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

About drbob76

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