Sermon notes 1John2:15-17 The world and its desires pass away

For previous sermon notes in this series go to

1 John 2:15-17


In this section we see that John speaks about having a right perspective on this life. He stresses that we should not love the world or anything in the world (15). and that ‘The world and its desires pass away’ (v17).

1) Do not love the world

Yes I know Jesus is quoted in John 3 as loving the world. We need to understand that in this letter John writes about having a right perspective on this life, in this world. Unlike in John chapter 3 he is not speaking of the world as containing people who should be loved, but ‘stuff’ that the world contains.

The key to understanding what John means here is to read the rest of the statement,

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The point here is that we are being told about affections that can not fit alongside our loving God.  Jesus said a similar thing about the love of stuff – mammon:

Matthew 6:24
No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money [mammon].

The old translations use the word mammon here. Mammon is an old English word first used in the 15th century. Our English word comes from an Aramaic word ‘mamona’ meaning riches or property. More than just money then.

This section marks areas of incompatibility. John gives some details regarding what it is in the world that he speaks of. He uses three categories and seems to fit everything into one or other of those categories. Toby covered that a few weeks ago.

See how John concludes this passage in verse 17,

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever.

2) ‘The world and its desires pass away…’ Even the atheist ‘God-dodgers’ say that. That statement alone brings no comfort.

To leave it at that is to leave it as a statement of hopelessness and despair. Perhaps this is the sort of thing the false teachers were saying to justify that they could do what they liked and it was not sin. See 1 John 1:6,8,10.

Perhaps by this time they would have heard that Paul in his letter to the Corinthians had quoted Isaiah, “If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Isaiah 22:12-13
The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die!

Understanding how temporary this life is can have a negative effect on behaviour, living without regard to the judgement to come, but it can also cause, even an atheist, to see that possessions or objects do not by themselves add value to the experience of life. At the end of life people often want a person near them, not an object.

To say ‘The world and its desires pass away…’ then, is perhaps not totally a statement of hopelessness and despair. The Elder is calling his hearers back to a right appraisal of all that is around them.

Still not a convincing call to sound morality though if we left it there. It still leaves room for exploitation of others in the search for the most fulfilling life. It leaves room for deceit and stealing.

3) ‘but the man [person] who does the will of God lives for ever.’

This is not about salvation. This is not an explanation about the means of salvation, we know we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.

Ephesians 2:6-10
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Romans 1:16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 2:16
know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.

Philippians 3:9
…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

This is not about salvation, it is about how we live . This statement fits into the context by declaring that those who live forever will live differently in this life. We will live forever. John was reminding his hearers that they are resurrection people and that fact should affect they way they live.

See Paul’s quote in the context of his great declaration on resurrection:

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-22, 32-34, 50-58

See also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Last Hour

This is the last hour (or “it is the last time,”), verse 18

It probably does not refer to any particular event. The destruction of Jerusalem had already taken place in AD70.

John is referring to the nearness of the Lord’s coming as evidenced by the rise of Anti Christian teachers, a mark of the last time. The whole Christian age is the last time.

It was the purpose of the Spirit to keep the Church always expecting Christ to return at any moment. There is no other dispensation, or period, until Christ returns, only the “last days”, “last time” or “last hour”.

Compare “these last days” in Hebrews 1:2

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Ephesus may be the place where this was written. The allusion to the beginnings of the Gnostic heresy fits with Asia Minor being the place. The Elder may have viewed his time as the last part of that particular apostolic age (those that had seen the Lord) when writing this Epistle.

1 Corinthians 15:4-8
…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

John is again persuading his hearers to have a lose grip on the things of the world.

We live in the last days. Many Christians around the world are demonstrating they believe that by the way they lay down their lives for Jesus.

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

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