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Love Not The World
by Watchman Nee
1. The Mind Behind the System
2. The Trend Away from God
3. A World Under Water
4. Crucified Unto Me
6. Lights in the World
8. Mutual Refreshing
9. My Laws in Their Hearts
10. The Powers of the Age to Come
11. Robbing the Usurper
The greater part of this book derives from a series of addresses on the
subject of "the world" given by Mr. Watchman Nee (Nee To-sheng) of Foochow to
Christian believers in Shanghai city in the early period of the Sino-Japanese
War. They are thus colored a little by the economic pressures of those days. To
them have been added other talks on the same general theme given at various
places and times during the period 1938-41. For example, Chapter Three is based
on a sermon preached at a baptismal service in May 8 1939. I am indebted to
several friends for the notes which have supplied the book's source
The author sees the cosmos as a spiritual entity behind the things seen,
a force always to be reckoned with. He deals with its impact upon the Christian
and his impact upon it, with the conflicting claims upon him of separation and
involvement, and with the destiny of the man in Christ to "have dominion." As
always, Mr. Nee's studies display original thinking and he is not afraid to be
provocative, stirring both heart and mind to a response. It is my prayer that,
despite the inevitably piecemeal construction of the book, its theme will prove
to have coherence as a picture of the man of God in the world, and further,
that it may challenge us all who name the name of Christ to move more
courageously and positively through this earthly scene, with thought always for
our role here in God's eternal purpose concerning his beloved Son.
Angus I. Kinnear London 1968
The Mind Behind the System
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be
cast out. And I, if I be lifted from the earth, will draw all men unto myself"
(John 12:31, 32).
Our Lord Jesus utters these words at a key point in his ministry. He has
entered Jerusalem thronged by enthusiastic crowds; but almost at once he has
spoken in veiled terms of laying down his life, and to this heaven itself has
given public approval. Now he comes out with this great twofold statement.
What, we ask ourselves, can it have conveyed to those who have just acclaimed
him, going out to meet him and accompanying him home on his ride? To most of
them his words, if they had any meaning at all, must have signified a complete
reversal of their hopes. Indeed the more discerning came to see in them a
forecasting of the actual circumstances of his death as a criminal (verse
Yet if his utterance destroyed one set of illusions, it offered in place
of them a wonderful hope, solid and secure. For it announced a far more radical
exchange of dominion than even Jewish patriots looked for. "And I ..."-the
expression contrasts sharply with what precedes it, even as the One it
identifies stands in contrast with his antagonist, the prince of this world.
Through the Cross, through the obedience to death of him who is God's seed of
wheat, this world's rule of compulsion and fear is to end with the fall of its
proud ruler. And with his springing up once more to life there will come into
being in its place a new reign of righteousness and one that is marked by a
free allegiance of men to him. With cords of love their hearts will be drawn
away from a world under judgment to Jesus the Son of man, who though lifted up
to die, is by that very act lifted up to reign.
"The earth" is the scene of this crisis and its tremendous outcome, and
"this world" is, we may say, its point of collision. That point we shall make
the theme of our study, and we will begin by looking at the New Testament ideas
associated with the important Greek word cosmos. In the English versions this
word is, with a single exception shortly to be noticed, invariably translated
"the world." (The other Greek word, aion, also so translated, embodies the idea
of time and should more aptly be rendered "the age.")
It is worth sparing time for a look at a New Testament Greek Lexicon
such as Grimm's. This will show how wide is the range of meaning that cosmos
has in Scripture. But, first of all we glance back to its origins in classical
Greek where we find it originally implied two things: first a harmonious order
or arrangement, and secondly embellishment or adornment. This latter idea
appears in the New Testament verb cosmeo, used with the meaning "to adorn," as
of the temple with goodly stones or of a bride for her husband (Luke 21:5; Rev.
21:2). In 1 Peter 3:3, the exception just alluded to, cosmos is itself
translated "adorning" in keeping with this same verb cosmeo in verse 5.
(1) When we turn from the classics to the New Testament writers we find
that their uses of cosmos fall into three main groups. It is used first with
the sense of the material universe, the round world, this earth. For example,
Acts 17:14, "the God that made the world and all things therein"; Matt. 13:35
(and elsewhere), "the foundation of the world"; John 1:10, "he was in the
world, and the world was made by him"; Mark 16:15, "Go ye into all the
(2) The second usage of cosmos is twofold. It is used (a) for the
inhabitants of the world in such phrases as John 1:10, "the world knew him
not"; 3:16, "God so loved the world"; 12:19, "the world is gone after him";
17:21, "that the worldmay believe." (b) An extension of this usage leads to the
idea of the whole race of men alienated from God and thus hostile to the cause
of Christ. For instance, Heb. 11:38, "Of whom the world was not worthy"; John
14:17, "whom the world cannot receive"; 14:27, "not as the world giveth, give I
unto you"; 15:18, "If the world hateth you ..."
(3) In the third place we find cosmos is used in Scripture for worldly
affairs: the whole circle of worldly goods, endowments, riches, advantages,
pleasures, which though hollow and fleeting, stir our desire and seduce us from
God, so that they are obstacles to the cause of Christ. Examples are: 1 John
2:15, "the things that are in the world"; 3:17, "the world's goods"; Matt.
16:26, "if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life"; 1 Cor. 7:31,
"those that use the world, as not abusing it." This usage of cosmos applies not
only to material but also to abstract things which have spiritual and moral (or
immoral) values. E.g., 1 Cor. 2:12, "the spirit of the world"; 3:19, "the
wisdom of this world"; 7:31, "the fashion of this world"; Titus 2:12, "worldly
(adj, kosmicos) lusts"; 2 Pet. 1:4, "the corruption that is in the world";
2:20, "the defilement's of the world"; 1 John 2:16, 17, "all that is in the
world, the lust ... the vainglory ... passeth away." The Christian is "to keep
himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).
The Bible student will soon discover that, as the above paragraph
suggests, cosmos is a favorite word of the apostle John, and it is he, in the
main, who helps us forward now to a further conclusion.
While it is true that these three definitions of "the world," as (1) the
material earth or universe, (2) the people on the earth, and (3) the things of
the earth, each contribute something to the whole picture, it will already be
apparent that behind them all is something more. The classical idea of orderly
arrangement or organization helps us to grasp what this is. Behind all that is
tangible we meet something intangible, we meet a planned system; and in this
system there is a harmonious functioning, a perfect order.
Concerning this system there are two things to be emphasized. First,
since the day when Adam opened the door for evil to enter God's creation, the
world order has shown itself to be hostile to God. The world "knew not God" (1
Cor. 1:21), "hated" Christ (John 15:18) and "cannot receive" the Spirit of
truth (14:17). "Its works are evil" (John 7:7) and "the friendship of the world
is enmity with God" (James 4:4). Hence Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this
world" (John 18:36). He has "overcome the world" (16:33) and "the victory that
hath overcome the world" is "our faith" in him (1 John 5:4). For, as the verse
of John 12 that heads this study affirms, the world is under judgment. God's
attitude to it is uncompromising.
This is because, secondly, as the same verse makes clear, there is a
mind behind the system. John writes repeatedly of "the prince of this world"
(12:31; 14:30; 16:11). In his Epistle he describes him as "he that is in the
world" (1 John 4:4)and matches against him the Spirit of truth who indwells
believers. "The whole world," John says, "lieth in the evil one" (5:19). He is
the rebellious cosmocrator, world ruler-a word which, however, appears only
once, used in the plural of his lieutenants, the "world rulers of this
darkness" (Eph. 6:12).
There is, then, an ordered system, "the world," which is governed from
behind the scenes by a ruler, Satan. When in John 12:31 Jesus states that the
sentence of judgment has been passed upon this world he does not mean that the
material world or its inhabitants are judged. For them judgment is yet to come.
What is there judged is that institution, that harmonious world order of which
Satan himself is the originator and head. And ultimately, as Jesus' words make
clear, it is he, "the prince of the world," who has been judged (16:11) and who
is to be dethroned and "cast out" for ever.Scripture thus gives depth to our
understanding of the world around us. Indeed, unless we look at the unseen
powers behind the material things we may readily be deceived.
This consideration may help us to understand better the passage in 1
Peter 3 alluded to above. There the apostle sets "the outward adorning (cosmos)
of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel"
in deliberate contrast with "the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet
spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." By inference, therefore,
the former are corrupt and worthless to God. We may or may not be ready at once
to accept Peter'sevaluation, depending upon whether we see the true import of
his words. Here is what he is implying. In the background behind these matters
of wearing apparel and jewelry and make-up, there is a power at work for its
own ends. Do notlet that power grip you.
What, we have to ask ourselves, is the motive that activates us in
relation to these things? It may be nothing sensuous but altogether innocent,
aiming by the use of tone and harmony and perfect matching merely to gain an
effect that is aesthetically pleasing. There may be nothing intrinsically wrong
in doing this; but do you and I see what we are touching here? We are touching
that harmonious system behind the things seen, a system that is controlled by
God's enemy. So let us be wary.
The Bible opens with God's creation of the heavens and the earth. It
does not say that he created the world in the sense that we are discussing it
now. Through the Bible the meaning of "the world" undergoes a development, and
it is only in the New. Testament (though perhaps to a lesser extent already in
the Psalms and some of the Prophets) that "the world" comes to have its full
spiritual significance. We can readily see the reason for this development.
Before the Fall of man, the world existed only in the sense of the earth, the
people on the earth, and the things on the earth. As yet there was no cosmos,
no "world," in the sense of a constituted order. With the Fall, however, Satan
brought on to this earth the order which he himself had conceived, and with
that began the world system of which we are speaking. Originally our physical
earth had no connection with "the world" in this sense of a Satanic system, nor
indeed had man; but Satan took advantage of man's sin, and of the door this
threw open to him, to introduce into the earth the organization which he had
set himself to establish. From that point of time this earth was in "the
world," and man was in "the world." So we may say that before the Fall there
was an earth; after the Fall there was a "world"; at the Lord's return there
will be a kingdom. Just as the world belongs to Satan, so the Kingdom belongs
to our Lord Jesus. Moreover it is this Kingdom that displaces and that will
displace the world. When the "Stone not made with hands" shatters man's proud
image, then the kingdom of this world will "become the kingdom of our Lord and
of his Christ" (Dan. 2:44, 45; Rev. 11:15).
Politics, education, literature, science, art, law, commerce, music-such
are the things that constitute the cosmos, and these are things that we meet
daily. Subtract them and the world as a coherent system ceases to be. In
studying the history of mankind we have to acknowledge marked progress in each
of these departments. The question however is: In what direction is this
"progress" tending? What is the ultimate goal of all this development? At the
end, John tells us, antichrist will arise and will set up his own kingdom in
this world (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7; Rev. 13). That is the direction of
this world's advance. Satan is utilizing the material world, the men of the
world, the things that arein the world, to head everything up eventually in the
kingdom of antichrist. At that hour the world system will have reached its
zenith; and at that hour every unit of it will be revealed to be
In the book of Genesis we find in Eden no hint of technology, no mention
of mechanical instruments. After the Fall, however, we read that among the sons
of Cain there was a forger of cutting instruments of brass and iron. A few
centuries ago it might have seemed fanciful to discern the spirit of antichrist
in iron tools, even though for long the sword has been in open competition with
the ploughshare. But today, in the hands of man, metals have been turned to
sinister and deadly uses, and as the end approaches the widespread abuse of
technology and engineering will become even more apparent.
The same thing applies to music and the arts. For the pipe and the harp
seem also to have originated with the family of Cain, and today in
unconsecrated hands their God-defying nature becomes increasingly clear. In
many parts of the world it has long been easy to trace an intimate relationship
between idolatry and the arts of painting, sculpture, and music. No doubt the
day is coming when the nature of antichrist will be disclosed more openly than
ever through song and dance and the visual and dramatic arts.
As for commerce, its connections are perhaps even more suspect. Satan
was the first merchant, trading ideas with Eve for his own advantage, and in
the figurative language of Ezekiel 28,which seems to reveal something of his
original character, we read: "By thy traffic thou has increased thy riches, and
thine heart is lifted up" (verse 5). Perhaps this does not have to be argued,
for most of us will readily admit from experience the Satanic origin and nature
of commerce. We shall say more of this later.
But what of education? Surely, we protest, that must be harmless.
Anyway, our children have to be taught. But education, no less than commerce or
technology, is one of the things of the world. It has its roots in the tree of
knowledge. How earnestly, as Christians, we seek to protect our children from
the world's more obvious snares. And yet it is quite true that we have to
provide education for them. How are we going to solve the problem of letting
them touch what is essentially a thing of the world, and at the same time
guarding them from the great world system and its perils?
And what of science? It, too, is one of the units that constitute the
cosmos. It, too, is knowledge. When we venture into the further reaches of
science, and begin to speculate on the nature of the physical world-and of
man-the question immediately arises: Up to what point is the pursuit of
scientific research and discovery legitimate? Where is the line of demarcation
between what is helpful and what is hurtful in the realm of knowledge? How can
we pursue after knowledge and yet avoid being caught in Satan's meshes?
These, then, are the matters at which we must look. Oh, I know I shall
appear to some to be overstating things, but this is necessary in order to
drive home my point. For "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is
not in him" (1 John 2:15). Ultimately, when we touch the things of the world,
the question we must ask ourselves always is: "How is this thing affecting my
relationship with the Father?"
The time has passed when we need to go out into the world in order to
make contact with it. Today the world comes and searches us out. There is a
force abroad now which is captivating men. Have you ever felt the power of the
world as much as today? Have you ever heard so much talk about money? Have you
ever thought so much about food and clothing? Wherever you go, even among
Christians, the things of the world are the topics of conversation. The world
has advanced to the very door of the Church and is seeking to draw even the
saints of God into its grasp. Never in this sphere of things have we needed to
know the power of the Cross of Christ to deliver us as we do at the present
Formerly we spoke much of sin and of the natural life. We could readily
see the spiritual issues there, but we little realized then what equally great
spiritual issues are at stake when we touch the world. There is a spiritual
force behind this world scene which, by means of "the things that are in the
world," is seeking to enmesh men in its system. It is not merely against sin
therefore that the saints of God need to be on their guard, but against the
ruler of this world. God is building up his Church to its consummation in the
universal reign of Christ. Simultainneously his rival is building up this world
system to its vain climax in the reign of antichrist. How watchful we need to
be lest at any time we be found helping Satan in the construction of that
ill-fated kingdom. When we are faced with alternatives and a choice of ways
confronts us, the question is not: Is this good or evil? Is this helpful or
hurtful? No, the question we must ask ourselves is: Is it of this world, or of
God? For since there is only this one conflict in the universe, then whenever
two conflicting courses lie open to us, the choice at issue is never a lesser
one than: God ... or Satan?