1 John 4:1-7; 5:1; 18
The world is a foe with whom we have to reckon. It is a great system built up by rebellious man, of which the devil is both prince and god. He was always prince and god of it, but by its rejection of Christ he has been manifested as such. Lawlessness, lust and pride are its characteristics. It is the outcome of the lawless, infidel mind of man. God has appointed a day for its judgment and overthrow. It is a very real foe to the saints of God. They are obnoxious to it. It has sought to ensnare them, to corrupt them, and to destroy them from its very beginning.
Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of it. He says of His own, “They are not of it.” Paul gloried in the cross by which it was crucified to him, and he to it. The young men are warned against the love of it, and James tells us that he who is its friend is God’s enemy; and one great principle of true religion is to keep oneself unspotted from it. It is the great theatre where the man after the flesh displays himself; where he considers himself supreme, and where his will predominates. Its government is either according to the will of an autocrat or that of the people. The will of God is of no account. Its religion is darkness and superstition, its social condition corrupt. A god may be recognised, but the character he takes in it is that of a demon. The true God is unknown. The antichrists are of it, speak of it, and it hears them. It is a dread enemy, and cannot be ignored. It has to be overcome by both reader and writer of this paper, or both will be overcome by it.
But “whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world.” The one who is born of God does righteousness. He keeps the commandments of God; obedience is his delight. The righteous One, the One who could say, “I delight to do thy will,” lives in the one who loves God; and such an one does those things that are pleasing in His sight, while the world around him is altogether lawless.
But then it is faith in His Son Jesus Christ which overcomes the world. “This is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith” (N.Tr.) I take our faith to be that which is presented to us in testimony. The Son of God is the One who is preached as glad tidings. The victory of God is presented to us in Him. In Him I am face to face with that which has obtained the victory over the world. He could say to His disciples, when going out of the world, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It had exercised no influence upon Him. He learned nothing from it. Its principles were abhorrent to Him. He passed through it dependent upon the Father who sent Him. It knew Him not, and it hated Him with all its heart; but neither its hatred nor its friendship could cause Him to turn aside out of the path traced for Him by the will of God. He was the One righteous Man in a world of sinners. He loved righteousness, and hated lawlessness, and was thus the contrast of every other man. And His death was the crowning act of His obedient life. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And because of this God has highly exalted Him. And He it is who is preached to us as glad tidings; and “who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
The glory of that blessed Victor is greater than all the glory of the world. He is the believer’s Sun in the heavens. The world has lost its attractions; it is utterly repugnant to the one whose heart is in the sunshine of that glorious Person, for it has rejected Him. The believer in the Son of God needs not the law of Moses to regulate his conduct going through this scene. He can say, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
The believer sees how obnoxious He was to the world and the world becomes altogether as obnoxious to him. He loves that blessed One who has brought to him the light of God, and who has given him the Spirit that all that love might be made good to his heart, and he turns from the world that hated Him with unspeakable loathing. He passes through it as a pilgrim and stranger. He adopts none of its ways. It is to him a vast wilderness yielding him no support, a wild waste of serpents, scorpions, and drought. It may persecute him, and hold over his head the terror of death, but he fears not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. The world, like the foolish woman of Proverbs 9, may seek to entice him to turn from a path marked by so great tribulation, and to accept a little of her friendship, to eat her bread and drink her stolen waters, but he is deaf to her allurements, for he knows that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell. He is not overcome by the world, the world is overcome by him. For “whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
A word as to the wicked one. The young men are said to have overcome him (chap. 2:14). But this was because they were strong and the word of God abode in them; and we are told that he that keepeth His word, in him the love of God is perfected. The object of the wicked one is in the first place to prevent the word of God taking root in the heart, and when defeated in this, he sows tares among the wheat to obscure the testimony. He seeks to terrify the saints from going forward into the purpose of God. He has his missionaries everywhere, and his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, and many who seem to believe the gospel and to run well for a time, fall back again under his power. They seem to have escaped the corruptions of the world, and to have shaken themselves free from his authority, but again are they entangled therein and overcome, and the last state is worse than the first. I think it is of such John speaks, when he says, there is a sin unto death, something which manifests the professed brother as not of God, and puts him, in the mind of the one who has made the sad discovery, outside the circle of those begotten of God, the circle of divine love, and prayer for such ceases. He immediately adds, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” Everything is valueless but that which is begotten of God. It overcomes everything and is itself overcome by no power of evil. It has all intelligence, and it is invincible. And how blessed to be able to say, “We know that we are of God.” We have hearkened to the commandment. The Son of God is the object of our faith, and the saints are the objects of our love, and we know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. And he who loves is born of God and knows God, and whether it be antichrists, the world, or the wicked one, over all such he is victorious. How holy and good and blessed the commandment is! May it be that which both reader and writer treasure in their hearts above everything else.