One of the great pictures in the scriptures is that the followers of Jesus are called “conquerors.” When we study the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation we see that those Christians who remain faithful are described as conquerors and are given crowns. John writes to these first century Christians who are dealing with false teachers and their false teachings and is telling them that they are the ones who are conquerors.
Joyful Obedience (5:1-3)
The first picture of those who conquer are those who practice joyful obedience. John begins with a truth he has established from the beginning of this letter. “Everyone who believe that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.” The false teachers were denying that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. John is not merely speaking about what the person claims with his mouth, but that confession leads to life change. Everyone who loves the Father also loves those who are born of God. This summarizes John’s teaching in 1 John 4:7-21. If we love God, then we will be loving our Christian brothers and sisters. You know you are in a relationship with God when you love one another.
Notice how John amplifies this teaching in verse 2. John’s statement is a reversal of what we would expect to read. We would expect to read that we know we have the love of God by loving the children of God. This has been John’s point to his readers in the fourth chapter. John reverses the statement and shows us how important loving each other truly is. This is how we know that we are loving the children of God: when we love God and obey his commands. Just as one cannot love God without loving his children, so also it is impossible to truly love the children of God without loving God also. We are not going to deny ourselves for the gain of each other if we do not truly love God. To be in a relationship with God means that we will love God.
John describes what loving God looks like: keeping his commands. Loving God is not saying that we love God. Loving God is not trying to find an experience or emotion toward God. Loving God is doing what he says. This is quite a thought considering how many people claim to love God but do not do what he says. We cannot declare ourselves to be Christians who love God and not do exactly what he tells us to do. But notice that loving God is not just obedience. Notice the qualification to our obedience. “His commands are not a burden.” Can we say this is true in our lives? Do you see the commands of God as not being a burden? God’s commands are good for us. His commands are given for our own best interests. Obedience is our desire because we love God. If we feel like God’s commands are a burden, then it should identify that there is a problem in our hearts. It shows that we see God’s commands as a duty rather than a love. It shows that our obedience is not coming from our love for God but coming from a obligation that we think we must observe. God is not calling for obligation but for love. Conquerors are those who joyful obey the commands of God. They love God and want to be pleasing to God, not to self.
Victorious Faith (5:4-5)
Here is a powerful truth: whatever has been born of God overcomes the world. John has spent quite a bit of time proving that we are born of God. Those who are walking in the light, loving God, and loving one another are born of God. Therefore, we have overcome the world because we have been born of God. John zeroes in on exactly why we have overcome the world: our faith. We have a song of encouragement that we sing, “Faith Is The Victory.” The song uses metaphors of battle to describe the victory we experience as Christians. What are we victorious over? John is not speaking of the world in a physical way, that is, that we are overcoming people who live on the earth. Rather, John has used the term “the world” to describe the sinfulness of the world. John instructed the Christians in 1 John 2:15 that we cannot love the world or the things in the world because it is sinful. This is the overcoming that we are experiencing in Christ. We defeat this evil world and achieve victory through our faith in Jesus. Through Christ we are able to shift our affections away from the world and to the Lord. We are able to overcome sin. We are able to overcome Satan. We can be victorious over temptation through our faith in Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. Remember that John taught this victory back in the second chapter. “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:14 HCSB) We need to hear these encouraging words. We can overcome the vices, weaknesses, temptations, and sins in which we are entangled. But we must rely upon this victorious faith. It is not just saying, “I am going to do better.” “It is not just trying harder.” I think these efforts often end in failure because we are trying to fight Satan by ourselves, which cannot work. Rather, we need to rely upon the Lord for our strength. We need to build our love for the Lord which will move us away from the love of the world. We need to transfer our affections and passions to God and away from the flesh. This victory is a love for God through faith that joyfully embraces God’s commands. There is no other way to be victorious in this life and the life to come.
The Testimony Concerning The Son (5:6-12)
In the final section of our lesson, John is going to explain what we have put our faith in. Since our faith overcomes the world, then we need to know exactly what we must believe to build our lives upon. John is going to give us the foundations for faith, what we need to believe concerning Jesus.
Verse 6 states the critical testimony: Jesus Christ came by water and by blood. There are number of different ways this has been interpreted. But we must keep in mind the false teaching John is fighting against. John is fighting Gnostic doctrines which declared that Jesus was inhabited by the Son of God at his baptism and then the Son of God left Jesus at his crucifixion. With that in mind, it seems best to understand Jesus Christ coming by water and blood as a reference to his baptism and death. The Son of God who came into the world at the birth of Jesus was the same one who was baptized and received divine approval from the Father. He is the same one who shed his blood on the cross to redeem humanity. The Son of God experienced both.
There are three things that testify to this truth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. These three things converge are in total agreement to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The Spirit testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Listen to the words from John’s gospel:
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32–34 ESV)
The water, which refers to the baptism of Jesus, testifies to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17 ESV)
Further, the blood, which refers to Jesus’ death on the cross, testifies to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50–54 ESV)
The proof is there that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The testimony of God is the greatest thing that we have to know that we are following the right person. God has given his testimony about his Son. God cannot lie. God has declared through three important witnesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Therefore, the one who believes in the Son has the testimony of God with him. What is this testimony of God that is so important to have? John states it in verse 11: And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11 HCSB)
God has given us eternal life and that life is only accessed through the Son. To deny the life, baptism, and death of Jesus is to deny eternal life and be separated from God. That is the point John makes in verse 10. If we do not believe the testimony of God is saying that God is a liar. This is a critical truth that if we do not accept and live by means that we are declaring God to be a liar. Jesus is where eternal life is found. If we do not give our lives completely to following Jesus, then we are looking for another savior for our lives and are making God a liar. Life is in his Son. Therefore, as John says in verse 12, the one who has the Son has life.
There are three things for us that make us conquerors over this world and its sinfulness. (1) We joyfully obey the Lord because we love God. (2) Loving the Lord builds our faith so that we can be victorious over sin and Satan. (3) By having this love for God and believing God’s testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God we have eternal life because life is found in the Son.