This week we are taking a break in our Life Group Study in Romans 9 (don’t worry we will pick it up again later) to think about what Jesus meant by “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. ” Here are the notes for this week’s meetings:
The immediate context to the phrase is found in John 17:14–19:
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The context of these verses is that Jesus is praying before He faces execution. Albert Barnes says of these verses:
It adds much to the interest of this prayer that it was offered in the stillness of the night, in the open air, and in the peculiarly tender circumstances in which Jesus and his apostles were. It is the longest prayer recorded in the New Testament. It was offered on the most tender and solemn occasion that has ever occurred in our world, and it is perhaps the most sublime composition to be found anywhere. Jesus was about to die. Having expressed his love to his disciples, and made known to them his last desires, he now commends them to the protection and blessing of the God of grace. This prayer is moreover a specimen of the manner of his intercession, and evinces the interest which he felt in behalf of all who should become his followers in all ages of the world
Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John. (R. Frew, Ed.) (p. 352). London: Blackie & Son.
There are three things worth discussions (and although these verses are packed with truths, our specific focus is on verse 16 only)
- We are in the world. Look at John 17:11 where Jesus says “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world”. This has to do with our PRESENT LOCATION
It’s interesting that part of Jesus’ prayer is to mention that we are in the world. This is because the Christinan is like an astronaut in outer space: we are living outside our natural element. It is absolutely possible to survive here, but we need extra protection. This world is not our home. The problem for many is that we become too attached to the world. We get caught up in the world’s system and values. We become seduced by materialism and influenced by selfishness.
- We are not of this world. Look at verse 14 and 16 where Jesus repeats the phrase “they are not of this world”. This has to do with our POWERFUL DISTINCTION. Jesus is reminding us that there should be a distinction about our lives that marks us as different. We are set apart. The word the Bible uses is “holy”. That’s not supposed to carry any kind of hint of superiority or arrogance. Simply put, the holy person is an odd person. The odd one out. Different. Different in what way? In the values and motivations that we have. cf. 1 Peter 1:16
- We are not out of this world. Look at verse 15. This has to do with our PENETRATING INCLUSION. Jesus was no escapist! He never suggested that we become monks and isolated ourselves from the world. He told us to jump in with both feet and live like Christ right where we land.
So this is talking about transcendence: living for a Kingdom whilst inhabiting another. We are to reflect the priorities and values of God, whilst living on the earth. Just like Jesus did.
Two questions that Jay Kim asks in his book Analog Church that are particularly relevant to this discussion are this:
- In what ways are you a derivative of the cultural moment and in what ways are you a disruption to it?
- What are some specific, practical ways you can begin to help your church community live in “creative, prophetic” opposition to the perils of the digital age by “gathering when the world scatters, slowing down when the world speeds up, and communing when the world critiques”?