Monday, December 3, 2012
1st John Chapter 5 Part 2
5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
If I may paraphrase a little, I believe the message is that we know we love God’s children due to the fact that we love God. We don’t love them out of grudging obligation; we don’t love them half-heartedly. God commands us to love our neighbor and our fellow saints, and since we have such a love for God, obeying Him is a response of love; said love simply overflows to our fellow Christians and does not become an obligation of law but the natural reaction of our relationship with God.
John writes that God’s commands are not burdensome (NKJV). Framed in this perspective we can more easily see what would provoke the apostle to say this. The heart that yearns to do God’s will because it pleases us to please Him will find no difficulty in loving His saints. This is a vivid demonstration to all that the love of God abides in us: when we keep His commandments, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave commandment, 1st John 3:23-24.
5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
John reiterates what we just read in verse 1: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” He is following a train of thought from verse 3, which begins with the little word “for.” “For this is the love of God.” What is the love God? “That we keep His commandments.” We display our love of God by our obedience. Such commandments are not a burden, the apostle says. In verse 4 he begins with the little word “for” again, stating, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” Being born again has brought us from death to life (John 5:24), has brought us into the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13) and keeps us from being condemned with a Christ rejecting world, 1st Corinthians 11:32.
This, John tells us, is the victory. How is this victory accomplished? The latter portion of the verse conveys the message. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” It is by faith, the apostle asserts, that we are born of God, or born again as Jesus put it, John 3:3.
Verse 5 lends a great deal of clarity to certain “trouble passages” in Revelation. We find mention of the overcomer seven times throughout Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and many expositors use these passages to teach that only those who overcome (in their opinion this means to persevere in the faith all your life) will be saved. I will use two examples from Revelation to attempt to demonstrate the fallacy of their position.
First we read Revelation 2:11 which states: “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” What is this second death? The second death is the Lake of Fire, where unbelievers and rebellious angels will spend eternity separated from God’s presence, Revelation 20:14-15. Now one must cautiously inquire: is it my faith in Christ that saves me from the second death? Our trust in Christ translates not into a reliance on ourselves, but trust that Jesus is capable of saving to the uttermost those who come to Him through faith, John 6:37; Hebrews 7:25. The burden of our security falls on the back of the One who promised to give us eternal life if we believed on Him. On the flipside, is our faith at all in our own ability to faithfully endure? It is a semantic play on words to suggest that advocates of this teaching say that we rely on Christ to supply us with the strength to endure. Then what of those who supposedly fall away? Did Jesus not love them enough to supply what they lacked? Or was there some difference between people that prevented some from falling away while others lost their salvation? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.
There is one verse where the wording alters, and I wonder if such expositors take note of it. Revelation 2:26 says “he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” This is the concept of the Christian rewarded at the judgment seat for having been faithful to Christ throughout their pilgrimage here on earth, 1st Corinthians 3:14. The idea of keeping His works until the end is not a contingency for entering Heaven or being denied; it is a factor as to whether we receive this promise, based on our fidelity to God and His word presently. We see the same type of promise in Revelation 2:10 where our Lord simply says “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Again, this is not a call to remain faithful to God or else you will forfeit salvation. Those who exposit this passage in such a way utterly miss the point that Jesus is attempting to console these persecuted Christians by telling them that if they patiently suffer through the tribulation about to come upon them He will reward their steadfast faith with a crown, symbolic in Scripture of being honored by God for our fidelity, 1st Corinthians 9:25; 2nd Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1st Peter 5:4; Revelation 3:11.
This thought is finally summarized when we read “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son,” Revelation 21:7. This sweeping verse compasses the seven promises made to the Asian churches in chapters 2 and 3. The overcomer shall inherit all things; that is he shall be an heir of God. Likewise they will be God’s sons and God will be their God. How then does one overcome that these promises are brought to fruition in our individual lives? “But as many as received [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,” John 1:12. “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith,” Romans 4:13. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:26. Clearly then the overcomer God has consoled with this promise is the one whose faith is in Christ, and through such faith receives eternal life and co-inheritance with the Lord, Galatians 3:29; 4:7; Titus 3:7.