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Faith in Christ Overcomes the World – 1 John 5:4-5


Faith in Christ Overcomes the World

Text. 1st John 5:4-5.
Now, before we look at our text this morning, let’s just remember the context of the passage and of the book. John has been arguing that we can know that we are saved, that God has worked a redemptive work in our spirit through the Holy Spirit. John has drawn up a ‘check-list’ of proofs, and now adds another, – we know that we are Christians because we have overcome the world, and we are overcoming the world! This is John’s next concern. So, what is the WORLD that we have overcome, how have we overcome it, and when did that happen?

1. To Overcome the World, Requires a New Birth.
4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
This prompt us to ask some important preliminary questions…
What is the world? Now, we have looked at this in a previous study, but there’s no harm in refreshing our minds. This world will always, ultimately, cause tears. That’s because:-

  • It is the battleground with evil. It seems that the Christian has three great enemies, the world, his own flesh, and the devil. All of those will cause the believer to stumble, but it is the world that John is concerned with here.
  • The world is covered in spiritual darkness. Ephesians 6:12 
  • The world is attractive! 2 Tim 4:10 And how deep is that darkness? There is an awful deep spiritual blackness in the land.
  • It is a temporal realm. For everyone, there is a time that this world will end. 

There will always be tears in this world. It is a place of pain and sorrow and defeat. But there is a solution, and John tells us what that is. It is to be born again!
What is being ‘born of God?’ In John chapter three, Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be ‘born again’. The Greek here is deliberately ambiguous. γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται. It could just as easily be translated, ‘Born from above’. Nicodemus was perplexed. How could a man be born when he was old? Jesus makes it clear that this birth is a spiritual birth, a new birth, a birth that is initiated by and brought into effect by God himself. Jesus then tell Nicodemus that this spiritual, new birth is an absolute necessity, for without it, we cannot see the kingdom of God.
It is this regenerative, spiritual experience, in which we pass from death unto life, when we are ‘born from above’ that John is talking about here, when he claims that those who have been born of God overcome the world. So, what does it mean to ‘overcome the world?’ Because of what John has already said, we declare…

2. The World has BEEN Overcome!
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Notice the subtle change of tense. In verse 4, John speaks about ‘overcomes the world’. The word overcomes is PRESENT TENSE, but note then the difference in the second part of the verse. Overcome becomes νικησασα. The word is now past tense aorist. This was something that has already happened, and it happened once, at a specific point in time. The world has, for the Christian, ALREADY BEEN OVERCOME! It was a great day of victory! A soul has passed from death to life, darkness to light, unbelief to faith. Heaven is rejoicing, the angel choirs are singing. Victory is the Lord’s. Now, when did we (in a personal sense) overcome the world? When was Christ’s great victory on the cross applied to our souls? When we were born again! Romans 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

3. The World is Being Overcome!
5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
John changes tense again, back to the present tense, but with a subtle difference. In his previous two statements the subjects of the verb ‘overcomes’ have been ‘things – concepts‘. The New Birth, and our Faith in God. Now he makes the subject of the verb a PERSON. The person who overcomes the world for us is Jesus, and that is a present-tense activity. So in CHRIST:-

  • We continue to overcome the world! Each and every day. Now, what does a life of overcoming look like? Is it a life of material prosperity, continual health, business success, your best life now, fame and celebrity? According to John, a life of daily overcoming is a life that fully and completely believes and trusts in Jesus! 
  • A rhetorical question! Notice the way the verse is framed! John is asking a rhetorical question. He is not expecting an answer, but rather he is saying, ‘if Christians cannot overcome the world, who can?’ If we cannot defeat the defeat the darkness of this world, then who can? No-one!

let’s be honest. the world, the flesh, the devil… they are bullies, who continually want to bully us into submission and to bring us down – who want to undo what what Christ has done in us. And they are stronger than us, so because we are weak and feeble and willing to compromise with the bullies, we NEED someone who is bigger and stronger than us, and bigger and stronger than the bullies. And that one is Jesus, the Son of God, and we believe in him and we trust him. 1 John 4:4

So, Christians are over-comers. The world is defeated when God works his transforming grace in our lives, and it is continually defeated, as we go on with the help of God, to overcome the world, each and every day of the normal, repentant Christian life, – after all, if we who are on the victory side are not over-comers of the world, who is?

© Bob McEvoy

From → 1st John

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