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.
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 5:1-5, NASB).
The victory that overcomes the world is our faith! Damn right! Yes! Ha ha! We should parse this out more carefully but first I’m going to bask in the glow of the glory of this statement. Mere belief wins! Looking at this whole text the way we have been up to this point ends up making this particular verse fall into the hand easily like a beautiful ripe peach. Of course our faith is the victory that overcomes the world!
So let’s trace this out: whatever is born of God overcomes the world. What does he mean by “the world”?
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
(1 John 2:15-17, NASB).
Wrong or perhaps idolatrous desire, and boastful pride, are the marks of the world. You know what, I realize after everything I’ve been through, that nothing has afflicted me more than the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. I am sick of living in the middle of it all. I am tired of people’s arrogance. I am tired of my own arrogance. As soon as I smell it coming, that someone is coming from that place, I shut down. In the workplace, people do and say things and omit saying things just to advance their own position and obtain some slight perceived advantage. It’s all based on self-justification.
This verse tells me, you can’t just decide to opt out on all of the noise and quarrelsome backbiting and interpersonal wrath and badly misplaced desire. You are not your own escape. It’s like being in a straight jacket – you can’t get yourself out. The escape is to be born of God. The victory, perhaps the point of entry out of the “world” and into freedom from the fighting arrogance and conflicting desires and idolatries, is our faith.
Mere Belief is the Victory
I have to say that I find this verse utterly wonderful. It is our faith, mere belief, that is the sole power to win. No deed is mentioned here besides our faith. If there were a deed, it would not be faith any more, and we would be back to our boastful pride of life. As Paul says,
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
(Romans 3:27, 28, NASB).
But why is faith the victory? Because our faith says, my search for significance and fulfillment is over. I am accepted and loved beyond my wildest dreams. The ultimate authority in the flipping universe, GOD, has declared definitively that He loves me. GOD has incarnated and has suffered and died for me. He believes that I am significant enough to die for. He believes that all of this arrogance and idolatry that has afflicted me my whole life is so heinous and so bad that it is worth the death penalty. He sees my affliction and has His own terrible wrath for it. He sees my own part of that arrogance and idolatry, my sin, and declares it dealt with as well. His love for me persists beyond my imperfection, beyond even my murder of Him, and He raises with power from the dead to continue to love me without condition. In believing, I escape the clawing climbing futility of being my own God and of crafting my own significance, and enter the beautiful rest of simply being significant in the eyes of the only One who matters. This is the faith which he is talking about, and this is the faith that overcomes the world.
Also, it is not our perfection in being non-worldly that overcomes the world. It is our faith. Perfection in being non-worldly places the onus for victory back on ourselves, which is going right back into self-idolatry. Do you see it? You must believe that He utterly forgives, that His blood is 100% sufficient. You must believe that He is the One who justifies you. You must continue to walk in the light, to confess, to be truthful about your failure. This is the faith that overcomes the world, that gives up the charade of the boastful pride and pretense of success, and trusts completely in Jesus Christ as the One savior.
I think this is why I really am determined to give much closer attention, and to not neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:1,2,3). It is a great salvation! It is the victory which overcomes all the wearying evil and arrogance and idolatry in the world. It is our only escape, and once we are there, it remains our only refuge. It remains to be true that our one distinctive as Christians is our faith in Christ crucified and risen. This is our love for one another, that we believe. Whatever detracts from this is a deception and a killer. Amen.