We are living in a world which becomes more and more complex and confusing to many of us. Moral norms are changing, society is progressing (whether good or bad), and culture is changing. The Christian finds herself caught in the between times. But we should not view ourselves as being caught (or bound up). We are not waiting for deliverance—in one sense—as we already have been delivered; we already have overcome. Yet, we are still called to overcome (see especially the exhortation in the “letters”/edict in Rev. 2-3to the seven churches in Asia Minor)!
This tension of past, present, and future is the tension is Christian has to struggle with, rejoice in, and marvel at. Today we are taking a brief look [yes, I am still writing on my thesis…] into the first five verse of 1 John 5.
The apostle starts out in stating that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (v. 1). That Jesus is the Christ is something the opponents (i.e., secessionists) denied—see 2:22-23. Kruse maintains that if one were to put together all the references of 1 John concerning the secessionists’ teaching “it becomes clear that their Christology involved a denial that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God’s Son, come in the flesh and whose death was both real and necessary (4:2–3, 15; 5:1, 6–8)” (PNTC, 171). Again concerning “being born of God” see John 1:12-13; John 3. “It is something initiated by God and effected through his Spirit, and it takes place in conjunction with faith in Christ” (Kruse, PNTC, 171). And again love for the Father is expressed by love for the fellow believer (cf. 5:2).
[INTERESTING: “While Jesus is referred to as the ‘one and only’ (monogenēs) Son of the Father, he is never said to be born of God in either the Fourth Gospel or 1, 2, and 3 John. In these books those said to be born of God are always believers (John 1:13; 3:3, 5, 8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4). The one possible exception to this is 1 John 5:18” (Kruse, 171 n. 195).]
How do we know that we love the children of God? Well, if we love God and keep His commandments (v. 2). Kruse writes: “His usual approach is to say that people’s claims to love God are to be tested by the presence or absence of love for fellow believers. But here he does the reverse” (PNTC, 172). Though this seems circular, the author can they those things because they “cannot exist apart from one another” (Kruse, 172)—see also 2:7–8; 3:22–24; 4:21.
In Matt 11:30 we read: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (cf. also Deut 30:11 – “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off”). In reference to v. 3 Kruse (PNTC, 172): “The command to love one another does not prove burdensome for those who know God because they have been born of God, and love for others who have also been born of God is a natural outworking of that.” If God is love and we are His children, love is the natural outcome of our inner disposition. This does not mean, however, that it is “easy” but that such is in accordance with our nature—this is who we are!
In 5:4a the apostle states: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” We are victorious and are overcoming the world. The NET footnote is quite helpful here; it says: “In the face of the opponents’ attempts through their false teaching to confuse the readers (true believers) about who it is they are supposed to love, the author assures the readers that loving God and keeping his commandments assures us that we really do love God’s children, and because we have already achieved victory over the world through our faith, keeping God’s commandments is not a difficult matter.”
It is by faith that we have overcome the evil schemes (5:4b).It is not militaristic or sophisticated war machinery—but faith! In the book of Revelation we have a similar picture where the witness (often combined with death in the apocalyptic imagery) of the believers is the defeating characteristic of God’s people.
Kruse (PNTC, 172-73): “In 2:15–17 the author explained how love for the ‘world’, understood in this negative way, and love for God were mutually exclusive… those who have been born of God have overcome the worldly tendency to satisfy their own sinful cravings, and as a result they are free to show love to others and so fulfil God’s command.”
“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (5:5). “The Son of God” and “Christ/Messiah” seem to be used ‘synomynously’ (cf. 2:22, 23; 5:1, 5) and those who hold to this doctrine are the ones who overcome the world. On the other hand “[t]he secessionists who denied these things were, as far as the author was concerned, still part of the world (2:18–19; 4:1–3; cf. 2 John 7) and subject to the power of the evil one (5:19)” (Kruse, PNTC, 174).
If we hold on to the testimony we have received, withstand the pressures of our times, and continue to witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we continue to conquer with love by faith.