A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

Of the Children of God from the World
(What It Means -- No. 1 of a series)
 By Edgar Jones
Jesus said:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John.17:16)  

Jesus establishes the radical detachment of his disciples from the world by these and many supporting words.  It is our purpose here to explore the significance of this detachment -- what it means, how it is to be implimented and its significance for our associations in the world.

What It Means

Let us establish this one thing immediately, which is what it does not mean.
 It does not mean a physical detachment from the world.  It does not mean withdrawing into the cloister.  A disciple may, like Jesus, be led out into the wilderness apart for forty days or, like Jesus, go up onto the mountain alone to pray, but only to renew the Spirit within him for the return, like Jesus, to the fray.  A disciple of Jesus is no recluse.  When we listen to the words of our teacher, as true disciples do, we see that we must be within the world precisely as he was within the world, yet not of the world precisely as he is not of the world. Furthermore, our purpose in the world is precisely the same as his:


[18] As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.


[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . ..
It is settled, then; detachment from the world does not mean withdrawal.  What does it mean?

To Be Of the World

We should first investigate what it means to be "of the world."  This will be an easy investigation and, by seeing what it means to be of the world we should be able to better understand the alternative.  One who is not of the world will have none of the identifying features peculiar to those who are of the world.  Here is a brief, elementary list of those features. The list is not complete, nor is it necessary that every feature be listed in detail.  If we get the  fundamental ones, the list will be adequate.
1. Natural birth.  Everyone who is of the world is so by being born into it.  
2. Parents.  One cannot be born without them!
3. Extended family. Brothers and sisters come with the birth and the parents.
4. Race.  This also comes with the birth and the parents.
5. Nation.  Again, it comes with the birth and the parents!
6. Citizenship.  Again, comes with the birth (place of) and the parents.
7. Temporal life.  Yet again, it arises from the birth and the parents.
We could add more -- values, environment, physical bodies -- but you see where this comes from and where it is going.  People are of the world as a result, in the first instance, of having been born into it, to certain parents in a certain nation, etc.  It is a universal identification, one that requires absolutely no effort to acquire; it just is!  In that every human being shares in these identifying features, it follows that every human being is, or has been, of the world.

The Unhappy Soul

It does not necessarily follow that everyone is happy with this identification that "just is." One may, on maturing intellectually and volitionally, find oneself very discontent with all or part of this package of identifying features.  The life one has been dealt through having been born into the world may be very unsatisfactory so that one may wish to be not of this world.  They are many who have become so extremely discontented with the life of this world as to destroy that life by suicide.  

Suicide is indeed one way to become not of this world.  One way, but it is not the Lord's Way, for it is most often the way of pure despair that knows no redemption.  It is the hopeless termination of a life that knows no hope.

A Just Option: to be Not of the World

On due consideration, doesn't simple justice demand that intelligent, volitional beings have options?  Surely they should have at least one option.  Then one can decide for oneself to become not of this world by choosing another world with different identifying features. And God, who is just to perfection, has done this very thing -- he has provided an option of a different world and, as one should expect, all of the identifying features are different. Anyone who will can choose the different world that God has provided, and by so doing one becomes not of this world.  This is God's Way and it has been made know to us by Jesus of Nazareth.

We can understand what it means to become not of this world by referring back to our list of identifying features and examining how these are to become different.  
1. One chooses a different birth, a birth (or rather, begetting) "from above."
2. One chooses different parents, with God as Father.
3. One chooses a different extended family, with different brothers and sisters.
4. One chooses a different race -- a spiritual one instead of the carnal one.
5. One chooses a different nation, the Little Flock.
6. One chooses a different citizenship, in the kingdom of God.
7. One chooses a diffferent life, an eternal one to replace the temporal one.

This is what it means to be not of this world.  This is what it means to become of another world.   The name of that other world is heaven.


We are not simply playing with words and ideas.  These identifying features are integral to personal salvation, apart from which one has no salvation.  Let's look briefly at each of them:

1. The different birth

Jesus plainly informed Nicodemus of the necessity of this birth, saying:


[3] Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is begotten from above,* he cannot see the kingdom of God.
[4] Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be begotten when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be begotten?"
[5] Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is begotten of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6] That which is begotten of the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit.
7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be begotten from above.' *
8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is begotten of the Spirit.

To refer to this as being "born again" as many of the Christians do is to distort its meaning. It is not something one has once experienced and now must experience again, as though a first birth needs to be redone.  This is an entirely new experience -- the first and only begetting "from above" of the children of God -- and is therefore of the Spirit in contrast with the begetting that was of the flesh.  It is by this begetting of the Spirit that one receives eternal life and enters into the experience of personal salvation, becoming a child of the Father in heaven. 
The process begins when one receives the Word of Jesus, the Holy Logos that he sowed broadcast in the world.  This is not a "feelings" experience although, for a variety of reasons, one may experience feelings at this point insemination. The new begotten babe in Jesus only acknowledges that it is by faith that salvation has come, like the wind, unseen and unknown by carnal experience.  One must not rely on the feelings for assurance of being begotten from above, for such is also the mark of many deceptions.

2. The different parent

God becomes one's Father in the begetting from above.  We must emphasize that, if one has been truly begotten from above, one does not take on a new parent in addition to the old one. God is jealous as a Father, and does not accept as his children those who would maintain the relationship with some man as father.  Because this birth is an entirely different kind of experience, it supplants all previous relationships, therefore Jesus said this:


    [26] If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.


    [9] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
    Luke 14:26 includes more than parents, but as we will see presently, all relationships of the flesh are supplanted by the relationships of the Spirit.  All relationships arising from the birth of the flesh are erased if one is to acquire the new relationships arising from the birth from above. Marriage is not terminated, for it does not arise at ones birth.

    So, one does not acquire a second parent in addition to the carnal one, but the spiritual parent erases and supplants the first relation that is from below, so as to establish the second that is from above.

    What is true of the Father is also true of the mother, except that the mother may be identified with parties on the earth, as we will see below.  

    3. A different extended family

    Everything stated above
    in reference to the parent is true with every immediate family relationship.  This is apparent from Luke 14:26, but it becomes even clearer in the light of this Word:


      [33] And he replied, Who are my mother and my brothers?
      [34] And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers!
      [35] Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.
This utterance occured when Mary and her sons were nearby, and it was a denial of any relationship that they had in his immediate family.  He had a new and different family, a spiritual and eternal one, and he no more recognized the relationships of the flesh.  It consisted of all of his sisters and brothers, and also his mother!  

So it is that, integral with the experience of salvation, one acquires a new and different extended family that includes sisters, brothers, and mother.

4. A different race

Racial distinctions set people apart and are often the basis of discrimination, injustice, and war.  But race is only another of the many identifying features that come with the birth of the flesh.  Precisely as one would expect, this is also done away by the birth from above. One's new race becomes that of the Spirit as distinguished from that of the flesh.  The distinction arises as Jesus explained to Nicodemus:


[6] That which is begotten of the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit.
7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be begotten from above.' *
8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is begotten of the Spirit.
Jesus recognized many diffrent tribes, ethnic groupings, and races of man, and asserted that in him -- in his Little Flock -- all are one.  This is not a case of "all may be one."  No, the positive assertion of Jesus does not allow for the continuance of any such distinction, no maybe's about it:


[16] And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
It follows of necessity that wherever there is more than one flock, having different shepherds, based on racial or other ethnic distinctions, there is not the flock of Jesus.  It is sad to observe that there is no practice more damning for Christians than their propensity to maintain their congregatons in a segregated manner, for Jesus is unequivocal: there shall be one flock.  It follows, as does the period the sentence, that where the flocks differ, there is not the Little Flock of Jesus.  The race that consists of those begotten of the Spirit is not there.

5. A different nation

Nationality also comes with the birth (or begetting) of the flesh.  I was born of the flesh in Gibson County, Tennessee.  This immediately conferred upon me -- the person that I was -- a certain nationality.  Humans know nothing more divisive than nationalism, which is the basis of wars and atrocities throughout history.  It continues so, as nation rises against nation and kingdom against kingdom.

To be begotten from above -- of the Spirit -- confers upon every individual a new nationality.

The unity of the Little Flock dictates this also, just as it does in the case of race.  In addition, Jesus was careful to identify the nation into which the children of God are begotten, as follows.

First, he announced that the kingdom of God was being taken away from the nation of Israel so as to be given to another nation:


[43] Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.
Then he identified the nation to which the kingdom is given:


[32] Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
It is the Little Flock!  It is the one, the united Little Flock!

6. A different citizenship

Then, for the sake of redundancy and emphasis, Jesus uttered the principle that must govern the national relationships of members of his Little Flock, in the matter of the tax money, which he concluded by saying:


[25] He said to them, Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.
If you need an explanation, one should only examine the context to see that the coin that bore the image of Caesar was thereby identified with Caesar and should be rendered to him.  It follows that whatever bears the image of God is to be rightly rendered only to God. This image arises from birth, does it not?  So, those who know only the birth of the flesh share in the image of Caesar, do they not?  They therefore belong to him, and to the nation of their birth according to the flesh, for Caesar represents the nation.  But all who are begotten from above are begotten of God, thereby bear the image of God and are to render themselves to God as distinct from Caesar!

There can be no dual citizenship in the kingdom of God because, for one reason, it would destroy the unity of the Little Flock, as would race or nationality.  It is fitting, therefore, that every lamb in the Little Flock should recognize only the citizenship in the Kingdom of God that comes through the birth from above, and should acknowledge the dissolution of the prior citizenship in the nation that comes with the birth of the flesh.  I am such a slow learner in the things of the Spirit!  It required all of twenty-nine years of discipleship before I realized this and took action.

7. A different life

The children of God are those who are begotten of God through the insemination of the Word. This birth from above confers on them a different life, which is the life of eternity and is therefore eternal life. It is a very different life.  And, as in the case of all the other identifying features, it is an either/or condition.  That is, one has the life of the flesh and is dedicated to it, or one has the life of the Spirit that comes with the birth from above.  This distinction must be recognized, while we yet remain in the flesh and on this earth, by a disposition toward life in accord with the Great Principle of Jesus:


    [25] He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
The nature of things is such that the Father does not snatch us out of the flesh and out of the world as soon as we receive and believe the Word of Jesus, which are the words of eternal life.  Remaining in the flesh for a time is essential for these reasons:
1. It provides a time of testimony to those yet in the bondage to the world, without which they would not have the option of eternal life.
2. It provides a period of trial -- of proving one's faith in the face of the lingering and fading lusts of the flesh and pressures of the world.

3. It provides the opportunity to reconsider and become of the world again, as essential to the preservation of free will.  Having experienced life in the world, one has the option of choosing life eternal.  Then, having the provisional experience of life eternal, one requires also the option of reverting to the life in this world.  It is only after experiencing both, life in this world and eternal life, that one needs the full freedom to at last make the choice between them.  

4. It provides for the final and ultimate test of faithfulness as death to this world approaches, and also for the ultimate testimony to faith for the sake of those who are in the world which is to go eagerly and joyfully into that good Light that illumines the Father's House.

Such is the detachment of the children of God from the world, and such is their attachment to the kingdom of God and its associations, both on earth and in heaven.  All are attached to the world in their beginnings and it is our precious gift, delivered in the world by Jesus of Nazareth, to choose, if we will, to detach from this world through forsaking all in the world for Jesus' sake.  
How does one impliment this detachment from the world?  What are its implications for our former associations that are of the world?  These questions will be the subject of subsequent papers on the subject of detachment from the world.  In the meantime, remember always what Jesus said of his disciples:

. . . . They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John.17:16)

* Note:John 3:3 and 3:7 are the author's translations.  These differ from the RSV only in the expression "begotten from above" that replaces "born anew' in the RSV.  "Born anew" does not represent the fullness of what Jesus is stating here, and does not correspond to the literatal translation of the Greek, anothen (a()nwqen).

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