The church is not a part of the world. It stands in contrast, in otherness, to the world, and is in fact an alternative to it. The church's appearance came about by a supernatural event. Jesus, after choosing men out from the world, ascended to heaven and having been glorified, sent the Holy Spirit, which enveloped them, forming them into a corporate entity. Something new upon the earth that man could enter into upon faith in Christ, and thus escaping from the world. The church then became a community of foreigners. But more than just a community for it became a living body, the body of Christ. Each believing individual, having received the life of Christ, became a member. Still, though being no longer of the world they yet remained in it. Therefore, they must learn how to live in it all over again for to live in the world as a Christian is very different than living in it as one who does not know the truth. If one fails to adjust, they will lose their otherness and become indistinguishable from all that is of the world. This will result in their falling away from the very purpose God has in mind for them in their remaining in the world. This is an ever present danger, even today, as it was in the beginning. Vigilance is therefore necessary.
Because of the church's uniqueness as a body, the individual's interactions with the world affect not only us, but the whole church. Therefore, God is also vigilant, watching over His church. For the member's actions can actually draw other members back into the world, if they move in that direction. Eventually, this would cause the church to lose the testimony the Lord has given it to uphold. The men in the world then would have no alternative and would be without direction to find salvation; for it was because Christ when in the world was, yet, not of the world, that He was able to draw men unto Himself for salvation. The church, seeing that Christ resides in her, if it remains not of the world, will also draw men to Jesus. The church cannot, however, remain effective as a channel for salvation if it becomes part of the world. At the point it does, it is no longer an expression of Christ; and its anointing, which placed it in union with the Lord in heaven, is gone. The church then has become a worldly institution and the spirit of the world, which resides in the hearts and minds of men naturally, will be its master. The lampstand of testimony is removed, the Holy Spirit departs, and that group of people is left unto their own devises. They are deceived to think that they remain a church in the eyes of heaven. They now have no brakes to stop them from joining head-long with the spirit of the world in its many religious façades, posing as the body of Christ.
With caution and care, Christ has left us the Holy Spirit to guide us as pilgrims and sojourners. For so is the Christian designated by the apostle Peter. Without the Holy Spirit, we are hopelessly lost. For even more guidance, He, as a blueprint, has left us the record of His life in the Gospels. Let us learn from and be guided by what we find in them. It should be no surprise to find that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to the fact that the path which our Lord walked is the same He would have us walk. Again, we should expect the Spirit to emphasize how important it is that we, as individuals, keep in mind the unity among the members of the body. This will cause us to look to each other for help in discernment as to when we are crossing the line and entering into the world, knowing that the body which remains distinct from the world is directly related to the head, which is Christ. It is He who directs us through the contribution of the other members. Not being a part of a functioning expression of the body of Christ will greatly hinder our ability to receive guidance through this world.
Now, because we are a body, before the Lord takes the action mentioned above, of removing the lampstand of witness, it falls to the church to take action to avoid His departure. The brother or sister who is being overcome by the world is, of course, to be helped and even corrected, if need be. But if they are unrepentant, then they are to be placed back into the world by the church, for Christ has given this responsibility to the church, and granted her the authority to do so. Then the church will have no fellowship with them, thus removing their leavening effect upon the rest of the assembly. This is only possible because the church is not part of the world. If this seems not to fit in with the way things are today, then it is evident that that church is not set up according to the structure or form which Christ intended. It, indeed, is not according to what the Holy Spirit would have produced had He been followed and it also becomes apparent that its arrangement actually suits it to be more at home in the world than apart from it.
Our Lord, to the contrary, has assured us He was, and is, not of the world:
And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
He also told His disciples, that He had chosen them, taking them out of the world:
If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
He also assured us that His kingdom was not of this world:
My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
It is clear, then, that Jesus did not come to Earth to force Himself upon the world; neither did He order His followers to fight and take over the world after He was gone. As the apostle Paul says elsewhere, “our warfare is not against flesh and blood”. In fact, it is far removed from the mind of Jesus that He would ever accomplish God's will for His mission by force. This is made plain to us in that even though He was the Creator, He humbled Himself and passively accepted the fact that He was not received. John recorded:
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not …But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God
For it was as the apostle Paul stated:
God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses
Jesus eventually says:
And this is the judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.
God is here honoring the creature He has made, one whom He has given a free will, and therefore, one who has a right to choose. Once that right is removed, it is judgement day, and man will no longer have a choice. Men will either have chosen life or death, and at that point, nothing will be able to change that.
Even though He was not honored Jesus continued His ministry, warning the men of this world that though judgement is coming, they have yet, for a time, opportunity to escape if they would only repent and believe in Him. Still, He was vividly clear that He had not at this time come to subjugate their world, but He came to give them a choice. They could remain in the world, and eventually be judged, or could come out from the world unto Him, and be saved. For up until judgement, the kingdoms of this world will remain as Satan's possessions; and, in fact, It is from among those men who identify with Satan by remaining in the world, whom Satan will give positions of authority in their governments. Even as it is those believers who remain removed from the world, Christ will give authority to rule with Him in His coming kingdom.
You see, Jesus could have taken the world by force, but He didn't. He could have made right all the things that are in the world, the economic, political, and social things that are not according to God's will, but He didn't. That was not the mission the Father had sent Him on. He came to serve as a light, a light to shine in a world of darkness, to lead all they that have eyes to see out from the world. This is the gospel's call, a call to men to come willingly, of their own volition, out of the world unto Jesus Christ, the alternative. While there is still time, the call goes out: believe on Him for salvation and you will not, when He returns, be condemned along with the world. For, as already noted, there is a day coming when judgement will remove all from the earth that offends God, but that day has not yet come. Now is the day of salvation, the day of decision, the day the gospel is preached.
Therefore, the church has not been called to judge the world at present or be involved in it, to change it for the better. Jesus did not do this, so the church also should not do this. Such actions would bring confusion, undermining the mission Christ was sent on, the same mission the church is sent on. Such actions would cause the church and the world to lose their distinction and contrast, thus undermining the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. For, again, Christ has come to call us out of the world unto Him in hope of the coming kingdom which He preached. This is not in hope of Him improving the present world. That would be another gospel.
Christ must be seen in contrast to the world by those who are being saved. It is unimaginable that Christ would, after saving them, lead them back into the world. Indeed, He defines their mission as being in contrast to the world, even as His own mission was. For when he was praying to the Father the night before He was to depart from this world, He prayed:
I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. …I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine. …And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are. …I have given them thy word; and the world 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 from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth: they word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.
This contrast between the world and believers is manifested in our sanctification in the Lord, who has sanctified Himself for this reason and has given us His word for this reason. Therefore the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah, applying the verses to Christians:
Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
To be separated from the world is our salvation and our sanctification. To be separated from the world is also our calling, for as the Lord is the light of the world, which came to lead others unto God, so our Lord has said we also, in Him, are the light of the world. Our ministry in serving as lights is one with His ministry. We therefore, like Christ, are in the world, but not of the world. We are sent into the world, as being in otherness from it, so as to be able to call others out from it unto Christ.
Let us fully understand that the world is the antithesis of the kingdom of God. The church, though in the world, is not under the kingdom of this world but under the kingdom of God. This is only possible and only a reality because of a heavenly connection the believer has with Christ in the Holy Spirit, which the world does not know and cannot know. Nonetheless, the church is directed to pray that God's kingdom come, not because it does not know spiritually the kingdom's authority, but because the world has yet to know His authority. The world will eventually know it, but that is in the future. At present, this world's ruler, as we've already stated, is Satan, who Christ acknowledged as the prince of this world, the apostle Paul acknowledged as the god of this world, and the apostle John as he who envelopes the whole world. And in irrefutable evidence of his position over the world, it was Satan who offered it to Christ:
And he led him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
Now this is very practical. What is offered here is the inventory of the kingdom of darkness, even the kingdoms of this world. When Satan offered Christ the authority and glory of these kingdoms, he offered what is his and its authority and glory touches the very infrastructure of all that makes up the nations of the world. The religious and political, economic and social systems are all his. The wealth, the pleasures and even the honor received in the literal praises of men, all which are found within the nations, are all his. All this was Satan's to offer. It is still his to offer, and as far away from such an offer as Christ placed Himself, so too should the church place itself. Still, the Evil One is persistent for even after his direct temptation in the wilderness failed, Satan was still desirous for Christ to enter his world, and so he continued to tempt Him. For instance, when the crowd would have made Him king of Israel:
Jesus therefore perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain himself alone.
Jesus again overcame Satan's ploy of exciting the throng by refusing to be made king of Israel. For though He was the legitimate king, He would only receive the kingdom in His Father's time, not men's time; by His Fathers hand, not men's hands. Still, Jesus waits to receive the kingdom, and as long as He waits, the church is to continue to proclaim the Gospel of the coming kingdom of God. Even now, Jesus is still refusing to take rule over the earth, even at the insistence of those who are called by His name, who as a confrontational force, would occupy the nations in His name. They would claim that the democratic form of government has changed the very calling that Christ initially gave the church and demand that Christians enter back into the world for the kingdom of God sake, so as to gain the world for Christ. How foolish to think that Jesus would be tempted to receive, even from them, what the Father has forbidden. This world is still Satan's, and all who have received authority in it, over the nations, have received it from him. Jesus, thank God, will not receive it from him! The church, if it receives it, as it has time and time again, will receive it from Satan. When it does, the church then will no longer be the body of Christ, but will be a worldly institution under the authority of Satan. Thus, any participation by an individual disciple of Christ in the executive arm of this world's governments puts him outside the Father's will and inside Satan's. It is Satan's aim, in his plan to overcome the kingdom of heaven, to cause Christ's followers to come under his dominion and jurisdiction by drawing them to be involved in his kingdom.
Jesus, yet, again refused to govern when He was asked to judge the civil affairs of the world, for the Father had not given this to Him either. It is one and the same as ruling. In Luke, one of two brothers came to Jesus asking for His help in the distribution of an inheritance, and the Lord responded:
Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
Thus He refused the civil and judicial authority in the world.
Christ, also, forbade His disciples to take up arms, even when they did so in His defense. How then can we take up arms to defend ourselves or anyone else in His name? And we are to do all things in His name. Recall the night Jesus was betrayed:
lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people …And Jesus said unto him, Friend, do that for which thou art come. Then they came and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And behold one of them that were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear. Then saith Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
He thus forbade believers to take part in any form of temporal resistance to government, and likewise, any form of military or police involvement is consequently barred as well. As the apostle Paul tells us, God has given the sword to the magistrates of the world so that they might, in doing their duty, inflict justice upon evil men:
for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.
In contrast, He has given the gospel to the church, to administer grace and offer God's forgiveness of sins, not justice or wrath. The two cannot be mixed without great loss. The distinction between the world and the church will be lost if those in the church participate in the ministration of the world.
So, unto us who profess to know Christ, I ask, to what extent are our lives clear of what Christ refused, of that which touches this world, and of those things which our Lord would not touch?
In the matters mentioned above, the Lord is clear that we as Christians are not to be involved. But in other matters, it may not be as clearly differentiated, and it may appear we are more like those in the world than not. What then distinguishes us is that we demonstrate a different spirit. There is the contrast! For instance, we as Christians wear the same clothes as they who are in the world, only we wear them modestly. We work in the same market place, only we are absolutely honest. We eat and drink the same foods, yet in moderation. We have romantic relationships while remaining in moral purity. We enjoy entertainments, selecting only that which is morally wholesome. We use money, yet we don't love money, in fact, we share, giving to those in need. The list could go on, but what will be evident to the world is that Christians put their obedience to Christ as paramount. They live as wayfaring strangers in this world, looking for a coming kingdom. They are, therefore, different in their moral character.
Yet, let me emphasize this one particular area of danger, for there is nothing more destructive to the testimony of the church's separateness than when it becomes entangled in affairs involving money. The spirit of the world is so much attached to money that it is very difficult for the church not to be pulled into the world whenever it is involved. This is why the church as presented in scripture is never seen as an entity that can own property or acquire wealth in its own right. If this example is followed, the church will not easily be thought of as an earthly institution, but will stand in counter distinction to such institutions. As a result, it will have little attraction to those in the world, who love the things of the world.
How wonderfully simple is the church of God. Wherever two are more gather in Christ's name, there is its ground. As a member of the body of Christ, let it ever weigh upon our hearts, that what we touch touches the other members and therefore touches upon the testimony, and that it was Christ who sanctified Himself in order that we might also be sanctified and set apart from this world. Let us then consecrate our lives for the Lord, for the ones we love, and for the lost to have direction for salvation, and in due course, we will inherit the kingdom. Knowing that the purposes of God are accomplished as a result of our separation from the world, let us therefore come out from among them and be separate, touching no unclean thing.