Five Minute Devotions: 1 John 5
John’s spiraling epistle twists around one final time to remind us of love, faith, and God’s enduring and sure testimony of himself. Throughout the epistle, John has constantly reassured this second generation of Christians in their faith. He writes to ensure them of their relationship with God. He writes to exhort them to love one another, to resist temptation, and to rest assured in their salvation.
A key part of 1 John 5 is the simple statement that those who are in Christ shall overcome the world. He asks rhetorically:
Everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:4-5
What it Means to Overcome
How do you conquer the world? Alexander the Great thought he knew. Genghis Khan claimed to have done it. All the great military leaders of history, all of the empires of men throughout the ages, have claimed to have conquered the world. John writes to a church oppressed by Rome—the current world conquerors—and tells them it is they, not Rome, who rules.
Conquering the world does not mean overtaking it, but overcoming it. This world of sin and death and despair is not a very good prize. Overcoming the world, rising above it through the power of the indwelt Spirit, provides insulation against sin, guarantees eternal life, and brings hope and joy out of despair.
The one who conquers the world makes it have no effect in his or her life. They resist worldly temptations. Steer clear from idols. Avoid pride and deceit. They love with a supernatural love, creating a diverse community that turns the ideals of the world on its head. They may be oppressed in this life, but they look forward to a greater life to come. And they are children of the Kingdom, not of the empire.
And how is this done? How do you go day after day, year after year, living a life absolutely contrary to the standards of the world? Living a life that will lead to mockery and persecution, perhaps even death? By faith. Not a dead or dormant faith based on a one-time decision, but an active and living faith that manifests the power of the indwelt Spirit.
Our faith is the victory that conquers the world. It is a clear faith. An evidentiary faith. A faith borne out of God’s own testimony about himself, confirmed through the witness of the Spirit in our hearts. Because of what we know and believe, we do what we do. Our actions in this life are based on our belief about God.
And the driving force of that is his commands. That’s how 1 John 5:2-3 go:
This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden – 1 John 5:2-3
Faith is the victory and the evidence of that victory comes through our loving obedience to his commands. Christ’s commands are for our benefit. They teach us to be world-changers and kingdom-conquerors. They remove us from the worldly system and place us over and above it. Still a part of it, but no longer home in it.
Father, teach us to overcome the world. Give us the faith to trust you more. Lead us into paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. You say that whatever we ask of you, in faith, you will provide. Father, we pray for community and fellowship. We pray for your comfort and peace. We pray for victory.
John spends some amount of time talking about “a sin that leads to death.” What does he mean by this?
Does God answer every one of our prayers? How are we to reconcile John’s words with unanswered prayers?
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