Victorious in Christ

1 John 5:1–12

Most people involved in sports know the name Nike. It brings to mind a brand of clothing and sports equipment easily identified by a logo with a checkmark.

Nike is actually a Greek word (nikao) meaning “overcomer.” The ancient Greeks used it when referring to athletic or military victories.

The apostle John used the word overcomer more than any New Testament writer when speaking of the Christian’s victorious life in Christ (1 Jn. 5:4–5), Jesus’ victory overcoming the satanic world system (Jn. 16:33), and Christian overcomers in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2—3).

The apostle Paul used the word when referring to Christians who live victoriously through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:57).

In 1 John 5:1–12, John revealed what it means to be an overcomer in Jesus Christ.

Trust in Christ
John linked saving faith with love for God and other Christians: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (1 Jn. 5:1).

The phrase whoever believes encompasses everyone who has trusted Christ for salvation. It implies more than giving mere lip service or mental assent to some statement of faith. It means believing “Jesus is the Christ,” God incarnate (the God-Man), and committing one’s life to Him as personal Savior. This is something heretics are not willing to do.

In other words, believers accept Jesus as coequal with and of the same essence as the Father (cf. Jn. 10:30–33).

Someone who is born again possesses a new love for God the Father, who begot him, and for all other Christians, who are “begotten of Him.” Love, expressed toward God and other believers, strongly indicates a person’s faith in Christ and place in the family of God.

John also revealed how a believer’s love is authenticated and demonstrated: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:2–3).

Christians cannot truly love God without loving other Christians. The reverse is also true: One cannot truly love a fellow Christian without loving God.

True love for both involves a willingness to lay down one’s life for a Christian brother, if called on to do so (1 Jn. 3:16), and to surrender one’s self as a living sacrifice to God (cf. Rom. 12:1). Without love for others, the proclamation of love for God is false.

In addition, genuine love must be linked to obedience by “keep[ing] His [God’s] commandments [New Testament commandments given by Christ]” (1 Jn. 5:3). The connection between love and obedience transcends emotional feelings about God and other Christians. Obedience means living out the commandments. John reminded believers, “His [God’s] commandments are not burdensome [grievous or heavy]” (v. 3; cf. Mt. 11:28–30).

Unlike the Pharisees’ rules, God’s commandments do not weigh people down, sapping their strength with grueling legalities that make serving God burdensome and almost impossible.

In fact, the opposite is true. When obedient to God’s commandments, Christians experience great inner joy, peace, and freedom that only Christ can provide (cf. Rom. 12:2). They come to realize that obeying God provides security, safety, and spiritual fulfillment like nothing else in life.

Triumphant in Christ
John also revealed that believers can live victorious lives that overcome the world:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn. 5:4–5).

The word whatever should be translated “all” or “every” person “born of God,” meaning all true Christians are victorious over the world. Anyone who has been “born of God” is considered an “overcomer” (is victorious) over the evil world system by virtue of his faith in Christ.

The phrase our faith does not refer to a believer’s self-effort in exercising personal faith battling the world’s demonic forces but, rather, to the believer’s faith in Jesus, who overcame the world through His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead (cf. Jn. 16:33).

In other words, gaining victory over the world is not something a Christian does; victory is what Christ accomplished for believers. People who are born again are victorious over the world for three reasons:

  1. They are linked to Christ’s victory over the world.
  2. They have a new relationship with God the Father in love and obedience to His commands.
  3. They have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who provides the power to be victorious over temptation and this evil world system.

In 1 John 5:5, John asked a rhetorical question that reaffirmed what he said in verse 4: “Who is he who overcomes the world?”

The answer is, “He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 5). You cannot overcome this evil world through self-effort but only through Jesus Christ (cf. Jn. 16:33).

Paul wrote that nothing can ever separate a believer from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord and that he was victorious in Him (cf. Rom. 8:37–39; 1 Cor. 15:57).

Testimony About Christ
John previously provided personal testimony that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God (1 Jn. 1:2–3). Here he confirmed this historical fact by the testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit: “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood” (5:6).

Jesus’ historical appearance as the Messiah was by “water and blood.”

Some believe this text refers to the blood and water poured out at the crucifixion when Christ was pierced (Jn. 19:34–35). Others teach it refers to baptism (water) and the Lord’s Supper (blood). Still others believe it refers to the inauguration and consummation of Christ’s ministry.

The latter position seems to be the teaching of Scripture. Jesus’ baptism formally inaugurated Him as the Messiah and was testified to by the Holy Spirit and the audible voice of God the Father (cf. Mt. 3:16–17). His ministry was consummated on the cross when He said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

Along with the “water” and “blood,” Jesus’ testimony as the God-Man is explicitly linked to the Holy Spirit as a third witness: “And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 Jn. 5:6).

John shows the agreement within the three testimonies:

For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.1 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one (vv. 7–8).

The Old Testament Law required two or three witnesses to testify on any given issue to establish the truth concerning a matter (Dt. 19:15). Scripture abundantly validates that God the Father, the Word (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit are in one accord that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God.

Both the Father and Holy Spirit confirmed Christ as the God-Man at both His baptism and crucifixion, and they continually bear testimony to the fact of His incarnation.

When John added “these three agree as one,” he emphasized that all these witnesses agree completely that Jesus Christ is eternally the divine Son of God.

God’s witness of Christ’s deity is greater than man’s: “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son” (1 Jn. 5:9).

God’s witness is trustworthy and far transcends the authenticated witness of man. The triune God originated and orchestrated Jesus’ pilgrimage on Earth, and Jesus provided convincing testimony through His life and sacrifice that He is the divine Son of God.

The phrase has testified of His Son indicates God has placed Himself permanently on record as affirming Jesus’ deity.

This fact is indeed a condemning witness against the false testimonies at Jesus’ trial and all the false teachings (i.e., Gnosticism, Cerinthianism, and Docetism) that repudiate His deity then and now.

God’s testimony demands that one accept it or reject it:

He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son (v. 10).

Accepting it means you believe God’s testimony and sincerely commit your life to the incarnate Lord and Savior.

Rejecting it means you are calling God “a liar” and are attacking the very essence, nature, and character of the Almighty Himself.

Such a stance is the epitome or embodiment of evil. It is satanically inspired and contradicts the Word of the one true God, constituting the worse kind of evil a person can commit against Him. It is the stance of an individual who not only rejects Jesus Christ but also continually refuses to accept God’s testimony of His Son.

God’s witness is of great importance: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life” (vv. 11–12).

The outcome of believing and accepting God’s testimony about His Son results in being “born of God” (v. 1) and eternal life. Thus eternal life is obtainable only through a Person, not through a religious system of man’s invention or by doing good works to try to acquire favor with God. Nor is eternal life something you hope to receive in the future; it is a present possession (“God has given”) in life now that lasts forever.

Conversely, “He who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (v. 12). Without Christ, no person alive today possesses any spiritual life whatsoever; he or she is spiritually dead. This is a sobering warning that needs to be taken seriously.

No one put it clearer than Jesus Himself when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). If you have not placed your faith in Christ, perhaps today is the day to make that decision.

ENDNOTE
  1. Verse 7 is not in some Greek texts.

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