What Is It to Be in This World and Not of It?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5). Paul explains that we are delivered from this present evil age/world.

So often Christians miss the importance of this little phrase. It is filled with so many considerations. This world is only present. It has an end date. It is destined for destruction. It is something that we need to be saved from.

One area of confusion for Christians is often around how we are to see ourselves as being saved out of this world and yet still live in it. This dilemma has caused so many differing opinions as to how we are to relate to this present world. Some people have seen it as our purpose to attempt to reform the world. Some others have seen our need to completely avoid this world. Some have seen the need to be at war with the world. I don’t think Paul really holds any of these positions. Paul knows that we must live and operate in this world.

We are still in the world.

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, Paul told the church in Corinth that they were not to associate with immoral people, but he specifically said that he was not talking about the immoral people of the world. Paul was making a very strong point that the church was to be seen as a reflection of God’s holiness and therefore the Corinthian church must not allow immorality to be common place among those who take the name of Christ. In saying this, Paul points out that we do still associate with immoral people in the world. This is something every Christian has to do. If we don’t, we have to say goodbye to the great commission.

It is not that we are to be at war with the world, or to avoid and disassociate from the world, but we are to engage with the world and shine out the holiness of God and proclaim the gospel of Christ. Jesus talks about this as being salt and light. We are to shine the holiness and hope of the gospel as a salty essence of Christ in the world. We are not to hide Christ or deny Christ in our words or practice. We must seek to remain salty for the sake of the gospel and bringing others to Christ.

While we are in this world, Paul also says that we need to be careful not to be conformed to it. If we are saved out of this world, we have been taken out of all the things that typify what we have been saved from. Paul says it this way in the first part of Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world.” While we are in this world, it is our responsibility not to be dragged into the dominion of all that is not God honoring.

But we are not OF this world.

When Paul talks of us being rescued from this present evil age, he is saying that we belong to another age. We belong to another Kingdom. We are not of this world because we have been rescued from the dominating power of sin. We have been rescued from the rule of Satan. We have been rescued from bondage to everything in this world that denies God’s glory. And…. We have been rescued from the coming judgment that will place all unbelievers in the conscious torment of hell.

When we think about Paul’s statement of rescue in this overview of the gospel, we must see it in light of the whole statement that points to the purpose of God. This rescue is, “according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” It is to God’s glory through his eternal will that Jesus came to rescue us from this present evil world that is doomed for destruction. This now tells us something about our priority. When we look at this world, our priority is for us to go out with the message of Jesus to see people saved out of this present evil world to the glory of God. If Christians have a priority in the world that is different to this, we simply need a better understanding of the gospel. We are in this world but have been graciously saved out of it. Anyone left in this world/age will not know that same grace unless we live with them and tell them about their urgent need for Jesus.