1 John 2:15-17 Main point summary
15. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him, 16. because all that is in the world--the craving that springs from the flesh and the craving that springs from the eyes and the boasting that springs from possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 17. And the world is passing away along with its craving, but whoever does God's will remains forever.
1 John 2:15-17 Main point summary
Do not, by following the pattern of the world's craving, abide illegitimate loves that are passing away, but pursue the only legitimate source and object of love, God, in seeking to do his will.
John's letter is by self-description intended to provide assurance of salvation to his readers--"I write these things ... that you may know that you have eternal life" 5:13. He does this by describing the same tests of life from different angles throughout his letter. In so doing, he compiles what is perhaps the most thorough description in the whole NT of what a Christian is and looks like. The pericope of 15-17 is a pearl on this string. And here John contrasts the love that ought be in a Christian's heart versus the love that ought not--that cannot--be in a Christian's heart. Note what John is saying here, that there are certain loves that are counterfeit loves. That there are naturally arising desires that are nonetheless totally corrupt. This is not saying that all natural desires are corrupt, but that all desire in the world, as it arises apart from Christ, is in opposition to God. This means that you are not to listen to everything your unglorified body tells you to do. You are not to go after everything your unglorified eyes tell you is desirable. You are not to measure the greatness of your life by the things you accumulate. John cares that we love the right object. That we love God. And he wishes to grant his readers discernment between legitimate love and counterfeit love. Not many decades ago there was a misled view that believed faith in God should be characterized by a miserable stoic sobriety of actions divorced of passions. John would not agree with this. One of his primary tests of life is that we passionately love God. And this passion should be for our joy, as he writes in his Gospel where Jesus says, "that my joy may be in you and and that your joy may be complete." The common danger in western Christianity is no longer that we will not care for joy, but that we will care for the wrong joy. That we will lack discernment between a legitimate love that brings life and counterfeit love that brings death. It is on this basis that people say, "The Lord made me, he knows the desires of my heart, and it is his blessing when they are fulfilled." It is true that every impulse within man can trace its origin back to a pure and healthy desire within the original creatures of Adam and Eve. But the flesh is now corrupted. Therefore, the desires of our fleshly heart are guaranteed to be wayward. They are not to be trusted. Of course, it is easy enough to make a distinction between certain social ills and the Christian lifestyle. Adultery, drug abuse, gluttony, petty theft and the like we recognize are clearly sinful. The trouble is that on the flip-side we want to say the enjoyment of an ice-cream cone, or the thrill of a theme-park, or the pleasure of a day at the beach, or the comfort of a well-respected job, or the contentment of gathering with family, or even the pleasure of a spouse's intimacy, are all acceptable legitimate loves and joys. However, that may not be so. These things need discernment. How are we to discern what is legitimate or not? John instructs us that it is by considering from what source does our desire arise and what is its ultimate object? If a desire arises from the fallen world and the ultimate object of its satisfaction is the fallen world, then it is a counterfeit love. It is a competitor in your soul for the love of God. The two cannot cohabitate in your heart. As Jesus says, "you cannot serve two masters. For either you will hate the one and love the other, or love the one and hate the other." Or as John here says, "If anyone loves the world, love for the father is not in him." A counterfeit love for worldly things may pretend to be a Godward joy in that it takes the time to stop in the middle and give a token of gratitude to God, saying, "thank you God for this experience." But that does not legitimate the love. The recently fallen Ravi Zacharias is said to have instructed the women he took advantage of to pray with him thanking the Lord prior to their indulgence in sin. Thankfulness does not indicate that a desire is actually a joy in God. It does not show that God is the one being loved. John clues us in to what is the key for discerning this Godward love when he says in v. 17 that it is those who do "God's will" who remain forever. He defines this more broadly in this same letter, but also in his gospel. Those who desire to do God's will from the heart, who seek to keep his every word in the way he intended it, it is those who love him. (cf. John 14:21). So then, here is our litmus test for whether a love and its resultant joy are legitimate. Does the choice for that thing ultimately arise from a desire to do the will of God? Does it arise from seeking to fulfill the appointed role he has given you? And is its object ultimately the service, the pleasing of God himself? Is the source and terminus of your desire the pleasure of God's will? We need not be hyper-spiritualized here and think that God's will and pleasure are found only in esoteric monastic pursuits. We are indeed creatures of flesh and eyes and in need of material subsistence. We are not being called back to the failed stoicism of previous generations. God means for us to eat and drink, to marry, to raise children, to be productively employed, to take rest, and to have joy in it all. But weigh whether your desire is in a thing that will pass away or in the will of God that will remain. When you eat or drink, do you do so to the glory of God? When you love your wife, is it because you take joy in representing Christ to her? When you work diligently to produce fruit from your labor, is it so that you may have something to offer to the body of Christ? When you turn on a T.V. show, are you seeking the reflection of God's glory in his creation? When you play a sport, is it so that you may sing the praise of the Creator's glory through the harmony of your muscles and demonstrate the great Redeemer's nature in your sportsmanship? When you gather with family, is it so that you may relate the varied graces of your Lord to those around you? When you spend time with your children, is it so that you may by a typology of Christ seeking to prepare them to also recognize and lay hold of the joy of loving our great Savior? Our society does not do these things. Its entire structure is built around pushing the thought of God, the motivation of God, out of everything. And it teaches us to choose, pursue, and consummate desires with as little recognition of God as possible. This is what it means to be godless. Not that we are explicitly antagonistic to God, but that we lack God in our every thought and in our every desire . This is godlessness. And this is the very craving of the world that John tells us is passing away. We are not to be conformed to this world. We are not to love the world as the world loves itself. We are to love God to the exclusion of the ways the world craves. Make no mistake. There is a battle between legitimate and illegitimate love in our hearts. There is a battle between legitimate and illegitimate joy. One will suppress and overcome the other. If you fail to discern the difference, then the craving of the world will rule your life. You may comfort yourself that you are Christian because you give thanks for the things you enjoy, but you will be blind to the eternally weighty reality that your joy does not originate and terminate in God. And all such illegitimate pleasures will pass away. And here is the sad crux of the whole issue: the basis of this imperative is not that God is some harsh taskmaster. From the beginning the Devil has been whispering, "Did God really say?!" Suggesting to us that God has been holding out on us, that God is commanding us to take second best. But that is a lie. The reality is that what we get when we our desire begins with and terminates in God is God himself! And God is better than any portion of creation! So, oh, what a great deception to accept the world's lie that a godless desire, that a godless craving and its satisfaction, is better than a Godward craving and a Godward satisfaction. He was the maker of our desires that are now twisted. So certainly, He, the Creator, knows how they ought to be oriented and what is their best fulfillment. Do not accept illegitimate loves. Do not nurse a place in your heart for them. Do not leave Sodom and look back. Love God, not the things of the world. T he godless and their deceived lesser cravings will pass away forever, but w hoever loves God in doing God's will from the heart, he will remain forever with God. His delightful desire will be God, and God will grant him the desire of his heart . At his right hand alone are pleasures forevermore.
1 John 2:15-17
15 Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον, οὐκ ἔστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν αὐτῷ• 16 ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστίν. 17 καὶ ὁ κόσμος παράγεται καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ, ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
Translation and Notes
Author's translation: 15) Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him, 16) because all that is in the world--the craving that springs from the flesh and the craving that springs from the eyes and the boasting that springs from possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 17) And the world is passing away along with its craving, but whoever does God's will remains forever. Notes on translation: a) In v. 15 there is a debatable question of how the genitive of "ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς " ought to be taken. In the context, it seems best to take it as an objective genitive (rather than subjective), as the discourse is over the focus of our love and desires, not God's. Some might argue for multiple overlapped meanings of both of those or others, but such a semantic use is tenuous and would not seem to be the primary point of the text anyway. b) In v. 16 there are three genitives used within the internal appositional epexegetical description of what is in the world. There is a question over how each of these should be taken. Given that each of the three subphrases follows the same pattern of a noun derived from a verb modified by the genitive of a noun derived from some physical thing in human life, and that they all are in parallel to as a unit describe what is in the world, it seems appropriate to assume that each genitive should have the same semantic interpretation. The two best possibilities for both of the first two phrases would seem to be genitive of source and subjective genitive, but for the last phrase only genitive of source and objective genitive (for the possessions of life is an inanimate thing). Thus, genitive of source is the only one which fits well for all three. Likewise, this accords well with the end of the verse, which through explicit prepositions indicates that the idea of the source of things in the world is in view. c) In v. 16, βιου has a general dichotomy of meaning that could either simply be "life" or could be "possessions". Per the Pillar commentary, it is much more often possession in the NT, and in the single other use John has in this same book, in 3:17, it clearly means possessions. Therefore, it is also translated as possessions here. Notes on interpretation: a) In v. 15, the prohibition to love the world would not seem to be an exclusion of Christian actions in charity, mercy, and grace, but rather an exclusion of a heart attitude that cherishes the current form of the world in its corrupted state. For this corrupted world is the world that should be understood as passing away in v. 17, and that is described in its nature in v. 16. b) v. 16 should be taken as a grounds for reasoning why love for the father is not in someone who loves the world. c) Note that the words for "craving" and "boasting" in v. 16 and v. 17 are singular, not plural, and in v. 16 each is attended by the definite article. Hence, it seems that merely individual diverse separate momentary desires are not what John is speaking to. Rather, the singular would suggest that he is speaking categorically to these processes, that is, to the types of desire in v. 16, and in v. 17 to the entirety of the world's broken mechanism for desire. d) the craving that springs from the flesh would seem to be distinguished from that which spring from the eyes as the first being that desire produced entirely within, from the flesh's impulse for gratification of hunger, sex, other visceral expressions. The craving that springs from the eyes would be that which comes from what it is seen and then coveted. The two desires may indeed coordinate with one another, but what is being described in the difference in source. e) in v. 17 ,the passing away of the world and its desires is described by a present tense, which would suggest that the process is already begun and that the ultimate victory of Christ and his kingdom is certain. Thus, the sinners of the world will pass away, but those who are righteous in Christ will remain forever. f) Note that the passage is assuming a mutual exclusion between love for God and love for the world. If this mutual exclusion is not assumed, then the argument of the text breaks down.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world nor the things in the world.
Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.
If anyone loves the world,
ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον,
love for the Father is not in him,
οὐκ ἔστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν αὐτῷ•
because all that is in the world--
ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ,
the craving that springs from the flesh
ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκὸς
and the craving that springs from the eyes
καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν
and the boasting that springs from possessions--
καὶ ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου,
is not from the father
οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ πατρὸς
but is from the world.
ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστίν.
And the world is passing away along with its craving,
καὶ ὁ κόσμος παράγεται καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ,
but whoever does the will of God remains forever.
ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
This is grammatically negative/positive, not theologically negative/positive.
1 John 2:15-17
1 John 2:15
1 John 2:16
1 John 2:17