Faith Is the Victory
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, May 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:1-5
Jesus Christ defeated sin, Satan, and death for us by his death on the cross. Faith in this work of Jesus and obedience to him provide the key to living a victorious Christian life. We want to examine five points, four of which have been touched on previously by John in this epistle. The first four are new birth, belief or faith, love, and obedience. The last, and new, element, is victory.
In 1 John 5:1 John begins by saying, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." From the Greek text we discover that this act of believing is the consequence of a prior supernatural work called regeneration. This is the first point we want to examine.
Christianity is based on supernaturalism. A person cannot be a Christian and live a Christian life without first experiencing the miracle of new birth by the Holy Spirit. This divine begetting is antecedent to anything a Christian does.
Through new birth a sinner experiences a change of being. He who was flesh, meaning he was dominated by sin becomes spirit, meaning he is now dominated by God; he who was dead is now raised from the dead; he who was a child of the devil becomes a child of the heavenly Father; he who belonged to the kingdom of darkness has been transported into the kingdom of God's Son; he who was a self-centered enemy of God has become a Christ-centered servant of God.
Like Lazarus, a Christian is one who has come out of the tomb of death into the glorious liberty of life. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Such a person has been chosen before the creation of the world in Jesus Christ by the Father, and, in time the wind of the Spirit of God blows upon him, especially through the preaching of the gospel. Such a person is created in Christ Jesus unto obedience. Experiencing new birth due to the activity of the Holy Spirit alone, such a person is given a new nature; a new life, which is indestructible; a new mind; a new set of desires; a new attitude or disposition; and various new abilities.
How often have we heard stories about girls giving birth and then throwing their infants into trash cans or into toilets! But a person born of God is not thrown into a trash can-unwanted, uncared for, and thrown out. Born into the family of God, he is given the rights of a child of God and experiences the love and privilege of this relationship. As a child of God, he receives dignity and inheritance from his heavenly Father and is secure forever.
There are some people in the church who profess to be Christians without experiencing new birth. Although they may act like Christians, such people will fall away in due time like apple blossoms blown by the wind. But a person who experiences new birth will become fruit that matures.
Second, this passage speaks about belief, which is the consequence of the new birth. In 1 John 5:1 John writes, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," and in verse 5 he writes, "Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world."
A person who experienced the divine new birth will manifest his new life by believing that Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of history, is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the promised Deliverer and Savior. He believes that this Jesus is the only Savior of the whole world. He believes that Jesus Christ alone was without sin and that Jesus Christ alone lived a perfect life. Without any difficulty he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, that his death was a propitiatory sacrifice that turned God's wrath away from us and caused him to be gracious toward us, to forgive us our sins, and to justify us. He believes that Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil and that by his death and resurrection Christ once and for all defeated all his enemies and ours. He believes that this Jesus Christ, who took upon himself human nature, is the eternal Son of God, one divine person with two natures.
Such a person believes in the Bible implicitly. As we read in Hebrews 11:6, "Anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Such a person has no problem believing that God, out of nothing, created the whole universe. He has no problem believing in heaven, hell, angels, demons, and in all things stated in the Scriptures. This belief in Christ and in God's word alone, which is the result of the new birth, is based on supernatural, not natural, faith. Just as new birth is supernatural, so also this faith is not a human thing but supernatural.
A person who believes in the gospel will also commit himself to Jesus Christ in complete surrender. Such a person says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "I have been crucified with Christ"-that is the difference between a true Christian and a false one. A false Christian is self-centered and never surrenders himself to Jesus Christ, but a true Christian is united by faith with Christ forever, as a branch is united to the vine.
Third, this passage speaks about love, which is another effect of new birth. There are people who claim to be Christians yet have no connectedness to other people of God. By such a lifestyle these people are declaring that they are not born of God. In 1 John 5:1 John wrote, "Everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well." One who is born of God is born into God's family. Thus, it is his very nature to love his Father as well as all his Father's children, who are his true brothers and sisters.
Because a Christian loves his heavenly Father, he delights in communicating with him through vital prayer and reading of the Scriptures. We are told the Father seeks those who worship him in spirit and in truth. A person who has been born again will worship God joyfully with all his mind. He will delight to worship his Father together with all his brothers and sisters. Instead of being bored when he worships, he will be refreshed. He will consider the Lord's Day particularly as a day of great rest and rejoicing. He will join with the psalmist in saying, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.' Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. . . . This is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel" (Psalm 122:1, 2, 4). He will declare, "God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). He will say, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11). A born-of-God person so loves God that he will worship him with all his might. Because he is alive in Christ, he will sing with his whole being, he will pray with passion, and he will proclaim the gospel boldly, talking about it more than anything else in the world. He will give and give sacrificially. He will listen intently to God's word, purposing to obey whatever is said.
Not only does the born-of-God person love God, but he also loves his Christian brothers. There is no solo Christianity. Every born-again Christian has an intrinsic longing for fellowship with other true believers. I have experienced that type of longing myself. It is something superior even to "falling in love." There is a great inward desire to be in the company of people who love God. How do the children of God recognize each other? They all have the image of God stamped on their being. They all speak the same heavenly language and glory in divine things, not in the things of this world.
The love of a Christian for his brothers manifests in helping to bear one another's burdens. That word "burden" there means something too heavy for one person to lift up. In his commentary on 1 John, Dr. William Barclay tells a story to illustrate this idea of bearing one another's burdens:
Someone once met a lad going to school, long before the days when transport was provided. The lad was carrying on his back a smaller boy who was clearly lame and unable to walk. The stranger said to the lad, "Do you carry him to school every day?" "Yes," said the boy. "That's a heavy burden for you to carry," said the stranger. "He is no burden," said the boy. "He is my brother" (William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible series [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976], 104).
Christian love is love for God and love for the brothers. Thus, we help one another and sacrifice for one another. We love to be part of God's family and community. We share our worldly goods with one another according to each other's needs. Knowing that this world is passing away, we refuse to pitch our tents in Sodom. We separate ourselves from this world and its amusements. Like Moses, we choose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. We recognize and rejoice in the fact that the family of God is our family.
The next effect of new birth is willing obedience. In verse 3 John writes, "This is love for God: to obey his commands." Note that the word "commands" is in the plural. When "command" appears in the singular, it means law, but when it appears in the plural, it is speaking about the Ten Commandments-the stipulations, the moral code.
Those who are born of God count it a privilege to obey God. Jesus is their Lord and King. Such people are well aware that they used to be children of the devil. They know they obeyed the devil by sinning. They acknowledge they were slaves of the devil and characterized by the condition called by theologians non posse non peccare-not possible not to sin-meaning they could only sin. This is true slavery. But now, having become children of God, these people enjoy the liberty of the children of God. Now they are characterized by posse non peccare, meaning that it is possible for them not to sin and to obey God. Such people look upon God's commandments as holy, spiritual, and good. They recognize that the commandments of God are God's gift to his children to guide them as a lamp to their feet and a light to their path, guiding them to the celestial city.
In other words, God's commandments are pure delight to a child of God. So John says that God's commandments are not burdensome. The word means heavy, oppressive, impossible to keep. The commandments of God are oppressive to unbelievers, but to those of us who are God's children they are life, wisdom, joy, light, riches, and food for the soul. We enjoy the delight of divine approbation, which registers in our being as great joy and peace. The yoke of Pharaoh and the Pharisees were oppressive, but the yoke of God is pleasant, giving us liberty and great security. Jesus himself said, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." The commandments of God are like an owner's manual, and we enjoy our lives to the fullest when we live by them. But those who travel on the broad way of self-rule will meet with eternal destruction.
A Christian is not an antinomian. He is given freedom to obey God, not to be lawless. Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).
Those who are born of God will express their gratitude to God's mercy by joyful obedience. In Romans 13:8, 10, Paul wrote, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law . . . Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." We must be careful in interpreting that verse. Paul is not saying that love is a substitute for obedience, but that by love we obey God's specific moral commands.
Why is it necessary for Christians to obey God? Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Show me a Christian who is disobedient to God's commandments, and I will show you a liar and a fraud. Show me a Christian who is autonomous and antinomian and I will show you a false Christian.
The final effect of new birth is victory. In 1 John 5:4-5 we read, "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." A person who is born of God is a triumphant Christian. He daily overcomes the world.
As soon as we are born again, we experience a conflict within. This conflict is proof that we are born of God. Before, we did not have any problems, but having been born again, we have the life of God in our soul as well as our old nature, and they are in conflict. PGM The Bible tells us the flesh wars against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. If we are children of God, there will be deep conflict within us until the day we die. But even in this life a true Christian is an overcomer. When he resists the devil, though the devil is a superhuman being, he will flee. He who is born of God overcomes the world.
What is the world, the cosmos? It is the enemy of a Christian. Though we once belonged to it, now we belong to God and the world is our enemy. The world is defined as all that is opposed to God and his sovereign rule. It is moral darkness, as we read in 1 John 5:19: "The whole world is under the control of the evil one." The god of this world is the devil.
If we are born of God, we have been taken out of the world, brought into God's kingdom, and given citizenship in heaven. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places, and there now exists a divinely instituted enmity between us and the world. This is the ancient enmity between the serpent and the woman, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and between the church and the unbelieving world.
The world is both without and within us. The old nature is still within us; thus, although we can be sitting in the church, we can be sinning in our hearts. This is a result of the world within us-the lust of the flesh. But there is also the world outside, which consists of the philosophy of the world, the music of the world, the persecution of the world, the teachings of the world, the politics of the world, the economics of the world, the psychology of the world, the unbelieving science of the world, and the governments of the world. All are under the control of the evil one. But if we are born of God, there will be clear-cut separation between us and these entities. The people of God dwell alone; they are not worldly, but holy.
Overcoming the World
The term "world" means the forces arrayed against God and his people. But John tells us we have overcome the world. Jesus said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." We are on the offensive, moving from Egypt to Canaan.
How do we overcome the world? We do so, first, by having new life. That is the meaning of this statement in verse 4 in the Greek text. In the English translation we read, "For everyone born of God overcomes the world," but in the Greek it is, "whatever born of God." The emphasis in that verse is on the divine indestructible life given to us by the Father. This life enables us to overcome the world rather than conform to it.
As Christians, we are non-conformists, distinctly different from the world and its fashions. Not only have we overcome the world, but we oppose it because God has planted his indestructible supernatural life into our being. Without this new life, we would just go with the flow. Any fisherman will know that a dead fish will float with the current. They go with the flow, but the live ones move upstream, against the flow. That is the picture of a Christian who has received supernatural life. He opposes and goes counter to the world. He does not consult the majority opinion to help him decide what to do.
New life is the key to victorious Christian life. Thus, if one is not born of God, he is incapable of overcoming the world. He will always conform to it because he is not a Christian and does not have the life of God in him.
Second, we overcome the world because we have new faith. Notice, John writes, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." This is the only time the word "faith" appears in the Johannine writings. So we must have new life and then new faith.
Faith, hope, and love all have to do with others. We love another, believe in another, and hope in another. Faith, hope, and love calls for complete self-denial-faith in God, love for God, and hope in God. Before, we used to trust in ourselves, but now we have faith in Jesus Christ, and it is that faith which overcomes the world. When we are born of God, we are given supernatural faith to trust in Jesus Christ who once for all defeated all his enemies and ours by his perfect life, death, and resurrection. We are enabled to trust in the one who said, "In this world you will have troubles, but take courage. I have overcome the world."
In Colossians 2:15 we read that Jesus Christ, "having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." By his death he destroyed death and defeated the devil and the world once and for all for us. His triumph is our triumph because we are united with him by faith. By faith we are joined to Christ as a branch is united with the vine. So we receive from him continually his grace, his life, his power, and his victory. Thus, we are able to overcome the world and its ideologies, fashions, philosophies, and music. We are on the offensive. We can stand tall, knowing that the devil is defeated by Christ for us and, therefore, cannot harm us in any way.
In 1 John 5:18 we read, "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin: the one who was born of God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him." I hope we will rise up as soldiers of Christ, with heads high and minds filled with the word of God, and walk in this new life and new faith that God has given us. We are secure in Christ! Jesus Christ promised, "No one can snatch you out of my hand; neither can anyone snatch you out of my Father's hand."
In Romans 8:37 Paul tells us we are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. He uses the word hupernikaí´, which means to super-overcome. Nothing in all the world is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
In Revelation 12:11 we are told that, in the context of severe opposition, Jesus' disciples "overcame [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." So we will also overcome all our enemies in Christ by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
In Revelation 17:14 we read, "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." Why did Christ defeat all his enemies? He did so for us. That is why we say that his victory is our victory.
Third, we overcome the world because we have new power. The power God gives us is greater than any power in the world. In 1 John 4:4 we read, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." The one who is in the world is the devil, and he has been defeated by Christ. But there is one who is in us who is greater than the devil-he is the Holy Spirit of God.
That is why Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil. 2:13) and, "I can all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13, KJV). God is in us, giving us the strength, power, wisdom, and everything else we need to live for him.
Remember the story of Elisha and his servant in Dothan? The servant was afraid when he saw the Syrian army surrounding them. But Elisha, although he saw the army, also saw something else: God and his angels surrounding him and his servant. God is within and without; therefore, all our fear is unnecessary and unwarranted. "Fear not!" God says to us.
In Zechariah 2:4 we are told that in the new city of Jerusalem there will not be any wall of protection around the city. Then in verse 5 we read that God himself will be a wall of fire around it. We are that city. God is within and without us. No one is able to break through the fire wall. No one can come and snatch us. No one can harm us. People may kill us, but they cannot harm us.
Faith Is the Victory
As Christians, we face temptation every day. But we have new life, new faith, new love, new obedience and new victory. When he was tempted, Jesus told Satan, "It is written" and resisted the temptation. In the same way, we can resist temptation and do what our Father wants us to do because we are his sons and want to please him.
If you are a child of God, I urge you not to be defensive in the face of temptation; rather, be strong, powerful, and overcoming. Trust in the truth that Christ died and rose for us. He is the King enthroned, and we are seated with him. Thus, we are always triumphant in Christ the King. Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™