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

About drbob76

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