Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Who are the overcomers? – Part II (correctly dividing 1 John 5:4-5)

In Part I, I have argued that believers need to pursue a life of overcoming.  It is NOT enough just to rely on the “legal” status of an overcomer upon entry into salvation, and NOT pursue that life of overcoming. 

I gave the understanding that God applied it to Jesus Christ, and the same we are subject to.  He was righteous and sinless, and He still had to live out His righteousness and a sinless life; He was still needed to pursue a life of overcoming the world, and came up as the Overcomer.  Jesus is our model; He is the Firstfruit.  We are to be, likewise, be an overcomer who pursues a life of overcoming the world, be a model, and be a firstfruit for many more men to come after us.

Part II – Correctly dividing 1 John 5:1-6a
Where do people get this idea that once you are a believer, you have already overcome the world, and life of overcoming is non-issue?!  Or what scripture was used to support the saying that “to those who overcome, …”, it was just another way of saying “a believer”? (Both these views are erroneous)  It is from 1 John 5, and more specifically, 1 John 5:4-5.

We are going to look at 1 John 5:1-6a, with concentration on 1 John 5:4-5.  I will quote to us, the verses of the text, 1 John 5:1-6a, as we go along.  

Verse 1- Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

Here, the Apostle John gave 2 understandings: One: Who is a person who believes Jesus is the Christ?  He is one who has been born of God. 

What is born of God? To be born of God, it is never without God’s part.  In fact, Scripture led us to believe, without that drawing and quickening part of God or His Spirit, an unregenerate man is incapable of being born again.  Scripture said that the unregenerate man’s spiritual state is as like dead, and so, incapable of understanding spiritual things.  Scripture said spiritual things are spiritually discerned; and often with the help of the Holy Spirit (understanding from 1 Cor 2:14). 

When the gospel is preached to the yet to be regenerated man, it is God who draws him, and quickens his spirit, that he may have understanding of the gospel. The man then responds with either, to choose to believe or NOT to believe, Jesus is the Christ.  Note that the Holy Spirit gives the understanding, and the man still has to, choose to believe or NOT to believe.

If one were to treat “born of God”, as a process, it will be God draws, and quickens the spirit of the unregenerate man, and the man, with understanding from the quickening, responds in believing that Jesus is the Christ, AND God puts the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ to indwell the man. 

If the response of the man is NOT believing that Jesus is the Christ, and therefore his Christ, he will NOT be born of God.  That is the part of the man, NOT that he merits salvation or done any works (unless we term believing as a works).  When an unregenerate man believes Jesus is the Christ, he is born of God.  Thereafter, it is possible that, that man no longer believes that Jesus is the Christ, but he still HAD been born of God; he does NOT become unborn.  In a sense, it is like a person cannot go back into the mother’s womb, to be unborn!  While it is possible to have some who once believed but now no longer believe Jesus is the Christ, anyone who believes must have been born of God.

This born of God is NOT usually directly named as a test of whether or NOT, one is a believer or a child of God, because it is a one-time event, that if it did happen, it is already past.  At the timing of happening, profession of faith was the visible test.  Afterwards, if one (still) believes, that is evidence that he was already born of God.  It is he believes, and NOT he claims he believes; it is he actually believes or had believed, that is indicative he has been born of God.  In the way John put it, believing in Jesus is the Christ, is a test of whether or NOT, one is born of God.

The second understanding is this: If one is loving the Father God, he must be also loving His children as well. 

This is what loving brethren is all about.  So, whether or NOT, we love our brothers, it can be a test of whether or NOT, we love the Father God.  How come it is so, that when we are loving the Father God, we would be loving His children?  The next verse gives us the explanation.

2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

John said this is how we know that we love the children of God, by loving God and carrying out His commands.  Can you understand that?  

What is implied here is that, we love the children NOT because of they are lovable or have earned our love or anything like that; it is we love the children, because we love God and carry out His commands.  In verse 3, we read, to love God, we are to obey His commands.  Yes, that is how Jesus put it also:  If you love me (if you love Jesus, you love God), obey my commands, and those who obey my commands, are the ones who love me (John 14:15 & John 14:21a).

All of God’s commands is capable of being grouped under 2 cat., first cat., love God, and 2nd cat., love your neighbors which included your brothers or God’s children.  So, when we love God, and we carry out His commands falling under the 2nd cat., we are in fact loving God’s children. 

We love God with all of us, and we love our brothers with the love of God.  In other words, God loves His children (including you), and we are loving them for God, and with the love of God.  This should explain why it is NOT oxymoron to read of God asking that we love Him WITH OUR ALL, and at the same time, asking that we, love our neighbors or brothers. 
People said it is oxymoron, arguing if we have given all our love to God, there is none left for our brothers.  I know (and so should you) it is NOT oxymoron because we are to love our brothers NOT with our own love, but with the love of God (those wanting to read more about this – go to “No oxymoron here”).

And the Apostle John said that God’s commands are NOT burdensome.  Why?
4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ.

John said it is due to "for everyone born of God overcomes the world.  What does this mean?
The conjunctive, “for” here, is saying, there is a foremost truth or underlying or “more fundamental” truth, at work.  Because of this truth at work, obeying God’s commands are NOT burdensome.  Still what does John mean by that truth of “everyone born of God overcomes the world”?

Now to understand, we need to know the writing style of the Apostle John, particularly how he handled superlatives.  I am saying that John was writing in the same manner as he wrote 1 John 3:9.  Let us put down the KJV of 1 John 5:4-5, and then we look at it in the light of our understanding of 1 John 3:9.

1 John 5:4-5 (KJV) - 4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 3:9 (KJV) - Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

I have written, some time ago, an exposition of 1 John 3:9, and you can read it here: “Please, 1 John 3:9 does NOT mean that a believer cannot (unable/impossible to) sin”. 

Here, I will just briefly say what was meant by the Apostle John in writing 1 John 3:9:- 1 John 3:9 does NOT mean, a believer cannot, as in unable to, or impossible to, sin.  It means, to sin is NOT in keeping or consistent with the fact that one has been born again or with the fact that one is a believer.  In other words, it was saying that a believer ought NOT or should NOT sin.  But John, in his writing style, wrote his superlative emphasis in that manner - to the extreme, as if it were impossible.

So, consistent with his style of pushing to the extreme, he, John, meant to say, in 1 John 5:4-5, that a believer ought to, or should, overcome.  To NOT overcome, is NOT in keeping or consistent with the fact that one has been born again or with the fact that one is a believer.  

Because teachers rarely emphasize, nowadays, and so, believers are NOT reminded of it, that Jesus is the Firstfruit, and we are to be like Jesus, and by that, it means we are to follow after Jesus, and Jesus is our model, many forget that we are called to pattern after Jesus.  In other words, if Jesus were here, what would He do or would have done. Why did John say that a believer should NOT sin (1 John 3:9).  Because sinning is NOT acceptable to God, and Jesus, consistent with that, did NOT sin, and will NOT sin.  And so, to be like Jesus, we too, should NOT sin.  Jesus was righteous, yet He lived righteous (1 John 3:7).  Jesus was sinless, and he would NOT sin, and remained sinless.  In the same way, Jesus, in His life on earth, He continued to overcome (the world), even to face the cruel and painful persecution of death by crucifixion. Jesus could have denied He was the Messiah, and He would have escaped the crucifixion, but he did NOT give in; He persisted and He overcame. 

Before Jesus went to the Cross, in John 16:32-33, He said this:

32"But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It is NOT that we will be crucified too, to be the Savior of the world.  There is just one Savior and He is the Lord Jesus Christ; but Scripture said in Matt 16:24, that each of us is to carry the cross meant for us.  And so, in the same way, we, too, are expected to overcome until the end.

Again, is there a patterning after the Lord, required of us?  Yes, Rev 3:21 - To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

It is NOT the moment we are born again, we would NEVER sin because it is impossible for us to sin, or that we are unable to sin; and it is NOT the moment we are born again, we have overcome everything or all.  It is Jesus showed us the model and example; NOT only that, it is for what Jesus did – remained sinless and overcame everything, even death by and on the Cross, we have the “ingredients” to be one who would NOT give in to sin, and be one who could overcome the world. 

Jesus said in John 16:33 (quoted above) that we would have troubles [that need to be overcome], and He also said that, IN HIM we would have peace, for He had overcome the world [Jesus then already resolved that He would NOT relent but would persevere to go to His death].

We return to 1 John 5:4-5; what is the victory that overcame the world in the text?  From the text, some can discern that John said that it is our faith.  Or we can say that it was Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that was the victory that overcame the world.  Our faith is that – the belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, who would come, and would overcome the world, and did come and did overcome the world, and ended up as our Savior and Redeemer.  Because he lived it through, did it, and came up as The Overcomer, we, IN HIM, are able to be overcomer, too, in our on-going lives. 

Is IN HIM a must?  Yes, Rom 8:37 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Phil 4:13 - I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

In theological jargon, we say, we, believers, too, are overcomers by appropriation of the victory of Jesus.  The clear thing is this: Just as it is NOT the moment we are born again, we can no longer, as in impossible to, sin in life, but to resist sin in our ongoing life, it is also NOT that the moment we are born again, we overcame everything (everything the world throws at us), but it is that we are to overcome in our on-going life; and we can do it (resist sin and overcome), because Christ has done it, and His Spirit (the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit) indwells us (seed of God; seed of God refers to the Word, Christ or Spirit of Christ) and is our Helper/Counsellor (John 14:26).  From this angle, to obey God’s commands should not be burdensome.  It can be done! [It is possible to view from the angle of love, that to obey God’s commands would NOT be burdensome, too, as expressed by some preachers {NOT burdensome to oblige our loved ones}.]

From the above, our conclusion should be that 1 John 5:4-5 does NOT tell us that there is nothing else left for us to overcome in life; rather it points to we are to pursue a life of overcoming, for our Lord is our model to follow, and He, by His Spirit in us, is our enabler.  Rev 3:21 still is the pertinent scripture that sums it all - To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Jesus said in John 17:11-18, as a believer, we are no longer of the world, although we are still in the world.  What that implies is that we have to live a life always overcoming the world, so that we continue to live a life in the world, NOT of the world, but of Kingdom of God.  In other words, like I nowadays am telling believers that they are living a supernatural life if they are living in the ways of the Kingdom of God, contrary to natural ways of the world which are the ways of Satan.  Now, that is overcoming the world.

1 John 4:4 tells us, we are able to overcome the agents of anti-Christ, because He who is in us {the indwelling Spirit of Christ} is greater than he who is in the world {Satan}. In sending out the 72 disciples, Jesus said this (Luke 10:18-20) – 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

We have the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Christ, and we have the authority in the Lord, to overcome.  With that, we are able to overcome all, yet our rejoicing is NOT because we won over the minions of Satan, but that we have our names written (and remain written) in the Lamb’s Book of Life (in Heaven).

Rev 3:5 - He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

Who does God say He would NOT blot out the name of?  He who overcomes.  Now, the correct way to look at this verse is this: When one enters into salvation, His name gets written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Why would there be a need to talk about “NOT blotting out”, if there is no instance of blotting out?!  It is precisely, that because the Lord can be blotting out a name, that He said here, that He would NOT be blotting out a name.  It is NOT unreasonable to rationalize that the believer who does NOT overcome, but succumbs, he can be blotted out (The Parable of the Sower (or soils) does point to that {2nd soil, particularly}).

Verse 5 of 1 John 5 - "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" was worded as a rhetorical question because, a non-believer does NOT have what it takes to overcome the world; we have, and we, therefore, should live that way – overcoming the world.

As it is the way we should be living, living an overcoming life, it should NOT be burdensome for us to obey God’s commands or instructions, one of the 2 branches of which, is to love our neighbours which included our brothers {the other, being to love God}).

In conclusion, in relation to our topic of overcomers and overcoming, it is NOT 1 John 5:5 is simply stating that we are already overcomers and there is nothing for us to overcome in our continuing earthly life, or that “to those who overcome” is simply another way of saying a believer.  Such  teachings are incorrect.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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