1 John 5:4, 5
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, etc. St. John here presents the victorious life in four aspects.
I. IN ITS ORIGIN. "Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world." The true Christian is "born anew;" he is "born of the Spirit;" he "is begotten of God." This relationship involves:
1. Participation in the life of God, especially the life of love (cf. 1 John 4:7).
2. Resemblance to the character of God.
3. Possession of the filial spirit in relation to God.
4. The title to a glorious inheritance from God. "We are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16, 17); God "hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible," etc. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
II. IN ITS CONFLICT. Our text speaks of overcoming, and overcoming is suggestive of struggle. "Victory" implies combat. The Divine life in man and the life of the ungodly world are essentially antagonistic. Satan is "the prince of this world" - "the god of this world." "St. John constantly teaches," says Canon Liddon, "that the Christian's work in this state of probation is to conquer 'the world.' It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral and specious intellectual falsehood which is marshaled and organized by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires non-Christianized society. The world's force is seen especially in ' the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eyes, and in the pride of life.' These three forms of concupiscence manifest the inner life of the world," and against them the Christian has to contend. It is the battle of truth against error, of light against darkness, and of love against hatred.
III. IN ITS CONQUEST. "Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." The Divine life in the children of God is by its nature mightier than the life and spirit of the unchristian world. There is conflict, but the conflict issues in the victory of the child of God. He is not overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good. He is not led astray by "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the vain-glory of life," but rises superior to them. In proportion as he who "is begotten of God" participates in the life of God, he vanquishes the world and its temptations, both its seductions and its tribulations. And all the evil world, of which the apostle wrote, is destined to be completely conquered by the life of God working in and through men.
IV. IN THE SECRET OF ITS POWER. "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Notice:
1. The nature of this faith. It is not the mere intellectual acceptation of a theological proposition or propositions; "not that heartless assent which never touches the practice nor moulds the affections." This faith is quite as much a moral as an intellectual act; it is of the heart as well as of the head; and it infuses courage, moulds character, and directs conduct.
2. The Object of this faith. "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
(1) Faith in Jesus as truly human. St. John, in thus mentioning Jesus, evidently took for granted that his readers believed in the reality of his human life. We must believe in him as toiling and tired, tempted and tried, suffering and sorrowful, persecuted and crucified, risen and ascended. Yet he was never the vanquished, but always the Victor. Even on the cross he conquered.
(2) Faith in Jesus as essentially Divine. Not that he is a son of God, but "that Jesus is the Son of God" - "His only begotten Son" (1 John 4:9). If the Christian would overcome the world, "he must have a strong faith," as Canon Liddon says - "a faith in a Divine Saviour. This faith, which introduces the soul to communion with God in light, attained through communion with his blessed Son, exhibits the world in its true colours. The soul spurns the world as she clings believingly to the Divine Son." We have said that Jesus was always victorious. As we truly believe in him, we are partakers of his life and sharers in his victory. This is in accordance with his own word to his disciples: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Says Dr. Stier, "Our faith in him is the victory which has already overcome the world. 'The conflict and suffering which we now have is not the real war, but only the celebration, a part of the glory, of this victory (Luther)." So St. Paul, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me."
3. The exclusiveness of this faith as the means of victory over the world. "Who is he that overcometh the world, See this and the following points more fully stated in our homily on 1 John 3:1. On the meaning of" the world" in this Epistle, see our homily on 1 John 2:15-17. but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" The complete victory over the world can be attained only by genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.