By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXIV) 11/14/22

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

After checking closely, Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) agrees with Jelf in that he regards the world as the sphere of the “self-seeking principle.” Those born of God are conceived and birthed in another sphere – the sphere of the “God-seeking principle.” As such, the powers of darkness in the present order of things are opposed to the kingdom of Light. Thus, through faith, they are victorious over the world order because they are in union with the Anointed One, and He makes us participators in His victory.[1]

With an inquiring mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) follows what other commentators have said about the Apostle John’s words in the first half of verse four being connected with what he said in verse three. But this does not exclude the introduction of a new central theme of being born of God in verse four. Similarly, John passed along the idea mentioned in 1 John 3:24 to 1 John 5:1 as an introduction to this new theme. John laid down the proposition as supporting his argument (where the neuter verb “born” is used) in the same sense as in his Gospel.[2]

With the proposition thoroughly explained, John proceeds to assert the same thought independently, as his formal theme, of overcoming the world’s evil influence by faith.  We must not understand “faith” in the subjective sense alone, of the acting or spirit of our faith, but it is our faith in substance and object, Jesus the Anointed One. It is also that which, or Him in whom, we believe our faith, in opposition, as our believing mind, the spirit in which we believe. However, faith alone is certainly not the victory but only the cause of overcoming. It gives us the sense that “faith,” through which we become God’s children, has allowed us to triumph. But this faith includes its object – our embracing of the Anointed One in faith – that is, the action which negates the world’s evil influence.[3]

In missionary terms, James Nisbet (1823-1874) states that the Christian life is undoubtedly warfare and the great need to put on “the whole armor of God.”[4] The world is one of the greatest foes Christians encounter, but it is not the world God created – that is good, but the cosmos Satan has generated, which is evil. Nisbet then lists these issues:

I. The opposition of the world. (aIt may arise from earthly possessions. These, when rightly used, have proved a great blessing but, when wrongly used, a great curse.[5] (bIt may arise from physical achievements. The human heart too frequently desires these. But these carnal honors dazzle only for a time and often seem of no value when possessed. Pursuing them, however, sidetracks the soul from life’s great mission. (cIt may arise from sensual pleasures – the heart absorbed with such vanity has neither time nor thought for spiritual realities. (dIt may appear from bitter adversities. Prosperity lifts: adversity lets down: the one soothes and flatters the individual, and the other produces brutal and wicked thoughts in hindsight.

II. The triumph of faith. (aFaith is a spiritual principle. Not a train of ideas floating in the head, but a disposition of the heart.[6] It is cherished there and proves a living, active principle of irresistible power. (bDivine truth controls Faith. In every instance of worldly opposition, the believer asks God, “What do You want me to do?” They don’t have long to wait for the answer. Faith has a foundation to build on and is firm that even hell’s gates[7] cannot prevail against it.[8] (cGod personally sustains our faith. He teaches the hands to war and the fingers to fight.[9] (dFaith is triumphant over the world’s temptations. Indeed, it is not merely a means of conquest but a victory. Therefore, the issues of conflict and overcoming are not a mystery.[10]

Discernably, William Alexander (1824-1911) notes that the Apostle John had just said that if you have been born-again through God’s permission and power through His Spirit, you have been triumphant over the world. But what kind of conquest is John talking about? Whatever success the believer experienced wasn’t through their influence, but the victorious power of Him who said, “I have overcome the world.”[11] Yet it wasn’t a case of the Christian sitting back and watching the Anointed One destroy their opponents; it was their faith in His authority and ability to push back the world’s menacing presence. Th Christian religion is objectively and subjectively received by faith.” We see this illustrated, says Alexander, when the disciples left Jerusalem after the Day of Pentecost, God’s message was proclaimed in ever-widening circles. The number of disciples increased vastly in Jerusalem, and many Jewish priests were converted.[12] That led the Apostle Paul to say that we received grace and apostleship through the Anointed One to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for His name’s sake.[13] Take notice, faith is spoken of as the defeat of the world itself, not merely the instrument for victory. There were no parades waving the Christian flag because, notes Alexander, “There is something very noble in this deep, silent, unexcited triumph – our faith is a victory!”[14] [15]

With holiness doctrine expertise Daniel Steele (1824-1914) points out that some say the neutral term “Whatsoever” emphasizes the victorious power rather than the victorious person. Beware of that explanation of this text, however, which analyzes the Christian into two personalities, the old-self in full strength and the new-self dwelling together until death separates them. The Apostle Paus says that because the old-self was never crucified,[16] the body of sin was never destroyed. The result is a lifelong sinning personality, justified by the doctrine that entire sanctification is impossible in the present life, which encourages believers to continue in depravity, and discrowns the Gospel of the Anointed One by making death the final conqueror of sinful tendencies.

As a result, it leaves the person shackled in Satan’s evil empire whose dominion we cannot escape unless faith in the Anointed One becomes real and infinitely more valuable than earthly pleasures. Faith gives us the proper standard for estimating the value of things. The term “Even our faith” in verse four, the Greek word pistisfaith” occurs only here in John’s epistle. It is not found in his Gospel. It signifies the system of Gospel truth summed up in the confession that Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of God, both Savior, and Lord, is so trusted in and enthroned as to constitute that saving faith which works by love, purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. He who possesses this faith and perseveringly exhibits its effects in their transformed character will share the victory over the world in which the Anointed One triumphed.[17] [18]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) denotes that when considering the character of divine commandments, it does not prove they are not a burden. In themselves, they are difficult to obey.[19] To love all spiritual believers is not an easy thing. But with the mandate also comes the power of fulfillment. Even though our natural likes, feelings, and criticism may inhibit spiritual sympathy, every faculty and ability that God empowers is more robust than the world’s temptations to secure victory. The Apostle John passes from the abstract to the concrete in developing this thought. He chooses the abstract to convey a universal truth. Triumph is not so much the believer in unity with others or the Church, but of each element included in the individual’s personal and social life.[20]

Under the phrase “the world,” John implies all the secular world’s limited resources opposed to God, making obedience of His commandments difficult. By introducing the spiritual and eternal blessings, John assures us that we can overcome the temptations that spring from a narrow, earthly, and fleeting ungodly economy. So, it holds true of humans as a whole and the authority and ability supplied to them.[21] Thus, we can be sure of the divine victory as illustrated by the nature of the victory itself. The Christian’s triumph is the individual appropriation of a victory gained by the Anointed One once and for all.[22]

Experientially, Edward Blencowe (1826-1896) curate of St. Catherine’s Church, in Teversal, Nottinghamshire, England, and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, states that a faithful Christian, on their way to heaven, has a conquest to make, a victory to win – to overcome the world’s opposition. Why is this? Because the world is fallen from God. Satan is its prince and ruler, and, therefore, through baptism, we vowed to renounce it. The devil finds in the world temptations suited to each one of us. Riches tempt one to deny God. The world’s smile and hope of its favor make many traitors to God; the fear of its frown, and still more of its sneers, keeps many from openly confessing the Anointed One as Savior.

That means, “whoever is born of God” has within them One who is greater than the world, even the Spirit of God. The grace of God enables them to persevere and get better day after day in overcoming their sinful tendencies. It begins by resisting all the world’s temptations. The victory over the world is accomplished by faith. Not as though we had any strength in ourselves or any merit to count on. But by believing our testimony and daring to act upon it, we obtain knowledge, power, and motives that make us conquerors.

How it is that everyone who has faith in the Anointed One will triumph over the world’s welcoming song. Here are some vital points to consider. 1) It is because the believer is convinced that the world is evil that God’s Son came to redeem them from its power and bring them to heaven and God. 2) Again, the believer knows that the Lord Jesus conquered the world, not for Himself but for His followers, and that they must study and strive to be sharers in His victory. 3) Christians can see by Jesus’ example, His humble life, self-denial, bitter sufferings, and death that they must renounce the world and its pleasures. It is the lesson of the Cross. 4) Faith teaches the Christian that the Savior makes grace available. 5) It is by faith in the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One and exaltation to Heaven where He constantly intercedes for us that we are born again in a living hope,[23] to an incorruptible, and undefiled inheritance.[24]

[1] Tuck, Richard H. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., pp. 328-329

[2] John 3:6, 7, 8

[3] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 314-315

[4] Ephesians 6:11

[5] 2 Timothy 4:10

[6] Romans 10:10

[7] Besides being part of a city’s protection against invaders, city gates were places of central activity in biblical times. It was at the city gates that important business transactions were made, the city court was convened, and public announcements were heralded. Cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Ruth 4:1-11; 1 Samuel 4:18; Esther 2:5-8. 19-23. Thus, the “gates of hell” refers to the meeting of wicked and antichrist forces met to make decisions on how to destroy the Kingdom of God on earth.

[8] Matthew 16:18

[9] Psalm 144:1

[10] Nisbet, James: The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 12, pp. 318-319

[11] John 16:33

[12] Acts of the Apostles 6:7; cf. 14:27

[13] Romans 1:5

[14] Alexander may have taken this from William Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty” – Thou, who art victory and awe.

[15] Alexander, William: The Holy Bible with an Explanatory and Critical Commentary, op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 340-341

[16] Galatians 2:20; 5:34; Colossians 2:11

[17] John 16:33

[18] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., pp. 130, 165

[19] Acts of the Apostles 14:22; 16:33

[20] John 3:6, 8

[21] Ibid. 16:33

[22] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 179-180

[23] 1 Peter 1:3

[24] Blencowe, Edward: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, p. 399

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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