According to the Bible the whole mind and outlook of the world is opposed to God; it is under the dominion of Satan and in the grip of the wicked one. Christian men and women must realise that they are living in a world like that; that because it is a world that is opposed to God, it will be doing everything it can to drag them down. It will try to fill their minds here with things that will try to satisfy them and thereby keep them from God and Christ. It is a world in which Christians have to fight for their souls; it is easier to go down than to keep straight. 'We are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.'
But we see that the Apostle avoids certain errors as he goes on to tell us how we must relate ourselves to that. He does not tell us to start by trying to reform and improve the world. That is of course the tragedy, that so often the Church has imagined that that is her function. That has been the great trouble during the past years, since about the middle of the Victorian period when the Church became a kind of institution; when the line between the Church and the world became so vague as to be almost non-existent, and people talked about 'Christianising' society. There is nothing of that in the New Testament.
On the other hand we are not to turn our backs upon the world in the sense that we are to go right out of it. We are not told to become hermits or anchorites. That also has been an error, and it is very interesting, as you take the long story of the Christian Church from the beginning until today, to find how constantly those two extremes have been very prevalent. There have been those who have set out as Christian social reformers, and then there were those who said that was wrong and that the only thing was to go right out of it. That is the basis of monasticism, and the tendency is perhaps to revive that in certain forms.
But the teaching of this letter [1 John], as indeed the teaching of the whole New Testament, avoids both these errors and extremes; it is not a programme of world improvement, nor is it a programme of world renunciation. No, it gives us a picture of this kind of position in which we find ourselves, with this opposing spiritual force, this spiritual power that is represented by the world. Our fight is with that, and we are taught in this epistle that we can conquer it, we can rise above it, and we can defeat it, in spite of everything that is so true of it. In spite of the dangers that beset us on all sides, we can triumph and prevail; we can be 'more than conquerors'. And that is summed up very perfectly in this verse which we are now considering.
Martyn Lloyd Jones, commenting on 1 John 5:19
What I find stimulating about Jones' commentary is the constant presence of this debate to change the world or leave it. To hold a true course through the unbiblical extremes we must be intensely biblical people and we must begin with a fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10) - with a sound sense of a holy God who came into a wicked world to deliver His people (Colossians 1:13).
To Change The World - James Davidson Hunter
Dualism is Bad JuJu - a series of posts (see 5 - 19 in the linked list) by Doug Wilson in response to Hunter