Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In the World, Not OF the World

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

In this context, the apostle Paul explains the difference between living in the world, and living “of” the world. It is obviously necessary for the Christian to interact with worldly people. Ungodliness is everywhere. When you go to the grocery store, the clerk might be an adulteress. Your child’s teacher might be guilty of covetousness, your banker might just be an extortioner, and the plumber may be a drunkard!

Rather than adopting the Catholic ideal of righteousness (a sequestered monk, separating himself into a commune with other monks), as Christians we are to walk among the worldly, letting our light “so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Of course, the passage also points out that though we have no control over those in the world, we certainly have both the authority and the responsibility to limit our spiritual fellowship only to those deserving of our Lord’s approval. While we must put up with sexual immorality in the world, we do not have to, and must not put up with it in the church of God.

But, back to the first point. Christians must rise above the worldliness that surrounds them, to live a life worthy of their calling. As the Psalmist put it, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

The Old Testament is replete with examples of the righteous, who, though they walked on the earth, always walked away from the world!

  • Noah, as a preacher of righteousness, walked away from sinful humanity, and was separated from the world by the flood, “in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20).
  • Abraham heeded the call of God to leave the land of his father (Ur of the Chaldeans), and pilgrim as a stranger in a land (Canaan) God had promised to his descendents. “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). Later, while his nephew Lot “dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom” , Abraham, “moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord” (cf. Genesis 13:12,14).
  • Moses walked away from the privilege and riches of Pharaoh’s court to take his place among the persecuted people of Israel. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
  • Israel walked away from the fleshpots of Egypt and toward the land of promise. As they remained true to God, they were blessed by Him. “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7).

In light of these examples, it is obvious that God requires a diligent walk from His children. Our purpose on this earth is to please Him. If we persist in our desire to be like the world, to engage in worldly and sinful activities, we displease Him. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

Walking with God is walking the walk of faith. Heed carefully the statement of the apostle, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:7-9). Can it be said that you are in the world, but not of the world?