Can A “Worldly Christian” Be Saved?

by Glenn Conjurske

Or, to put the question another way—-Can a worldly man be a Christian? The expression “worldly Christian” seems to be a contradiction in terms, for a Christian is one who is “not of the world”—-“chosen out of the world.” And, “We [Christians] are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” (I John 5:19).

But may it not be possible for a real Christian to be to some extent influenced by the world, as an Englishman living in France might be influenced by French ways? I grant that some such thing may be possible, as a result of ignorance, or perhaps even of weakness. Nevertheless, to grant too much in that direction is fatal to sound doctrine, and is a deception which will prove fatal to the souls of men also. For first, we have the very strong and express declaration of Scripture “whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.” (I John 5:18).

Observe the strong contrast:

Verse 18: the wicked one does not touch those who are born of God.

Verse 19: the whole world—-that is, all who are not born of God—-lies in the wicked one.*

The wicked one is the prince (that is, the supreme ruler) of the world (Jn. 16:11), and the god of the world (II Cor. 4:4). “The whole world lies in the wicked one.” This indicates the universal control which he exercises in that sphere. Yet he “toucheth not” those who are born of God. The conclusion is inescapable: those over whom the devil exercises control are not born of God.

The next Scripture which calls for our attention is James 4:4, which says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” To will to be a friend of the world is to desire the approval, the acceptance, the favor, of the ungodly individuals and institutions which lie in the wicked one. It is to refuse to “go forth unto Christ outside the camp.” (Heb. 13:13). It is to refuse to identify with the stone which is disallowed of men (I Pet. 2:4). It is to say that the disciple may be above his master after all—-to directly deny the Lord’s promise that “if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25). It is to say that there is fellowship between righteousness and unrighteousness—-there is communion between light and darkness—-there is concord between Christ and Belial—-there is agreement between the temple of God and idols.

But the fact remains that there is no such agreement. The world is God’s unchangeable enemy—-designed by Satan, built by Satan, and ruled by Satan. “The whole world”—-every ungodly individual and every godless institution—-lies in his lap. “Friendship with the world is enmity against God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

Now it ought to go without saying that an enemy of God is not saved. But so shallow and twisted is the gospel which is widely preached in our day that some will no doubt contend that an enemy of God may be a Christian. I have even known some to contend that an atheist was saved. But the Bible speaks otherwise. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:10). “When we were enemies,” needing to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we certainly were not saved. But, “whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy [same word in the Greek] of God”—-and therefore certainly not reconciled to him.

The command of God remains, then, in all of its strength, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate!” (II Cor. 6:17). And observe, this is a “commandment with promise.” The promise is, “and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” The Father will receive the prodigal when he comes out of the far country, and not one moment before. We grant again that God may make some allowance for ignorance—-may “forgive them, for they know not what they do”—-but the fact remains that “whosoever is minded to be a friend of the world” (Darby’s translation) is the enemy of God, and therefore headed for the same destruction which awaits all of God’s enemies. It is a simple question of where the heart is, and no man’s heart can be with God and with his inveterate enemy at the same time. “Friendship with the world is enmity against God.”

The same thing exactly is found in I John 2:15. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This is of the same purport as “the truth is not in him” in I John 2:4—-a description of a man who knows not God. If the truth is not in him, he is lost. If the love of the Father is not in him, he is lost. He is not born of God, for “every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God.” (I John4:7-8).

To love the world may mean many things. It may mean to love the company of the ungodly, from whom we are commanded to be separate. It may mean to love the world’s institutions and programs. It may mean its material goods. It may mean its educational or its commercial pursuits. It may mean its sports and entertainments—-its radio and television programs, its music or its books or magazines—-its ways or its philosophies. It does mean all of those things, and more also, for “all that is in the world . . . is not of the Father.” “All that is in the world” is characterized by the Spirit of God as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The whole system is against God—-designed by Satan to oppose God and to usurp his place in the heart. Therefore to love it is to manifest that the love of the Father is not in him. His heart is all wrong. He knows not God, and is not known of him, for “if any man love God, the same is known of him.” (I Cor. 8:3). And further, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things have become new, and all things are of God.” (II Cor. 5:l7-l8).

Behold, then, the great gulf which lies between the children of God and the children of the devil. “We are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one.” “All that is in the world is not of the father,” but in the heart and life of the true child of God “All things are of God.” In spite of all of the weakness and ignorance which may yet cleave to the true children of God, they are yet poles apart from the rest of the world’s population, which lies in the wicked one. The fact that there is so little difference between the church of our day and the world around it proves only one thing: that the churches are largely filled up with unconverted people—-friends of the world, and enemies of God. Are you one of them? Do you love the world, or the things that are in the world? Do you seek the world’s approval, and enjoy its friendship? Then you are the enemy of God. The love of the Father is not in you, and you have not the shadow of a reason to expect to spend eternity with him in heaven.

We read further, in I John 5:4-5, “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” To overcome is to conquer, or to get the victory over, and it is very plain from the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation that none but the overcomers are saved. But what does it mean to overcome the world? This cannot mean to subdue or to change the world. We have no such commission, nor is any such thing possible, so long as the devil remains the prince and the god of it. The world will lie in the wicked one, and so remain the unchanged and unchangeable enemy of God, until it is destroyed by Christ at his coming. For us, to overcome the world can only mean one thing, namely, to get the victory over its temptations—-to free ourselves from its snares and to refuse its ways. No man who is governed by the thoughts and ways of the world has any reason to think or hope that he belongs to God. If any man does not overcome the world—-get the victory over it—-he is not born of God, nor does he possess any saving faith in Jesus Christ.

All of these plain scriptures indicate that if you have the world in your heart, you are no Christian. You love the world because you are of the world, and because the love of the Father is not in you. And though I will readily grant that God will be merciful to those who conform to the world through ignorance, yet I tell you solemnly that if you are banking on this, this is a good indication that you have never gotten the victory over the world. Your heart is in the world. You love it, and hold to it. You cannot overcome it, for you have no will to do so. You are an almost Christian, a half Christian, trying to hold to the world and to the Lord at the same time, or trying to stay as close to the world as you dare. If you were a real Christian, you would get farther than necessary from the enemy of God, rather than staying too close to it. And so you would do also if you valued your soul more than a few passing pleasures.

Glenn Conjurske