By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXVIII) 11/21/22

5:4 because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.

As stated in his interpretation Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes that the theme of verse four is made clear by the repetition of the Greek verb Nike, often translated as “conquer,” “overcomer,” or “victor.’ Nike is also the name of the Greek goddess of victory, speed, and strength. The Romans called the goddess NikeVictoria.” She surprisingly has wings in paintings and statues. One Modern English Translation says that whoever is born of God “is continually victorious [soaring over] the world.[1] Then John has more to say about “the world,[2] characterized by the trio of “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” In addition to love, he points to another spiritual weapon that grants us victory over the weapons of the world in our spiritual battles: “our faith.”[3]

Thinking classically Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) notes that here in verse four, the Apostle John makes a causal comment that explains why God’s instruction is in no way burdensome to the one who lives in hope because everything born of God overcomes the world.[4]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) does not see the Apostle John teaching some enthusiastic triumphalism but points to faith in the true gospel of Jesus the Anointed One that is “ours,” held by the author and those who share like faith. Jesus said that He has “overcome” the world.[5] Therefore, those who have faith in the Anointed One likewise have faith that overcomes all that is of the world.[6] The statement here that everything/everyone born of God overcomes the world supports the interpretation of 2:14-15, where the young men are said to be “overcomers.”[7]

5:5 It is our faith that has won the victory against the world. So, who wins against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.


Here John reiterates the main theme of his letter concerning what love is, how love works, and how love can be seen and tested for its genuineness.  This trial of determining if God’s love resides in one’s heart is not only meant for God or fellow believers to verify but for the world as well.  The one thing that holds it all together is the common bond of faith in believing that Jesus is God’s Son; the man sent down from heaven by the Father to secure forgiveness for our sins so we will not suffer the punishment, and that we may have life eternal with Him.

When I served in the military, some people became my best friends, and there were those I did not particularly care for because of their attitude and demeanor.  But one thing remained certain.  Should we ever go into combat, they knew I would do everything I could to protect them, and they would do the same for me.  That’s because we were in the same army, fighting for the same enemy and serving the same Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. Christians may have their differences on specific issues, but as far as the world is concerned, when they look at us, they should see a united force ready to hold each other up for the cause of the Anointed One.

It was made clear to the Apostle John in his revelation that everyone who conquers will be clothed in white and will not have their name erased from the Book of Life. The Messiah will announce before the Father and His angels that they are His. As for anyone who is a conqueror, they will be made a pillar in God’s temple; they will be secure and will never have to leave, and God’s Name will be written on them, and they will be a citizen in His holy city of God – the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. They will have the Anointed One’s new Name inscribed on them. Therefore, everyone who conquers worldliness will sit beside Him on His throne, just as He took His place with the Father on His throne when He arrived victoriously.[8]

And then the Apostle John heard a loud voice booming across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation, power, rule, and authority of His Anointed One are finally here, for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth – he accused them day and night before our God. But they defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony; for they were not selfish with their lives but laid them down for Him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad!”[9] Then the amazed apostle tells us, “I saw it spread out before me like an ocean made of fire and glass, and on it stood all those who were victorious over the Evil Creature and his statue and his mark and number. All were accompanying themselves with harps as they sang the song of Moses, the faithful servant of God, called ‘The Song of the Lamb.’” Their words were:

Mighty are Your acts and marvelous,

O God, the Sovereign-Strong!

Righteous Your ways and true,

King of the nations!

Who can fail to fear You,

We give glory to Your Name?

Because you and you alone are holy,

all nations will come and worship you,

because they see your judgments

are fair and true.[10]

No wonder the Apostle John was so positive about his message of being victorious over the world and its leader, the devil. What other way is there of conquering the world? And how can they who believe fail? There is a victory in the new birth from Jesus the Anointed One. The world system cannot bear God’s operating principles, so God’s Word is burdensome to them. They cannot tolerate such a scale of values.

Therefore, every Christian without exception – spiritual or carnal, mature or immature – has the faith to gain victory. The principle of success is universal for each believer, with all that the new nature in its entirety entails. The emphasis here is not on the believer who overcomes but on the power that God gave them at their spiritual strength to resist. The nature of the new birth inclines the heart of the believer toward God’s Word. The born-again spirit counteracts all the forces of the world system. The Greek tense indicates that whenever a person becomes born again, they are permanently born (perfect tense) with a new capacity to live for God.

Consequently, the idea of “overcomes” is to prevail once the victory is won.[11] Every child of God has the capacity to conquer the worldly system.[12] The Greek indicates that this victory is a continual overcoming. We must understand the “world” in terms of Satan’s value system. Christians need to remain victorious over the devil and his evil empire. There is power in the initial faith exercised in salvation. That power is inherent in those “born of God.”[13] In other words, Jesus makes His victory the triumph of His followers through spiritual birth.

Unfortunately, some Christians allow the world to overcome them because they are of the world. God wants us to be in the world but not of the world.[14] That’s because believers face very powerful forces against their spiritual life today. The values of this world fly in our faces every day through various media. The world pushes its ideals in many ways: immorality as a lifestyle, doing whatever it takes to get ahead, and lying if it suits your purposes. As a result, young adults violate biblical norms like no other generation. Consequently, some Christians do not gain victory over the world. The world conquers them. The “world” is a mindset that opposes God’s will and commandments.[15] Only the victory achieved at the cross overcomes the world.

As a result, we more and more gain victory over the world as our faith grows in the Anointed One’s triumph over sin, death, hell, and the grave. The object of our focus is on who and what gives victory over Satan’s system. Jesus conquered the world during His earthly ministry throughrough His sacrificial death for our sins. The tiniest faith grasps the reality of God’s gigantic eternal order and sees the ultimate failure of satanic tyranny.[16] So the principle behind this is that we overcome the world system by taking God at His Word.

Therefore, faith in an adequate object produces a good outcome. We get victory over the entire satanic system by placing faith in the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross. Victory does not come by putting faith in ourselves. The only adequate object of our faith is God’s promises. Hence, we overcome the world system by faith. By applying faith in the Word of God to specific problems, we commit to more excellent standards and values. We focus faith on Jesus the Anointed One and His provisions which allow us to grow more spiritually mature when we put God’s principles to practice by faith every day.

We can tell we walk by faith if we produce fruit,[17] introduce others to the Anointed One, and gain victory over our sinful tendencies. Faith is trust in God’s operating assets. If that does not tie in with experience, then our perception is wrong. We do not interpret the Bible by human know-how.  If our involvement contradicts the Bible, then there is something wrong with our procedure or perception. We might have been having a religious hallucination and become deluded. Instead, we interpret what we’ve learned from the Bible.  In God’s system of values, victory always comes through the Lord Jesus.[18]

In fact, we get our English word “Nike” from the Greek word meaning “overcomes.” Thus, Nike was the goddess of victory. Christians will escape the world’s influence forever when they enter heaven’s gates, but the issue here is defeating worldliness while we live on earth. No one can beat the world system unless they believe in the deity of the Anointed One. Victory results from faith in Him. It is not simply a rhetorical question but an appeal to fact.[19] Everything depends on who and what we believe. Jesus and His work are the content of our trust. The importance of the cross is who died on it.[20] The principle involved here is that faith in the incarnate Anointed One brings power to every Christian to overcome the world system.

[1] 1 John 5:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

[2] See 1 John 5:4-5; 1 John 2:16

[3] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[4] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 526-527

[5] John 16:33

[6] Cf. 1 John 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:5

[7] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 217

[8] Revelation 3:12, 21

[9] Ibid. 12:10-12a

[10] Ibid. 15:2-3; cf. Amos 3:13; 4:13

[11] 1 John 2:13,14

[12] Ibid. 4:4

[13] See John 16:33

[14] 1 John 2:15-17

[15] See 1 Timothy 4:10

[16] See Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57

[17] John 15:8

[18] Galatians 6:14

[19] Galatians 1:4-5

[20] John 20:31

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David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXIV) 12/01/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is indeed God’s Son?

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) defines faith as the overcoming factor against this world that seeks to pull us into its snares and entanglements. The Apostle John is emphasizing his argument against the erroneous dogma of the Gnostics, for they denied the Deity of Jesus the Anointed One. But our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior enables us to be overcomers of this world’s attractions. Overcomes is a familiar statement with John. He employed it in 1 John 2:13,14 when he spoke of overcoming the devil. We also find it used in each of the letters he wrote to the seven churches of Asia. John is writing to people who have experienced the new birth. They are conquerors (overcomers) – of this world and its snares. A child of God is an achiever, victorious in their lifestyle, and not a quitter – but a winner.[1]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) asks, who can love the way the Apostle John requires in verses one to three? Verse four answers: we all can! John says God’s commands are not burdensome, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcame the world; it is our faith.” Eaton then defines the content of that faith in verse four. It is because of the Christian’s spiritual birth and persistent belief. The movement of thought from verses 1-3 to verse 4 shows that the “world” is characterized by a lack of faith (verse 1) and deficient love (verses 2-3). The present tense, “overcomes,” points to the endless possibility of overcoming the world; the simple past (or ‘aorist’) tense of “overcame” points to the recent victory the followers of John experienced. The departure of John’s enemies resulted from persistent faith on the part of John’s disciples. In verse five, John changes back to the present tense. The confidence that has recently won a victory may do so constantly. Finally, John points to what it means to love. It is to persist in faith no matter what is happening to us. When we conquer the world; we conquer lovelessness. [2]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) sees verse five as moving the reader into the present tense and possible daily experience of the Anointed One’s victory in our discipleship, available to us all as Christian believers. Everything depends upon our union with the Anointed One. It comes by faith, through which the divine resources are made available to all who trust Him so that they may be victorious in their battle with worldliness, sinful tendencies, and devilish traps. We cannot share God’s victory if we do not believe in His Son, for Jesus is the only source of the divine power that is strong enough to overcome our enemies. Of course, that must be put into practice, or there will be no power. But wherever that faith is central and active, there is victory.

Finally, no one says that the conflict is over but that the outcome is settled. Now, nothing in this world or beyond can overcome the believer rooted in the Anointed One.[3] But, this was what Jesus promised: “In this world, you will have trouble,” He told His disciples on the last night He was with them. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”[4] And all those who are united to Him in this faith have also overcome.[5]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) reminds us that God created us in “His image.” It simply means that humans are unique among all the creatures of this world in that God has given them an eternal spirit, one that has the capacity to know that God exists and to have a personal relationship with Him. Consequently, every civilization has sought this higher power, knowing it exists. However, our search for God has often been so influenced by our sinful nature that we fail to find Him in a way He will accept.  God’s plan is that we come to Him in faith, finding forgiveness for our sins. However, that forgiveness is found only in the work of Jesus the Anointed One on the cross of Calvary. He is the One who is the Messiah, God’s Son. If we reject Jesus the Anointed One, His divine nature, and salvation, we have rejected God.  Consequently, though all world religions will eventually result in the final judgment (“since every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD”),[6] the only way to come to that judgment with forgiveness is through faith in Jesus as Savior. There is simply no other way to overcome the eternal consequences of the sin of this world.[7]

As a person who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) sees verse five as taking the victory attributed to faith in verse four and extending it to the person who exercises it. To accomplish this, John uses a rhetorical question, for which he supplies the answer in verse five: “But who is the one who conquers the world? It is none other than the person who believes that Jesus is God’s Son.” The conqueror is the person who makes this profession of faith. Such confession should be regarded as including His status as the Anointed One and His incarnation.[8] The phrase’s meaning is informed by all that the epistle has said of “the Son” thus far.[9] The term “Son of God” has already occurred twice in this epistle[10] and is conceivably related to its use in John’s Gospel. “Son of God” is what John the Baptizer, Nathanael, and Martha, the sister of Lazarus, all called Jesus.[11] Martha combines all of the elements stressed so far by John: “I believe that you are the Anointed One, God’s Son, who was to come into the world” (NIV).[12]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation, Colin G. Kruse (1950) concludes that when the Apostle John says, “this is the victory that overcomes the world’s actions and attractions, even our faith,” he defines what it is that enables those born of God to defeat worldliness – their faith. It is the only place in the Johannine writings where we find the noun “faith” (pistis). Elsewhere, the author uses the verb (pisteuo)[13] that portrays dynamic faith. The nature of the belief that overcomes is explicit in the following rhetorical question and answer: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Faith in Jesus as the Son of God enables believers to overcome the world.” In this context, the influence of the “world” comes primarily through the secessionists and their false teaching.[14] To overcome the world, the readers must persist in their faith in Jesus despite the propaganda of the secessionists. In 1 John, “the Son of God” is equivalent to “the Anointed One.”[15] Therefore, only those who believed that Jesus was the Son of God could be said to have overcome the world. As far as John was concerned, the secessionists who denied these things were still part of the world[16] and subject to the power of the evil one.[17] [18]

Believing that Christians can fall away from the faith, Ben Witherington III (1951) notes the Apostle John’s rhetorical question that begins verse five: “Who is it that overcomes the world?” It neatly balances the rhetorical question John asked earlier: “Who is the liar?”[19] John then explains this in more detail: “the faithpistis [the only occurrence of this noun in the Johannine Epistles] is defined as believing that Jesus is God’s Son. But one may ask, why is this said to conquer the world? The answer goes back to where Jesus says that He has already overcome the world.[20] With this being so, faith in Him as Messiah, Son of God, world’s Savior, is the means of overcoming as He did. The Anointed One’s victory was gained on a small hill and in a shallow tomb. Still, it was worldwide in its effects. The context does not suggest that “overcoming” here has the connotation of martyrdom as it does in Revelation.[21] [22]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) says that from the neuter language of verse four, the Apostle John says it’s the individual in verse five who believes and participates in the victory over all that opposes God. Again, the opposition is summarized as “the world.” Here John repeats his core confession of a belief that Jesus is the Son of God.[23] Then, after expanding it in verse six, John will not mention “Jesus” again until the end of the letter.[24] Consequently, “the Son of God” becomes the focus of each letter’s remaining sections.[25]

As has become evident, John acknowledges that Jesus is God’s Son and gives shape to and adequately defines the belief that Jesus is the Anointed One.[26] On one level, we might read this declaration as completing the circle that began in verse one of the chapter: everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One = has been born God; everything born of God = conquers the world; the one who conquers the world =  the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son. This imagery of birth/birthing offers a possibility of exploring a new tone within which both “Anointed One” and “Son of God” are to be understood. Still, John has not yet finished such exploring, and verse five, therefore, not only looks back but drives forward.[27]

Contextual interpretation specialist Gary M. Burge (1952) finds that the Apostle John’s interest in spiritual victory in the previous section led him to develop a specific reconciliation. In chapter four, verse seven and onward, John urged that Christian maturity (anchored in a correct understanding of God’s love and commitment) should result in a loving, reconciled community. Such an experience of God’s love results in rebirth and victory, victory even over worldliness. But should we pursue such a resolution at all costs? Should passionately held beliefs be set aside if there are differences of opinion? As he did in 1 John 4:9-10, John refuses in 5:5b-12 to let these affirmations about God and community healing drift away without a Christological anchor. Only through the Anointed One’s incarnation and sacrifice can we gain a clear, undistorted view of God’s commitment to us. Therefore, regeneration and ethical inspiration must be theologically informed, and christologically centered.[28]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to Christian fellowship, Bruce B. Barton (1954) has the Apostle John ask the rhetorical question, “Who can win this battle against the world?” He follows it with John’s answer, “Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Thus, verse five confirms verse four with a triumphant affirmation. Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are the only ones who will win this battle against the world so permeated with false, anti-Christian teachings by holding fast to their faith in Jesus as God’s Son. In fact, they will win the battle, no matter what form it may take. Believers have faced false teachings, persecution, assault on the church through the ages and will continue to encounter them. But no matter how strong these powers may seem, those who trust in Jesus the Anointed One have already decided and won the battle. That confidence cannot be overcome by any worldly power because, as John already stated, “He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.”[29] [30]

[1] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 84

[2] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 176-177

[3] See Romans 8:37-39

[4] John 16:33

[5] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 143

[6] Philippians 2:10

[7] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., pp. 120-121

[8] See 1 John 4:2

[9] 1 John 1:3, 7; 2:22–24; 3:23; 4:9-10, 14; cf. Holtzmann 1908: p. 354; Loader 1992: p. 62

[10] Ibid. 3:7-8; 4:15

[11] John 1:34, 49; 11:27

[12] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 277-278

[13] Cf. 1 John 3:3; 4:1, 16; 5:1, 5, 10, 13

[14] Cf. 5:9-10

[15] Cf. 1 John 2:22, 23; 5:1, 5

[16] Ibid. 2:18-19; 4:1-3; cf. 2 John 1:7

[17] Ibid. 5:1

[18] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[19] 1 John 2:22

[20] John 16:33

[21] Revelation 11:7; 13:7; 17:14

[22] Witherington, Ben III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[23] Cf. 1 John 4:15

[24] 1 John 5:20

[25] Ibid. 5:10x2; 12; 13x2; 20x2

[26] Ibid. 2:23; 5:1; cf. 3:23

[27] Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Library, I, II, & III, op. cit., pp. 207-208

[28] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., pp. 200-201

[29] 1 John 4:4

[30] Burton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 108-109

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXIII) 11/30/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

In this, as in all His views, says Morgan, the Apostle John agrees. In verse three, John describes the life of the godly, saying, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not a burden.” John knew they would be hindered, tempted, and opposed in the attempt to maintain it. Hence, he delivers the counsel and warning in verses four and five, “Every child of God can obey Him, defeating sin and sinful tendencies by trusting the Anointed One to help them. So, who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is indeed the Son of God?”[1]

One who appreciated Jesus’ embodiment of divine emotion to transform how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919) is that one peculiarity of the Johannine vocabulary is the frequency with which the Greek verb pisteuō (“believe”) appears.[2] Another is that, in contrast with the usage of other Final Covenant writers, the object of this verb is much more commonly a fact or a proposition than a person. Consequently, the result of its action is to be expressed by the word Belief rather than Faith or Trust. It does not signify that the portrayal of Jesus has in any degree replaced the person of the Anointed One; it only reveals the fact that the writer uses a phraseology and a mode of thought peculiar to himself.

If the Apostle Paul says, “That life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in God’s Son.”[3] John expresses the same truth when he writes, “And now, little children, abide in Him,”[4]or “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.”[5] However, the fact remains that with John, “believing” denotes less frequently the action of the will in trust and self-committal, and more often the perception of truth or the crediting of a testimony which is the requirement for such action. So also, “believing” is less frequently a direct personal relationship to the Anointed One and more often a theological conception of Him.[6]

Thinking as a dispensationalist, Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) states that what the Apostle John says in verse one is logical. Then he gives a counter test in verse two to show that it is genuine. So, if we love God and keep His commandments, we can also rest assured that we love His children. If the soul goes out to Him in love, shown by unreserved loyalty to His will, then love for other members of God’s family will follow. It differs from the Law, called elsewhere “a yoke that no one could bear.”[7] Keeping His commandments means being obedient to His Word and being in subjection to Him in all things, for loving God is the spirit of obedience.

Therefore, although the children of God are in the world, they are no longer part of it. In addition, there are hostile forces in the world which did not know Him and don’t recognize God’s children. All in this world are opposed to God, hindering faithful obedience. But those who are born of God overcome the world. Our faith is the victory that conquerors worldly intimidation and temptations. What faith is it? The faith occupied with the Son of God, which yields obedience to Him, does His will. Such faith is the victory that overcomes the world and its attractions.[8]

In reviewing what the Apostle John says in this verse, Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934) states that his question about who overcomes the world is not rhetorical[9] but an appeal to experience and reality.[10] [11]

Characteristically, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) takes the Apostle John’s question as an appeal to practical experience. The one who realizes who and what Jesus of Nazareth was, has the power that overcomes the world’s forces that draw people away from God.[12] The fuller phrase “Son of God” in verse five clarifies the meaning more clearly than “the Anointed One” in verse one, although John refers to the same person by both titles. He varies his expression to leave no doubt about his intention. The spirit of the false teachers was the denial, not that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews, but that He was not the complete revelation of the Father and the assertion that the Higher Power in Him was with Him temporarily during His earthly life.[13]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) notes that before saying, “Everyone born of God conquerors the world,” he already said: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One has been born of God.” So now he asks: “Who is it that conquers the world but the one that has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?” His doctrine, therefore, is that faith in the wonder and glory of the Incarnation makes God’s commandments easy to follow – love for God and love for one another. The remembrance and contemplation of that amazing manifestation drive out the world’s affection and floods the heart with heavenly love.[14]

With academic precision, Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) notes that the opening statement of this section directs the reader’s attention at once to its Christologically centered content – keeping faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Verse five now bridges the previous subdivision in 1 John 4:7-5:4 and the present one (5:5-13). Note these links: (a) verse five connects with the subject of faith (and victory) in verse four; (b) it restates verse four in the form of a question and makes it concrete; (c) verses four and five together develop the thought expressed at 2:13-14; (d) verse five echoes 5:1, where John speaks of faith in Jesus as the Anointed One “who is He that conquered the world?” The pronoun (“who?”) makes the reference in verse five personal. (e) The individual believer takes the place of an anonymous individual in verse four, “faith,” for, in the end, the believing Christian conquers the world rather than a belief by itself. For the practical dimension to the ideas in verse five and John’s appeal to the experience of his church members.[15] [16]

As an insistent believer in God’s Grace, Zane Clark Hodges (1932-2008) highlights several parts of verses three to five. He begins by pointing out that, as a matter of fact, God’s mandates are not oppressive.[17] This is because the principle of victory resides in everyone born of God, for they have overcome the world.[18] Their faith in the Anointed One constitutes a win over Satan, who blinds those who are unregenerated to the Gospel.[19] Who is it then that overcomes the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son. John affirms that a believer is a world conqueror utilizing faith in the Anointed One with these words in verse five. It suggests that such faith is the secret of their continuing victory and that obedience to God’s commands need not be burdensome.[20]

Inspired by Jesus’ words, “go into all the world,” Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) says that in this section (1 John 5:1-5), the theme of love, which appears only here, is joined to that of faith in two ways. First, by means of the concept of divine generation. Everyone who believes in Jesus has necessarily been born of God. If such a one loves the Father who birthed them, they also love the others born of God’s Spirit, who are their spiritual brothers and sisters. Second, bringing love and faith together in the observance of God’s commandments. Our fellow believers’ love is grounded in God’s love and the observance of His teachings. As God’s children, we are able to keep His Word and be victorious over the world because of our faith. [21]

As a capable scripture analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) notices that verse five forms the bridge from John’s discussion of the power of faith to his presentation of the content of true faith and his statement of the evidence which confirms it. Rhetorically he asks if anybody can overcome the world if they do not believe that Jesus is God’s Son. There is a slight shift in terminology. In verse one, the content of true faith was that Jesus is the Anointed One, whereas here, He is to be confessed as the Son of God. This idea suggests that the two titles are virtually synonymous; we may compare the similar alternation in this epistle.[22] But the title “Son of God” is more appropriate here because John is thinking of the power of God revealed in His Son, Jesus. Thus, only the person who recognizes that Jesus is God’s Son can believe that Jesus supplies divine power to overcome the world. God’s Son is the world’s Savior only because He shares God, who is greater than the devil. To believe anything less about Jesus is to believe in somebody who does not have the ability to save us from the power of the godless world.[23]

As an expert on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) says that the rhetorical question concerning “who is the one who conquers the world?” uses the masculine present participle with the definite article in characteristic Johannine style. It sets the one who conquers in parallelism with the one who believes.[24] The form of the symbolic question, “which is the one who conquers the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” balances the rhetorical question of 2:22, “who is the liar except the one who denies, [saying] that Jesus is not the Anointed One?” The one who conquers is over against the liar: “This is the Antichrist.”[25]

Nevertheless, in verse four, there is this assurance: “You are of God, little children, and you have conquered them” [the spirit of the Antichrist who inspires his antichrist followers].[26] In verses one and five, the verb “he is” is followed by the conjunction hoti (“thatbelieves), giving the content of what is to be taken as true. The content of faith is also expressed using the verb “to confess,” followed by hoti. Both constructions stress correct belief against the false religion of the opponents.[27]

The problem seems to have been that the opponents refused to identify the human life of Jesus with the Anointed One, the Son of God. Consequently, they refused to confess (believe) that Jesus (the human) was the Anointed One, God’s Son, who has come in the flesh. Thus, the one with correct faith is seen as the victor, that is, over the power that occupied the world and goes on conquering as believing continues. Perhaps the present tense is used in the first instance to emphasize that this was an ongoing process, as people came to believe. The content of belief signaled using hoti reminds us that “to believe in Jesus” requires a known identity and that Jesus’ identity is made known to us in these terms: the Anointed One, the Son of God, is come in the flesh.[28]

[1] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLI, pp. 404-405

[2] See 1 John 3:23; 4:1, 16; 5:1, 5, 10,x3 13x2

[3] Galatians 2:20

[4] 1 John 2:28

[5] Ibid. 1:3

[6] Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 258

[7] Acts of the Apostles 15:10

[8] Gaebelein, Arno C., The Annotated Bible, op. cit., pp. 157-158

[9] Cf. 1 John 2:22

[10] See 1 Corinthians 15:57 for the same note of victory through the Anointed One

[11] Robertson, Archibald T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1967

[12] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:57

[13] Brooke, Alan E., Critical and Exegetical Commentary of the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 131

[14] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., p. 194

[15] 1 Corinthians 15:57

[16] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 275

[17] Cf. Matthew 11:30

[18] Cf. 1 John 4:4

[19] Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

[20] Hodges, Zane C. John F. Walvoord, and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 901

[21] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 310

[22] 1 John 2:22

[23] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 230-231

[24] Cf. 1 John 5:1

[25] Ibid. 2:22

[26] Cf. ibid. 4:2-4

[27] See 5:1, 5; 2:22; 4:2-3, 15

[28] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXIII) 11/29/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

To be clear, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) points out that our Lord Jesus the Anointed One overcame the world by faith. He “endured the cross, despising the shame,” because of his faith in the “joy set before Him.”[1] When He stood before Caiaphas, helpless and friendless, he declared, “Nevertheless” (despite His hopeless condition), “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power.”[2] His faith was vivid and intense, and far-reaching. He was not blinded by what He saw on earth, but He had an eye open to the glories of heaven. On this account, the world had no hold on Him; the prince of this world had nothing on Him. There was no place of disloyalty or weakness, no lurking element of possible impatience under His yoke. He was the servant of God, with the spirit of the Son, and therefore was joyfully obedient. He was not deaf to earthly sounds but had an ear quick to hear every word that came from His Father’s lips. It was God’s people who had such blindness and deafness.[3]

When we have this same spirit of kinship, says Cameron, we too may overcome the world in a practical way as well as in intellectual belief. We may have to cut off a right hand or pluck out a right eye and treat the flesh and its lust as if they were dead. We may have to “go outside the camp, bearing the reproach[4] of the Anointed One; we may have to forego harmless pleasures; we may have to part from those whom we dearly love; we may have to lay down our lives for the brethren. These things will be grievous and yet joyful, “sorrowful but always rejoicing.”[5] But, like the Anointed One, we look forward to the end. Like Moses, we endure, “as seeing Him who is invisible,”[6] and in the future, we will assuredly rise to the height of our great position and share the victory that overcomes the world. We have had excellent knowledge, great joy, great fellowship, great intimacies, and great rank as children of God, but here is a great victory over the world, ensuring a final possession of the glory of heaven.[7]

The condition of this union with the Father and of joint possession of the new life is faith in the Anointed One. This faith is also a sign of Eternal Life. “Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Anointed One is born of God.” Believing is used here in its complete and definite sense. The third chapter expresses belief in the revelation made concerning the Anointed One, and in chapter four, trust in the love manifested through Him. But here in verse five, it expresses a believing soul’s relation to the Anointed of God. In addition to this truth about the Anointed One and the love manifested in Him, it relies upon Him, bringing the believer into vital contact with Him. The one who believes that Jesus is the Anointed of God for the purposes of salvation not only admits an intellectual truth but receives all that is involved in that truth.

The Apostle John has previously considered the confession of the Anointed One concerning society, states Cameron. Still, he has here in mind solely the faith of a soul in the person of the Anointed One without any regard to another. It is a person meeting God in the Anointed One and with heart and mouth echoing God’s testimony about themselves and their Savior. It is the very essence of what is needed to make a child of God. It is more than assent to a proposition or a truth. It is even more than the expression of reality. It is the naked contact of a soul with God through its Savior.[8]

Manifestly, Erich Haupt (1841-1910) is quick to say that faith is nothing other than faith in Jesus as the Son of God. It was the work of the Anointed One to destroy or undo the works of Satan;[9] and His work specifically as the Son of God. So, he could say, “I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”[10] Thus, faith in Him and complete fellowship with Him reflect all His work, even in us. Hence the close of our section, verse five, most exactly returns to its beginning in verse – born of God. It is what constitutes victory over the world’s temptations. It is exhibited in our interdependence upon each other in brotherly love.[11]

In agreement with the Apostle John’s goals, William Macdonald Sinclair (1850-1917) sees this as the Apostle John’s appeal to the consciousness of Christians. Ask yourself, are there des the disciples of Jesus who conquered all opposed to God? If so, where are they? God has declared that He will not harshly judge the Pagan world,[12] but salvation by God’s grace and mercy is a very different thing from the glories of the illuminated and victorious Christian heart. Where are they? Not Socrates, with his want of the sense of sin and his tolerance of evil; not Cicero, with his tormenting vanity; not the Gnostics, with their questionable lives: only those in whom dawned the bright and Morning Star[13] – Jesus, the Anointed One.[14]

Beyond any doubt, Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901) wants to know, “Who else became superior to all the smooth talk of the ungodly, all the fury of the powerful, and the betrayal of the prophets of Satan? No one except those who believe that the Redeemer is the God-man?” We see the earliest flower of spring, which has pushed its way through the frost and cold and now stands smiling with its fragrant head open to the sun, and we say: “That flower has survived the winter.” So, where faith has made its way through the crust of the cold, frozen, opposing world, and lifts its head to God with a heart all fragrant with love to God and others, we say, “Faith has overcome the world, and now blooms with divine life despite the world’s hostility.” The Apostle John now proceeds to the heart of the fifth chapter, the testimony concerning Jesus the Anointed One.[15]

Venerable ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) quotes our Lord, who said, “It is enough for the servant to mimic his master.”[16] Jesus referred to the treatment He received from the world and warned His followers that they might expect the same hostility. His intercessory prayer shows how deeply this subject impressed His mind. He pleads for them, saying to the Father, “I have given them Your teaching. And the world hates them because they don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. I am not asking You to take them out of the world. But I am asking that You keep them safe from the Evil One. They don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world.”[17]  From this, we can take it that Jesus assumes that to the very end, the world and the Church should be separate, different, and contrary one to the other. The world would never cease to be an enemy against which God’s people would contend.

[1] Hebrews 12:2

[2] Matthew 26:64

[3] Isaiah 42:19 – New Living Testament (NLT)

[4] Hebrews 13:13

[5] 2 Corinthians 6:10

[6] Hebrews 11:27

[7] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Life, Light, and Love, op. cit., Logos

[8] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Life, Light, and Love, op. cit., pp. 207, 219

[9] Cf. 1 John 3:8

[10] John 16:33

[11] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of St. John: Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. LXIV, op. cit., p. 294

[12] Romans 2:13, 15

[13] Revelation 22:16

[14] Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for the English Reader, op. cit., p. 491

[15] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., p. 124

[16] Matthew 10:25

[17] John 17:14-16

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXII) 11/28/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) points out that “whosoever is born of God” in verse four (KJV) is a new form of words when compared to “we” in verses two and three and with “that which is born of the Spirit” in John 3:6 – “overcometh the world.” Now in verse five, we read, “he that overcometh.” It is generally anyone victorious over the kingdom of evil, particularly that sphere of the natural man and self in the atmosphere where the commandment of brotherly love asserts itself. However, this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Not love, but faith is the leading thought: faith IS the victory, its strength for that habitual overcoming of every obstacle to obedience which was in it as an original germ and of the final attainment of which it is the pledge.

The past, present, and future are here, but the stress is on the present. It conquers, not in an ideal, but a present and perfect victory, followed by a sentence that takes a negative form but includes a positive reason. And “who are they that overcome the world?” They can be no other than those that believe Jesus is God’s Son and are in union with Him. The world always opposes this Name and its King and resents His victory declaration: “I have overcome the world.[1] Theology, both dogmatic and practical, look at these words and finds in them their richest material. The Apostle John’s warning against love for the world, and his encouragement of opposition to the errors in the world, lead to an abiding victory over it.[2]

As a sermon outline specialist, Edwin William Attwood (1823-1888), a contributor to Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, recalls that during Lent, it is needful that we should prepare our minds for the essential duties delegated to us, and there is no subject more useful for meditation than Christian warfare. Therefore, in her wisdom, the Church appointed the Lenten season as a time for fasting and prayer to lead the faithful to a higher spiritual life. During this time, let us look at the following issues to determine our status with God and the World:

I. Our Conflict is with the World – Our Lord told us who the prince of this world is, and we understand that we stand opposed by all the powers and forces of evil, marshaled and put in an array by Satan himself. When we regard the mighty forces brought against us, the vast multitude of the host, and the discipline of the display, we are led seriously to consider our position—whether we are able, with our small and disunited band, to wage war with such an enemy as this. Naturally, we find ourselves perfectly unable; the conflict is too grievous; we are overmatched and outnumbered; what can we do? The consideration of this teaches us our entire dependence upon God. We turn to His Holy Word for help, and we read that help can be gained sufficient to our need, and if we earnestly seek it, strength will be imparted to fight and overcome.

II. Who are they that ‘Overcome the World’? – The answer in our text: “Those that believe Jesus is God’s Son,” who have enlisted in the Anointed One’s army and remain faithful Christian soldiers. By overcoming the world, we must understand the world’s temptations “worldliness, the flesh, and the devil.” We know how serious these temptations are; how frequently we are overpowered. But we may be sure of this: if we are thoroughly equipped for the fight, our eventual triumph will be confident and complete. We need to put on the “whole armor of God,[3] not merely a portion. This is where the mistake often occurs. A Christian is negligent in prayer, weak in faith, or not regularly in attendance or pays attention to God’s Holy family. Furthermore, they do not guard their words or actions; they are not ready to forgive and forget an injury; they yield to pride, malice, or conceit; in fact, they are unprepared for spiritual warfare. If there are any defects in their display, the enemy takes advantage of those unprotected parts, and they fall. Still, when they are clad in the whole armor, well riveted and linked together, they are victorious and overcome the world. We must be thorough Christians if we hope to overcome.

III. What is the Nature of this Faith? – It is threefold: (a) A faith that leads a sinner to prostrate themselves, in true repentance, at the foot of their Savior’s cross, not daring even to look up, but to cry aloud for pardon in those words of the publican, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”[4] (b) A faith that lays hold of their cross, a Christian on bended knees, clinging to it, is determined, by the help of God, never to depart from it again. (c) A faith that enables them to bear that cross during life, humbly and devotedly, “counting all things but loss,”[5] for the sake of Him who died thereon. This is how the Christian overcomes the world: believing in God’s Son. Trusting in the Anointed One, we gain sufficient help for every need and strength to encounter every foe.[6] [7] [8]

With spiritual discernment, William Alexander (1824-1911), Bishop of Derry, Ireland, says verses three to five connect the Christian rebirth with victory. The Apostle John tells us that the destined and (so to speak) natural end is conquest by the supernatural life. There is a contrast between the laws of nature and grace. No doubt the first is marvelous. We may even term it a “victory,” for it is proof of a successful contest with the hidden hardships of the natural environment. It is the conquest of something which has conquered something below it. The first faint cry of the baby is a wail, no doubt, but in its very utterance, there is a triumphant undertone. At least in those who are physically and intellectually gifted, childhood, youth, and adulthood generally possess some share of “the thrill of the strife” with nature and their contemporaries. Youthfulness has triumphal mornings, its days leap from the darkness in victory.

But sooner or later that which conforms to the pessimist’s style “the martyrdom of life” sets in. However brightly the drama opens, the last scene is always tragic. Our natural birth inevitably ends in death. Birth and death embody each life brought into our present human existence. The thought of death is sighed over every cradle, and every grave attests to its reality. But if birth and defeat is the motto of the natural life, birth and victory is the maxim of everyone born into the family of God. It is the conquest of the collective Church, of the entire mass of regenerate humanity, so far as it has been faithful to the principle of its birth – the conquest of the Faith which is “Our Faith,” who are knit together in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of the Son of God, the Anointed One our Lord.

But it is something more than that; the general victory is also a victory in detail. Every faithful individual believer shares in it. The fight is a battle of warriors. The abstract ideal of success is realized and made concrete in each life of struggle, a life of enduring faith. The triumph is not merely one of many informal contests. So, the question, “Who is the ever-conqueror of the world? Only the ever-believer that Jesus is the Son of God.” It rings with a triumphant challenge among the ranks. Thus, John hands us two of his extraordinary master conceptions, which came to him from hearing the Lord who is the Life. We should read both in connection with the fourth Gospel – the Christian’s Birth and Victory.[9]

After sufficient examination of the Apostle John’s statement, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) says that the Apostle John’s question becomes personal. It appeals to the experience of those he addresses. The single believer takes the place of the abstract element (born of God) and of the absolute force (faith). The victory of the divine principle is, as he triumphantly claims, realized in the Christian’s spiritual success. The personal triumph is regarded as representative of a victory in its completion by “the Son of God” including it antithesis, “Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist.”[10] [11]

For instance, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) comments that verse five defines overcoming faith more expressly and declares victory impossible without it. The belief must (1) center in the person of the Anointed One, (2) accept Him for who He is, Son of God and Son of man in one abiding trustworthy person. Then He unites with the soul and becomes its life and victory. So then, the new nature does not overcome by inaction but by acting through definite faith. In action, the Spirit is received, and the power given. But our verse also declares that the world can be overcome in no other way.

Then the Apostle John challenges his readers to produce a single instance of such victory except by this faith in the Anointed One. “Who is the person,” he says, “where are they that conquers the world but by this Gospel faith?” That person does not exist. There is no other principle or means of victory. One might as well think of rising from earth against gravitation as to think of putting the world under their feet, except by faith in the Anointed One. Without it, that person is a part of the very world they would overcome. But with confidence, they are united to another sphere and are lifted above their old self, where they can meet the world with an advantage.

Two profound lessons in reform present themselves here: (1) One may break off an evil habit or association, and yet, without Gospel faith, have the world reign supreme in them. (2) Mere resolutions, self-respect, human religion, asceticism, or monastic seclusion will not subdue the world. It takes the Witness Without and Within that Jesus is the Son of God and the Container of Life. The overcoming faith of the former section leads the apostle to confirm to his readers the object of this faith in His true historical personality as being the source of the eternal life that faith receives.[12] [13]

In his classical style, Sir John Robert Seeley (1834-1895), an English essayist and historian, says that he who has faith, we know well, is twice himself.[14] The world, the conventional order of things, goes down before the weapons of faith, before the energy of those who have a glimpse, or only think they have a peek, of the eternal or customary order of things.[15]

Noting doctrinal implications in the Apostle John’s statement, John James Lias (1834-1923) says I. Let us consider what is involved in this Faith. (a) It asserts a unique character in Jesus the Anointed One. He is not a son of God in the sense that all created beings are. Instead, He is the Son of God in a sense peculiar to Himself. (b) What does the term “sonship” imply? Likeness to the Father. Thus, the Son of God comes from God and displays the nature of Him from whom He comes. (c) We find in Jesus the Anointed One all the attributes of His Father: power, wisdom, intelligence, righteousness, glory, and love.[16] II. This faith overcomes the world (a) by uniting us to the Anointed One; (b) because His power, to which it unites us, is Divine. Apart from the Anointed One, we are nothing.[17] In Him, we are partakers of His fulness and sharers of His victory.[18] [19]

[1] John 16:33

[2] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 37

[3] Ephesians 6:11

[4] Luke 18:13

[5] Philippians 3:8

[6] 1 John 5:5

[7] This outline was compiled from notes and commentary by Edwin W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 10; Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 129, J. Keble, Sermons for Lent to Passion-tide, p. 172; ibid. Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 160, Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1187

[8] The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, Vol. II., Hodder and Stoughton, New York, 1910, p. 968

[9] Alexander, William, Expositor’s Bible: The Epistles of St. John, Discourse XI, p. 223

[10] Cf. 1 John 2:22

[11] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., p. 180

[12] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 56

[13] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 361-362

[14]Twice himself” means there are always two people when you look in the mirror. Though they may be identical, sometimes they are two different people. It takes one to find out who the other is. In the real world, each human is twice himself. Not only because there are two images when you stand in front of a mirror, but because a person duplicates their body and inserts a different soul inside.

[15] Seeley, John Robert: Natural Religion, Ch. II, The Abuse of the Word “Atheism,” Published by Macmillan and Co. London, 1882, p. 35

[16] John 1:14; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3 etc.

[17] John 15:5

[18] Ibid. 1:16; 16:33

[19] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 361-362

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXII) 11/25/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

So, loving obedience, if it is to be the compliance of persons accepting and transmitting the love of God, must be done without complaining and reluctance. It must be willing submission that does not count any of God’s commandments as too hard; it recognizes God’s absolute right to command and confess nothing He mandates can be wrong. But the world comes in, and it must be somehow disposed of. It must be blocked and denied any influence on our position and duty as now brought out. In this view, says Candlish, I ask you to consider – (I) What the world is and how we can overcome it? (II) How do we overcome the world through new birth and faith?[1]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says the interrogatory pronoun “who” used twice here caught Whedon’s eye. So, find the true world conqueror, and tell us who and what they are. Reveal the secret of their all-conquering strength; what is it? Faith. Faith in whom? In Jesus as the Son of God, all believers conquer the world and win eternal life.[2]

In line with the Apostle John’s conclusions, Henry Alford (1810-1871) encourages us to ask, “How does our faith overcome the world? This verse furnishes the answer; because it brings us into union with Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of God, making us as He is and partakers of His victory.[3] Through this belief, we are born again as sons of God; we have Him in us, One greater than he who is in the world.[4] And this conclusion is put in the form of a triumphant question: What other person can do it? Who conquers the world, except those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son? Alford points out that Dutch theologian Simon Episcopius (1583-1643) provides this good explanation: “Look through the whole world and show me even one thing of which it can be truly affirmed that a Christian can conquer the world and is not endowed with faith.”[5]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) asks, “What faith is the Apostle John speaking of here in verse four?” This question was undoubtedly in the apostle’s mind as being put to him, and the fifth verse is the answer he gives, limiting and determining the general statement of the fourth verse more precisely. Then, to make the assertion more solid and emphatic, he puts it in the form of a question, thus, “Who are those that overcome the world, but those that believe that Jesus is God’s Son?”[6]

Using his examiner’s zeal William E. Jelf (1811-1875) notes that the faith spoken of is here more clearly defined. It is not merely a vague general faith in God, which must exist even in religion, but the definite persuasion and trust that Jesus is the Son of God.[7]

Because of the Apostle John’s attention to triumphant believers, John Stock (1817-1884) states that victory over the world is connected with the blessed discovery that the commandments of God are not that hard to keep. Worldly enticements are the snares of the disobedient. Our blessed Lord would have had followers among Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had it not been for the world. Many of the chief rulers believed in Him, except for the Pharisees. They did not confess Him to keep from being put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.[8] As King Solomon said, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”[9]

Furthermore, men’s smiles bring seductions; both collapse the heart and imprison it, whereas faith, God’s gift, does not enlarge it and enable it, our senses see but a short distance, looking at temporal things. Robert Leighton (1611-1684), archbishop of Glasgow, Scotland, once said, “A small object before the eye eclipses a larger afar off, so this little world, where there is no faith, eclipses God and heaven.

The world is then the soul’s idol and tyrant; it dreads any loss and rejoices in any increase in its benefits. The soul then is restless, for the world is incapable, be the efforts what they may, to satisfy it: only God can do that, whose loving-kindness is better than life itself.[10] The world hates the Anointed One because He testifies that its deeds are evil and forbids them. They also consider His mandates insupportable and will not let them rule their lives.[11] The world doesn’t realize who its master is, a murderer from the beginning who dominates the children of disobedience and who, by deceits, keeps up the hostility against God and silences by playing on the passions, disbelief, and ignorance of the world and keeps it in a false peace and worthless submission.[12]

John speaks here of a victory over the world, which delights and enriches the liberated that the born of God enjoy and possess. God implants faith in the human heart through His mercy and power, which brings a new sense, gives a remarkable capability of vision, sees Him that is invisible, and sets Him always before the soul. Thus, Moses became fearless and clever, preferring God to all the pleasures of sin and all the pomp and wealth of Egypt.[13] Faith presents a world, unseen by sense; and given substantially to things hoped for yet unseen.[14] God is seen to be mighty to save, tender in mercies, gentle in loving kindnesses, near to save, and rich in mercy to all that call upon Him,[15] whose favor is everything and whose just displeasure is unbearable. The soul’s worth is now somewhat recognized, and Jesus is altogether precious,[16] whose cross exhibits His unquestionable love, our wages, and sin’s exceeding sinfulness. His voice is heard by the dead, and they live. Faith conquers the world when His passion and salvation are sought and found. Only the overcomers of the world, to whom to live is the Anointed One and to die is gain[17] will be found in heaven.[18] [19]

As an ecumenical leader, Philip Schaff (1819-1905) Swiss-born American theologian whose works, especially the Creeds of Christendom (1877), helped set standards in the United States for scholarship in church history, shares an unusual story about Michael Servetus (1511-1553), a Spanish anatomist, astrologer, physician, and theologian who was too vain and obstinate to take advice about confessing the Son of God to be coequal and coeternal with the Father. At the beginning of 1531, he secured a publisher for his book on the “Errors of the Trinity,” He explains away the proof texts for the doctrine of the Trinity,[20] 1 John 5:7 (which he accepts as genuine, though Erasmus omitted it from his first Latin edition). Servetus also ignores the chief passages,[21] the baptismal formula,[22] and the apostolic benediction that coordinates the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.[23] Servetus does not accept the Trinity as three persons but as three dispositions of God.[24] We find a similar position among the Unitarians today.[25]

Anti-evolutionary Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), American Christian theologian, Southern Presbyterian pastor, Confederate States Army chaplain, architect, chief of staff, and biographer to Stonewall Jackson, tells us that belief is the preliminary condition of acting throughout all the acts of the soul. Everything a person does is because they believe something. Faith is the mainspring of a person’s activity in its broadest sense. Every decision arises from a belief, and none can occur without it. Hence, selecting faith instead of some other gracious exercise, which may be the fruit of regeneration, is the organic instrument of justification. Another reason may be found in the fact that faith works by love, purifies the soul, and is the victory that overcomes worldliness. Since faith is the principle of sanctification, in a sinner’s heart, it was eminently worthy of a God of holiness to select it as a term of justification.[26]

After inspecting the Apostle John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) offers that here in verses four and five, we have the assurance that it is not the solitary mystic nor the highly spiritual individual, but “All that is born of God overcomes the world.” Does not this stimulate as well as encourage the simplest child of God? Have not all such been born of God? The principle is plain for all to see: No single honest Christian is exempted from the privilege more than the responsibility to overcome. Since every believer is now an object of God’s love and in His family’s relationship, they are to overcome the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world (not service, sacrifice, or love,) but our faith.

Do you believe this? asks Kelly. Do not be faithless but faithful. It is by faith in our Lord Jesus that we are brought to and kept by God, so we discern and repel the enemy to obediently rest in His love who deigned to call us His friends. Faith is the victory that overcame the world, but how? This John next adds. It is “he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” It is now not as “the Anointed One” simply. It is the same Jesus, but the apostle further expresses His dignity. And it is always so with the real soul.

One might well begin with believing that He is Jesus the Anointed One. One might also have presented to faith yet more than this – though it was Good News to hear on divine authority that God anointed Jesus, having sent Him into the world for the everlasting good of those who believe, and this is the Anointed One. But here, we are told of His glory above the world as the eternal Son of God. Is not this far beyond His being the Anointed One on the earth? He was the Son of God before the world, and however, the world or His earthly Jewish people reject His glory as the Son of God will survive heaven and earth. He that came down was God humbling Himself in love, and He that went up was Man after redemption exalted above all the universe, Jesus the Son of God. He, who is God and man in one person, fills the Christian’s heart and will supply all things. We no longer look at Him only as the Anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power who went about doing good and healing all those domineered by the devil. We see Him in heavenly glory; we are enabled to appreciate Him in His eternal relationship with God, no less than to ourselves and to all else.[27]

[1] Ibid. The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XXXVII, pp. 445-456

[2] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 277

[3] John 16:33

[4] 1 John 4:4

[5] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 498

[6] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 315-319

[7] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 70

[8] John 12:42-43

[9] Proverbs 29:25

[10] Psalm 63:3

[11] Luke 19:14

[12] Ibid. 11:21

[13] Hebrews 11:29

[14] Ibid. 11:1

[15] Psalm 86:5

[16] Cf. John 1:14

[17] Philippians 1:21

[18] Cf. Revelation 3:21

[19] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 411-415

[20] 1 John 5:7

[21] See John 10:30; 14:11; Romans 11:36

[22] Matthew 28:19

[23] 2 Corinthians 13:14

[24] Schaff, Philip: History of the Christian Church, op. cit., Vol. 8, pp. 605-610

[25] Unitarianism is a Christian religious denomination. Unitarians believe that God is only one person. Unitarians reject the Trinity and do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Followers of Unitarianism also do not accept the concepts of original sin and of eternal punishment for sins committed on earth.

[26] Dabney, Robert L., Systematic Theology. Unknown. Kindle Edition

[27] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., pp. 356-357

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXI) 11/24/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

But the appeal the Apostle John so confidently made in his time is valid today. We may ask, as he did, where is there one who shows that they have obtained a complete victory over the world, except the faithful Christian? Barnes also wants to know whether there is anyone whose aim is not to stay alive. Furthermore, is there anyone who shows that their purposes regarding this world are subordinate to the world to come?

Surely, there are those now, as there were then, who break away from one form of sin and their circle of sinful companions. Yes, some change the enthusiastic passions of youth for the soberness of adult life; some see the folly of partying, carousing, and overindulgence; there are those who are disappointed in some ambitious endeavor and who withdraw from social contacts; there are those who, oppressed with the way things are going in the world are satisfied with sticking to their habits, and there are those whose hearts are crushed and broken by losses. If such sorrows and disappointments are surrendered to the Savior, as they sometimes do; if they lead the troubled mind to seek peace in His blood and support in the hope of heaven, then a real victory is obtained over the world. Then, when the hardship is over, they will see that there has been a work of grace in the soul that has effectually changed all its feelings and secured a triumph that shall be eternal.[1]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) sees that verse five contains an expressed proof of the position that faith in Jesus as the Anointed One is the real power whereby they that are born of God overcome the world. The Apostle John appeals directly and boldly to his readers’ immediate consciousness and experience and asks them the question, “Who else than those that believe in Jesus as the Son of God overcomes the world?” It is a question of triumphant confidence in the indisputable truth of his assertion. Who can claim, like the Christian, to have overcome the world? The natural man lays no claim to such a victory. On the contrary, they regard themselves as one that must serve the world and do so with pride. However, Christians maintain that the world must serve them, not them serving the world.

Christians, however, are confident they can overcome the world; indeed, they know that by faith, victory over the world’s temptations involves a thoroughly reasonable manner. Their faith is the faith that Jesus is the Son of God, and as a man, a fellow human being, fought His way to perfect fellowship with God and has overcome everything in Himself that could have given the world any power over Him. Knowing this Jesus as the Conqueror and Lord of Satan’s empire in perfect fellowship with God, believers know that they belong through faith to this Jesus and that Jesus’ power, like His life and crown, are their own.

No doubt, faith in Jesus, which should regard Him, not as God’s Son, but only as a man, such as we all are, could not impart to us the consciousness of possessing the power to overcome· the world. That is why John lays such stress upon the fact that Jesus is God’s Son. How important it is in the interest of our religious, ethical confidence, and joyfulness to find in Jesus that which He is, namely, the Son of God, is very clear from this verse. Anyone to whom a Savior is unimportant will certainly also live a nasty and beggarly Christian life. In proportion, as the Savior is grand and lofty in our estimation, our Christian life will also be full of power and glory. To attempt to rob humanity of this sole true God-man is the most heinous crime committed against it.[2]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s theme, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1882) notes that John introduces faith as the victory which overcomes the world. Faith is a critical factor because it is necessary in overcoming the world. When people believe, they turn around their life’s ambitions from the world to God. The necessity of faith is emphasized here in verse five, by an important question, “Who is he,” (KJV), “Who is it” (NIV), which is equivalent to “There’s no one else except the those,” who believe that Jesus is the Son of God can overcome the world’s attractions. Hence, the person who believes is born of God with love. Faith works through love; it puts into action the love force, which is self-contained in faith.[3]

With noticeable comprehension Henry Cowles (1802-1881) observes the logic for connecting these first five verses with the introduction of “by” in verse two. We keep His commandments and do not find them “burdensome” because everyone born of God conquers the world. Observe next the use of whatsoever instead of whosoever (KJV) — the neuter pronoun in place of the more usual and natural masculine. The exact usage appears in John’s Gospel.[4] The neuter seems to be chosen to bear the sense of universality more decisively — absolutely all in its totality.

Then the word “overcometh,” in verse four, translates the common Greek word for being victorious, gaining the victory, which has the ring of War, battle, and triumph. The Apostle John used it in this epistle earlier concerning the Christian young men who had conquered the Evil One.[5] What, then, does John affirm here? Every soul, a newborn of God, becomes victorious over the world; being thus victorious keeps God’s commandments and does not find them difficult. When the world’s power over the heartbreaks, we obey God’s commandments with case and delight — find them no burden.

How is this victory over the world achieved? John has but one answer – by faith, which he explains to be “believing that Jesus is the Son of God,” and of course, taking hold of His strength as such, we can conquer the world because Jesus can give us this triumph and will if we trust Him by faith. So, first, John affirms this; then boldly challenges every opponent to show a case of such victory over the world achieved by any other force than this.

So, let all the human philosophies, educational forces, or social powers be summoned; can they produce one human soul lifted by their training and their boasted energy into real victory over the world? Such take to be a fair exposition of these precious words. Will the reader accept the suggestion that this truth is intensely, gloriously, and practical in the best sense? It comes to us in our moral weakness; finds us encompassed with temptations from without; weakened perhaps by moral defeats from within; put to complex conflicts against many a subtle, stubborn foe, and sometimes not a little discouraged – yet what does it say? Its words are not many, but they are wonderfully pregnant with meaning – “victory over the world;” and “victory through faith in God’s Son!” The truth put into these few words meets our case perfectly. Let it scatter our fears to the winds and lift our souls into the calm assurance of trust, peace, and victory.[6]

Called a giant and rare thinker, Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) perceives how the Apostle John transitions from love to faith in these first five verses. Formal writers on Theology or Ethics would have stopped to announce the beginning of a new subject. They would probably have told us they had been discussing one of the great Christian virtues or graces; now the time had come to explain the nature and signs of another. If we find no such hints in John’s epistle, we must not hastily conclude that he is uninterested in the method. Perhaps he is more careful of it than those writers mentioned above. Maybe he knows better than they what is the process of the human spirit, what is God’s method of awakening and directing the different energies with which He has endowed us.

But we cannot overcome the world by calculating the embarrassments we have undergone or predicting those we must yet go through. The only victory that overcomes the world is by faith, not faith in its weakness, but God’s strength; loving faith that embraces the world and subdues it to the believer’s will. However, John appears to be worried about his grand language leading to pride. The Church might be proud of its promised victory over the world, proud of the faith that was its to win. So, John must remind his disciples in whom they placed their faith, and what they believed: ‘Who are they that overcomes, only those that believe Jesus is the Son of God?’ Therefore, it is not a unique charm called faith; an endowment conferred upon particular favorites of Heaven that could give them a victory over the world.

On the contrary, the notion of such an endowment might make them into another world more selfish, less godly, than that which they denounced. Only by believing that Jesus, who died for all humanity, is the Son of God, and only by seeking fellowship with all people could they receive the Holy Spirit and be the conquerors of the world’s Spirit. And what was true for them is true for us. By believing in Him, we can declare that the meanest child on earth can become a child of God. Believing in Him, we can be members of that spiritual society that will grow wider and more blessed when the world and its selfish works burn up in the flames of the last day.[7]

After looking things over, Robert S. Candlish (1807-1873) states that our union with the Father and joint possession of the new life is faith in the Anointed One. This faith is also a sign of spiritual life. “Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Anointed One is born of God.” “Believing” is used here in its complete and definite sense. In the third chapter, the Apostle John expresses belief in the revelation made concerning the Anointed One, and in chapter four, faith in the love manifested through Him. But here in Chapter Five, he expresses the personal relation of a believing soul to the Anointed of God. In addition to this truth about the Anointed One and the love He manifested, the reliance upon Him brings the believer into vital contact with Him. The one who believes that Jesus is the Anointed of God for the purposes of salvation not only admits an intellectual truth but receives all that is involved in that truth.

The Apostle John has previously considered the confession of the Anointed One concerning society, but he has here in mind solely the faith of a soul in the person of the Anointed One without any regard to another. It is a person meeting God in the Anointed One and with heart and mouth echoing God’s testimony about themselves and their Savior. It is the very essence of what is needed to make someone God’s child. It is more than assent to a proposition or a truth. It is even more than the expression of a fact. It is the naked contact of a soul with God through the Savior.[8]

Candlish also comments that John brings in the “world,” and he does so during a singularly high estimate of the believer’s standing and character. He places them in a relationship of close intimacy with God and serious responsibility regarding the special duty that implies. For what is brotherly love, as John describes it? It is our letting the same love with which God loved us flow, through us, to all mankind, and our embracing all who accept that love as fellow believers in the Lord. John associates this exercise of love on our part, not only with God’s practice of love to us but also with our obligation of loving obedience to God.

[1] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, pp. 4874-4975

[2] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, January 1895, p. 178

[3] Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Critical Exegetical Handbook New Testament, op. cit., Vol. 10, p. 812

[4] John 6:39; 17:2

[5] 1 John 2:13,14

[6] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John: with Notes, op. cit., pp. 353-354

[7] Maurice, Frederick D., The Epistles of St. John: A Series of Lectures on Christian Ethics, op. cit., Lecture XVI, p. 266

[8] Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Life, Light, and Love, op. cit., pp. 207-219

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXX) 11/23/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

With his calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) agrees that God’s commandments are not grievous for two reasons: 1) Because He gives strength to bear them.[1] 2) Because love makes them light. They are not like the “mandatory laws to be obeyed,” which is the legal precision of the Pharisees laid on people’s consciences. Here again, we have an echo of the Master’s words; “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light,[2] which is the reason why keeping even the difficult commandment of loving others rather than oneself is not a grievous burden. The world and its ways, says Plummer, make the Divine commands distressing, and the new birth involved in faith gives us an unworldly nature and a strength which conquers the world. It is the person’s new birth from God that triumphs.[3]

One of John Wesley’s co-leaders, Joseph Benson (1749-1821), speaks of the offices of the Anointed One, exhibited symbolically by water and blood, and the witnesses in heaven and earth that bear testimony to Him and His salvation by which some have overcome the world.[4] But are these overcomers immune to all earthly care, desire, and fear? Who is this person, and where are they to be found? Indeed, none will achieve or gain such a significant victory but those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”[5]

Straightforward preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1876) declares that since Christianity is at war with sin and Satan, every follower of the Anointed One is by profession a warrior. The enemies they engage in combat are the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is one of these, especially, that the Apostle John speaks about: the world. Humanity at large is led captive by it. The Christian combats and overcomes it. In this respect, they differ from and surpass all the human race. John affirms these things in verse five. He offers a rule to regulate our conduct: “We must be as dead to the world,” even as our Lord Himself was. And does this appear unreasonable or impracticable?

Let anyone imagine several angels, sent down from heaven, to occupy different stations in the world for a season: how would they conduct themselves? They would take each station, whether it was to rule a kingdom or sweep the streets. They would look with contempt on all the vanities of the world; and would stand at the remotest distance from its contamination. They would be intent only on serving God in their respective places so that they might be approved by Him when called to give their report.

Therefore, what should hinder us from considering ourselves in this same position? True, we have corruptions, which the angels do not have, but these corruptions are to be forbidden, and not indulged in, and though carrying out our duty is the more difficult because of them, it is not one bit altered. Nor need we despair of attaining at least some measure of victory over the world; because the Spirit within us always has this bearing; and because the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, in whom we believe, has said, “My grace shall be sufficient for you.”[6] Therefore, John tells every regenerated soul, “Love not the world, nor anything that is in the world,”[7]but let the same mind be in you as was in the Anointed One, Jesus,”[8] and endeavor in all things to “walk as He walked.”[9] [10]

Taking everything into consideration, Adam Clarke (1774-1749) accepts what the Apostle John said about believing that Jesus is the Son of God to mean: He is the promised Messiah, that He came by supernatural generation; and, although truly man, came not by man, but by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The person who believes this has the privilege of experiencing the benefits of the incarnation and passion of Jesus the Anointed One and receiving blessings that the Jews could not have because they did not believe in the Divine mission of the Anointed One.[11]

Arduous Bible scholar Heinrich Leonhard Heubner (1780-1853), German-born theologian, educated at the Lutheran Seminary in Wittenberg, professor extraordinary of theology, and third director of the Theological Seminary at Wittenberg, says that to overcome the world, a believer must love others without prejudice; they must feel a kinship with those of one mind with them;[12] they must value the true children of God infinitely more than the unconverted. They express the genuineness and holiness of human love through their spiritual character. All acts of kindness are worthless without love.[13] Instead, they become mere natural impulses or masked selfishness. Since true love is associated with a clear conscience, it must not be rendered with a lack of enthusiasm or as part of some duty.

Now, since loving God requires obedience, then true love for others must also be accompanied by faithfulness and compassion. It is a bad sign for a believer to struggle for this strength[14] for the following reasons: 1) The light of faith conquers the errors, illusions, and delusions of false ideas; it sees through them, perceives their nothingness, and masters them; the Word of the Anointed One is the eternal, unchangeable truth; the star that never changes position, so that we do not swerve from the truth. 2) Faith conquers the alluring and fascinations of the world we encounter in its lusts, riches, and rewards; it conquers them by the love of the Anointed One by which heavenly riches, and eternal glory, are revealed. 3) It conquers the threatening’s of the world, the obstacles it raises, and and its persecutions; the call of the Anointed One to us is too mighty, and the crown of honor offered to us causes us to despise the contempt of the world. 4) Overcoming the world is an idea peculiar to Christianity because it contrasts the kingdom of God and the dictatorship of Satan. Unbelief is an offense against the Majesty of God, a denial of the holy miracles which God has wrought according to worldly ethics.[15]

With unwavering trust in the Apostle John’s testimony, William Lincoln (1788-1844) says there are threats we must take care of excessive liberal thinking and permissiveness on the one side, where anything concerning the truth, honor, and person, and work of the Lord Jesus is concerned.[16] Believers must stand up for God. They must keep their eyes on the Lord. When people try to still the voices of good teachers on account of some rules invented by those who claim to have deeper insights, listen to the other side of the Word of God, that if you love Him, that birthed you, you will love others that are born of Him. You will then see the working of the divine life on one side and the other. “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”[17] [18]

In his influential style Augustus Neander (1789-1855) notes that the Apostle John shows believers what imparts strength to fulfill all these commands. “Loving God means obeying His commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world. It is our faith that has won the victory against the world. So, who wins against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son.”[19] These are the highest of all commands, instituted by the Anointed One and perfectly fulfilled by Him. The teachings delivered by Him in the Sermon on the Mount include the traits of sanctified holiness, such as having never been reached by any system of human ethics, before which every human spirit must bow in deep humility.

And yet we hear that these commands are not burdensome. But as the highest of all moral requirements, they should be the most difficult to follow. Therefore, when John says that these commands are not complicated, how can we understand them? He must have learned by experience that they are not hard to obey. So, if the struggle to follow is not in the commands themselves, nor in their relation to other moral mandates, nor in his assertion to obey, it must be in the changed position of mankind towards the divine law. In other words, what was once difficult, even impossible, has now become easy by virtue of a person’s moral transformation through the new birth. Thus, John assigns this as the reason that all who are born of God overcome the world.

From the fact then that believers receive strength to silence the world’s temptation songs, John assumes the consequence that these commands are no longer difficult for believers. We can, therefore, conclude what the requirements for fulfilling these commands to win a victory over the world are. However, only in conflict with the world can they be fulfilled. What makes their fulfillment difficult for many is when the world’s spirit becomes entangled with the believer’s spirit. The power of worldliness is not of God. To them whose spirit is ruled by the world, who feels drawn to the world and finds in it their highest good, to them the commands of God appear difficult.

Thus, we can conclude that believers receive the power that overcomes the world in the strength of divine life. Hence, John announces that all born of God can overcome the world through this victorious power that removes all hindrances to fulfill the commands. They possess the power whereby the difficult is made easy. So, the Anointed One invites to Himself those who feel weighed down, who cannot breathe freely, by reason of the burden of the Law, saying: “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light;”[20] made light by fellowship with Him, by the power which He imparts.[21]

Speaking plainly, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) asks, are they any who pretend to have obtained a victory over the world, except those who believe in the Lord Jesus as Savior? All else is worldly and governed by worldly aims and principles. A person may indeed gain a victory over one earthly passion, subdue some sinful tendency, abandon the immoral crowd, may break away from improper habits, and may leave the corrupt and polluted crowd. However, unless they have faith in the Son of God, the spirit of the world will reign supreme in their soul in some form.

[1] Philippians 4:13

[2] Matthew 9:30

[3] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, op. cit., First Epistle of St. John, pp. 156-157

[4] 1 John 5:5-9

[5] Benson, Joseph: Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, First John

[6] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[7] 1 John 2:15-16

[8] Philippians 2:5

[9] 1 John 2:6

[10] Simeon, Charles: Horæ Homileticæ, Vol. XX, Discourse 2463, pp. 520-525

[11] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 394

[12] Philippians 2:2

[13] See 1 Corinthians 13

[14] 1 John 5:3

[15] Heubner, Heinrich, L., Lange’s Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. IX, pp. 166-167

[16] Lincoln had in mind that last device of the devil, to break up the assemblies of God’s people by the horrible doctrine of non-eternal punishment, which is a slur upon the cross of the Anointed One.

[17] 1 John 5:4-5

[18] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., Lecture VIII, p. 142

[19] 1 John 5:3-5

[20] Matthew 11:30

[21] Neander, August: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 278-281

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXIX) 11/22/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is actually God’s Son?

The truth of this verse is not a shallow statement but a pronouncement of profound principle. Christians can live lives of victory in the face of powerful, daily pressures from the world system. They march to a different drummer. They have enough conviction not to be swayed by worldly living. Spiritual Christians have a distinct and independent procedure for evaluating life’s purpose and meaning.[1]

We overcome the unbelief inherent in worldliness, devoid of genuine trust in the eternal Son of God in all the fullness of His deity. Something in our new life in the Anointed One allows us to respond to God’s order of values and reject Satan’s scheme of corrupt morals. We overcome worldliness when we own God’s principles and live in harmony with those values. If we do not live in accord with those ideals, discord comes to our spiritual lives.

True faith, then, does not believe despite the circumstances but in spite of the cost. It acts on what God says as truth. It is not the faith of years ago when we first came to the Anointed One for salvation. It is the faith of moment-by-moment trust in God’s counter principles for life. The Word of God has a revelatory function in our spirituality. It shows the control of sin and the power of the Anointed One to counteract corruption. Faith in God’s provisions in His Word provides the ability to overcome sinful tendencies.


This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.

With apostolic overtones, Œcumenius, (died 990 AD), tells us that intellectual faith in an abstract idea or object does not overcome the world. Instead, as John makes plain, it must be complete faith in Jesus the Anointed One.[2]

Monastery supporter, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) states that when it comes to believing in Jesus as God’s Son, “What could result from the contemplation of compassion so marvelous and so undeserved, favor so free and so well attested, kindness so unexpected, clemency so unconquerable, grace so amazing, except that the soul should withdraw from all sinful affections, reject all that is inconsistent with God’s love, and yield herself wholly to heavenly things? It is no wonder that the bride, moved by the perfume of this unction, runs swiftly, all on fire with love, yet reckons herself as loving all too little in return for the bridegroom’s love?”[3]

From his perspective, Juan of Ávila (1499-1559), Spanish priest, preacher, academic author, and religious mystic states that “There is no book so effective towards the instructing of a man in all virtue and abhorrence of all sin as the Passion of the Son of God.”

From humble circumstances, Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, a Spanish noblewoman who answered the call to convent life in the Catholic Church wrote, “I wish to mention, that the affliction is but little, in comparison with the far greater gain which is acquired when the works correspond with the acts and words mentioned; and that she who cannot do all at once, should do it gently, and by degrees; and if she wishes to derive any benefit from prayer, she should also bend her will; for even in these little retired spots, she will not want many occasions of exercising patience. Remember that this is much more important than I can express: Fix your eyes on your Crucified Lord, and everything will seem easy to you.”[4]

Reformation writer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) states that our belief, that is, our faith in Jesus as God’s Son and the Messiah, fills the soul with great insights concerning Him and the reason for His coming among us and what we are to expect as a result. But, on the other hand, it makes it easy to turn this world into a shameful pretender and rob it of its former power.[5]

From his viewpoint William Burkitt (1650-1703) notes that the Apostle John has spoken of the usefulness of faith in the former verse. First, it overcomes the world; next, it discovers the object of this faith: the proposition that Jesus is the Son of God. The faith which overcomes the world is belief in the divinity and sonship of Jesus the Anointed One. We overcome the world by believing in Him that conquered it, Jesus the Anointed One, who purchased, promised, and prepared a better world than what we see, or can see, with our bodily eyes and made us joint heirs of the Anointed One’s eternal glory.

Let us notice that some reason for the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus bears witness to the truth of His doctrine, the reality of His miracles, and the certainty of His mission. So, the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, breathing in the believer’s conscience, bears witness to their soul, that Jesus the Anointed One came to save them by the water of sanctification, as well as with and by the blood of redemption; and that this witnessing Spirit is the Spirit of truth.[6]

With a thoughtful mind, Matthew Henry (1662-1714) tells us that true love for the people of God may be distinguished from natural kindness or party attachments in being united with God’s agápē and obedience to His commands. The same Holy Spirit that taught divine love will have taught submission also, and that mankind cannot genuinely love God’s children, who, by habit, sin or neglect their known duties. As God’s mandates are holy, just, and good rules of liberty and happiness, those who are born of God and love Him, do not count them grievous but lament that they cannot serve Him more perfectly. Self-denial is required, but true Christians have a principle that carries them above all hindrances. Though the conflict is often sharp, and the regenerate may be cast down, they will rise and renew their combat with resolution.

But all, except believers in the Anointed One, are enslaved in some respect or other, says Henry, to the world’s customs, opinions, or interests. Faith is the cause of victory, the means, the instrument, and the spiritual armor that helps us overcome. Faith sanctifies the heart and purifies it from those sensual lusts by which the world obtains sway and dominion over souls. It has the indwelling Spirit of grace, which is greater than he who dwells in the world. The honest Christian overcomes the world by faith; they see in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth that this world is to be renounced and overcome. They cannot be satisfied staying in this world but look beyond it, still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. After the Anointed One’s example, we must all overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin.[7]

With scholarly meditation James Macknight (1721-1800) tells us that the Jews universally believed their Messiah or the Anointed One was the Son of God. We see this in many passages of scripture. Therefore, the Jews sought to kill Him because He broke the Sabbath and said God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.[8] The Jews’ response was not to stone Him because of His miracles, but for blasphemy, and because being human, He made Himself out to be God. Then we have Jesus’ confrontation with the High priest and Sanhedrin, who demanded a reason He should not be killed for claiming to be the Anointed One, the Son of God.[9] After all, the high priest, and the council composed of men of the highest rank and learning among the Jews, believed that the coming Anointed One was the Son of God and that the Son of God Himself is God; otherwise,,,, they could not have reckoned Jesus a blasphemer, for calling Himself the Anointed One the Son of God.[10]

Skillfully, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) states emphatically that it is only by believing in the Anointed One as the true Messiah and only begotten Son of God, and depending on Him, by a living and effectual faith, for justification, sanctification, and complete salvation, that any person, Jew or Gentile, can be weaned from the spirit killing things of this world.[11]

For example, Thomas Scott (1747-1821) explains that “That which is born of God” refers to the heavenly nature communicated in regeneration. This divine spirit motivates the believer toward God and holiness with earnestness. Furthermore, it includes in its essence spiritual judgment and holy affections. This unique essence is found in those made victorious over the world. They succeeded in overcoming both their natural love for the world’s honors, riches, pleasures, awards, and friendship and their fear of the world’s displeasure, rage, and contempt. As a result, they are prepared for losses, exercising self-denial, and enduring affliction in the cause of God. As a result, believers learn to disregard the maxims, fashions, customs, and opinions of ungodly people, however well-known, numerous, or powerful.

The heart’s desire of even the youngest of those born of God is to gain victory over all that kept them in sinful bondage in the world. Though the conflict of grace with corrupt nature, and the allurements and terrors of the world, is often very sharp; and the regenerate person may be baffled, cast down, and wounded in battle: yet “His seed remains in them,”[12] and the divine life, being again invigorated by the Holy Spirit, will excite them to rise and renew their fight, with redoubled fortitude and resolution. In the end, their victory will be definite; they will stick to the truth and do God’s will no matter what loss, suffering, disgrace, or hardship may follow. According to Scott, in acquiring this honorable “victory,” faith is principally concerned. It comes by realizing the truth in God’s testimony concerning invisible and eternal things.[13]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown (1803-1897) they hear the Apostle John asking, who could fight and win this battle other than by believing that Jesus is the true Son of God? They find this verse as confirming, by a triumphant question defying all contradiction, as an undeniable fact,[14] that the victory which overcomes the world is faith. For it is by believing that we become one with Jesus, God’s Son, to partake of His victory over the world. Thus, there lives in us One greater than he who rules the world.[15] It poses the question, can anyone in the world be found who has overcome the world by any other means than faith?[16]

In his classical style, Sir John Robert Seeley (1834-1895), a liberal British Historian and political essayist stated that “He who has a faith, we know well, is twice himself.” The world, the conventional order of things, goes down before the weapons of faith, before the energy of those who have a glimpse, or only think they have a foretaste, of the eternal or customary order of things.[17] So it appears that some in the world did listen.[18]

[1] Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21

[2] Œcumenius: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Bray, Gerald, ed., op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 222

[3] Bernard of Clairvaux, De Diligendo Deo (On Loving God) Published by Catholic Spiritual Direction, Ch. 4, p. 9

[4] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, Trans. by the Rev. John Dalton, T. Jones, Paternoster Row, London, 1852, p. 194

[5] Poole, Matthew: Matthew Poole’s commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[6] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 735-736

[7] Henry, Matthew: Concise Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., p. 2058

[8] John 10:33

[9] Matthew 26:59-67

[10] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 104-105

[11] Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, N. T., Vol. IV, p. 506

[12] 1 John 3:9

[13] Scott, Thomas: Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. VI, pp. 405-406

[14] 1 John 5:4

[15] Ibid. 4:4

[16] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p.729

[17] Seeley, Sir John, Natural Religion, Macmillan and Co., London, 1882, p. 35

[18] See John 8:47; 1 John 4:6

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXVII) 11/18/22

5:4 because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.

As an expert on John’s writings, John Painter (1935) remarks that even with the Anointed One’s victory, worldly society still lies bound in the grip of the Evil One. Even under these circumstances, the capacity for success is evident with the affirmation that we are God’s children, as evil forces dominate the world around us,[1] which implies that the evil one no longer has the power to demand obedience from us. This power comes from the divine ability to conquer worldly influence. Our faith overpowered and continues defeating the world’s endless temptations. As the Apostle Paul forcefully stated, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through the Anointed One, who loved us.”[2] Our faith has the power to conquer worldliness.[3]

Ministry and Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Apostle John again employs a statement in verse four that may not be clear to the reader. Why did he say “whatsoever,” [KJV] instead of “whosoever,” is born of God? We know that John is speaking of those born again but is also talking about their experience. That gives the born-again child of God overcoming triumph through the experience already received and undergoing new creation in the Anointed One. John is not implying a once-for-all-time experience that overcomes the world with this comment; the Greek verb nikaō in this statement suggests “constantly overcoming the world.” We receive the capability to continue conquering the world when the Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit within the child of God enables them to continue walking in victory over this world. John says our overwhelming victory is our faith.[4]

An articulate spokesman for the Reformed faith James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000), points out the three tests in verses two to four. For instance, no infant is born into isolation or unique because their mannerisms and attributes do not connect with their ancestors. For one thing, they are born into a family relationship. For another, they possess at least some of the attributes of those who reproduced them. Spiritually speaking, this means that the child of God exhibits the features the Apostle John letter has been teaching.  

The first characteristic is love for the parent and God’s other children. Earlier, John said this feature in God’s children is “loving God.”[5] Now he shows equally that it is a virtue of the child of God to be loved by those who are also members of God’s family. Love divorced from obedience is not love at all. So, John immediately passes from love to the second matter of God’s mandates, saying, “This is love for God, to obey His commands.”[6] Christians frequently attempt to turn love for God into a mushy emotional experience, but John does not allow this in his epistle. Love for the brethren means an active love that expresses itself.

Similarly, love for God means a love that expresses itself in obedience to His commandments. These verses define the third of John’s tests as belief and obedience. The implication is that, just as it is inconceivable to have love without obedience or being obedient without love, it is also impossible to have love or obedience without belief in Jesus as the Anointed Son of God. John wrote his Gospel to lead men and women to this twofold confession.[7] These three statements express three essential principles: That which is victorious over the world has its origins in God. Indeed, no victory would be possible if it were not for the reality of that new life that sprang from God and was planted within the Christian.[8]

After a long look at the Apostle John’s message William Loader (1944) implies that John felt urged to explain this spiritual family connection more directly because only God’s children overcome the world. The children of God are able to fulfill the command to love because they can counter the pressures brought against them by the world and its corrupt value systems. Their base is not selfishness and greed but compassion and caring. Starting from this base and allowing themselves to gain such understanding and comfort, they are free to pass on empathy and thoughtfulness without being crippled by the world’s agenda of proving themselves and bettering themselves at the expense of others.

Great Commission disciple David Jackman (1945) believes that victory is the third and last characteristic evidence of true faith in a Christian’s life and experience. That’s why everyone born of God overcomes the world. The idea is not new. We can see past what the opposition has planned to combat the things of God. The evil one has complete control of the world’s society.[9] But the new birth removes us from that sphere of decay and death[10] and translates us into the kingdom of eternal life.[11] [12]

After studying the context surrounding verse four, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) remarks that though the faithful have been marginalized, persecuted, and even martyred, they have not been defeated and never will be. The evil nature that permeates this world seeks to consume all who will submit to it, but that evil is powerless against the Holy Spirit and cannot destroy the spirit of a faithful follower of the LORD. By dwelling in the believer’s heart, the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation, a seal that cannot be “overpowered” by the evil one.  Satan, his minions, or the immoral people of this world cannot take away salvation from any believer. 

Consequently, the believer has eternally overcome this enemy through the power of the Holy Spirit. The ability to “overcome the world” comes from one simple promise of God:  when one places their faith and trust in Him, one is no longer condemned to eternal death by their sin. The very point of salvation is that one is saved from an eternity apart from God. Sin no longer has the power to condemn someone who has placed their faith and trust in God.  God is victorious over evil by gracefully granting forgiveness to those who love Him.[13]

From one who loves sharing Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) tells us that the reason why God’s commands are not a bitter burden[14] is that personal faith enables believers to break free of the world’s downward pull.[15] That is the essence of verse four, where the Apostle John says, “everyone given spiritual rebirth from God overcomes the world.” But the phrase everything born of God) is used in personal terms here. John chooses a construction in verse four that emphasizes the quality and elite status believers possess by receiving supernatural renewal through a regenerating act of God appropriated by faith.[16] [17]

A believer that Christians can fall away, Ben Witherington III (1951) feels that the Apostle John’s declaration that everyone born of God conquers the world’s ungodly behavior and morals. Since this remark is attached to what has come before, it presumably means that born-of-God persons can escape the gravity of this world, which holds us down and hinders us from obeying God’s commands, particularly the command to love. “The children of God are able to fulfill the command to love because they can counter the pressures brought against them by the world and its value systems … they are free … to pass on that compassion and caring without being crippled by the world’s agenda of proving oneself and bettering oneself at the expense of others.”[18]

Witherington points out that the Greek present active verb Nika (“overcomes”) indicates that the struggle is ongoing but winnable. Here we are told what amounts to the key to overcoming the world: “our faith.” Even better, John tells us by what means the world is driven back. The participle here, nikesasa indicates an event in the past: the hour in which a Christian first believed. Interestingly, only here in the Final Covenant do we have the noun Nike (“victory.”)[19]

With her seminarian insight, Judith Lieu (1951) agrees that verse four provides a transition from the previous section, emphasizing love as the defining mark of those in a close relationship with God. However, such an accord is inseparable from belief in the true identity of Jesus. Just as love bound them together with God, and separated them from all that opposes God, so does hostility bind the world together in their ungodly belief. Earlier, the Apostle John assured his readers that victory over the world was already theirs.[20] John may be drawing this conclusion from the final battle at the end of time between forces on God’s side against the evil followers of Satan.[21] It may have been strong enough for John to include it in his compliment to the young men because you have defeated the Evil One.[22] The victory did not lie in their achievements but in the superiority of the one who dwelled in them. So they were encouraged to see their struggles as a scene from the future conflict between good and evil, eternal life, and everlasting punishment.[23]

Contextual interpretation specialist Gary M. Burge (1952) notices that the Apostle John repeats what he said in verse one about people who understand the true identity of the Anointed One as those who love God and all His children who obey His commands as people who have been born of God. If they have such divine power, the mandate to love cannot be a burden. No impediment, no temptation from the world, can rob them of moral victory. Therefore, the triumph of the Christian life is not about us as we are in the world. It is about power – transformation through a rebirth – and how that power defeats the world’s impulses that once controlled us.[24]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to fellowship, Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that the Greek adjective pan to (“whatsoever” KJV; “whatever” NKJV) designates the collective unit of believers, not just a single believer. In the next verse, the Apostle John referred to the individual. This same pattern – speaking of the collective body of believers and then of each believer – is also found in John’s Gospel.[25] The unified corporate body of regenerated believers – the Christian community – has the power that overcomes (conquers or defeats) the world’s dominant influence.[26] In verse five, Barton points out that the word overcomes implies a “military conquest.” The world looks at God’s commands as limiting and burdensome, but Christians (those born of God) know that obeying God cannot be troublesome because of the power within them and because they desire to please Him, since, by faith, we know we have already overcome.[27]

[1] 1 John 5:19

[2] Romans 8:37

[3] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, Kindle Edition

[4] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 83

[5] 1 John 5:2

[6] Ibid. 5:3

[7] John 20:30-31

[8] Boice, James Montgomery: The Epistles of John, An Expositional Commentary, op. cit., pp. 125-128

[9] 1 John 5:19

[10] Ibid 2:17

[11] Ibid 3:14

[12] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 142

[13] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., pp. 119-120

[14] 1 John 5:3

[15] See William Loader, The Johannine Epistles, (1992), op. cit., p.61; Daniel Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, 1,2,3 John, p. 192

[16] Cf. 1 John 5:1

[17] Yarbrough, Robert W.. 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 275

[18] See William Loader, The Johannine Epistles, (1992), op. cit., p.61

[19] Witherington, Ben III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[20] 1 John 4:4

[21] Revelation 20:10

[22] 1 John 2:13-14

[23] Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Library, I, II, & III., op. cit., p. 206

[24] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., pp. 192-193

[25] John 6:37. 39; 17:2. 24

[26] See 1 John 5:5; John 16:33

[27] Burton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit. pp. 107-108

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