The Church and the World
by Glenn Conjurske
A Sermon Preached April 18, 1993. Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised.
Open your Bibles to the book of First John, chapter five, verse nineteen. Here we read, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”
—-or as it should rather be translated, “in the wicked one.” Grammatically this could be either “wickedness” or “the wicked one,” but if you’ll look at the preceding verse, it says there, “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” This wicked one is a person. Grammatically it has to be a person in verse 18, for there it is masculine in the Greek. In verse 19 it can be either masculine or neuter, but it is only reasonable to assume he is talking about the same thing in verse 19 as he is in verse 18. There is no reason to think anything otherwise.
What, then, is he talking about in verse 18? He is talking about two persons
—-God, and the wicked one. The same exactly in verse 19. “We are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” These two persons stand at the head of two distinct peoples. “We are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” And not only are these two peoples distinct, but they are opposite. They are poles apart. Their two heads are God, and the devil, and therefore there cannot be much in common between them. These two companies are the church and the world, and they lie at the opposite points of the compass. They are poles apart, and so long as God and the devil remain poles apart, the church and the world must remain poles apart. There can be no truce, no amalgamation, no friendship. These are two opposing armies engaged in conflict, and friendship with the other side is treason.
Now what I want to do this morning is take you to the Old Testament and show you some types of the church and the world. A type is an Old Testament picture, given by God as an illustration of the spiritual realities of the New Testament. How do I know that the things I am going to mention are divinely intended types of the church and the world? The same way you know that a picture of your wife is a picture of your wife. How? By the fact that it is a true and accurate representation of her. Suppose someone showed you a true-to-the-life picture of your wife, and asked you who it was. You would say it was your wife. If he asked you how you knew, you would tell him it looked just like her. “Maybe so,” he might say, “but that’s no proof anybody ever intended it to be a picture of her.” You would write the man off as a crank or a moron. Now I believe these types of the church and the world to be intended to be types for precisely the same reason. Intended by whom? By the God who impressed them upon the inspired pages of Scripture. These types are not the basis of the doctrine, but they are supports for it, and they do serve very well to fix it in the mind.
That much being said, I turn to the first type, which is found in Genesis 15:12-14
—-Israel in Egypt. “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge, and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” Here is God’s prophetic description beforehand of Israel in Egypt. And the things that he describes are a picture in a nutshell of the portion of the church in the world, and the relationship of the church to the world.
First of all, they are strangers in Egypt. When God told Abraham that his seed was going to sojourn in Egypt, he never had any idea that they would go there and become amalgamated with the people of Egypt, or become one people. God never had any such idea. He never had any idea that they should settle down in Egypt. He says in verse 13, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” This is the first thing that gives you an accurate picture of the place that the church has in the world. We are strangers in a land that is not ours. We don’t have any business to be amalgamated with the people of the world, to be mixed together with the people of the world, in what’s called “Society.” You have a great deal of this among Evangelicals, who are always talking about “our society” and “our culture” and “our world”
—-as though the church and the world all made up one family. No such thing. They are two distinct peoples. Israel is in Egypt as strangers in a strange land that is not theirs. And it certainly was not the will of God for them to mix together with the Egyptians and become one people. In the United States folks come over here from other countries, and in a matter of a few generations they usually mix together, and become part of the nation in which they sojourn. That never happened with the Israelites in Egypt, and God never intended that it should happen, even though they sojourned there for four hundred years.
The second thing is, they were suffering there. It says, “They shall afflict them four hundred years.” They were not there in Egypt in ease and comfort and plenty. They were there in affliction, and this represents the normal portion of the church in the world, and the ordinary relationship of the church to the world. The church is not here to be amalgamated with the world, or to be on terms of friendship with it. We have God on one side, and the devil on the other side
—-God in the church and the devil in the world —-and the devil is going to do his best to afflict the people of God. That was the place that Israel had in Egypt. They were strangers in a strange land, and the time that they spent there was a time of suffering —-a time of persecution.
What were their prospects? God tells you that too, in the fourteenth verse: “Also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” There are two things here that Israel was looking forward to. They were looking forward to the time when they were going to come out of Egypt, and when God was going to judge Egypt. They had no prospect of reforming Egypt. They were not going to change the character of Egypt, so that Egypt would no longer afflict and persecute them. They had no prospect of gaining power in Egypt, so that they could resist the afflictions and persecutions of the Egyptians. They had no prospect of becoming amalgamated with the Egyptians, or of making friends with Egypt, so that Egypt would cease to afflict them, and they all be one happy family. Those were not their prospects. They were there in Egypt for all of those centuries looking forward to two things, which God had taught them to look forward to before they went to Egypt. They were looking for the time when they would come out of Egypt, and be delivered from its persecutions, and when God would judge Egypt. And that is a beautiful picture of the prospects of the church in the world. Strangers in a strange land that is not their own, suffering affliction all the time that they are there, their hopes set on the future deliverance, when their deliverer comes and takes them out of that sphere, and judges that nation that has afflicted them.
Now what would you think, if these Israelites, while they spent those four centuries in Egypt, what would you think if they had begun to look upon Egypt as their home?
—-if they had begun to talk about “our culture —-our country” —-talking about Egypt? You would say, Wait a minute: something is desperately wrong here. They have forgotten who they are. They have lost their identity. They’ve lost their hope. God had set their eyes upon the time when they would come out of Egypt, and Egypt is going to be judged. God had set their eyes on the promised land. But they have lost sight of all of that, and are settled down in Egypt, and in their hearts they have become part of the culture of Egypt. Now, that’s where Neo-evangelicalism is today. They are there in principle, and a good many Fundamentalists are there in practice. “Our culture —-our society —-our world.” They in their hearts have made themselves part of the world. God intends them to be not only a distinct people, but a people who are opposites. “We are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one.”
Another picture of the church is found in Numbers chapter 21
—-Israel in the wilderness. Beginning at verse 21, “And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, Let me pass through thy land. We will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well, but we will go along by the king’s high way, until we be past thy borders.” Now, Moses’ idea was, just strangers passing through. Not planning to settle down here. Not planning to take part in the affairs of this country. We just want permission to pass through. This is a very good picture of the church. You know, it tells you in the next verse that the king of the Amorites wouldn’t grant them that permission to pass through. That has often been the case with the church in this wicked world. We’re not going to cause any trouble. We won’t overthrow the government, or alter the politics of the nation. We won’t get involved in the cultural pursuits. All we want is just permission to pass through to our heavenly home. And the ungodly world, under the dominion of Satan, says, “No, you can’t pass through. You’re not going to pass through on the king’s high way: you’re going to sit in the king’s prison-house.” Many of the best of saints throughout history have done so.
Now suppose that Israel had been granted permission to pass through the country, and they get half way through the country, and begin to speak of it as “our country,” and begin to look upon the culture of the Amorites as “our culture.” You would say, Something is wrong here. They have forgotten who they are, and what they are there for. They have lost sight of their prospects and their hopes, and are settling down where they don’t belong. I do not believe Israel in the land of promise is a type of the church. Israel in the land of promise had already received their inheritance: the church has not. Israel in the wilderness had not received any inheritance yet, and therefore form a picture of the church of God
—-pilgrims and strangers here, passing on to the land of our inheritance.
Another picture of the church is Israel in Babylon, dwelling in Babylon, but not Babylonians. A distinct people. “We are of God,” while “the whole world lies in the wicked one.” In Jeremiah 29 we see Israel in Babylon. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon. Build ye houses, and dwell in them, and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters, that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it, for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Vss. 4-7). And further in verse 10, “For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and preform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” They were in Babylon precisely as their forefathers had been in Egypt, as strangers in a strange land
—-not to be settled down there, but always with the prospect before them, “God is going to visit us, and deliver us from this land, and take us to our own land.” In that they are a picture of the church of God.
He does not tell them to go out and be monks and nuns, to get out of the world. He says, build houses, plant gardens, get married, and have children. Engage in all the ordinary activities of life. He even says, pray to God for the peace of the city, because in their peace you’ll have peace. If they have war, you will have war. But in all this keep your heart set on the fact that God is going to visit you and take you out of this place. This is not your home. You don’t belong here. Don’t sink your roots too deep.
Now I want to give you one more picture, one of the clearest pictures you will find in the Old Testament of the relationship of the church to the world. This is in David and his men, in I Samuel 22. “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam, and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them.” (Vss. 1-2). David was cast out and persecuted by the reigning power. Saul was in power. He was in power because God had put him there. Nevertheless, he was not approved of God. Shortly after he began his reign, God came to Saul by his prophet Samuel, and said to him, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, I have rejected you from being king over Israel.” And God went and sought for a man after his own heart, and anointed him to be king over Israel. Yet God’s man David had not yet come to the throne. Saul was rejected of God, yet reigning on the throne. David was rejected by Saul, yet anointed of God, waiting for his kingdom. Saul represents the devil, rejected by God, yet reigning over the world. David represents Christ, chosen and anointed of God, but not yet upon the throne. God’s anointed is cast out and persecuted by the king whom God had rejected. The church is pictured by this band of men that gathered themselves to the Lord’s anointed in his rejection, while all the power of the kingdom was in the hands of his sworn enemy.
Now all these men that gathered themselves unto David in the wilderness, to fight the Lord’s battles with him, these all went out to David to share in his sufferings and persecutions with him. They went to him to share in his reproach. In associating themselves with David, they subjected themselves to David’s sufferings, and to the hatred of Saul and his forces. Saul hated David with a mortal hatred. He left the affairs of the kingdom to go out and hunt David like a dog or a flea in the mountains. And all the men who gathered themselves to David exposed themselves to Saul’s hatred and vengeance also. All that remained loyal to Saul after God had rejected him could have their ease and their plenty and their glory in Saul’s kingdom. Those that went out to David went out to suffer a life of hardship and persecution, dwelling in dens and caves of the earth, exposed to all the dangers and privations which fell upon David in his rejection.
Now in I Peter 2:4 we read of the church, “coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious.” And Hebrews 13:13 says, “Let us go forth therefore unto him, outside the camp, bearing his reproach.” All the power, all the glory, all the wealth, were on the side of Saul. David was just a vagabond, living in reproach and suffering. When he came to a man of wealth to get a little help in his privations, all he could get was reproach: “there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.” (I Sam. 25:10). Now when men come to Christ, they come to God’s king indeed, but God’s rejected king, outside the camp, outside of Saul’s court and kingdom, bearing his reproach. Now you cannot mix Saul and David together, and you cannot mix their followers together. Saul is David’s enemy. The devil is Christ’s enemy, and the devil’s kingdom is the enemy of the kingdom of God. The world is the enemy of the church. The two are not only distinct, but antagonistic.
Now David’s men did not go out into the wilderness to dethrone Saul. They were not there to clean up Saul’s kingdom, but only to suffer with David
—-until God brought his man David to the throne, and then they would reign with him. “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.”
Now in all of these pictures which we have looked at, we see two distinct companies. They are companies which are not only distinct, but antagonistic. The Egyptians afflict the Israelites. Saul pursues and persecutes David. The King of the Amorites is antagonistic to Israel, and will not allow them to pass through the land. Now the fact that the church is of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one, indicates that there ought to be a great gulf fixed between them. They are not alike. They can’t be. There is only one way that the church and the world can be alike. It is not by the world becoming civilized, or cultured, or Christianized, or becoming righteous. That can’t happen so long as the whole world lies in the wicked one. The world can’t become like the church. The only way these two companies can be alike is if the church becomes like the world, and the true church can’t do that either. We have God on the one side, and the devil on the other. And this is the basis for the Bible doctrine of separation. You’ll find this clearly spelled out in II Corinthians 6. He says in verse 14, “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.” “We are of God.” God dwells in us. God walks in us. We are the temple of God. “Wherefore come out from among them”
—-who lie in the wicked one —-“and BE YE SEPARATE, saith the Lord.”
The church, and the world. Two separate companies, just as distinct as Israel and Egypt. Israel in Egypt, sojourning there as strangers in a strange land, afflicted by the Egyptians, not joining together with the Egyptians, not becoming one people with them, not becoming friends with them, but afflicted by them. Not becoming involved in the affairs of Egypt. You know what the modern church would have done if they had been back there in Egypt in those days? They would have been saying, Let’s get out and vote. Egypt doesn’t have any right to afflict us and make slaves of us. Let’s get out and vote, and get these evil men out of power, and get someone in office that will give us our rights. Let’s change the laws of the land, let’s amend the constitution
—-stem the tide —-save Egypt. Israel had no business, no commission, to do so. They were there to be afflicted. God told Abraham that before they ever went near Egypt. God has told the church the same thing. Philippians 1:29 —-“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” John 16:33 —-“In the world ye shall have tribulation.” John 15:19 —-“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Oh, you may vote and boycott and lobby and flex your political muscles, and you may change a few laws, but you can’t eradicate the hatred of the world for the people of God, any more than you can eradicate the hatred of the devil for God.
Oh, but Israel in Egypt had a prospect. God is going to send you a deliverer, and take you out of this land, and judge this people that have afflicted you. That is a clear picture of the church in the world, and the relationship between them.