On Our Relations with the World
A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
It is evident that the limits of this short paper will only enable us to consider this vast subject in the briefest possible manner. The Christian is in the world, but not of it. He is surrounded with those who know not God, and it is a most important thing for him to know how to conduct himself in relation with worldly people, both publicly and privately, in social life, business life, and religious life. Before, however, speaking briefly on this, we will just take up very shortly a few examples of relationship with the world, and its effects as seen in Scripture.
In 1 Kings 11:1-8 we find the sad result in Solomon's case of marrying strange wives, idolatrous women. No doubt, as many a child of God since, he trusted in his wise heart, in the splendid temple he had built, in his own long religious life, to lead him aright; but instead of that they led him astray. And so it is in nine cases out of ten. A Christian marries a worldly girl, an idolater; that is, one who has her heart set on earthly things called idols (1 John 5). He hopes, no doubt, to set her straight, but having committed a sin by marrying her, he is soon led by her into another; for not only has he all her influence to lead him wrong, but that of his own deceitful heart as well. It is, indeed, lamentable to think how many ships, starting on their heavenward voyage, have been shipwrecked on the quicksands of this life, through sailing in company with an enemy's vessel. For, hard as it is to believe, the young and attractive are equally Satan's slaves with the gray-headed sinner. Beware of worldly marriages, which are condemned and forbidden by God (2 Cor.6); perhaps few sins so surely meet with heavy chastisement, too often lifelong. Most earnestly then would we warn young believers of this most fatal of all worldly alliances. Other false steps can be retraced at will, this NEVER.
It may be these lines are read by someone whose affections are already engaged by some worldly person. We would warn you against such a marriage at your peril. Better far to have a broken heart for God's glory, and one that He can heal, than to have a heart broken later on, as you surely will, through seeing with your eyes open, and discovering when TOO LATE, the fearful error you have committed.
In Jehoshaphat we find another case of worldly alliance; this was in joining to fight a common enemy (2 Chron.17) — no great sin apparently. The king of Syria was a foe to both of them, and the victory of one would help the other. Nevertheless, what saith the Lord? “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” Has this no voice to those Christians who, like Jehoshaphat, would join the world to fight some common enemy?
There are common enemies: drink, vice, poverty, disease, are such to a great extent. It will then be seen at once that this one example strikes a fatal blow at all alliances of a social nature between believer and unbeliever. In this it is evident the Christian is not to join in improving or bettering the world. He must walk in his way, and the world in theirs. Indeed, if the Christian is true, they cannot work together; for the ultimate end of the one is the advancement of the world, and the good of mankind, that of the latter, the glory of Christ. In a place, therefore, where He is despised and still rejected by the world at large, it is evident that there cannot be much harmony in common pursuits.
In Jehoram we get another instance of the evils of a worldly match (2 Chron.21:6). Many as are the instances of the unbeliever leading the Christian astray, we do not remember a single case where in such a marriage the Christian brought the unbeliever right. In this case the evil is worse still, for not only is the husband led wrong, but the child also is led astray (22:3) by the evil counsels of his mother. This too will often be found to be the case, especially when the mother is the unbeliever; and thus the result of one false step may descend to generations.
Again, in Ezra 9, do we get fatal instances of these unholy alliances. But surely we have had enough to show us what are almost invariably the results of thus dishonoring God.
Worshipers Must be Christians
In Ezekiel 44:7, we come to another class of worldly fellowship, and that is in religion. One of the crying sins of Israel of old was that they brought in unbelievers in the temple worship, and the prophet is bid to “mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary”; and further, “No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” Our sanctuary, we know, can only be entered by believers (Heb.10) in reality; but surely this plainly shows that in outward worship we cannot place believers and unbelievers together before God. It is not for us, of course, to try the hearts, and a hypocrite may creep in anywhere; but surely divine worship ought to be confined to the children of God. Indeed, none else can worship; and it is an awful mockery to see those who have no pretensions to be saved (not even the lip profession) joining with God's people in singing His praises. This is strangely like this very sin of Israel of old. We do not now speak of preaching the gospel. At all such services unbelievers have their right place; but these are surely perfectly distinct from the worship of believers, spiritually within the veil. In religion, therefore, we cannot place believers and unbelievers on a common footing.
Neither can we seek the aid or help of the world (pecuniary or otherwise) in the Lord's work.
Nehemiah avoided the danger of worldly help in Nehemiah 6, and one reason why he was so blessed was because he was so separate to God. The people of Israel too at this time entered into a curse and an oath, not to marry unbelievers (10:29). Would that everyone “having understanding” (v.28) followed (without legality) the same course! Separation from worldly company is the result of having the Word as the enjoyed portion of the heart (Jer.15:16,17). The joy of the world and delight in the Word cannot go together. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O lord God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers (wicked), nor rejoiced.” We have now seen enough to show us, without quoting the many precepts in the Word on the subject, that worldly marriages are in every way to be condemned and avoided, that all philanthropic and social worldly alliances are expressly condemned, however good their object (of course it is understood that only real alliances are here spoken of; that is, believers and unbelievers publicly banded together). We have also seen that no religious mixture is to be tolerated, either in worship or service (such as giving money, etc.); God's people must be separate. The path is a narrow one still, and not less so because we live in Christendom. Indeed, now one needs to be walking closely with God to learn how to keep one's feet separate from all such evil alliances, and have one's heart wide enough for all right sympathies and feelings. May the Lord enable each of us, who desires to be true to Him, to discern the path of wisdom through this world, so as to be kept from all “unequal” yokes, learning at the same time to bear more of the equal yoke of Matthew 11. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
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