In a poem “Au Lecteur (To the Reader)” by Charles Baudelaire, a preface to his collection of poems entitled “Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil)”, the French poet presents a pessimistic view of humanity’s condition, envisioning a world of hypocrisy, death, sin, boredom, and utter decay, watched over and promoted by Satan himself. This view mirrors the Bible’s perspective of the heart and nature of mankind without God, as well as the existence of evil, which aims to defeat God’s good and loving purposes in human lives.
The Apostle John writes to Christians at Ephesus to assure them of eternal life through their faith in Christ, emphasizing that they are “of God” while the whole world ” lies in the power of the evil one.”
John portrays the world as under the influence of Satan, an evil power reigning over all its aspects. Satan is diametrically opposed to God, and his ultimate objective is to turn us away from the Creator, using all kinds of maneuvers to disrupt our relationship and fellowship with Him. “The world” is anything that would try to deceive us to feel satisfied without our need for God.
To be “of God” is in complete contrast to the state of the world, and the Apostle seems to imply that it is the only possible dichotomy. It means that Christians have been taken out of the clutches of the evil forces of Satan’s army. We are initially born into this world under the dominion of sin and darkness, but through the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son at Calvary, we are delivered and brought into God’s marvelous light.
In a positive sense, it implies that we belong to God, His realm, and His Kingdom. Our sins have been forgiven, and we have entered into an entirely new relationship with God, being reconciled to Him through Christ. We are no longer controlled by the evil one, but are under the direction of God and His Spirit, with outward manifestations in our lives.
How then, shall one distinguish between one who is “of God” and one who is not? The great St. Augustine said that the first test of the Christian life, and the second, and the third, is humility. It is to be like Christ, who, though He was equal with God, thought it not something to be grasped at. He humbled himself to be born into this world like one of us. Humility, then, is the litmus test because the worldly spirit is the very antithesis of it, where pride, arrogance and self-confidence are highly prized, promoted, and encouraged.
To be “of God” means that we are destined for God, to spend eternity with Him. And because of this assurance, we are filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the manner of love that our Heavenly Father has towards us — that we should be called children of God.
“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” I John 5:19 (New American Standard Bible)
Charles Baudelaire, “Au Lecteur / To the Reader” in “Fleurs du Mal / Flowers of Evil”, Paris, 1857. Available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6099
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Life in Christ, Studies in I John”, Crossway:Wheaton, Illinois, 2002, pp. 691-712
Photography: “The Sun Also Rises” by Melanie Wells