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. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5 ESV)
New spiritual life within. All John has done in this letter is to point out what it looks like to be spiritually alive. He does it again in this passage.
- Believes that Jesus is the Christ (Verse 1)
- Believes that Jesus is the Son of God (Verse 5)
- Loves God the Father (Verse 1)
- Loves fellow Christians (Verse 2)
- Obeys God’s commandments (Verses 2-3)
- Overcomes the world (Verses 4-5)
Notice the themes: a right belief, a right love, and a right life.
How do you know who is spiritually alive? I feel like the answer to this question has been completely missed in many Christian circles in which the answer to that question is a story or an experience you can point to. Praise God for genuine moments of salvation and renewal. My years at Woodlands Camp and at Bethel have convinced me of how God can work decisively in a moment that forever changes the course of someone’s life.
However, those experiences prove their genuineness over time. New birth creates new life. This new life shows itself in categories where the change is to some degree evident. One of John’s categories is obedience to the will and Word of God. Is the general course of my life in the direction of the will of God? If I were to walk from Bethel Church to Ohio, I may take a few wrong turns, but my general direction would be east. If I say I am walking to Ohio but I resolutely ignore the map and find myself in Iowa, I can say I am an east walker but my walk shows that I am a west walker. New birth creates new life—new affections and directions toward the will of God.
All the evidences of real salvation have to do with ongoing indications of spiritual life. That’s what’s wrong with the assurance approach that simply asks, “Did you start hiking toward Ohio? Have you ever come to the point in your life where you believed you were a hiker? Did you ever claim to be a hiker? As long as you claim to be a hiker then you must be a hiker. Were you ever a member of a hiker club and did you ever give money to the club? There you go; you are most certainly a hiker!” John says that it’s not your claim to be a hiker that makes you a hiker, but it’s actually hiking the right direction, believing the core hiking doctrines, and loving your fellow hikers that makes you a hiker.
What do we say to the person who insists they are a hiker and they have followed the directions to Ohio but are spiritually standing in Iowa? They are falsely assured of their salvation. What is the eternal consequence for the person who thinks they are a Christian but finds out in eternity they are not? Hell is a never-ending wake-up call that new birth creates new life.
New Life Conquers/Overcomes the World
There is a wonderful verse tucked in here. Verse 4 says, And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. It’s that wonderful Greek word nike, like the shoe company. Victory! Win! Conquer! Literally it says, This is the nike that has niked the world.
Don’t think of “world” like Alexander the Great did. We are not conquering a geographical world. We are overcoming “the world” as an entire value set and life purpose that is against God. It is humanity in subconscious rebellion against God. Verse 19 of this chapter says, The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. The world is humanity seeking meaning apart from God. It is mankind in all its despairing and lonely selfishness. It is this world that our faith overcomes because our faith is the means to this new life in Christ.
We conquer the world in the sense that we overcome the world’s emptiness of life, worship of self, idolatry of material things, terror of death, and hopeless despair. Faith is the means to the new birth that creates the new life. This new life is the opposite of the world and it overcomes it.
So in that way we may say that faith is the victory as long as we understand that faith is the means to a victory that Jesus has accomplished for us and which the Father includes us in for his glory and our eternal good.
Am I Evidencing Signs of Genuine Spiritual Life?
John doesn’t write this and the Holy Spirit didn’t include it in Scripture for us to simply read. It is here so that we ask the right questions over our soul.
From this text:
- Do I believe that Jesus is the Christ? Do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God? (Verses 1 & 5)
- Are there real indications of sacrificial love for my fellow Christian? (Verse 2)
- Am I faithfully prioritizing God’s will in the moral decisions of my life? (Verse 3)
- Is the world shaping and controlling my life? Am I seeing real victories in areas the world, the flesh, and the devil want to control in me? (Verse 4)
By asking these kinds of questions, I am watching for signs of spiritual life and health which reassure me that I am spiritually alive.
What is 1 John imploring us to look for? Life! He’s showing us how to look for signs of life; how to know we are spiritually alive. Is there spiritual movement in your life through obedience and love? Are you spiritually breathing? Are you making spiritual noises of faith?
If there is no movement, if there is no breathing, if there is no noise, there is no life.
Look at your life. What do you see? What do you hear? As I see genuine signs of spiritual life, it is reassuring. If there are none, what should I do? Repent and believe and see how new birth will create in you new life.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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