1 John 5:4
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
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1 John


1 John 5:4No New Testament writer makes such frequent use of the metaphors of combat and victory as this gentle Apostle John. None of them seem to have conceived so habitually of the Christian life as being a conflict, and in none of their writings does the clear note of victory in the use of that word ‘ overcometh ‘ ring out so constantly as it does in those of the very Apostle of Love. Equally characteristic of John’s writings is the prominence which he gives to the still contemplation of, and abiding in, Christ. These two conceptions of the Christian life appear to be discordant, but are really harmonious.

There is no doubt where John learned the phrase. Once he had heard it at a time and in a place which stamped it on his memory for ever. ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,’ said Christ, an hour before Gethsemane. Long years since then had taught John something of its meaning, and had made him to understand how the Master’s victory might belong to the servants. Hence in this letter he has much to say about’ overcoming the wicked one,’ and the like; and in the Apocalypse we never get far away from hearing the shout of victory, whether we consider the sevenfold promises of the letters that stand at the beginning of the visions, or whether we listen to such sayings as this:-’ They overcame by the blood of the Lamb,’ or the last promise of all:-’ He that overcometh shall inherit all things.’

Thus bound together by that link, as well as by a great many more, are all the writings which the tradition of the Church has attributed to this great Apostle.

But to come to the words of my text. They appear in a very remarkable context here. If you read a verse or two before, you will get the full singularity of their introduction. ‘This is the love of God,’ says he, ‘that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.’ They are very heavy and hard in themselves; it is very difficult to do right, and to walk in the ways of God, and to please Him. His commandments are grievous, per se; a heavy burden, a difficult thing to do-but let us read on:-’They are not grievous, for whatsoever is born of God’-keepeth the commandments? No!’ Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.’ That, thinks John, is the same thing as keeping God’s commandments. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ Notice, then, first, What is the true notion of conquering the world? secondly, How that victory may be ours.

I. What is the true notion of conquering the world?

Let us go back to what I have already said. Where did John learn the expression? Who was it that first used it? It comes from that never-to-be-forgotten night in that upper room; where, with His life’s purpose apparently crushed into nothing, and the world just ready to exercise its last power over Him by killing Him, Jesus Christ breaks out into such a strange strain of triumph, and in the midst of apparent defeat lifts up that clarion note of victory:-’I have overcome the world I’ He had not made much of it, according to usual standards, had He? His life had been the life of a poor man. Neither fame nor influence, nor what people call success, had He won, judged from the ordinary points of view, and at three-and-thirty is about to be murdered; and yet He says,’ I have beaten it all, and here I stand a conqueror!’ That threw a flood of light for John, and for all that had listened to Christ, on the whole conditions of human life, and on what victory and defeat, success and failure in this world mean. Not so do men usually estimate what conquering the world is. Not so do you and I estimate it when we are left to our own folly and our own weakness. Our notion of being victorious in life is when each man, according to his own ideal of what is best, manages to wring that ideal out of a reluctant world. Or, to put it into plainer words, a man desires, say, conspicuous notoriety and fame. He accounts that he has conquered when he scrambles over all his fellows, and writes his name, as boys do, upon a wall, higher than anybody else’s name, with a bit of chalk, in writing that the next winter’s storm will obliterate! That is victory! The ultra-commercial ideal says, ‘Found a big business and make it pay.’ That is to conquer! Other notions, higher and nobler than that, all partake of the same fallacy that if a man can get the world, the sum of external things, into his grip, and squeeze it as one does a grape, and get the last drop of sweetness out of it into his thirsty lips, he is a conqueror.

Well! and you may get all that, whatever it is, that seems to you best, sweetest, most needful, most toothsome and delightsome-you may get it all; and in a sense you may have conquered the world, and yet you may be utterly beaten and enslaved by it. Do you remember the old story-I make no apology for the plainness of it-of the man that said to his commanding officer, ‘I have taken a prisoner.’ ‘Bring him along with you.’ ‘He won’t let me.’ ‘Come yourself, then.’ ‘I can’t’? So you think you have conquered the world when it yields you the things you want, and all the while it has conquered and captivated you.

You say ‘Mine’! It would be a great deal nearer the truth if the possessions, or the love, or the wealth, or the culture, or whatever else it may be, that you have set your desire upon, were to rise up and say you are theirs! Utterly beaten and enslaved many a man is by the things that he vainly fancies he has mastered and conquered. If you think of how in the process of getting, you narrow yourselves; of how much you throw away; of how eyes become blind to beauty or goodness or graciousness; of how you become the slaves of the thing that you have won; of how the gold gets into a man’s blood and makes his complexion as yellow as jaundice-if you think of all that, and how desperate and wretched you would be if in a minute it was all swept away, and how it absorbs your thoughts in keeping it and looking after it, say, is it you that are its master, or it that is yours?

Now let us turn for a moment to the teaching of this Epistle. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ Himself, the poor man, the beaten man, the unsuccessful man, may yet say,’ I have overcome the world.’ What does that mean? Well, it is built upon this-the world, meaning thereby the sum total of outward things, considered as apart from God-the world and God we make to be antagonists to one another. And the world woos me to trust to it, to love it; crowds in upon my eye and shuts out the greater things beyond; absorbs my attention, so that if I let it have its own way I have no leisure to think about anything hut itself. And the world conquers me when it succeeds in hindering me from seeing, loving, holding communion with and serving my Father, God.

On the other hand, I conquer it when I lay my hand upon it and force it to help me to get nearer Him, to get liker Him, to think more often of Him, to do His will more gladly and more constantly. The one victory over the world is to bend it to serve me in the highest things-the attainment of a clearer vision of the Divine nature, the attainment of a deeper love to God Himself, and of a more glad consecration and service to Him. That is the victory-when you can make the world a ladder to lift you to God. That is its right use, that is victory, when all its tempting voices do not draw you away from listening to the Supreme Voice that bids you keep His commandments. When the world comes between you and God as an obscuring screen, it has conquered you. When the world comes between you and God as a transparent medium, you have conquered it. To win victory is to get it beneath your feet and stand upon it, and reach up thereby to God.

Now, dear brethren, that is the plain teaching of all this context, and I would lay it upon your hearts and upon my own. Do not let us be deceived by the false estimates of the men around us. Do not let us forget that the one thing we have to live for is to know God, and to love and to please Him, and that every life is a disastrous failure, whatsoever outward artificial apparent success it may be enriched and beautified with, that has not accomplished that.

You rule Nature, you coerce winds and lightnings and flames to your purposes. Rule the world! Rule the world by making it help you to be wiser, gentler, nobler, more gracious, more Christ-like, more Christ conscious, more full of God, and more like to Him, and then you will get the deepest delight out of it. If a man wanted to find a wine-press that should squeeze out of the vintage of this world its last drop of sweetest sweetness, he would find it in constant recognition of the love of God, and in the coercing of all the outward and the visible to be his help thereto.

There are the two theories; the one that we are all apt to fall into, of what success and victory is; the other the Christian theory. Ah! many a poor, battered Lazarus, full of sores, a pauper and a mendicant at Dives’ gate; many a poor old cottager; many a lonely woman in her garret; many a man that has gone away from Manchester, for instance, unable to get on in business, and obliged to creep into some corner and hide himself, not having succeeded in making a fortune, is the victor! And many a Dives, fettered by his own possessions, and the bond-slave of his own successes, is beaten by the world shamefully and disastrously! Pray and strive for the purged eyesight which shall teach you what it is to conquer the world, and what it is to be conquered by it.

II. And now let me turn for a moment to the second of the points that I have desired to put before you, viz., the method by which this victory over the world, of making it help us to keep the commandments of God, is to be accomplished.

We find, according to John’s fashion, a threefold statement in this context upon this matter, each member of which corresponds to and heightens the preceding. We read thus:-’ Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.’ ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world,’ or more accurately, ‘hath overcome the world, even our faith.’ Who is he that overcometh the world? He that believeth that Jesus Christ is ‘the Son of God.’ Wherein there are, speaking roughly, these three statements, that the true victory over the world is won by a new life, born of and kindred with God; that that life is kindled in men’s souls through their faith; that the faith which kindles that supernatural life, the victorious antagonist of the world, is the definite, specific faith in Jesus as the Son of God. These are the three points which the Apostle puts as the means of conquest of the world.

The first consideration, then, suggested by these statements is that the one victorious antagonist of all the powers of the world which seek to draw us away from God, is a life in our hearts kindred with God, and derived from God.

Now I know that a great many people turn away from this central representation of Christianity as if it were mystical and intangible. I desire to lay it upon your hearts, dear brethren, that every Christian man has received and possesses through the open door of his faith, a life supernatural, born of God, kindred with God, therefore having nothing kindred with evil, and therefore capable of meeting and mastering all the temptations of the world.

It is a plain piece of common-sense, that God is stronger than this material universe, and that what is born of God partakes of the Divine strength. But there would be no comfort in that, nor would it be anything germane and relevant to the Apostle’s purpose, unless there was implied in the statement what in fact is distinctly asserted more than once in this Epistle, that every Christian man and woman may claim to be thus born of God. Hearken to the words that almost immediately precede our text, ‘ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ Hearken to other words which proclaim the same truth, ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, which were born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ He does come with all the might of His regenerating power into our poor natures, if and when we turn ourselves with humble faith to that dear Lord; and breathes into our deadness a new life, with new tastes, new desires, new motives, new powers making us able to wrestle with and to overcome the temptations that were too strong for us.

Mystical and deep as this thought may be, God’s nature is breathed into the spirits of men that will trust Him! and if you will put your confidence in that dear Lord, and live near Him, into your weakness will come an energy born of the Divine, and you will be able to do all things in the might of the Christ that strengthens you from within, and is the life of your life, and the soul of your soul. To the little beleaguered garrison surrounded by strong enemies through whom they cannot cut their way, the king sends reliefs, who force their passage into the fortress, and hold it against all the power of the foe. You are not left to fight by yourselves, you can conquer the world if you will trust to that Christ, trusting in whom God’s own power will come to your aid, and God’s own Spirit will be the strength of your spirit.

And then there is the other way of looking at this same thing, viz., you can conquer the world if you will trust in Jesus Christ, because such trust will bring you into constant, living, loving contact with the Great Conqueror. There is a beautiful accuracy and refinement in the language of these three clauses which is not represented in our Authorized Version. The central one which I have read as my text this morning might be translated as it is translated in the Revised Version-’ This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.’ By which I suppose the Apostle means very much what I am saying now, viz., that my faith brings me into contact with that one great victory over the world which for all time was won by Jesus Christ. I can appropriate Christ’s conquest to myself if I trust Him. The might of it and some portion of the reality of it passes into my nature in the measure in which I rely upon Him. He conquered once for all, and the very remembrance of His conquest by faith will make me strong-will teach my hands to war and my fingers to fight.’ He conquered once for all, and His victory will pass, with electric power, into my life if I trust Him. I am brought into living fellowship with Him. All the stimulation of example, and all that lives lofty and pure can do for us, is done for us in transcendent fashion by the life of Jesus Christ. And all that lives lofty and pure can never do for us is done in unique fashion by the life and death of Him whose life and death are alike the victory over the world and the pattern for us.

So if we join ourselves to Him by faith, and bring into our daily life, in all its ignoble effort, in all its little duties, in all its wearisome monotonies, in all its triviality, the thought, the illuminating thought, the ennobling thought, of the victorious Christ our companion and our Friend-in hoc signo vinces-in this sign thou shalt conquer! They that keep hold of His hand see over the world and all its falsenesses and fleetingnesses. They that trust in Jesus are more than conquerors by the might of His victory.

And then there is the last thought, which, though it be not directly expressed in the words before us, is yet closely connected with them. You can conquer the world if you will trust Jesus Christ, because your faith will bring into the midst of your lives the grandest and most solemn and blessed realities. Faith is the true anesthesia of the soul;-the thing that deadens it to the pains and the pleasures that come from this fleeting life. As for the pleasures, I remember reading lately of some thinker of our own land who was gazing through a telescope at the stars, and turned away from the solemn vision with one remark,-’ I don’t think much of our county families!’ And if you will look up at Christ through the telescope of your faith, it is wonderful what Lilliputians the Brobdingnagians round about you will dwindle into, and how small the world will look, and how coarse the pleasures.

If a man goes to Italy, and lives in the presence of the pictures there, it is marvellous what daubs the works of art, that he used to admire, look when he comes back to England again. And if he has been in communion with Jesus Christ, and has found out what real sweetness is, he will not be over-tempted by the coarse dainties that people eat here. Children spoil their appetites for wholesome food by sweetmeats; we very often do the same in regard to the bread of God, but if we have once really tasted it, we shall not care very much for the vulgar dainties on the world’s stall.

Dear brethren, set your faith upon that great Lord, and the world’s pleasures will have less power over you, and as for its pains-

‘There’s nothing either good or bad,

But thinking makes it so.’

If a man does not think that the world’s pains are of much account, they are not of much account. He who Bees athwart the smoke of the fire of Smithfield, the face of the Captain of his warfare, who has conquered, will dare to burn and will not dare to deny his Master or his Master’s truth. The world may threaten in hope of winning you to its service, but if its threats, turned into realities, fail to move you, it is the world which inflicts, and not you who suffer, that is beaten. In the extremest case they ‘kill the body and after that have no more that they can do,’ and if they have done all they can, and have not succeeded in wringing the incantation from the locked lips, they are beaten, and the poor dead martyr that they could only kill has conquered them and their torments. So fear not all that the world can do against you. If you have got a little spark of the light of Christ’s presence in your heart, the darkness will not be very terrible, and you will not be alone.

So, brethren, two questions:-Does your faith do anything like that for you? If it does not, what do you think is the worth of it? Does it deaden the world’s delights? Does it lift you above them? Does it make you conqueror? If it does not, do you think it is worth calling faith?

And the other question is: Do you want to beat, or to be beaten? When you consult your true self, does your conscience not tell you that it were better for you to keep God’s commandments than to obey the world? Surely there are many young men and women in this place to-day who have some desires high, and true, and pure, though often stifled, and overcome, and crushed down; and many older folk who have glimpses, in the midst of predominant regard for the things that are seen and temporal, of a great calm, pure region away up there that they know very little about.

Dear friends, my one word to you all is: Get near Jesus Christ by thought, and love, and trust. Trust to Him and to the great love that gave itself for you. And then bring Him into your life, by daily reference to Him of it all: and by cultivating the habit of thinking about Him as being present with you in the midst of it all, and so holding His hand, you will share in His victory; and at the last, according to the climax of His sevenfold promises, ‘To Him that overcometh will I give to sit down with Me on My throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with My Father on His Throne.’

5:1-5 True love for the people of God, may be distinguished from natural kindness or party attachments, by its being united with the love of God, and obedience to his commands. The same Holy Spirit that taught the love, will have taught obedience also; and that man cannot truly love the children of God, who, by habit, commits sin or neglects known duty. As God's commands are holy, just, and good rules of liberty and happiness, so those who are born of God and love him, do not count them grievous, but lament that they cannot serve him more perfectly. Self-denial is required, but true Christians have a principle which carries them above all hinderances. Though the conflict often is sharp, and the regenerate may be cast down, yet he will rise up and renew his combat with resolution. But all, except believers in Christ, are enslaved in some respect or other, to the customs, opinions, or interests of the world. Faith is the cause of victory, the means, the instrument, the spiritual armour by which we overcome. In and by faith we cleave to Christ, in contempt of, and in opposition to the world. Faith sanctifies the heart, and purifies it from those sensual lusts by which the world obtains sway and dominion over souls. It has the indwelling Spirit of grace, which is greater than he who dwells in the world. The real Christian overcomes the world by faith; he sees, in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth, that this world is to be renounced and overcome. He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ's example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin.For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world - The world, in its maxims, and precepts, and customs, does not rule him, but he is a freeman. The idea is, that there is a conflict between religion and the world, and that in the heart of every true Christian religion secures the victory, or triumphs. In John 16:33, the Saviour says, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." See the notes at that verse. He obtained a complete triumph over him "who rules the darkness of the world," and laid the foundation for a victory by his people over all vice, error, and sin. John makes this affirmation of all who are born of God. "Whatsoever," or, as the Greek is, "Everything which is begotten of God," (πᾶν τὸ γεγενημένον pan to gegenēmenon;) meaning to affirm, undoubtedly, that "in every instance" where one is truly regenerated, there is this victory over the world. See the James 4:4 note; 1 John 2:15-16 note. It is one of the settled maxims of religion, that every man who is a true Christian gains a victory over the world; and consequently a maxim as settled, that where the spirit of the world reigns supremely in the heart, there is no true religion. But, if this be a true principle, how many professed Christians are there who are strangers to all claims of piety - for how many are there who are wholly governed by the spirit of this world!

And this is the victory - This is the source or means of the victory which is thus achieved.

Even our faith - Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 John 5:5. He overcame the world, John 16:33, and it is by that faith which makes us one with him, and that imbues us with his Spirit, that we are able to do it also.

4. For—(See on [2650]1Jo 5:3). The reason why "His commandments are not grievous." Though there is a conflict in keeping them, the sue for the whole body of the regenerate is victory over every opposing influence; meanwhile there is a present joy to each believer in keeping them which makes them "not grievous."

whatsoever—Greek, "all that is begotten of God." The neuter expresses the universal whole, or aggregate of the regenerate, regarded as one collective body Joh 3:6; 6:37, 39, "where Bengel remarks, that in Jesus' discourses, what the Father has given Him is called, in the singular number and neuter gender, all whatsoever; those who come to the Son are described in the masculine gender and plural number, they all, or singular, every one. The Father has given, as it were, the whole mass to the Son, that all whom He gave may be one whole: that universal whole the Son singly evolves, in the execution of the divine plan."


the world—all that is opposed to keeping the commandments of God, or draws us off from God, in this world, including our corrupt flesh, on which the world's blandishments or threats act, as also including Satan, the prince of this world (Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

this is the victory that overcometh—Greek aorist, "… that hath (already) overcome the world": the victory (where faith is) hereby is implied as having been already obtained (1Jo 2:13; 4:4).

He explains himself, viz. that to one who is born of God his commandments are not grievous, because such a one, in that divine birth, hath received a life and nature that makes him far superior to this world, exalts him above it, makes him victorious over the worldly spirit, {as 1Jo 4:4} over all worldly desires, and fears, and hopes, and joys, which are the great hinderances of our obedience to God.

This is the victory; i.e. the instrument, the weapon, by which they overcome, and which virtually includes in itself this victory over the world, as effects are included in the power of their cause, is their

faith, that principle which in their regeneration (as above) is implanted in them.

For whatsoever is born of God,.... Which may be understood either of persons born; of God; or of the new creature, or principle of grace wrought in them, particularly faith hereafter mentioned, which is an heaven born grace, the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit: this

overcometh the world; the god of the world, Satan; the lusts which are in the world; false prophets gone forth into the world; and the wicked men of the world, who by temptations, snares, evil doctrines, threatenings, promises, and ill examples, would avert regenerate ones from observing the commands of God; but such are more than conquerors over all these, through Christ that has loved them:

and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions read, "your faith"; great things, heroic actions, and wonderful victories, are ascribed to faith; see Hebrews 11:33; which must not be understood of the grace itself, as separately considered, but of Christ the object of it, as supported, strengthened, assisted, and animated by him: and then it does wonders, when it is enabled to hold Christ, its shield, in its hand, against every enemy that opposes.

{5} For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: {6} and this is the victory that {e} overcometh the world, even our {f} faith.

(5) A reason: Because by regeneration we have received strength to overcome the world, that is to say, whatever strives against the commandments of God.

(6) He declares what that strength is, that is, faith.

(e) He uses the time that is past, to give us to understand, that although we are in the battle, yet undoubtedly we shall be conquerors, and are most certain of the victory.

(f) Which is the instrumental cause, and as a means and hand by which we lay hold on him, who indeed performs this, that is, has and does overcome the world, even Christ Jesus.

1 John 5:4. Confirmation of the preceding thought.

πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ] The neuter is used here as in Gospel of John 3:6; John 6:37; John 17:2; it serves “to bring out the general category;” see Meyer on John 3:6; comp. Winer, p. 160; according to the sense = πάντες οἱ κ.τ.λ.; it is not the disposition, but persons that are meant. Quite erroneous is the remark of Baumgarten-Crusius: “the γεγενν. ἐκ τ. Θ. has here only an external signification: whatever has the position of God’s children.”

νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον] for: μείζων ἐστὶν ὁ ἐν αὐτοῖς, ἢ ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, chap. 1 John 4:4.

νικᾷ is the simple present; in the conflict between the κόσμος and him who is born of God, the latter is constantly gaining the victory. Baumgarten-Crusius unsatisfactorily explains νικᾷν by “to keep oneself innocent;” this does not exhaust the idea of victory; that is not obtained when we take our stand against the enemy, but only when the enemy is overcome. The completion of the victory in its full sense certainly only takes place with the second coming of Christ.

Rickli and de Wette explain κόσμος by “love of the world and of self;” better Lücke, Calvin, Sander, Düsterdieck, Brückner, etc.: “all that strives against the will of God within and without man;” but even this is too abstract. It is the kingdom of the wicked one which, under its prince the devil, striving against the kingdom of God, seeks to tempt the believer to unbelief and disobedience to the divine commands.

As the apostle wants to show how he that is born of God overcomes the world, he continues: καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν. The pronoun αὕτη refers to ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν, which in its import is no other than the πίστις, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστὶν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, 1 John 5:5. The expression is peculiar, inasmuch as faith is described as the νίκη itself, and the νικᾷν is ascribed to it. Lorinus rightly remarks: victoria proprie non vincit, sed comparatur pugnando, sed energiam continet ea formula, denotans in quo sita sit vincendi ratio, unde victoria parta.[296] The aorist ΝΙΚΉΣΑΣΑ is not to be turned into the present (a Lapide, Lorinus, Grotius, etc.); even though the victory is a continuous one, in which every believer is constantly taking part, the aorist nevertheless indicates that faith from the beginning overcame the world. The explanation of Baumgarten-Crusius: “it is already victory won that ye have become believers” (similarly Neander), is incorrect; it is not here intended to commend faith as the result of a fight, but as that which fights, and which has won the victory; hence the active Ἡ ΝΙΚΉΣΑΣΑ (so also Braune).

[296] Ebrard opposes this explanation with the arbitrary statement that ἡ νίκη “is the action which conquers the world” (!).

1 John 5:4. The reason why “His commandments are not heavy”. Punctuate οὐκ εἰσίν, ὅτι πᾶν, κ.τ.λ. The neut. (πᾶν τὸ γεγ.) expresses the universality of the principle, “drückt die unbedingte Allgemeinheit noch stärker aus als ‘Jeder, der aus Gott geboren ist’ ” (Rothe). Cf. John 3:6. τὸν κόσμον, the sum of all the forces antagonistic to the spiritual life. “Our faith” conquers the world by clinging to the eternal realities. “Every common day, he who would be a live child of the living has to fight the God-denying look of things, to believe that, in spite of their look, they are God’s, and God is in them, and working his saving will in them” (Geo. MacDonald, Castle Warlock, xli.). St. John says first “is conquering” (νικᾷ) because the fight is in progress, then “that conquered” (ἡ νικήσασα) because the triumph is assured.

4. Reason why keeping even the difficult commandment of loving others rather than oneself is not a grievous burden. It is the world and its ways which makes the Divine commands grievous, and the new birth involved in faith gives us a new unworldly nature and a strength which conquers the world.

For whatsoever is born of God] Or, Because whatsoever is begotten of God: see on 1 John 5:1. The collective neuter, ‘whatsoever’, gives the principle a wide sweep by stating it in its most abstract form: comp. John 6:37; John 17:2. Moreover, whereas the masculine would make the victorious person prominent, the neuter emphasizes rather the victorious power. It is not the man, but his birth from God, which conquers. In 1 John 5:1 we had the masculine and in 1 John 5:18 return to the masculine again. In all three cases we have the perfect, not the aorist, participle. It is not the mere fact of having received the Divine birth that is insisted on, but the permanent results of the birth. Comp. John 3:6; John 3:8, where we have the same tense and a similar change from neuter to masculine.

this is the victory that overcometh] Better, the victory that overcame the world is this (see on 1 John 1:5): aorist, of a victory won once for all. Faith, which is ‘the proof of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1) which ‘are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18), has conquered the world which is visible and ‘is passing away’ (1 John 2:17). Faith is both the victory and the victor. Under the influence of the Vulgate’s vincit, Wiclif, Luther, Tyndale and many others all have the present tense here. In the faith which has won a decisive victory the believer goes on conquering. ‘Victory’ (νίκη) occurs nowhere else in N.T.

1 John 5:4. Πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον, everything which is born) John 3:6, note.—τὸν κόσμον, the world) which is opposed to keeping the commandments of God and to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and all things which the world presents in one’s way to invite and terrify.—ἡ νίκη, the victory) The more faith grows strong in the heart, the more does the world yield.—ἡ πίστις, faith) See the efficacy of faith.

Verse 4. - Reason for the preceding statement: the opposition which causes the difficulty is already overcome. Nothing, however, is gained by transferring the full stop from the end of verse 3 to the middle of verse 4, any more than from the end of verse 2 to the middle of verse 3. The punctuation of the Authorized Version and the Revised Version is to be preferred. It is the world that hinders obedience to God's commandments and makes them seem grievous. But everywhere God's children πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον, as in John 6:37, 39; John 17:2) conquer the world, and that by means of faith. The aorist ἡ νικήσασα marks the victory as already won and complete: "the victory that hath vanquished the world is this - our faith." 1 John 5:4Overcometh (νικᾷ)

See on 1 John 2:13.

The victory (ἡ νίκη)

Only here in the New Testament.

That overcometh (ἡ νικήσασα)

The aorist tense, overcame. On the cumulative form of expression, the victory, that which overcame, see on 1 John 4:9. The aorist is to be held here to its strict sense. The victory over the world was, potentially, won when we believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. We overcome the world by being brought into union with Christ. On becoming as He is (1 John 3:17) we become partakers of His victory (John 16:33). "Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Our faith (πίστις ἡμῶν)

Πίστις faith, only here in John's Epistles and not in the Gospel. Our faith is embraced in the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. On the question of the subjective and objective use of the faith, see on Acts 6:7.

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