Do the 3 lusts come from the world not God (1Jn2:16)?

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 is of the world.”  1Jn2:16  KJV

This passage is sometimes referred to by brethren to argue that the lusts in our body were not created by God.  The argument suffers somewhat for a few reasons. 

Firstly almost no-one would debate the lusts of themselves are not evil.  To quote Bro Roberts “these impulses are in their own place legitimate enough. …the difficulty is to keep the impulses in the legitimate channel.[1]  The issue is as James says that the lusts when not controlled can lead to sin (James 1:14-15).

Secondly, the passage does not say the lusts were created by Adam or created by man.  The verse does not even say the lusts were created by the world.  The passage says the lusts are of the world.  Claiming a reference back to the garden of Eden and saying this verse proves there was a change in nature is lacking is any contextual support.

In response some will point out the Greek “of” means to originate or come out from.  However, this is only one shade of meaning of the word.  In 1John the meaning is demonstrated by looking at other examples of the use eg

  1. 1John 2:19 KJV “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us
  2. 1John 2:21 “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth
  3. 1John 2:29 “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him
  4. 1John 3:8 “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning
  5. 1John 3:9 “ No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God
  6. 1John 3:12 “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one…”

These examples from 1John amply demonstrate the word doesn’t strictly mean created but points to a spiritual origin, especially as used by John.  Cain was born of the same parents as Abel and Seth but his thinking spiritually was of the serpent.  None of us are created by God or born by Him literally, but spiritually we have our origin in Him.  So too the lusts weren’t magically created by the world, rather the world is full of them and hence they “come from” the world just as the righteous come from God.

This analysis is supported by dictionaries – eg The Complete Word Study:

As marking not only the source and origin, but also the character of any person or thing as derived from that source, implying connection, dependence, adherence, devotion, likeness (John 3:6, 8, “of the flesh”; 3:31, “of the earth”; 7:17, “he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,” the character or content of the doctrine will show whether it originates in God; 8:23, of those things from below, of those things from above; 8:44, “of . . . the devil” or out of the devil meaning that the devil is one’s father; 8:47, “He that is of God, heareth God’s words,” means your hearing God’s words proves that you have come out of God, i.e., character shows origin; 17:14, 16, “not of the world”; 1 John 2:16, 29; 3:8–10; 4:1–7). Metaphorically of the source of character, quality, implying adherence to, connection with (John 18:37, “whoever is of the truth” [a.t.], i.e., whose source is truth; Gal. 3:10, 12, “the law is not of faith,” is not born of faith, does not originate in faith; 1 John 2:21; 3:19). Hence, ek with its gen. preceded by the art. forms a periphrasis for an adj. or part., e.g., ho ek písteōs, literally a person of faith, a believer, the same as the pres. part. noun ho pisteúōn, the believing one. (Rom. 3:26; 4:16, a person “of Abraham’s faith” [a.t.], who believes as he did; Gal. 3:7, 9); ho ek nómou (3551), law, one of the law, i.e., one under the law, an adherent of it (Rom. 4:14, 16). In Rom. 2:8, “those out of contention” (a.t.) means the contentious ones; 2:27, the “uncircumcision which is by nature” means the natural state; Titus 2:8.[2]

This is a common analysis “[Ἐκ with the genitive] does not denote origin, but as often in John, nature[3]  and “The present passage is an instance of the typical Johannine dualistic employment of einai ek: one side “is of” (belongs to) the world; the other, of God[4]  It should be noted that while a variety of readings are known in our community, Fred Pearce gave the same analysis as I have in The Christadelphian Magazine in 1984[5] and similar readings have occurred regularly (eg 1976, 1982, 1987).

Thirdly it is long-standing exposition to point to the clear alignment between these three lusts and the process of Eve succumbing to eat the fruit in Gen 3:6.  Ie the desires operated prior to Adam & Eve’s sin.  This flatly contradicts the motivated reading.

What is John saying?  Simply that the world is controlled by and filled with unrestrained lust.  In contrast, the faithful are called to forgiveness v12, a knowledge of God and overcoming of the flesh v13 with a knowledge of the word of God v14 and love of the Father versus a love of the world.  John as he often does presents a contrast.  What are we governed by?  The word of God and His love?  Or like the world are we full of natural lust only?

There is nothing in the passage speaking of a change in nature or the origin of any bias to sin in man.

 

[1] Roberts. ‘The relation of Jesus to the Law of Sin and Death’, The Christadelphian Volume 6 page 85 (1869)

[2] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

[3] Strecker, G., & Attridge, H. W. (1996). The Johannine letters: a commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[4] Brown, R. E. (2008). The Epistles of John: translated, with introduction, notes, and commentary (Vol. 30, p. 313). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[5] Peare, Fred. (1984). The Christadelphian, Vol 121(electronic ed.), page 21.

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2 thoughts on “Do the 3 lusts come from the world not God (1Jn2:16)?

  1. Pingback: The figure of Eve – Jeshua-ists

  2. Pingback: Response to the Lampstand July 2017 on the Devil | Christadelphians Origins Discussion

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