“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” ~ 1 John 5:4-5
Explanation of the Text: The believer, one who is truly born of God, lives a double life. Like an immigrant living in a foreign nation, the believer lives on earth but his or her citizenship is in heaven. He or she will appear different, act different, and have a different mindset than the culture because he or she is a stranger in a foreign land. This is the the life of a believer: living as a stranger anticipating a reunion in our homeland with family.
John tells us that those who have been born of God have overcome the world. The world according to Paul is evil (Galatians 1:4) and full of wise men, scholars, and philosophers who are are fools according to the ways of heaven (1 Corinthians 1:18-30). John writes later in the epistle that this world is dangerous (1 John 5:19). But believers have overcome the world.
In chapters two and three of Revelation, John indicates that believers are overcomes with repeated emphasis (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 15, 21). We have overcome this evil and dangerous world. Victory is not just anticipated, it is certain. There is no other option for a believer.
Examination & Application of the Text: John rhetorically asks, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” in verse 5. John Phillips writes, “Once that great truth is enthroned in our hearts, our attitude towards this world changes. We see the world as He saw it and the world sees us as it saw Him, and a great gulf is fixed” (1). As they hated Christ, we can expect that they will hate those who follow Him.
John offers hope to the believer though. He indicates that we have overcome the world. Our victory comes through Jesus Christ because we have been filled with Him (Colossians 2:10). As the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-25), we live in that power and wisdom because it lives in us. Therefore, we have no reason to fear the world, but instead we have overcome it through His power and wisdom.
We have overcome the world because Christ has also overcome the world. And so we are reminded of Jesus’ words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
(1) John Phillips, Exploring the Epistles of John, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003), 162.