© 1999 James A. Fowler

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I. Greek words for "world" used in New Testament

    A. Greek word kosmos
         1. Root word komeo means "to take care of"
         2. Originally meant "order" or "arrangement"
         3. Later came to mean "world"
             a. Greeks considered the physical world to be "ordered" and "arranged"
             b. This later became basis of the "cosmological" argument for God's existence
                 (1) created order demands a Creator
                 (2) design demands a Designer
        4. Different meanings of "world" used in New Testament
            a. world/order of creation
            b. world/order of humanity
            c. world/order of evil
   B. Greek word oikoumene
        1. Root word oikeo means "to dwell"
        2. Meaning in New Testament: "human inhabitants of the world"
            a. thus very similar to "world/order of humanity"
            b. note parallel usage in Matt. 4:8 and Lk. 4:5

II. Representative Biblical references to different usages of "world"

   A. World/order of creation
        1. Universe
             Matt. 13:35 - "the foundation of the world" (cf. Matt. 25:34; Lk. 11:50; Jn. 17:24; Eph. 1:4;                      Heb. 4:3; 9:26; I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8)
             Acts 17:24 - "the God who made the world and all things in it"
             Rom. 1:20 - "since the creation of the world..."
         2. Earth, geographical location or place
             Matt. 24:21 - "since the beginning of the world"
             Jn. 1:10 - "the world was made through Him"
         3. Material objects
             Matt. 16:26 - "if he shall gain the whole world" (cf. Mk. 8:36; Lk 9:25)
   B. World/order of humanity
         1. Mankind in general
             Jn. 3:16 - "God so loved the world that He gave His Son..."
             Jn. 4:42 - "the Savior of the world"
             I Tim. 1:15 - "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
             Matt. 24:14 - "gospel preached in whole world" (oikoumene)
         2. General public
             Jn. 7:4 - "show Yourself to the world"
             Jn. 12:19 - "look, the world has gone after Him"
             Jn. 18:20 - "I have spoken openly to the world"
             Acts 17:6 - "these men have upset the world" (oikoumene)
   C. World/order of evil
         1. Unregenerate mankind; mankind as affected by the Fall
             Jn. 1:29 - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"
             Jn. 16:8 - "He (H.S.) will convict the world concerning sin"
             Jn. 17:9 - "I do not ask on behalf of the world"
             II Cor. 5:19 - "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself"
         2. World-system opposed to God; activity of mankind affected by Fall
             I Cor. 1:20,21 - "the wisdom of the world"
             Gal. 6:14 - "the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world"
             Col. 2:8 - "elementary principles of the world"
             James 4:4 - "friendship with the world is hostility toward God"
             I Jn. 2:15 - "do not love the world..."
         3. Dominion of the devil; Satan's activity in mankind affected by Fall
             Jn. 12:31 - "prince of this world cast out" (cf. Jn. 14:30; 16:11)
             I Cor. 2:12 - "the spirit of the world"
             I Jn. 4:4 - "he that is in the world"


IV. Our perspective of and attitude toward the "world"

   A. Difficulty of identifying what concept/context of "world" being referred to
         John 16:28
         John 17:11,14,15,16,18
         John 18:36
         I Cor. 5:10
         I John 2:15,16
   B. The dangers of overemphases and misemphases of concepts of "world"
        1. Overemphasis of "world/order of evil"
             a. dualism - spiritual = good; physical, material = evil
             b. dichotomies - sacred/secular; spiritual/worldly
             c. exploitation, desecration, pollution, abuse of created natural resources. If "world" is evil                    and all is going to 'imminently' perish anyway, then why be concerned about natural                    world?
             d. lack of concern for social and humanitarian endeavors. If the "world" is evil and going to                    hell, why "polish brass on a sinking ship"? (JVM); "it's a total loss; write if off"
             e. no hope for this world - pessimism, despair
             f. otherworldliness, mysticism, preoccupation with 'interior life', spiritualizing
             g. futurism - world will be overcome in the future.
         2. Overemphasis on "world/order of humanity and creation."
             a. environmentalism - deify and worship created world
             b. materialism - preoccupation with material things
             c. humanism - man is the chief end of things
             d. adaptation to the ways of the "world of evil"
                 (1) compromize, appeasement, collaboration, justification
                 (2) enculturation, civil religion, nationalism, patriotism
                 (3) acceptance and acquiesence to pluralism
             e. attempts to Christianize human society by moral reform
                 (1) implementation of values, virtues, ethics, morals, principles, precepts, God's laws
                 (2) activism of political "right," "Moral majority"
             f. participation in the power-plays and violent conflicts of the world-system
   C. Varying theological interpretations developed on basis of emphases of
         concept/context of "world"
         1. Premillennial Dispensationalism/Fundamentalism tends to
              emphasize "world of evil"
         2. Postmillennial Theonomy and Reconstructionism tends to emphasize "world of humanity"
   D. To what extent should a Christian be involved in the "world"?
         1. Disengagement, detachment
              a. separatism - cf. I Cor. 6:17
              b. aliens and strangers - I Pet. 2:11
              c. called out - ecclesia
              d. escapism, evasion, withdrawal
              e. marginalization, fringe group, ghetto, enclave, closed group, bombshelters
              f. iconoclastic - repudiation, rejection, attack
              g. avoidance of living out Christianity in "world" is a denial of the incarnation
         2. Engagement, involvement
              a. awareness, discernment, evaluation, questioning, challenging, exposing the ways of the                   "world of evil"
              b. concern, compassion, love for plight of man - poverty, hunger, disease, abuse - human                    rights, civil rights, spiritual condition
              c. If Christianity can have no affect on the "world," then it is just "pie in the sky, bye and                    bye"
              d. we are called to serve, minister, witness
              e. sent into the world - Jn. 17:18
              f. salt of the earth - Matt. 5:13
              g. light of the world - Matt. 5:14
              h. leaven - Matt. 13:33; Lk. 13:21
              i. "in the world, but not of the world" - Jn. 17:11,14
              j. social and political involvement?
              k. attempts to legislate morality?
              l. live out the life of Jesus Christ to the glory of God



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