“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” – 1 John 5:3-4 (ESV)
Just yesterday we read the promise of Jesus that His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He offers to teach us how this is true. Today’s passage is from John the Apostle who continues the same promise. If we love God as He calls us to, we show that love by keeping the commandments He gives us. Not many of us bow gracefully on our own under the commandments or restrictions that are laid upon us. We do not like the idea of being told by someone what we are to do. It can be difficult to buckle under to the mandates and the laws made by men. But not so with God’s commandments. It is our love of God that relieves us of any weight from keeping His commandments. Today’s promise is that God’s commandments are NOT burdensome. Why is this true? Because having been born of God we overcome the difficulties of obedience to God. What seems insurmountable we now overcome and we have our victory in this struggle. What is that victory? It is our faith in God. By faith we believe and this victory becomes ours. It’s how we love God and each other
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 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 5:3-5 (ESV)
The Apostle John emphasized what he has written by saying it again because obedience is a characteristic of an overcomer. It is overcomers that are victorious. In the first five verses of 1 John 5 John weaves faith, love, obedience all together inextricably. It is a dynamic relationship and the genuine proof of love is obedience just as the genuine proof of faith is love. The word “keep” is one that means ‘guarding by constant obedience.’ A special promise is here for us in these verses, along with several others, is that keeping His commandments are not burdensome. We can do it because God has promised to help. Unless of course, we try to do so all by ourself in our own strength and using our own reasoning. Every other religion in the world has commands to obey to please their system but offers no spiritual help in doing so. The Christian has the Spirit of God alongside. We overcome by being yoked to Jesus who makes our burden light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We confirm ourselves to be overcomers not by our works but by faith believing that Jesus is the Son of God.
“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 (ESV)
We again find a promise in the first letter by the apostle John written to the believers in the surrounding churches. As the pastor/teacher to the congregation in Ephesus, his concern was for all those who believed in Christ and who were beset by false teachers and pressures of the world. Christians who truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior need to know that they are overcomers of evil. They need to know why and how they are overcomers. This promise tells us. Those born of God, everyone who is a child of God overcome the world. Jesus has made that possible and a fact in our lives. It is said very clearly right here, “this is our victory and we have overcome the world because of our faith.” Then, as John has done throughout this letter he emphasized by saying it again more forcefully. Take this as for each of us. Who overcomes the world? Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Unless a person believes that Jesus is who He said He was, they are out. But those who do believe Jesus, have already overcome the world in Him.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” … “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:1 & 4 (ESV)
The first letter written by the apostle John that we have in our Bible is a powerful letter of truth. A great amount of encouragement is given to those who have by faith, believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. When we accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness and in faith believe that He is our Lord and Savior, we overcome the false teaching and false teachers. They are everywhere and we must be on our guard not to be tripped up by them. In another verse we share today from John’s letter is this: “I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14 (ESV) We know that all who believe and have the word of God abiding in them have by God’s will the strength to overcome evil. Since John addresses “little children” and “fathers” and “young men” we know that none are excluded from this promise. All faith believers overcome evil and false teaching. All are made strong in God love.
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” – 1 John 2:12-13 (ESV)
It seems best to view John’s division and categories to be referring to all who would hear this letter read. Each experience attributed to them is appropriate to the category named. As one of God’s “children,” we have experienced forgiveness through grace from our heavenly Father. As “fathers,” we have had an experience that connects us to eternity past, since we have known Him who is always from eternity with no beginning. (In the light of 1 John 2:3–6, this indicates we have a true relationship with God.) As “young men,” we have engaged in spiritual warfare and have overcome the evil one, Satan. Here again in verse 2:3 the word “Him” could refer to either God the Father or God the Son; the difference does not appear to be important to John. His readers as we are, know God and therefore we know both the Father and Son. Thought of in this way, the sequence “children,” “fathers,” and “young men” is meaningful. We know what it is to have sins forgiven and to have fellowship with God the Eternal One. As a result we are like vigorous young men who have defeated satanic assaults through Christ Jesus.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ and if you live in America, you probably have never experienced what these words truly promised. Yes, we have trials and tribulations which disrupt our lives and rob us of our peace and we turn to this verse and verses like it that promise God’s supremacy and sovereignty over the world and whatever is the source of our trouble. These trials are nothing to be trivial about, they are real. Sometime what seems like a small matter to others is a major matter to us. So I understand that Christians have had tribulations – but most of the tribulation we have are things that any person experiences whether they are believer or not. All who live may experience what we call tribulation such as:
- death of a spouse, child, parent or even dear friend;
- a terminal illness or a disease that has no cure;
- loss of a job;
- afflicted by depression or bi-polar disorder or other mental illness;
- or falsehoods by enemies which crush one’s reputation.
Nothing light-weight about any of those trials and tribulations. But I suggest that what Jesus was promising was something that was directly related to their commitment to Him and His message. The tribulation Jesus was promising would come to them was because they were and would be Christ followers – people who came to be known as Christians.
Jesus was not wishing tribulation on them but he knew where the battle lines were going to be drawn. Once the enemy of our souls realized that Christ had risen from the dead and provided a new kind of life for all who would believe in him, the battle changed. Jesus knew what those who believed and were willing to stand up and declare their belief would face from a hostile world. “For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Heb. 12:3 (NASB).
The apostles knew first hand and wrote about the tribulation which the first century believers experienced with encouraging words. But we – the Church in the free world, in America, have not yet suffered the same kind of tribulation. But we will. It is coming. So, it is time to be familiar and be ready and be encouraged by the same words when it does come. When your testimony for Jesus Christ is challenged and because you are a Christian you are first denied freedom to do what you want and then denied opportunity – know these words by heart and live by them. When government bodies from local to county to state to federal begin to legislate consequences on you because you believe, you know trust the words Jesus spoke to his disciples on the evening before he was put to death by Roman crucifixion.
He knew what was in store for him.
He knew what was coming for his disciples and all followers of His Way.
He knew and He promised that He would be in us and Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
Jesus was about to overcome the world in the most tragic but glorious way. The world inspired by Satan would kill him and then He would overcome death by returning to life and offering a new and eternal life that death cannot overcome.
That power indeed overcomes the world.