This article from the pen of Brother Roberts is an extract taken from the last lecture, Number 18, in “Christendom Astray”. It is most appropriate in this issue of The Lampstand as we are now concluding the series on Christendom Astray with a summary of Lecture 18 on page 88. In addition, the article is also very appropriate in connection with the Feature in this issue dealing with several aspects of our relation with the State and the world in general. It is good to see the consistency of the Christadelphian stand dating back to the 19th Century.

There is not much danger of mistaking the meaning of this. The world is the people, as distinguished from the earth which they inhabit. Peter puts this beyond doubt in calling it “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter ii. 5). Jesus also makes it plain in speaking of the world as a lover and a hater, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own” (Jno. xv. 18). This could only apply to the people. The command is to be not conformed to the world of people upon the earth as it now is. Jesus plainly laid it down that he did not belong to such a world, and commanded his disciples to accept a similar position in relation to it. “The world to come” is the world of their citizenship. Of their position in the present world, Jesus said in prayer, “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world” (Jno. xvii. i6). By John he commanded them, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world” (1 Jno. ii. 15). By Peter, he indicates their position in the world as that of “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. ii. 11), and their life in it as a “time of sojourning” (i. 17), to be passed in holiness and fear (verses 14 and 17).

The world that hated Jesus was the Jewish world. Consequently, we are saved from the mistake of supposing that by the world is meant the extremely vile and immoral of mankind. The Jews were far from being such: they were a very religious and ostentatiously professing and ceremonially punctilious people, among whom the standard of respectability was high in a religious sense. All their conversations with Christ shew this. That which led to the complete separation indicated in Christ’s words and precepts, is indicated by Jesus himself, in his prayer to the Father, so wonderfully recorded in John xvii. : “ O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee” (verse 25). It is the world’s relation to God that cuts off the friends of God from the world (if the friends of God are faithful). The world neither loves, nor knows, nor considers God. They care for Him in no sense. His expressed will His declared purpose His intrinsically sovereign claims, are either expressly rejected or treated with entire indifference. His great and dreadful and eternal reality is ignored. Daniel’s indictment against Belshazzar is chargeable against them all. “The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified” (Dan. v. 23).

This is an all-sufficient explanation of the matter we are considering. If the world is God’s enemy, how can the friends of God be friends with it? It is not without the profoundest reason in the nature of things, that it is written, “The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God” (Jas. iv. 4). “No man can serve two masters. . . . Ye cannot serve god and mammon” (Matt. vi. 24).

The force of this reason increases tenfold when we contemplate the present situation in the light of its divine explanation and the divine purpose concerning it. We must seek for this explanation in the beginning of things—the beginning as Mosaically exhibited (an exhibition endorsed by Christ, and therefore to be trusted in the face of all modern theories and speculations). This beginning shews us man in har¬mony with God, and things “very good”. Then it shews us disobedience (the setting aside of the divine will as the rule of human action alias, sin), and as the result of this, the divine fellowship withdrawn,and men driven off to exile and to death, permitted only, thereafter, to approach in sacrifice, in token of the final way of return. The present world is the continuance and enlargement of the evil state of man, resulting from man’s alienation from God in the beginning. It is enlarged and aggravated. “The world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jno v. 19), “dead in trespasses and sins… by nature children of wrath” (Eph. ii.1–3), “without Christ, having no hope, and without God” (Eph. ii. 12).

Now, what is the purpose concerning this state of things? It is briefly summarised in 2 Thes. i. 7, and Rev. xix. 11–16, “ The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “ In righteousness doth he judge and make war . . . treading the wine-press of fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” When this work of judgment and destruction is done, the Kingdom of God prevails on earth for a thousand years, leading the nations in ways of righteousness and peace; and after a brief renewal of conflict with the diabolism of human nature, there comes at last the day of complete restoration, the ungodly consumed off the earth; the servants of God saved.” No more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it ; and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. xxii. 3).

Here, then, we have harmony with God at the beginning of things, and harmony with Him at the end of things, and the dark and dreadful interval of “ the present evil world” between, in which God is not obeyed nor recognised, but the pleasures, gratifications, and interests of mere natural existence made the objects of universal pursuit. In this dark interval, however, the divine work goes on of separating a family from the evil, in preparation for the day of recovery and blessing. Is it not easy, in view of these things, to realise the reasonableness of the divine command to His servants meanwhile, not to be conformed to an evil world, in which God is disowned, and to which they do not belong?…

What is to be done in such a state of things by the man earnestly seeking to be the servant of Christ, and desiring to be found of him at his coming, in the attitude of a chaste and loyal bride, preparing for marriage? Common sense would supply the answer if it were not plainly given to us by God Himself: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty” (2 Cor. vi. 17–18). The questions with which Paul prefaces this quotation strike home the reasonableness of this command at a blow : “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? And what communion hath light with darkness ? And what concord hath Christ with Belial: or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

The believer of the gospel has no alternative but to step aside from the world. He cannot otherwise carry out the will of Christ concerning those whom he asks for his own. What this stepping aside from the world means, there need be no difficulty in the earnest man determining for himself. Christ and the apostles have in themselves furnished an example which we are invited to imitate (1 Pet. ii. 21 ; Jno. xiii. 1,5 ; xv. 18–20; I Cor. xi. 1 ; iv. 17).

It does not mean seclusion: for they lived an open daily public life. It does not mean isolation: for they are always seen among men. It means abstinence from the aims and principles of the world, and from the movements and enterprises in which these find expression. The activities of Christ and the apostles were all in connection with and on behalf of, the work of God among men. They never appear in connection with the enterprises of the world. Their temporal avocations are all private. Christ was a carpenter; Paul a tent maker; but at these, both worked as the sons of God. Disciples of Christ may follow any occupation of good repute; (they are expressly prohibited from having to do with anything of an evil appearance or giving occasion of reproach to the adversary Rom. xii. 9; 1 Thess. v. 22). But in all they do, they are to remember they are the Lord’s servants, and to act as if the matter they have in hand were performed directly to him (Col. iii. 23–24). Even servants are to do their part to a bad master faithfully as “to the Lord” (1 Pet. ii. 18–20).

The sense in which they stand apart from the world is in the objects for which they work, and in the use to which they put the time and means which they call “their own”. They are to “follow after (works of) righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. ii. 22). They are to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,” and “live soberly and righteously and godly” (Tit. ii. 12). They are not to live in pleasure (Tit. iii. 3 ; 1 Tim. v. 6). They are to live to give God pleasure, in which, as they grow, they will find their own highest pleasure. They are to be “holy in all manner of conversation”, cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and walking as those who are the temple of God among men (1 Pet.1.15; 2 Cor. vii. 1; 2 Cor. vi. 16).

Guided by these apostolic principles, they will abstain from the defiling habits that are common to ungodly Christendom, amongst which smoking and drinking stand prominent. And as men waiting and preparing for the Kingdom of God (whose citizenship is in heaven, and not upon the earth) they accept the position of “strangers and pilgrims” among men. They are not at home; they are passing on. They take no part with Caesar. They pay his taxes and obey his laws where they do not conflict with the laws of Christ; but they take no part in his affairs.

They do not vote; they do not ask the suffrages of his supporters; they do not aspire to Caesar’s honours or emoluments; they do not bear arms. They are sojourners in Caesar’s realms during the short time God may appoint for their probation; and as such, they sustain a passive and non-resisting attitude, bent only upon earning Christ’s approbation at his coming, by their obedience to his commandments during his absence. They are not of the world, even as he was not of the world; and therefore they refuse to be conformed to it. The way is narrow and full of self-denial too much so for those who would like to perform the impossible feat of “making the best of both worlds.” But the destination is so attractive, and the results of the cross-bearing so glorious, that the enlightened pilgrim deliberately chooses the journey, and resolutely endures its hardships.