some of the saints’ Biblical titles and names remind us that while we are in the world, we are not supposed to be of the world? God’s people are saints – not socialites. We are to be holy, not worldly. And we are brethren, children of God. If our earthly families – or our political parties – or our philatelic societies – or whatever earthly groups are so displeased as to persecute us – they must be forsaken. Christ said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” We could reconsider all of the titles we’ve examined thus far – they point out that we are NOT a part of Satan’s societies – the world. But it’s not just that we are not a PART of their cesspool, we have responsibilities towards it. Matthew 5 – “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world (the cosmos – society). A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
What does the Bible teach us about our responsibility towards society and human government? Ecclesiastes 8:2 – “I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.” Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the thing which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” – in the sense that God permits the evil men to rule. Paul told Titus, to put the saints “in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” Our good and godly works are a part of our saltiness and the light we are to radiate in the world. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors….” But remember that this submission is for the Lord’s sake, not for society’s sake – nor for our own. And that means when Satan’s evil society contradicts the will of God, our true King must reign above all.
In chapter 10, Matthew gives to us his description of the Lord’s first church and their responsibilities. What is said in that chapter applies to this church, and in fact, it should apply to all God’s saints, because they too should be members of Christ’s church. Turn to Matthew 10:16 – “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” Verse 21 – “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Verse 34 – “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” God’s people may walk in modern society, but we are not a part of Satan’s heterogenous, evil society.
What is more – we have NO commission to create a NEW society.
This is an important consideration, as we move forward in this study. In the beginning, Jehovah established the society with we call “the family.” It is our duty to maintain the integrity of that society against all the onslaught of Satan’s societies. The Lord then created Israel – not only did she fall, but you and I have never been a part of her. But then two thousand years ago, Christ Jesus established a new society which He called “My church.” It is our duty, as children of God, to become a living part of that society and to defend her against all her enemies. But beyond the family and the church, we may be IN an other society called “the world” or even “the United States of America”, but we are not OF this society. It belongs, not to Christ, but to Satan. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
And with this we come to Satan’s favorite new heterogenous society.
It took time to fully develop, and in some respects it is still evolving, but three hundred years after the New Testament, along came Catholicism – Roman and Orthodox – Eastern and Western. The thing that I’d like you to grasp, is that Roman Catholicism is not just a set of theological heresies. Beginning with Constantine, it was designed to be an homogenous society. Its Satanically inspired leaders intended it to be all encompassing – harmonious in error. It was designed to take a child at birth and mold it into a pawn of the entire society – dictating everything it was to believe and do. Catholicism was designed to blend king and pope, heaven and earth. Its laws were suppose to be both earthly and spiritual. This is why the popes could call on princes to carry out his inquisitions against the saints.
Of course, sin will not permit homogeny, even evil homogeny will quickly cease to be harmonious. In the 16th century along came Protestantism, disrupting the oligarchy of Rome. But sadly, as soon as Luther, Calvin and others scratched out a little territory for themselves, they tried to create their own homogenous societies. They began passing laws, forbidding dissent, and enslaving souls. They bound together their churches, local governments, the economy like that of Ephesus – everything. And again, with infant baptism, they were starting at the cradle to make sure that everyone in the society was a part of their society – in and of their society. And they were as ferocious against the saints of God as were the Catholics. Because those saints disrupted their homogenous kingdoms. The Donatists, Waldensians, Albigensies, Novatians, Cathari, Bogomiles and others, because they chose to follow the Bible rather than the Catholics or the Reformers, became burrs under the heretics’ saddles. They were, in their day, what we are supposed to be in our day – servants of God, rather than servants of the world.
God never intended that you and I, as His saints, be a part of this world’s society. We may be IN the world, but we are not OF the world. We are a remnant of God’s servants, and it’s not our job to bring civil government into the fold of God. We are to be witnesses to the truth, endeavoring to win others to the truth. Unlike Calvin, Luther and Knox, we must let the Lord overcome the world – it’s not our job. Our job is to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”