I've recently been watching workout advice and the gentleman who was in the video said the phrase "be in the gym but not of the gym" and initially I thought I understood that but after pondering a while about it I came to a conclusion that I did not.

I've done some googling and found few bible references of the phrase "be in the world but not of the world" but couldn't make sense of their philosophical explanations.

So What does it mean to "be in [something] but not of [something]" ?

  • 2
    A ghost stranded on this mortal plane might be described as in this world but not of this world, since, although it remains here, it belongs to the afterlife. I might say that someone who's just turned the legal drinking age is in the bar, but that someone who goes there after work every night is of the bar. In any case the phrase is uncommon.
    – Anonym
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 19:19

4 Answers 4


The "in not of" language is probably most common because of its usage in the New Testament, in places like John 17, where Jesus is seen praying to God regarding his followers:

the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. [...] As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The general idea is that Jesus and his followers are in the world, in that they walk on the earth, interact with people, and so forth. But they are not of the world, in the sense that the earth is not their true home, it is not where their ultimate allegiance should lie.

Thus, your workout video is likely saying something along the lines of "go to the gym, but don't be addicted to it; don't let it take over your life."

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    Ohhh I get it now, so it means to do something but not identifying your personality and values with it. Thank you. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 19:31

A journalist reporting on an event might be marching with protesters, so she is IN the march. But, as a reporter she cannot be OF the march, as she may not share the priorities/grievances of the marchers.

  • Good and concise answer, I voted up but don't have enough reputation yet for you to see the vote. Anyway Thank you. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 19:32

it simply means, operate in this world, but do not become part of it. I.e your ego/mind or any other attachments to it. For you do not belong here, you are only here temporally so do not get to comfortable


The "world," especially in the Gospel of John, has a negative connotation as a place that is in defiance to the purposes of God. I would not think a "gym" or a "protest" are inherently evil as the "order" of the world typically is. Yet, it is this same 'world' that Jesus says, "God so loved."

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