By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXIV) 10/28/22

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

George Swinnock (1627-1673) unquestionably bemoans that worldly pleasures have enslaved millions. But faith, Christians with the Son of God’s Light, helps them trample this mood.[1] The world has two faces – the one ugly and deformed, to frighten the saints; the other neat and painted, to allure them to sin; but faith sees how pitiful her touch and threatenings are, and how poor, only skin deep, her promises are and causes the soul to scorn both.[2]

From his viewpoint, William Burkitt (1650-1703) sees a proposition and clarification. Let’s first look at the proposal, “Whoever is born of God overcomes the world.” Every regenerate Christian is a victorious believer; they are conquerors. Yes, indeed, they overcame all worldliness. Let’s amplify this, “This is what brings victory over worldliness, our faith.” It is a divine conquest and spiritually obtained, even by faith. Note this: Worldliness is a Christian’s worst enemy. A win supposes combat, and combat presumes an enemy.

That makes every regenerated Christian a victorious conqueror over this enemy. Christians become soldiers as soon as they believe and conquerors as quickly as they become soldiers. Their victory is this; they have their enemy under their feet. So, we ask, what special weapon do Christians use to conquer worldliness as a spiritual enemy? It is their faith. Many warriors have done great things in conquering kingdoms, but this is more significant than theirs. The world’s influence that won over some small parts of the earth was primitive and partial, but the Christian’s domination was universal. While conquerors prevailed abroad, the enemy were servants at home; while conquerors were lords of nations, those of the world were slaves to their lusts. The Christian conquerors, which John speaks of, begin their victories at home and enlarge their triumphs over enemies abroad:[3]

After examining this verse, Medieval thinker Robert Witham (1667-1778) explains that this victory over the world is accomplished with “spirited” faith. Loving and giving makes a person victorious over the temptations of greed and lust, which are the greatest enemies of their salvation [4]

Reformed pastor Leonard Howard (1699 -1767) says that in the first half of verse four, by using “world,” we sometimes understand the people and things in it. However, neither one can be meant here. That is plain from the reason for and the Apostle John’s manner in using “world.” Both represent the world to us as a dangerous enemy, such as cannot be loved with innocence and cooperation but must be forsaken and opposed with all our might. Hence, yielding to worldliness, making a truce with, or agreeing to out of friendship, sets us at odds with God and leads us to certain ruin.

In the second half of this verse, we encounter the word “victory,” which we are to understand the means or instrument of obtaining it. By communicating “our faith,” John meant the belief of the Christian religion, as the Gospels deliver it to us and familiarly contained in the next verse in this one article, that “Jesus is the Son of God.” Hence, as a result, a firm assent to the truth of His glorious promises, doctrines which He could not have taught had they not been confirmed. So also, the sufferings He underwent cannot but be of infinite worth and efficacy. They are a promise which He is both able and willing to perform and make good to the fullest. Therefore, to all whose minds are more than balanced, victory is their future reward’s absolute certainty and superior excellency. This reward is peculiar to those who are content to defeat and reject the present prospect of future bliss. To this, God’s Son pledged His truth and has already invested it in human nature by exalting our flesh to the right hand of His Majesty on High.[5]

Looking closely, James Macknight (1721-1800) points out that the Apostle John uses the Greek adjective pas in the neuter gender to include all sorts of people, males and females, old and young, Jews and Gentiles, freemen and slaves. No matter which one, the victory over the world’s influence, came by faith. This faith power enables believers to stay free of hidden traps. These snares of worldly pleasures attempt to catch professing Christians, as illustrated by the writer of Hebrews.[6] He shows that before Messiah came, the children of God believed the things, He allowed them to discover. Whether it came by the light of natural reason or through particular revelations, they were able to resist the greatest of temptations, remain faithful during the bitterest sufferings, perform the most challenging acts of obedience, and earn great and lasting fame.

But after the Anointed One came and made the revelation of the Gospel available in person, His apostles received the faith needed to overcome worldly invitations of the wicked to join them and had as their object of admiration the doctrines and promises contained in the Good News. In particular, the solid foundation of all the rest is that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world, as the Apostle John observes in verse five.[7]

In John Brown of Haddington’s opinion (1722-1787), the Apostle John declares that whoever is truly regenerated by God’s Spirit and filled with a new nature and spiritual virtues produced in them by faith in the Anointed One will become overcomers and triumph. Their victory over the terrors and allurements of the promoters of worldly things will not cause them to become disheartened nor withdraw from their mission.[8]

William Jones of Nyland (1726-1800) states that when the Apostle John speaks of “overcoming,” it suggests a struggle. “Victory” implies combat. So, it is because the Divine life in God’s new creatures and the life of the ungodly in the world oppose each other. Satan is “the prince of this world” and “the god of this world.”

The Apostle John constantly teaches, says Canon Henry Parry Liddon (1829-1890), “that the Christian’s work in this dispensation of grace is to conquer worldliness.” It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life that ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral and baseless intellectual falsehood that the great enemy of God arranged and organized to permeate a non-Christianized society. Thus, we see the world’s evil spirit in “the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” [9] These three forms of lust manifest the inner life of the world, and against them, the Christian must contend. It is the battle of truth against error, light against darkness, and love against hatred.[10]

John Wesley’s co-leader Joseph Benson (1749-1821), notes that the Apostle John discussed the privileges of God’s children in the preceding chapters. Now he illustrates the essential parts needed in their character. He does so that his readers might judge their concern in the matters he introduced. And the scope and sum of the first paragraph appear from his message, “I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you know you have eternal life now.” [11] Namely, with a living faith, a faith of the divine operation, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed One, the true Messiah, the Son of God, they are ready to confess this openly. It took courage because they knew such a confession might expose them to imprisonment and martyrdom.[12]

Taking everything into consideration, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) focuses on the fact that “whoever” overcomes the world (used in verse four) is in the neuter gender. Thus, it includes both male and female believers. “I understand by this,” says German Bible scholar Johann Christian Schöttgen (1687-1751), “the Jewish Church, or Judaism, often termed ‘of this world as Olam hazzeh.’” [13]

The reasons for thinking they are the same as 1) This kosmos, “world,” denied that the Messiah came; but the Gentiles did not oppose this principle. 2) Because John, reasoning as a Jew, proves the truth of the Christian religion against the Jews; therefore, it is evident that he does not oppose the pagan Gentiles but the Jews. Consequently, the sense is that those who possess true Christian faith can easily find the Jewish religion guilty of a false sense of salvation. They can show how the Jew’s expectations prove inaccurate because they misinterpret Scripture with preconceptions. Let’s say we understand by “world” the evil principles and practices in the unregenerate hearts. It allows the Spirit of God’s influence on the soul to overcome this. Also, by faith in the Son of God, a person can overcome the world, such as the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life.[14]

In keeping with the Apostle John’s intention, Charles G. Finney (1792-1876) sees this as promoting fellowship with God to get above the spirit of greediness that possesses the people of the world. It is yearning after worldly things. Some worldly people covet one thing and another, but all classes of the world’s citizens live in the spirit of possessiveness in some form. This spirit has supreme possession of their minds. That is why overcoming the world implies rising above its fixations – overcoming the world also indicates overpowering the fear of the world’s spirit – not fear that they will hurt you, but that they won’t like you. Furthermore, being victorious over the world suggests disabling the nuisance of anxiety. Therefore, triumphant living is still under consideration, for we must cease giving in and letting the spirit of the world enslave us in bondage to any of its deceitful forms.[15]

In plain talk, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) explains the Apostle John’s declaration that whoever is born of God has victory over the world’s evil spirit. Therefore, in its maxims, precepts, and customs, the world does not rule them because they have been set free. John’s idea is that the conflict between faith and the world in the heart of every authentic Christian results in the believer’s victory or win. Our Savior stated that in this godless world, His followers would continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! He conquered the world! In other words, the Anointed One obtained a complete triumph over the powers of this dark world.[16] By doing so, He laid the foundation for a victory by His people over all vice, error, and sin.

However, note that John makes this affirmation of all born of God. “Whatsoever,” or, as the Greek has it, pas gennaō (“having-been-generated”) by God, undoubtedly affirms that in every instance where one is genuinely regenerated, there is this potential victory over the world.[17] But, if this is a trustworthy principle, why are so many professed Christians strangers to victory despite their claims of being devout believers? It means they are still wholly governed by this world’s spirit! This is the source or means of the victory that God’s faithful children achieve. Even our faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.[18] Jesus overcame the world, and that faith makes us one with Him. He instills us with His Spirit so that we can likewise.[19] [20]

[1] 1 John 5:4

[2] Swinnock, George: The Christian Man’s Calling, op. cit., Vol. 3, Ch IX, p. 99

[3] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 735

[4] Witham, Robert: Annotations on the New Testament of Jesus Christ, Second Volume, op. cit., p. 435

[5] Howard, Leonard: The Royal Bible, Vol. II, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Hebrews 11

[7] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 103-104

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

[9] 1 John 2:16

[10] Jones, William of Nyland: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 22, p. 160

[11] 1 John 5:13

[12] Benson, Joseph: Commentary of the Old and New Testaments, 1 John 5

[13] Schöttgen, Johann Christian: Horae Ebraicae et Talmudicae in universum Novum Testamentum (1733)

[14] Clarke, Adam: Heritage Wesleyan Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, pp. 393-394

[15] Finney, Charles G., Sermon Collection, Vol. 3, Victory Over the World Through Faith, pp. 1341-1343

[16] See Ephesians 6:12

[17] See 1 John 2:15-16

[18] Ibid. 5:5

[19] See 1 Corinthians 15:57

[20] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, p. 4874

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s