"V" is for Victory
What does it look like to have victory in Jesus Christ? It can often seem like we're fighting an uphill battle in this world. Join Dr. Marty Baker as we unpack 1 John 5:1-5 and understand that in Jesus, we have overcome the world.
Some twenty years after I graduated from High School, I received a phone call from a man who said we grew up together.
“Say, Marty, do you know who this is?” he asked.
“No, I have absolutely no idea. Your voice doesn’t even sound familiar, but if you say we grew up together then I’m sure your voice has changed,” I replied.
Then he added a clue, “Well, we used to debate all the time whether God existed or not. I, an atheist, just didn’t believe in a divine being like you, so we talked occasionally about the subject over the years.
“Ah, this is Craig Bischke. How in the world did you find me after all these years, and why are you calling me?” I said in utter shock.
“Well,” he continued, “I just wanted to let you know that when I graduated from High School two years ahead of you in 1974, I joined the U.S. Navy. Eventually, I wound up on a submarine for months at a time under various world oceans. Occasionally the officers gave us bunk time, so since I didn’t really have anything else to do, I took you up on your frequent challenge to actually read the Bible I had rejected outright. I’m just calling you tonight to tell you all those debates and discussions, coupled with the reading of the Bible led to me trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. I’m out of the Navy now and have a great family and a wonderful job, and I also use my guitar ability and voice to lead worship and a Bible study at a local men’s prison. I serve in my local church as a deacon, too. Again, I thought you might like to know what happened to me.”
Ever had tears just suddenly fill your eyes? That’s what happened to me as I held the phone that night. Had Craig not called me, I wouldn’t have found out he became a believer and follower of the Lord God. But sometimes the Lord gives you, the evangelist, a glimpse of how His word, His gospel does not return void. Yes, sometimes it takes years for the spiritual sleeper to awaken to the fact God not only exists, but He came to earth to pay the penalty for our sin and to rise as a victor over sin and death on the third day. Hearing how Craig had gone from a spiritual loser to a spiritual victor instantly became one of those memorable spiritual moments of my life.
I have a hunch there just might be a Craig listening to this message right now, either in the worship center or on-line. You have rejected God for years, but you know you have hidden your unbelief behind a wall of arguments you know have serious flaws and logical inconsistencies. You have accomplished much in life, and are quite successful by the world’s standards; however, deep in your heart and mind, you know you are unhappy and restless because none of what you possess brings you peace as the road of your life narrows.
So, you are searching, and God, unbeknownst to you, is drawing you to Himself. A Christian friend here, a sermon there, a book here, a chance encounter with a believer there, and slowly and surely the God who created you is teaching you. What’s He saying? He’s telling you you have a sin problem above all things. He’s also telling you He has the only solution for your spiritual issue. It’s called a faith relationship with His Son who lived, died, and rose again so you might have forgiveness and a new life in the here and now and in the hereafter (Rom. 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 5:17). The moment you embrace His Son in faith you move, like Craig did, from being a spiritual loser to being a spiritual victor.
What are you waiting for?
Pastor John wrote to seven churches that had their fair share of Craig-types. These folks had left the false belief systems of their day in Asia Minor and embraced faith in the Lord Jesus, the true and only Savior. They attended one of these area churches and grew and flourished in their faith; however, their faith was challenged when false teachers slipped in among them and started teaching concepts that contradicted sound doctrine, while also serving to pit them against each other. As they fought among themselves, they looked more like spiritual losers than winners, so their pastor paused in the fifth chapter of his short letter to them to remind them of what their Lord wanted from them.
Here’s is what the Lord desired for them, and for us:
Christ Wants You To Be A Spiritual Victor, Not A Loser (1 John 5:1-5)
First and foremost, John’s counsel here is for the believer to remember who they are and to act accordingly in the local body. Secondarily, there is a definite word here for those, like Craig, who are searching for hope, life meaning, and peace. May we each receive from the Spirit what He desires to give us.
Within the first three verses, we encounter John’s opening substantive supportive point:
The Victor’s Path (1 John 5:1-3)
The arbitrary chapter division here is most unfortunate for John is still talking about the importance of brotherly love he spoke about in detail in chapter 4, verses 7 through 21. In the ensuing verses, he attempts to look at the motivation to love other believers from the standpoint of a spiritual victor.
1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
Contrary to what the false Gnostic teachers communicated in the churches, anyone is a Christian based on their simple, child-like faith in the fact that Jesus is the divine Christ, the Messiah. You don’t have to do ritualistic works to be saved, you don’t have to pray pre-written prayers, nor do you have to believe all the extra concepts false teachers add to the gospel. You simply need to believe Jesus is the divine Christ.
Let’s break this verse down.
First, John says “whoever believes.” In Greek, the word for “whoever” is pas ( Πᾶς), or the word all or everyone. God doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, connected or unconnected, from this race or that race. He sent His dear Son to die and rise again from the grave for every person. You catch the “whoever” nature of the gospel in John’s gospel (John 3:15-16; 4:14). As the old hymn says, “There is room at the cross for you. Though millions have come, there is still room for one.”
Second, John teaches how being born spiritually of God is directly wedded to belief in Jesus as the Christ. What is belief? Does it mean you check your brain at the door to be saved? No. Regarding this, the Christian apologist and philosopher J. P. Moreland correctly asserts, “The Fall brought about the perversion of human faculties, but it did not destroy those faculties. Human reasoning abilities are affected but not eliminated. This can be seen in the fact that the writers of Scripture often appeal to the minds of unbelievers by citing evidence on behalf of their claims, using logical inferences in building their case and speaking in the language and thought forms of those outside the faith.” Reason alone, however, does not save. Salvation is based on faith, which is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). Reason can only go so far, and that is when faith kicks in to cause a person to freely believe in what reason laid the groundwork. Craig is a living illustration of this. The evidence of God’s existence and the life and resurrection of Jesus gave him reasons to believe, and at one point he moved from the evidence he could see to the God he could not see. What will you do with the reasons God has given you to believe?
Third, John emphatically declares that in order for belief to move a spiritual loser to become a spiritual victor it must be focused on the right content: Jesus is not “a” Christ, but “the” Christ. This, of course, is the monadic use of the article before Christ’s name. He is the one and only and there is no other. The term, Messiah, denoted using oil in Old Testament times to set apart prophets, priests, and kings for the work of God (Lev. 4:3; 2 Sam. 19:21). Progressive OT revelation eventually foretold of the divine Messiah (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:1-2), who would come and establish the Davidic empire of peace (Dan. 2; 7), as well as provide salvation for sinners (Isa. 53). Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3 reveal how Jesus fulfilled the Davidic role of the Messiah through both his father and mother. His words and His miraculous works merely buttressed the fact He was, in fact, the long-awaited divine Messiah and Savior (John 7:31; 14:7ff). His fulfillment of sixty exact prophecies, many uttered between 1,000 and 500 years before His birth serves to give you all the reason you need to confess that Jesus was/is the Christ. Mark Water breaks down the impact of these prophecies in a powerful mathematical fashion:
The Bible contains hundreds of detailed prophecies. Over 60 prophecies in the Old Testament are distinct predictions about Jesus. Some of these prophecies were made 1,000 years before Jesus lived his life on earth. Many of these prophecies concern Jesus’ crucifixion. These prophecies were made over 500 years before crucifixion was first used anywhere in the world as a form of capital punishment.
Could it just be a fluke that Jesus fulfilled all these prophecies?
A scientist picked out 48 such prophecies and determined that the probability of one man randomly fulfilling them all is 1 in 10 to the exponent of 157. That is 1 followed by 157 zeros!
Your chances of winning a typical lottery jackpot is about 1 in 108,000,000. Yet, Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies.
Jaw-dropping stats. Anyone who allows this evidence to move them to faith in Jesus as the Christ is born again, to use John’s terminology. What will you do with this data? Will you embrace or efface it?
Fourth, when you, by reason followed by faith, believe Jesus was the Messiah, you are “born of God” The verb (γεγέννηται) is a perfect passive denoting two things: one, a past act with an abiding result, and two, the subject (you) are acted upon by an outside force (God). This tells us several things. One, we are all born spiritually dead, losers as it were, before a holy, living God. Paul sums this theological/spiritual situation up well when he reminded the Ephesian believers whom they used to be:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph. 2).
Spiritual death was their lot, as it is for any unbeliever.
At the moment of faith, however, God did a wondrous thing for them:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ . . . by grace you have been saved, 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, (Eph. 2).
He waits to do the same for you. Two, this is why John employs a passive verb here to denote how you can’t save yourself. God must do it. Three, the perfect nature of the verb, as I said, speaks of a past act (your faith) with an abiding, uninterrupted result, meaning your salvation is secure until you see God face to face. Just as a baby’s birth cannot be reversed or abolished, neither can your spiritual birth.
This, my friend, is the path of a spiritual victor. Does it describe you? If not, the Messiah has room at the foot of His blood-stained cross for you.
As you might expect, there is more to the spiritual path of the spiritual victor. The last part of verse one, followed by verses two through three, tell us this much:
1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Please, follow John’s reasoning.
If you love the Holy Father who sent the Son to be the Messiah/Savior, you, by definition, love spiritual children born by their faith in this redemptive work. Think about this pragmatically. You love your earthly father; hence, you have a special love (or should have, logically speaking) for your earthly brother or sister because they are directly related to your father. It’s just natural to love an earthly sibling. It’s, therefore, natural to love a spiritual sibling. In fact, you can tell how much you love the Father by how much you love His children. What does this litmus test tell you about your spiritual maturity? Is your Christian walk one of constant chaos you blame on other believers? Do you drag your chaos with you every time you change churches . . . only to blame everyone else for the fact you don’t quite get along?
With verse 2, John gets to the heart of the matter. How do you, a spiritual victor because of your faith in the person and work of Jesus, really know you love other believers? Two things: one, we love God, and two, we observe His commandments. Loving God, of course, is directly wedded to your lifestyle of observing what He commanded. As Jesus said once, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). What could be clearer? Note, Jesus said you would keep His commandments, which is plural, not singular. This is a tall order, but quite doable because you have the Holy Spirit to empower you (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 5:18-25; 1 John 2:20). Just what are those commandments of Jesus? You can start with all those listed in His first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. When you observe them, you show you love God, and because you love God, you also demonstrate you love other believers too. So, let’s get real and honest. How are you faring in being obedient daily to the Lord’s commands? The more you submit the great love you will have for others for you will be living life as He designed it to be.
I really appreciate John because he asks questions everyone is thinking. “Are God’s commands burdensome?” “Are God’s commands like heavy rocks put in the rucksack of your life?” “No,” is John’s grandfatherly reply from a life of being obedient to God. They are enjoyable as opposed to burdensome. Why? When you follow God’s commands you know you are doing the right thing in your heart and mind. Additionally, God’s commands aren’t a heavy burden because you seek to fulfill them because you love Him. On an earthly plane, I never found my father’s commands a burden because I loved him and I knew his commands were the best for me. What’s true with your earthly father most certainly applies to your spiritual, heavenly Father, God.
All of this, my friend, is the path of the spiritual victor. Are you a victor? Awesome. If not, realize the Savior’s hand is lovingly stretched out to your now as He awaits to receive you.
For those who are, or become, spiritual victors, God gives you an amazing life beyond anything you could have dreamed up:
The Victor’s Power (1 John 5:4-5)
First, I invite you to read the text.
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. 5 And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5).
The world, cosmos, denotes the world which is controlled by the Devil (Eph. 2:1-2), and is driven by sin to be covertly and overtly hostile to God and the people of God. As Gingrich informs us in his lexicon:
κόσμος, ου, ὁ—1. adornment, adorning 1 Pt 3:3.—2. world, in many senses—a. the world in its most inclusive sense, the (orderly) universe Mt 25:34; J 17:5 Ac 17:24; Ro 1:20; 1 Cor 8:4; Phil 2:15; Hb 4:3.—b. the world as the earth, the planet on which we live Mt 4:8; Mk 14:9; Lk 12:30; J 10:36; 11:9, 27; 16:21, 28; 18:36; 1 Ti 6:7; 1 Pt 5:9; Rv 11:15.—c. the world as humanity in general Mt 18:7; J 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:33, 51; 8:12; 12:19; 17:6; 18:20; Ro 3:6, 19; 1 Cor 4:13; 2 Pt 2:5.—d. the world as the scene of earthly possessions, joys, sufferings, etc. Mt 16:26; Mk 8:36; Lk 9:25; 1 Cor 7:31a, 33f; 1 J 2:15f; 3:17.—e. the world is sometimes spoken of as that which is hostile to God, lost in sin, ruined, depraved J 7:7; 8:23; 12:31; 15:18f; 16:33; 17:25; 18:36; 1 Cor 2:12; 3:19; 11:32; 2 Cor 5:19; Gal 6:14; Js 1:27; 1 J 4:17; 5:4f, 19.—f. the world as totality, sum total Js 3:6. [cosmos].
Every facet of the world has varying degrees of hostility to God. College campuses don’t like Christian clubs. Sociology professors don’t like Christians who write papers on sociological concepts from a biblical standpoint. Athletic teams like to party hard after games, and have little toleration for those who won’t join them. Politicians can’t stand those who stand up for absolute morality, justice, and truth, and won’t bend and twist everything we once held dear. Teachers don’t want Christian parents standing up for the indoctrination of their children before school boards. Non-Christian high school cliques live for using peer pressure to motivate believers to compromise their morals to fit in. Casinos promise you fun and potential reward as you gamble away your hard earnings. Pornography promises you momentary pleasure, but leaves you enslaved in the end. Sexual deviants want to pollute everything which represents faith, morality, and what constitutes a family. And so on and so forth. The world is hostile on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. It is there to tempt you, to wear you down so you compromise your faith, to mock you when you won’t give up your principles, and to present you as out-of-step with where everyone else is headed.
Yet, the believer is the ultimate victor by means of his/her faith. The moment you believed you overcame the world insofar as you switched kingdoms. You left the kingdom of sin and darkness, and entered the kingdom of light and true life. I’m sure the demon assigned to you wasn’t too excited when you made the change at the moment of faith, but now he and his minions knows you have the power to live a life of victory: victory over temptation, victory over your sordid past, victory over your baggage, victory over your addictions, and so on. You are no longer a spiritual loser, but a victor. Don’t you believe the world when they tell you likewise.
Does this mean you will only ever know victory in this life? No. The fact John has told some of the saints in these churches to stop hating each other is a case in point (1 John 2:9-22). Even Euodia and Syntyche, who had been great workers in the local Philippian church, had Paul imploring them, as Christian sisters, to stop fighting and be of the same mind (Phil. 4:1-3). Positionally, your faith makes you a spiritual victor for all time and eternity. Practically, however, you have to obey God’s commands by faith in order to win victories. Hence, when the world tells you to hate your enemies, God commands you to reach out to them in love (Luke 6:35-36). When you reach out in total faith and love them anyway, you just became a spiritual victor in God’s eyes.
In my first church, I had two soldiers who were former enemies.
Ivan Harper was a U.S. Army soldier. Walking through the woods one day in France with a buddy on his left and right, a machine gun opened up and sprayed them. Only Ivan lived that day, and he stood there helplessly as the Germans came out and surrounded him. Eventually, they shoved him onto a prisoner of war train. Since he was short, he had a hard time jumping up in to the door of the moving car. As he struggled, a German soldier used his rifle butt to knock the little man into the dirty, dingy car. That one action caused him to lose two fingers because they were still holding on to the door “handle” at the moment of impact. Later he wound up in the infirmary of the prisoner of war camp. One-night, loud noises and gunfire awakened him. The Russians overran the camp, and it didn’t take long before the head Russian officer came into the infirmary to inform the wounded American soldiers of their liberation. His version of liberation involved stealing anything of worth these men had. That’s the night Ivan lost his coveted watch as the officer placed his hand on his sidearm and pointed to the watch on the nightstand. If anyone could have hated Germans, it was Ivan.
Gerhard Schirling was a member of the Nazi party and served as an infantryman in the German army. He fought against men like Ivan.
Yet both men sat in church as brothers in Christ. Both had become spiritual victors. Both had done the unthinkable, the unimaginable: they loved each other despite their war-time histories. Both let evil, injustice, and cruelty go as they served Jesus beside each other. Such is the wonder of a life transformed by faith in the Messiah, Jesus.
To the spiritual victors among us, I encourage you. Whatever this old, sinful world can hurl at you never forget you are a victor before God because of your faith, and He will give you victory as you live by faith.
And for those who are like my friend, Craig, when I was younger, I know the Lord is putting you in a tight, trying position where you will be moved to consider why placing your faith in Him is the most reasonable, logical, and important step you will ever take. Spiritual victory awaits you. Do not delay in receiving it by means of a faith relationship with Christ for no man knows the time when God calls him home.
 J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003), 18.
 Gingrich, Greek NT Lexicon, p. 112.