Distinguishing Character of Christians
John 17:16
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

I. NEGATIVELY. The text does not imply —

1. That they have no connection with the men of the world. Grace does not dissolve the union between man and man.

(1) The righteous and the wicked may be nearly allied, as Abel and Cain, and the young Abijah to the wicked Jeroboam.

(2) Much business may also be lawfully and even necessarily transacted between men of widely different characters (1 Corinthians 5:10).

2. That they are to be wholly disengaged from the things of the world. They have their farms and their merchandise as well as others, and it is not requisite that under a pretence of religion they should sequester themselves from all secular concerns. They may be as much in their duty while in their worldly callings as in the closet. An idle Christian is no good character: for if we do not find ourselves some employment, Satan will. "Not slothful in business" (1 Corinthians 7:24; Acts 20:34).

3. That even the best of men are entirely divested of a worldly spirit, though they are not of the world. Those whose affections are set on things above, and whose conversation is in heaven, have frequent occasion to say, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken Thou me accordingly to Thy word." After the fullest conviction of the emptiness and vanity of creatures, we shall still find our hearts strongly attracted by them.


1. They are in a considerable degree mortified to the things of this life, so as not to have "the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God." They are in the world, but not of it: it is their residence, but not their portion. Real Christians are neither terrified by the frowns nor allured by the smiles of the world. The possession of the good things of this life does not excite immoderate joy, nor the want of them occasion inordinate grief. The world, notwithstanding all his endeavours to drive it out, may occupy some corner of the Christian's heart, but the uppermost room and principal seat are reserved for his Lord and Master. His motto is, "In one Jesus I have all."

2. They possess different tempers and dispositions from the men of the world. "Old things are passed away, and all things become new." The bias of the soul receives another direction: it has a new taste, new appetites, and new enjoyments. Their treasure being in heaven, their hearts are there also. They "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The spirit of the world is hateful, sensual, discontented, overwhelming men with ignorance, guilt and misery; but the spirit which is of God is humble, teachable, contrite, benevolent and submissive, active in doing good, and patient in suffering.

3. They speak a different language from the rest of the world. It may be said to the Christian as it was said to Peter, "Thy speech betrayeth thee." And so it may be said of the opposite character: "He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth." The world is placed in their heart, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. But God's promise to His people is, that He will turn to them a pure language, so that they shall speak the truth without hypocrisy, address Him without formality, and talk of Divine things with holy freedom. Flattery will be as much avoided by them as detraction, and equivocation as a known lie. Their common discourse will be seasoned with salt, ministering grace unto the hearers; and they will be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. The talk of a carnal man will be about the world through which he is passing; that of a good man about the world to which he is going.

4. They are neither influenced by the maxims of the world, nor do they imitate its customs. The real Christian is the world's nonconformist; not in an affected singularity of speech or dress, in the shape of his coat or form of his hat, but in the whole tenor of his life and conversation.

5. They do not take up their rest in this world. They are born from heaven, and are bound to heaven. Their language is, "Arise, let us depart hence: this is not our rest, because it is polluted."

III. TO ILLUSTRATE THIS CHARACTER, CHRIST HAS GIVEN US HIS OWN (1 John 4:17). Conclusion: From this view of the subject we may learn —

1. What judgment we are to form of those about us.

2. What is duty with respect to ourselves.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

WEB: They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.

Danger of Absorption in Worldly Things
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