Pilate went out to the chief priests and asked them what accusation they had brought against Jesus (John 18:29), but all they could say was that, if He was not an evil doer, they would not have turned Him over to the governor (John 18:30). In other words, they found Jesus guilty, and they expected Pilate to sentence him on their judgment. Pilate, however, had no desire to do their dirty work and told them to carry out the judgment according to their law (John 18:31a). Nevertheless, the religious leaders desired the death penalty for Jesus, which was not legal for them to carry out (John 18:31b-32). They then began accusing Jesus of insurrection, turning the Jewish nation aside from Rome, forbidding others to give tribute to Caesar, and claiming He was King (Luke 23:3). Upon hearing this, Pilate called Jesus to be brought to him (John 18:33) and demanded of him if he were the King of the Jews (cp. Luke 23:3; Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2). Jesus, however, said that his kingdom is not of this “world” (kosmos, G2889).
There are three words in the Greek that the New Testament translates into our word “world.” The first is, aion (G165), meaning a period of time, or an age (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). The second word is oikoumene (G3625), meaning the inhabited earth, either the whole or a portion (Acts 17:31; Revelation 3:10; 12:9). The third Greek word is used here by Jesus and is kosmos (G2889), meaning order, arrangement, ornament etc. It denotes the present condition of human affairs. Notice what John says of this kosmos or “world” in his letter.
“Love not the “world” (kosmos), neither the things that are in the kosmos. If any man love the kosmos the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the kosmos, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the kosmos. And the kosmos passes away, and the lust thereof, but he that does the will of God abides forever” [1John 2:15-17; emphasis mine and I substituted the Greek kosmos for the English “world” throughout].
The “world” or kosmos was not created by our Father (1John 2:16), therefore, Jesus said He is not the Ruler or King of the kosmos (John 18:36)! Jesus is not the Ruler of our kosmos, because He is the last Adam (1Corinthians 15:45), and Adam is to rule over all the works of God (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6), not the works of man.
What, then, makes up our kosmos or “world” that man has made and God has not? Genesis 4:17-22 gives an interesting account of the descendants of Cain, the world’s first murderer. It is said that Cain married his wife and she bore Enoch, who built the world’s first city (Genesis 4:17). A few generations later, another of Cain’s descendants, Lamech, became a polygamist (Genesis 4:18-19). One of his wives bore two sons. The first was called Jabal, and his descendants became the nomadic people, wanderers (from city to city), living in tents (like the military use). His brother was called Jubal, and his descendants were the world’s first musicians (Genesis 4:20-21). Lamech’s second wife bore Tubal-cain, who was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron (Genesis 4:22).
What I see here is that man built the world’s first city (Genesis 4:17). When people live together as close as they do in a city, they must have laws (government) and leaders (politics), so there could be “order” (kosmos). It is interesting that these laws cannot make anyone moral or save the family from decay (cp. Genesis 4:18-19; cp. Genesis 6:2). As the number of cities increased, trade between them became useful and commerce was born, making it also necessary for protection for goods going from one place to another and even protection of one’s own city necessitating a military or police force (Genesis 4:20). Dwelling in the kosmos breeds a competitive spirit, whereby what was done for one’s own enjoyment and peace is honed to such perfection that it becomes a labor for the entertainment of others (Genesis 4:21). Thus, the arts were born! As people continued to dwell together and commerce increased from city to city, the need for improved products gave birth to education and technology (Genesis 4:22). More and more laws are needed, and a greater military or police force is demanded to enforce those laws. Political leaders became stronger and more important in the eyes of more and more people (Genesis 6:4). Famous politicians need a stronger military, to protect their great name. They promise greater trade for business and riches for the people, and social decay is the inevitable result (Genesis 6:5). God brought terrible destruction to mankind because of the kosmoss they created, and after their judgment they still continued in their old ways. God had to intervene to permit mankind to continue until the planned end of the ages (Genesis 11:1-9), because man will rush to do evil (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7). All this, our world’s governments, laws, commerce, military, culture, arts, education and technology is what Jesus said was not his kingdom. He is not the Ruler over this (John 18:36). Jesus will never rule over anything the Father did not create. Is it proper, therefore, for Christians to seek to make this “world” (kosmos) more presentable by giving it a make over, claiming we are “regaining ground” for God? It is evident that we must participate in this kosmos (John 17:14-16) in order that we might make a living etc. In the course of performing our worldly duties, we may be able to make the world around us a little less intimidating. We could make our corner of the world a little friendlier for our coworkers and neighbors, simply by living out Christ’s life within us. Nevertheless, I have to wonder about the truthfulness of the claim that we are in the business of purifying the kosmos for Christ by returning it to a better value system. Is it possible for me to make this kosmos clean enough or presentable enough for God to desire to rule over it? May God open our eyes to see his word (2Peter 3:10-12).
Pilate had the accusations of the chief priests read before Jesus, but Jesus never answered any of the claims against him, except that he admitted to being the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-5). Pilate was greatly moved with Jesus’ silence. He therefore returned to the chief priests outside of the Pretorium and told them that he found no truth to their accusations (Luke 23:4)
I find it interesting, as I read the account of Pilate’s impression of Jesus. He didn’t see Jesus as a threat to Rome. He saw no reason to believe that Jesus would stir up the people to demand tax reform, school reforms or in any other way create social unrest. Pilate saw absolutely no threat in Christ. Is this true today? Does the state see any threat in Christianity, in those who claim to be following Christ?
Pilate saw no truth to the charges leveled against Jesus by the religious leaders of that day, that Jesus was a threat to Rome. Indeed, Jesus claimed to be King. To this end he said he was born (John 18:37), but his Kingdom has nothing to do with this kosmos. Instead, he came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and all who are of the truth listen to him (John 18:36-37)! Pilate didn’t see Jesus’ words as a threat, so he told the chief priests they were wrong to bring Jesus to him (John 18:38; Luke 23:4). Immediately they were enraged with the idea that the state would not support their claims about him being Christ of Contention (cp. Philippians 1:15-16), who stirred up the people throughout the nation, beginning with Galilee (Luke 23:5).
Some believe that Christ contends with this world, seeking to make it more moral or bring its power into subjection to him. This is not so. Christ made it very clear his kingdom did not pertain to this world (kosmos G2889; John 18:36). However, Paul spoke of a Christ that is preached out of envy and rivalry. He called it the Christ of Contention. Notice what he says,
Philippians 1:15-17 MSG It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. (16) One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. (17) The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better–they think–for them.
Whenever Christ is preached out of a contentious heart, we are preaching the Christ that was proclaimed before Pilate, the Christ of Contention. It is not the business of the Christian to change the world. We preach Christ to change the heart. If the heart of man is changed, the world (the kosmos that God did not create) will lose its power and fall apart. Each time we try to make the world more moral and bring it into subjection to Christ, we do so in the power of the flesh, not the Spirit. The power of the flesh is the power of this world. It is not the power or authority of Christ (John 18:36). May God help us to see this difference.