NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXIV) 10/27/22
5:4 because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against worldliness.
Here John reiterates the main theme of his letter concerning love, how love works, and how it can be seen and tested for its genuineness. So, he now begins his third test, the Believers. This trial of determining if God’s love resides in a person’s heart is not only meant for God or fellow believers to verify but for the world as well. The one thing that combines it all and keeps it together is the common bond of faith that Jesus is the Son of God. He was the Anointed One sent down from heaven by the Father to secure forgiveness for sin so we will not suffer its punishment and may have eternal life with Him.
When I served in the military, some people became my best friends, and there were those I did not particularly like 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 country and serving the same Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. Christians may differ 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.
Jesus was concerned His followers would feel alone and forsaken once He ascended back into heaven. He wanted to assure them that He had taken care of everything. That’s why after explaining why He was leaving, He said that His reason for telling them all this was for them to finally believe and accept it as real. In fact, He forewarned them that some would try to get away from being associated with Him to save their lives. But He would not feel abandoned, for His Father would be with Him. He let them know all this so they could trust Him to do what He promised. That way, they would be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. So, He said to them, “In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve got the world under my control.”
No wonder the Apostle Paul asked, “Who could ever keep the Anointed One’s love from us?” When we suffer handicaps or hardships, are hunted down or humiliated, is it because God doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or hopeless, in danger or threatened with death, has He deserted us? No! The Scriptures tell us that we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day for His sake – we are like sheep awaiting slaughter. But despite all this, complete victory is ours through the Anointed One who loved us enough to die for us. That’s why, says Paul, we should be thankful that God gives us victory through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.
The Apostle John revealed all the things God still has in store for those who remain faithful. So, he addresses all the churches in his archdiocese and tells them to listen to the Spirit’s message. To all victorious believers, the risen Savior will give fruit from the Tree of Life in God’s heavenly Paradise. The Second Death will hurt no one who is victorious. Everyone who is triumphant will eat of the hidden manna, the secret nourishment from heaven, and God will give to each a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one else knows except the one receiving it. So, “To everyone who overcomes – who to the very end keeps on doing things that please Me – I will give power over the nations.”
The reason for the Apostle John’s preceding statement in verse three is that the opposition that promoted difficulty for the Church is already defeated. Nothing, however, is gained by transferring the full stop from the end of verse three to the middle of verse four, any more than from the end of verse two to the center of verse three. The punctuation of the Authorized Version and the Revised Version is preferred. The world hinders obedience to God’s commandments and makes them seem grievous. But everywhere, children born of God conquer the worldliness; it’s by faith. The Greek aorist verb nikaō (“overcome”) marks the victory as already complete. In other words, our success in defeating the world is this – our faith.
Here we see how the Apostle John folds three spiritual dynamics into one: 1) trust in the truth, 2) apply truth to experience, and 3) manifest God’s love to others. The believer who brings these dimensions together is spiritually alive. Keep in mind the word “for” at the beginning of verse four explains what John said in verse two. Applying God’s principles to experience is the key to knowing that we love God’s family. Love in God’s economy involves more than sentimental love; God’s love revolves around His principles. “For” explains that our love for God is synonymous with doing His commandments. Our love for God is at issue here, not God’s love for us.
When we obey divine directives, we demonstrate love for God. Abiding by God’s commandments flows from loving Him and keeps us in the sphere of His will because His guidelines reveal His character. The principle here is that Christians must apply divine directives to their lives not because they fear God but because they love Him. God’s mandates reveal His nature. The believer shows God’s character by applying God’s Word to experience. Each time we convey God’s teachings in His Word to experience, we reveal God’s glory.
So, how is it that some people curse God’s love? If we claim to love God but live contrary to His principles, we blaspheme His name and detract from His glory. People will then speak against the Bible and God’s name because they do not live consistently with His truth. Individuals will say that we are inconsistent. The Word of God is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. It is our compass, our plumb line for life, and our measuring stick of truth. The Bible is our standard of living, so biblical Christianity has no situational ethics. Such ethics say that what we do during the week is okay, but not on Sundays. Biblical commands are always valid in every circumstance. They never change. They are the same in every period of history and in every society.
However, the responsibilities under grace are substantially more demanding than in legalism. We could not keep them apart from the strength of the Spirit. As Christians, we are members of a spiritual family composed of fellow believers. Therefore, keeping God’s principles for life requires a heart for God. It is no burden to do something for someone you love. Love is evidence of life. Divine life produces divine love. The single restriction to God’s commands is that they must be followed out of love.
We know that God has given us divine directives in His Word for our good and benefit. Granted, we may not fully comprehend some directions. Nevertheless, no church must not demand them as necessary for our good standing before them and God. Again, we may not understand why and question some of them, but God obligates us to do them to follow His will. Remember, Jesus accused the Pharisees of putting religious burdens on people. But then Jesus offered to lift such religious strains off our shoulders. Faith in Him makes these religious hardships unnecessary. Perhaps, later in eternity, He might explain to us the complete rationale for His principles for life.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
Additional comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Moder Commentators on the verse.
A monk with spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (673-735), makes the point that overcoming worldly temptations is not accomplished by our efforts. God’s commandments are not burdensome. On the contrary, those who keep them passionately seek the gateway to the heavenly country. So, despite the adversities in this world, they regard its temptations with levelheadedness. They are even willing to the point of looking forward to death. And lest anyone think that we can somehow achieve all this by our efforts, John adds that the substance of our victory is our faith, not our works.
Early Church scholar Theophylact of Ohrid (1055-1107) stated that once you become spiritual brothers and sisters, you must go on to the next stage: overcoming the world. Therefore, those born again of God must reject every kind of unbelief from their midst.
Reformation writer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) sees the Apostle John explaining his statement that God’s commandments are not grievous to the one born again in Him. That’s because such a person experiencing divine birth receives spiritual life and nature, making them far superior to worldly people. It exalts them above it, victorious over the spirit of this world and its desires, fears, false hopes, and pleasures which keep them from obeying God’s commands. This is the victory, or we could say, the instrument, the weapon, by which they overcome the world’s persecution and temptations. Their motivation for holiness stems from the implanted principles of regeneration. Who are they that overcome worldliness, none other than those who believe Jesus is God’s Son?
Reformation fireball John Flavel (1627-1691) tells us that saving faith needs to be valid evidence of our interest in the Anointed One, and conquering sin is the fruit and indication of saving faith. On the one hand, faith overcomes the world’s temptations and terrors by putting to death the affections of worldly things. Yet, simultaneously, a cleansed heart is not easily entangled with the world’s pleasures nor feels sorry over the passion they lost for worldly enticements. This way, the force of the world’s temptations is broken, and the sanctified soul becomes victorious. All of this is by the instrumentality of faith.
Therefore, exercise faith daily if you want to succeed in putting the body’s passions under control. Faith is an excellent instrument for harnessing sinful tendencies. By faith alone, eternal things are discovered to your souls in their reality and excelling glory. These are the great things for the sake of which self-denial and overcoming become accessible to believers. By opposing temporal things for eternal blessings, we resist Satan and put out the fiery darts of the wicked one. 
 John 16:33
 Romans 8:35-37
 1 Corinthians 15:57
 Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26
 John 6:37, 39; 17:2
 2 John 1:6
 Titus 2:5
 1 John 4:4
 Psalm 19:11; 119:32
 Matthew 23:4
 Ibid. 11:29-30
 Galatians 6:2; James 2:8
 Bede the Venerable: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Bray, Gerald, ed., Vol. XI, op. cit., p. 222
 Theophylact of Ohrid: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Bray, Gerald, ed., op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 222
 1 John 4:4
 Poole, Matthew, Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition
 Acts of the Apostles 15:9; 1 John 5:4
 Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., Ch. 27, pp. 389-390
 1 John 5:4
 1 Peter 5:8
 Ephesians 6:16
 Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., op. cit., Ch. 28, p. 399