Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
(1 John 5:1-5 ESV)
I want to share about two prominent thoughts I see in these five verses. The first is the fact that we have overcome the world in Christ. The second is the specific traits overcomers are characterized by.
1) We have overcome the world in Christ
- A quick Google search for the word “overcome” will lead you to such definitions as “overpower” or “prevail over”; in Greek it is “nikao” or “nike”. In Greek mythology, the goddess of victory was called Nike. So to overcome something is to have victory over something, in this case the world. But like all things in Scripture, it is not our own work. By faith, we have overcome; faith that Christ has overcome. Backing up to Jesus’ own words in John 16, he makes the claim that he has “overcome” the world. There Jesus is telling his disciples that there will come a time when they face much tribulation. But right after says what are to be words of comfort: “But take heart; I have overcome the world”. What does all this mean?
- In the same way that we are called to die everyday, to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily, as Christians we overcome the world everyday in Christ. Daily we are to be “crucified with Christ” so that it is no longer our old selves imprisoned by sin but our new selves with Christ in us! We take heart in knowing that Christ has overcome the world because that means we have overcome the world through faith in him. He has defeated sin and death and we are free. Paul says this in Galatians 5. Jesus says this in John 8. Take heart Christian for Christ has risen!
2) Overcomers have characteristics of faith, obedience and love.
- Let’s look more closely at each of these three traits. What is faith? From Hebrews 11:1 we know that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” To be assured of something is to have a confidence in. We can simplify this first definition down to a strong belief. Yet we know from the Gospel accounts that even the demons believed (James 2:19); which is why we look to the second part of this Hebrews verse. We see that faith is not just this strong belief but a conviction. And conviction as seen in the Bible is a convinced conscience. The Holy Spirit “convinces” our conscience of certain things. He convicts of sin as seen in John 16 (same chapter as somewhere before this).
- What does it mean to obey? Very simply, it is to follow another’s commands. And we have in our hands the very Word of God! It is the story of redemption from the beginning of creation to the Cross to what will soon come to pass. It is also littered with commands, imperatives following indicatives. He tells us very clearly and simply what we ought to do. He tells us how we are to worship; he tells us how to give; he even tells us how to pray. After being given commands, we are called to obey.
- This is when the second part of the definition of faith comes in: conviction. We have obedience. Obedience without emotion—a heartfelt longing for the Father—is useless. It is a cold and indifferent action without feeling. This is why we must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Careful readers might notice that in each of these: faith, love, and obedience, there are hints of the others. For example, when I talk about obedience as doing with emotion, there is love in there as well. When I talk about faith as belief, true belief recognizes Christ’s Lordship and should then lead to obedience. Just read Paul’s letters! From the very beginning of the book of Romans, Paul says “through whom we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations”. All three are woven together. Proof of love is seen in obedience; proof of faith is in love. You can hardly separate one from the others.