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"
meant "order" or "arrangement"
3. Later came
to mean "world"
a. Greeks considered the physical world to be "ordered"
b. This later became basis of the "cosmological" argument
for God's existence
created order demands a Creator
design demands a Designer
meanings of "world" used in New Testament
world/order of creation
world/order of humanity
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"
thus very similar to "world/order of humanity"
note parallel usage in Matt. 4:8 and Lk. 4:5
II. Representative Biblical references to different usages
A. World/order of creation
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)
17:24 - "the God who made the world and all things in it"
1:20 - "since the creation of the world..."
geographical location or place
24:21 - "since the beginning of the world"
1:10 - "the world was made through Him"
16:26 - "if he shall gain the whole world" (cf. Mk.
8:36; Lk 9:25)
B. World/order of humanity
3:16 - "God so loved the world that He gave His Son..."
4:42 - "the Savior of the world"
Tim. 1:15 - "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
24:14 - "gospel preached in whole world" (oikoumene)
7:4 - "show Yourself to the world"
12:19 - "look, the world has gone after Him"
18:20 - "I have spoken openly to the world"
17:6 - "these men have upset the world" (oikoumene)
C. World/order of evil
mankind; mankind as affected by the Fall
1:29 - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"
16:8 - "He (H.S.) will convict the world concerning sin"
17:9 - "I do not ask on behalf of the world"
Cor. 5:19 - "God was in Christ reconciling the world to
opposed to God; activity of mankind affected by Fall
Cor. 1:20,21 - "the wisdom of the world"
6:14 - "the world has been crucified to me, and I to the
2:8 - "elementary principles of the world"
4:4 - "friendship with the world is hostility toward God"
Jn. 2:15 - "do not love the world..."
of the devil; Satan's activity in mankind affected by Fall
12:31 - "prince of this world cast out" (cf. Jn. 14:30;
Cor. 2:12 - "the spirit of the world"
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
B. The dangers of overemphases and misemphases
of concepts of "world"
of "world/order of evil"
dualism - spiritual = good; physical, material = evil
dichotomies - sacred/secular; spiritual/worldly
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?
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"
no hope for this world - pessimism, despair
otherworldliness, mysticism, preoccupation with 'interior life',
futurism - world will be overcome in the future.
on "world/order of humanity and creation."
environmentalism - deify and worship created world
materialism - preoccupation with material things
humanism - man is the chief end of things
adaptation to the ways of the "world of evil"
compromize, appeasement, collaboration, justification
enculturation, civil religion, nationalism, patriotism
acceptance and acquiesence to pluralism
attempts to Christianize human society by moral reform
implementation of values, virtues, ethics, morals, principles,
precepts, God's laws
activism of political "right," "Moral majority"
participation in the power-plays and violent conflicts of the
C. Varying theological interpretations developed
on basis of emphases of
Dispensationalism/Fundamentalism tends to
"world of evil"
Theonomy and Reconstructionism tends to emphasize "world
D. To what extent should a Christian be involved
in the "world"?
separatism - cf. I Cor. 6:17
aliens and strangers - I Pet. 2:11
called out - ecclesia
d. escapism, evasion, withdrawal
marginalization, fringe group, ghetto, enclave, closed group,
iconoclastic - repudiation, rejection, attack
avoidance of living out Christianity in "world" is
a denial of the incarnation
awareness, discernment, evaluation, questioning, challenging,
exposing the ways of the "world
concern, compassion, love for plight of man - poverty, hunger,
disease, abuse - human rights,
civil rights, spiritual condition
If Christianity can have no affect on the "world,"
then it is just "pie in the sky, bye and bye"
we are called to serve, minister, witness
sent into the world - Jn. 17:18
salt of the earth - Matt. 5:13
light of the world - Matt. 5:14
leaven - Matt. 13:33; Lk. 13:21
"in the world, but not of the world" - Jn. 17:11,14
social and political involvement?
attempts to legislate morality?
live out the life of Jesus Christ to the glory of God