1 John 5:1-12
The Way to Overcome
In this passage, John shows us the way to overcome the world, which is through faith in Jesus Christ. We remember that for John, the world is an enemy. The world is the tool of Satan to tempt us to sin and rebellion. The Christian is called to flee, shun, or even better, overcome, the world.
We have already said that the way to overcome the world is through faith. But how does one come to saving faith? The first verse of this chapter speaks volumes: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” This verse tells us three things. First, it tells us that faith has content. In other words, faith isn’t just believing anything. Faith isn’t some mysterious experience that you can’t explain. Faith isn’t something empty, as revealed in such sayings as, “Keep the faith,” which only begs the question, “Faith in what?” Faith is believing something specific, namely, that Jesus is the Christ. John states this in two other ways as well: confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (4:15) and that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:2). We also notice that saving faith centers around a specific confession about Jesus and His relationship to the Father. Which brings us to the second point this passage reveals, and which has been emphasized all along in this letter, namely, that there is no daylight between the Son and the Father. To have the one is to have the other (2:23). The Christian faith makes an exclusive and offensive claim before the world: That Jesus is the Christ, and the only Savior of the world. And finally, this opening verse tells us the divine order of how one is saved. Notice that those who believe “have been born” of God. They believe because they have experienced the new birth, which John speaks of throughout this letter and in his gospel. We do not believe so that we may be born again; we are born again so that we may believe. And this puts the emphasis back where it’s supposed to be: with God. We remember that it is He who loved us, not vice-versa, and it is only His loving us that enables us to love Him. Likewise, it is only His birthing us anew through the Holy Spirit that enables us to believe that His Son is the Christ, the one who came in the flesh, the Savior of the world.
And it is this faith that keeps the commandments, since the Holy Spirit living within us gives us a heart to keep them, so that they are no longer burdensome to us but a joy. It is this faith that hears the Spirit say that our Lord came by water (his baptism) and by blood (his passion) to save us. It is this faith that teaches us that abundant and eternal life dwell in the Son. And it is faith in such promises as this that overcomes the world.