Worldliness in the Church

By Mike Willis

The world around us is becoming progressively more morally degenerate. Perhaps a statement like that needs to be tempered by some modifying phrases such as limiting it to these United States as, obviously, my experience is limited to what I see and read in the papers. Or, perhaps this reflects a view of life: the belief that the world must become increasingly more corrupt immediately prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Certainly, this latter does not express my attitude toward morality. Yet, I cannot ignore the things which I see about me.

I am not a pessimistic person; yet, the moral degeneracy which I see about me is conducive to producing a gloomy outlook on life. Everywhere one looks, he sees righteous conduct being ridiculed and ungodliness being portrayed as something acceptable and desirable. Things which were done in the shades of darkness when I was a youth are now being practiced in broad daylight. Things we were brought up to believe were even socially unacceptable are now being given social acceptability.

One who had a baby out of wedlock was crowned with shame for the rest of her life when I was a child. Today, having a baby out of wedlock is no shameful thing in the eyes of many people. Homosexuality used to be a word that was hardly even whispered. Those who were homosexual never admitted it and only practiced it in a hidden fashion. Today, homosexuals are clamoring for social acceptance. Similar comments could be made about many other forms of immoral conduct.

An Absolute Moral Standard

In the midst of a culture which is presently changing its morals, the Christian might tend to think that what was wrong twenty years ago for him are now acceptable in the sight of God as well. No doubt some of the changes which have occurred in religion have added credence to the idea that our own moral values are subject to change. The Catholics have changed their laws pertaining to eating meat on Friday; the Mormons have changed their laws pertaining to blacks entering the priesthood. Hence, the Christian is being bombarded from every direction with the idea that God’s laws are changeable.

In the midst of a world advocating such changes, the Lord’s people need to remember that God’s word does not change. The Psalmist said, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (119:89). God’s word does not change; the Bible still condemns sin and exalts righteousness. What was considered to be sinful on the day of Pentecost is still considered sinful today, regardless if every person in the world decides to call it righteousness!

The Bible is the word of God. As the word of God, it reveals to man what is sinful. Sin is nothing other than the transgression of the law of God (1 Jn. 3:4). Inasmuch as the Bible has not changed since it was completed at the end of the first century after the death of Christ, what is sinful has not changed. The things which were considered sinful in the first century are still sinful today. The fact that two thousand years have passed and cultures have come and gone has not changed the word of God in any way. Sin is still sin.

As we consider this point, we need to be reminded that Christianity is not tempered to fit into the mold of the various cultures to which it is taken. Rather, Christianity takes the word of God into a given culture and tries to reshape that culture to bring it into conformity with the revelation of God. When Paul preached in Corinth, he did not water down the gospel to make it more acceptable to the loose moral standards of that community. Instead, he taught those in Corinth who were living with such loose moral standards that they needed to repent of their wickedness and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. Hence, the gospel does not change to fit the world; the world must change to be acceptable to God.

Application to Today’s Society

1. Divorce and Remarriage. There seems to be a tendency among many Christians to treat the standard of God’s word as expressing a morality too high for twentieth century Americans. Therefore, we are being taught to accommodate God’s revealed religion to the standards of the world around us. Hence, if a man has divorced his first wife because she burned the toast, remarries that sexy little thing down at the office, and later decides that he wants to become a Christian, some want us to believe that he can stay married to this second wife. The Bible says otherwise. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Mt. 19:9).

What Jesus described in Matt. 19:9 is exactly what is taking place in our society on every hand. He labeled the resulting marriage adultery; some of my brethren do not believe that such a relationship is adultery. Rather, they are accommodating the morality of Christianity to the immorality of our present age. God’s standard has not changed. If such acts were adulterous in the first century, and Jesus said they were, they are adulterous today.

2. Drinking. Some among the brethren today are no longer willing to preach the truth about drinking. Rather, they are persuaded that drinking is not sinful so long as it is done with moderation; they think that the only form of drinking which Jesus condemned was drunkenness. Yet, read what the apostle Peter said about these forms of worldliness. He said, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (I Pet. 4:3-4). Notice that Peter condemned the following different sins with reference to drinking: excess of wine, revellings, banquetings. The first one is “excess of wine” (oniophlugia) and refers to drunkenness; the second is “revellings” (komos) which refers to “a revel carousal . . .used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry” (Thayer, p. 367). This sinful work of the flesh describes the very conduct that occurs at single’s bars (and other bars as well), the office Christmas party, and other drinking parties. Notice that it is distinguished from drunkenness. The third work of the flesh is “banquetings” (potos). Potos does not refer to a meal that is eaten together followed by a guest speaker; rather, it refers to a drinking party (the idea of excessive drinking is not inherent in the word). This word is a perfect description of social drinking.

Yet, some worldly members and preachers want to come along and give the impression that the only kind of sin which can be committed with drinking is drunkenness-excessive drinking. Peter did not think so. I prefer to stand with the Apostle. Our twentieth century society might see nothing wrong with drinking but the Lord did.

One of the problems which those who defend social drinking are going to face is the problem of explaining to their children why drinking socially is all right whereas social marijuana smoking is wrong. I would like to hear one of these parents try to tell his children why it is wrong to smoke one joint of marijuana but right to drink one social drink. That would be interesting conversation to hear.

3. Lasciviousness. Another work of the flesh which is condemned in the word of God is lasciviousness-unbridled lust, excess licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence, . . . wanton (acts or) manner, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females” (Thayer, p. 79). I can think of a number of matters in American society which fall into this category but one of them which seems to have gained social acceptance is the modern dance. The basic appeal of the modern dance, according to most any eminent psychologist, is the sex appeal. Yet, not a few mothers and daddies are not only condoning their children’s involvement in dancing but are encouraging it. Consequently, their boys and girls go out on a dance floor and wiggle their bodies in such a way as to incite lusts in their partners. My brethren, be not deceived, lasciviousness is still a sin.

Another one of Satan’s devices for inciting lusts are lascivious pictures. According to reports, many of the movies of today are filled with nakedness. I know for a fact, that many of the television shows are becoming sexually suggestive if not featuring explicit sexual scenes. Yet, we have become persuaded that we can passively sit in front of these television sets and watch these programs without them ever affecting our moral character. The result is that men lust after the naked bodies of the women who are willing to unclothe themselves in front of a camera. We cannot take moral garbage into our hearts without it corrupting them!

I am amazed that people who would not go see a “R” or “X” rated movie because of their moral convictions will watch that same movie in the privacy of their own homes. Now I am aware that some of these movies are edited before they are shown on television and might be cleaned up enough through this editing to be fit for consumption. I am also aware that some of these movies are shown unedited on cable television. Christians who would not go to a movie house to watch this garbage are watching it in the privacy of their homes. Have we not enough moral conviction left in us to not subject ourselves and our families to this?

While I am talking about lasciviousness, I might as well add that the “petting” which occurs while our young (and some not so young) people are dating is also condemned by the definition of the word given to us by reputable Greek scholars. What goes on during heavy petting stirs the sexual drives of the individuals involved. Some people act as if no sin has occurred so long as no fornication is committed. Jesus said that the lust which precedes fornication is sinful as well (Matt. 5:28).

Another thing which incites lust and falls under the condemnation of God because it is lascivious is nudity in dress. The Bible demands that the Christian dress himself so as not to call attention to his body (1 Tim. 2:9). Yet, some people see nothing wrong with a man, woman, and all of their children taking off all of their clothes but their undergarments and then parading themselves in a public place. The only thing required for this to be considered modest is for those undergarments to be called “beach clothes” and the place be considered a public swimming place and what would otherwise be considered sinful becomes acceptable social behavior. What is surprising is not that the heathen want to undress in this fashion but that brethren who claim to be the servants of Jesus Christ want to act this way. What particularly alarms me is preachers and their families who sneak off away from the local area in which they labor and go public swimming! They quit preaching against these forms of worldliness because they are just as guilty of it as the rest of the worldly people. Is there any such preacher among us who is willing to defend this conduct? If so, I will be glad to provide the space for his material to be presented and replied to.


These moral issues are just as important as any of the “issues” such as the sponsoring church, church sponsored recreation, church support of human institutions, etc. Frankly, I would not consent to supporting a preacher from the church treasury who would not condemn adultery in the way Jesus did in Matt. 19:9, who defended or practiced drinking, socially, who would not condemn lasciviousness in all of its forms (mixed swimming, petting, dancing, etc.), and other forms of worldliness. The moral purity of the Lord’s church is at stake! We cannot allow the church to become filled with a bunch of moral reprobates. Such a compromise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is sinful.

We must never forget that our moral standard is fixed forever. Jesus has legislated what is sinful and what is not. Our only choice is to preach the word of the cross or to follow the devil. Which shall it be? May the Lord help us to preach moral purity in a perverse generation.

Truth Magazine XXII: 43, pp. 691-693
November 2, 1978