The Spirit of the Age

Among the many important Bible subjects that are vital for spiritual growth, a Christian’s understanding of ‘The Spirit of the Age’ should hold priority.

Definition

The phrase ‘the spirit of the age’ is not in any way referring to a new phenomenon. It simply describes the attitudes and lifestyles that exist in an ungodly society, and includes the ungodly as well as apostate Christians.

Although the exact term ‘spirit of the age’ is not found in recorded scripture, there are many instances where the word ‘world’ is used synonymously. As a matter of fact, many translators of the Greek text have used the term ‘age’ instead of the word ‘world’, and there are approximately 30 instances where this is done in the New Testament alone.

Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus sums it up beautifully. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…” (Eph. 2:1-2).

Let us note that reference is first made of the Christian’s past life. An unconverted person is classified as spiritually “dead in trespasses and sin” and lives in compliance with the unholy standards of a society under the Devil’s influence.

Satan, “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), or as Ephesians 2:2 puts it, “the prince of the power of the air”, has major control of the world.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus indirectly acknowledged Satan’s authority in the world by referring to him as, “the prince of this world.” (Jn. 12:31, 14:30 & 16:11). Also, during the temptations, He did not dispute ownership when the Devil offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” (Lk. 4:5). The truth is, man lost his rights to have dominion when Adam sinned. Since Eden, the Devil has taken ‘titleship’ as “god of this world.” It is important to understand that as the destroyer, the ultimate purpose of Satan is to generate a spirit of rebellion in society that will impede the development of godliness. His authority to influence and control has resulted in activities and programs of every possible nature – all designed to work contrary to God’s purpose. In describing the opposing elements of God’s work, Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10). Blended in the midst of all that is needed in society to sustain life is an inconspicuous amount of evil – sufficient to undermine faith.

Revelation 13:3-4 describes the whole world wondering after the Beast and worshipping the Devil. This will result in a spirit of rebellion and disobedience to any standard of godliness.

When we speak of worldliness we are specifically referring to this very element of spiritual rebellion. The spirit of the age and the spirit of worldliness are one and the same. The only difference is that the expression ‘spirit of the age’ specifically points out worldliness as it relates to one’s own time frame.

In his effort to differentiate between the children of God and the children of the world, the Apostle John wrote, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 Jn. 5:19). “…therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”. (1 Jn. 3:1).

As was mentioned earlier, the term ‘world’ not only describes the unconverted, but includes false religion as well as apostate Christianity. In the gospel of John, our Lord showed how God’s love is extended to the whole world. He said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16). Jesus continued by showing that He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world was already in condemnation. The reason was, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

The term ‘darkness’ encompasses a totality of spiritual darkness. There is the darkness associated with outright ungodliness and there is darkness associated with religious perversion. Both of these areas are extensive and can range from absolute ignorance and lewdness to the highest form of education and refinement.

However, no matter what category one falls in, as long as the Devil is in control, there will be a blending in thought pattern. The same entity that causes the ungodly to sin in the most gruesome manner is also responsible for sowing tares among the godly. (Mt. 13:39). In other words, Satan caters to sin in its basest form as well as the most pious display of religious hypocrisy. The forms of entertainment and standards of living offered by the Devil will result in sinner and so-called saint, walking together in the “counsel of the ungodly”, and hobnobbing in the “seat of the scornful.” (Ps. 1:1). This spirit motivates the mass of society in the same direction. God and godly values are abandoned as non essentials, while fashions, frolic, entertainment, instant gratification, perversion, and materialism are treated as major obsessions. This ‘un-godlike’ attitude that permeates society is what we describe as the spirit of the age.

Purpose of The Church

God’s purpose for the church is to defeat the works of the Devil by saving fallen humanity. If allowed to function according to Divine decree, the church will ultimately produce “overcomers” – individuals who are “blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke,” while they live in the midst of a crooked and perverted world. (Phil. 2:15).

However, man’s fallen nature has been the main focus in this great spiritual warfare between God and the Devil. For the past 6000 years, Satan has taken advantage of this flaw in humanity and focused his temptations on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (see article “Recognizing the Devil” pg. 16-17). These are the areas catered to in the programs and goals of an ungodly society.

But, God is good and His grace offers a way of escape to depraved man from the damnable spirit of the age. The terms ‘salvation’ and ‘redemption’ are words used to describe the overall plan of God in salvaging the sinner and making him unto a “new creature.” This whole process of sanctification that involves calling, justification and glorification is intended to transform the ungodly into a child of God, and to liberate man from the spirit of the age.

Genuine Christian conversion gradually frees us from a carnal mind and replaces it with the mind of Christ. Paul wrote to the church of Rome and admonished, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom. 12:2).

John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (Jn. 2:15-17).

Let us consider the epistle of Peter who wrote, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 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, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot…” (Pet. 4:1-4).

James also saw the danger of developing the carnal thought pattern from associating with the world and specifically pointed out that friendship of the world is enmity with God. (Js. 4:4).

When the purpose of the church is sabotaged and the spirit of the age overpowers the spirit of holiness, it becomes impossible to produce overcomers. This was the reason for our Lord’s prayer in John 17. He prayed that God may sanctify, or set apart, His followers from the spirit of the world.

The Process of Sanctification

The sanctification that was prayed for by our Lord Jesus in John 17:17 will never be realized if believers are unable to distinguish between a godly lifestyle and worldliness. The Old Testament account of the Exodus is a classic example and object lesson to learn from.

Israel is a type of the church, Egypt a type of the world, and the Exodus a type of God’s deliverance from sin and spiritual bondage. Of course the wilderness journey is a type of the Christian life with all that is necessary to effect sanctification.

The lengthy period of over 400 years of Egyptian bondage had so greatly infiltrated the minds of God’s people that their daily lifestyle had deteriorated to the point they were basically Egyptian. It may have taken God 40 years of wilderness experience to eliminate most of the Egyptian thought pattern from the nation of Israel, but the church today is in no better position. Two thousand years of being exposed to our spiritual “Egypt,” or in more understandable terms, an ungodly world, has had a similar effect.

Judging from appearance, it is an almost impossible task to identify the saved from the unsaved. The fact is, the modern Christian is almost inseparable from the ungodly society. It is tragic but true that whether it be fashion, entertainment, leisure, or even moral standards, the child of God and the unsaved seem to share a common bond. If carefully examined we may be shocked to discover that most of their fashion and entertainment originates from the same ungodly and perverted sources. It would be no exaggeration to conclude that the 21st Century Christian walks mostly “in the counsel of the ungodly” and, pertaining to matters of a religious nature, gullibility has taken the place of caution.

To make matters worse, it appears that the church has lost the effectiveness of its purpose. The spirit of worldliness and materialism has replaced the spirit of holiness and discipleship. The words of the apostle Paul predicting perilous days for the church are indeed upon us. Even ‘men of the cloth’ are, “lovers of their own selves, covetous… proud… unholy…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God…” (2 Tim 3:1-4). The world is indeed wondering after the beast!

If ever there was a time to pray for and pursue sanctification it is now. May our Lord’s prayer for the sanctification of his disciples be revived again that it may become a reality.

Christian Response

As we conclude this concise study of the spirit of the age, we must examine ourselves in the light of God’s word, and then, with help from the Spirit, make the required adjustments.

God will not judge us for evil that existed 2000 years ago, but according to our response to the evils of our time. It therefore becomes necessary for us as Christians to seek help in the following areas:

…Understanding the reality of present day evil – the Spirit of the age.

…Identifying between God and the Devil, light and darkness, truth and error, the spirit of worldliness and the spirit of godliness.

…Wisdom and strength to separate ourselves from the counsel of the ungodly.

I am confident that the Church will prevail.