1 John 5: 1-5 – Victorious Christian living

1 John 5v1-5.

Victorious Christian living: a gift and a goal.



John deals with many things in this passage before us – many important teaching and beliefs of the Christian faith. But we need to remember the John is not a theological text book but to a group of Christians living in the first century who are having to deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. A life which was very different to the one we live in.

It was probably about 60 years since Jesus had died – the Christians had hardly received red-carpet treatment. They had been persecuted and ridiculed – yet churches had been planted all over the Roman Empire in spite of Rome’s oppostion. And it was these people and not the Roman armies who could say …..”we have overcome the world

1 John 5:4 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

But we live in a very different world to the one that Jonh’s readers lived in. We do not have to fear persecution or physical torture – [some of our fellow Christains in other parts of the world do] – we live in a society where you can believe what you like and no one really cares too much. Does that mean that the enviroment in which we live is not hostile to the gospel and that this passage of scripture is not as relavant to us as it was to the original readers.

Our society is hostile to the gospel – in a secular society where New Age philosophy thrives – why?? — because secular thinking has pushed religious thought into the realm of “Private Matters” so that anyone and everyone can formulate there own ideas about religion and a public, objective evaluation is impossible. Our secular society protects every religious idea no matter how bizarre or dangerous it might be.

SO Lesslie Newbigin is correct when he writes the following:-

What we have is a pagan society whose public life is ruled by beliefs which are false. And because it is not a pre-Christian paganism, but a paganism born out of a rejection of Christianity, it is far tougher and more resistant to the gopsel than the pre-Christian paganisms with whicvh Foreign missionaries have been in contact during the past 200 years. Here, without the possibility of question, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time.

 [quoted by Martin Robinson in “A World Apart”  p.29]

So far from John’s letter being irrelavant – it is more up to date than tomorrow’s news!

All through his letter John has put forward three tests and he brings them all together in the first 5vv of Chapter 5 – Righteousness [obedience] — Love — Belief.

If today’s Christians are going to be victorious like the first century Christians then we too need to pass the same tests.

THE THREE TESTS: Belief, righteousness, love.


1. The first element in victorious Christian living is belief [faith].

When John speaks in this passage about belief he is not simply referring to mental ascent to a particular propostional truth. Christian belief is not simply adhereing to a written creed. The church over the years has put things down in creeds and Satements of Faith — these may be helpful but it is too easy to be theologically correct but spiritually dead. Of course it is important what we believe about Jesus – about his nature and work BUT the emphasis must always be on a living belief and a trusting in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Creeds and doctrines have not overcome the World BUT Jesus Christ God’s Son has overcome the world.

What does John mean when he speaks of “Overcoming the world”?? We need to remember that the Bible speaks of the world in different ways. The word “world” — here it is primarily referring to the system / or people who are against God or at least not for God.

As we saw in 4v5-6 The world listen to its own and recognizes its own because the world is saying what they want to hear and what they agree with. This explains why they are so popular!!

Jesus warned his followers that the world would be hostile to them and to their message.

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

It is easy to focus on the world out there – it is kind of distant and remote. We can develop a kind of them and us mentality. BUT the world is not just out there it is also inside of us.

ILLUS.:  What was the real problem with the Hebrews when the came out of Egypt. The dangers they faced were not the pursuing Egyptians or the Ammorites or Amalekites or the Hittites or any other -ites. They were out of Egypt BUT Egypt was not out of them — they hankered back for the life they had lived in Egypt.

This inside world that is in all of us is the battleground of life. If we can win the inside battle we will win the outside battle. The problem we face in our Christian lives is not out there – it is in here – inside us.

That is where I struggle – Often I know what I should be doing and I don’t do it !!

Paul had the same problem:-Romans 7:18-19 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. (NIV)

It is inside us that the battle goes on. You know what I find most disturbing about myself – it is not that I don’t always do what I should do, that’s bad enough!! but sometimes I find myself not caring that I am not doing something or that I am doing something.

We criticise the world for their worldliness and yet by our critical attitudes we can be just as uncaring and unloving and unkind. We set up standards that others must live by yet fail ourselves.

We spurn open indulgence in worldly pleasure yet secretly cover our own failures with a smugness like that of the Pharisees of Jesus day. “I thank you God that I am not like other men!!”

We are fighting against two worlds – the world out there that is hostile to Christ and the Christian and the world inside us that naturally leans towards the Lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

How do we overcome these worlds?? Well there is just one weapon — faith!!

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  [v4]

This is not faith in our faith but rather faith in one who has already overcome. Overcome has the same root word as victory and it essentially means to have victory in a contest.

Those who have been born of God are constantly under pressure from Satan and his worldly system to abandon their faith in Christ and join the ranks of the unbelievers.

NB that John does not say the Christians CAN overcome or even WILL overcome but we HAVE overcome. This is the victory that HAS overcome the world, even our faith.  [v4]

The victory is not in doubt – not because we are are good and strong – but because Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the one against whom neither evil nor error cannot win because he has already won.

How is it that Christians can share in this victory? Because they have been born of God.

1 John 5:1

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is [HAS BEEN] born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (NIV)

The first element in victorious Christian living is belief [faith].

2. The second element of victorious Christian living is love.

This letter of 1 John has had a lot to say about love. Chapter 4 ended with a strong statement linking love for God and love for one’s brother /sister. This thought is carried over into 4v1 and expanded upon….

1 John 5:1

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (NIV)

Born of God, Father and child all come from the same root word – therefore a literal but slightly awkard translation will be:”Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been begotten of God, and the one who loves the one who begets, loves the one who is begotten of him”

In other words you can’t love the parent without loving the child and you can’t love the child without loving the parent. There is of course an obvious relationship between the children who are born of the same parent. The truth of the claim to know and love God is tested by the love one has for one’s brothers and sisters in the same family. This is a point John has been at pains to make throughout his letter.

Just as it is impossible to claim to love God without loving his children [3v17;4v12,20-21; 5v1] so too it is impossible to claim to love his children without loving God.

I am not saying that only Christians can love – of course all people are capable of love – love on a human level can be very strong and very deep – Because all people are made in God’s image all are capable of having loving relationships. But the kind of love that John is talking about here goes deeper than human love. It is a love that has the characteristics of God’s love.

Love that is self-sacrificing — doesn’t bear a grudge — doesn’t harbour resentment — love gives —-

It is easy to talk of love — it is easy to define love as exemplified in God giving his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross….. BUT the Bible doesn’t command usto talk about love but to do it.

ILLUS.: Eliza Doolittle in “My fair Lady” ‘…. don’t talk of love, show me...’

Christian love is active, not passive. Love is practical or it is not love at all. [P W Heward]

So the question is not ‘Do you love your fellow Christians?’ BUT ‘What are you doing to show your love to your fellow Christians?’

That is why John follows up the test of love with the test of obedience.

3. The third element of victorious Christian living is obedience [righteousness].

1 John 5:2-3 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (NIV)

How do we know that we love God? – the proof of love is obedience!!

John 14:15 & 21

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. ….. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (NIV)

If  I asked you what Alan asked this morning about being filled with the Spirit “DO you wanted to be filled with the Spirit?” you would all say ‘Yes!!’ If I asked you “DO you wanted to know Jesus in a fuller way? – Do you want to experience his love in a deeper way?” You would answer “YES!!

OK !!  — then obey his commands.

What are some of the commands?? {ASK CONGREGATION TO RESPOND!!!}

– honour father and mother

– father don’t antagonise your children

– pray for kings and rulers

– pray that the lord would send labourers into the harvest field

– love your enemies

– make disciples of all nations

– be filled with the Spirit

– submit to one another

– control your tongue

– consider others better than yourself

Being a Christian is a very practical matter – READ the Book of James

James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (NIV)

To speak of actions that please God can lead some to imagine that we can thus gain approval from God if we have enough Brownie points. Pleasing God is a response to his love and NOT a means of gaining his love!!

These commands are not tiresome or irksome or burdensome!! The gnit-picking rules and regulations of the scribes and Pharisees were burdensome but Jesus commands are not burdensome because his yoke is easy and his burden is light —-

and God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect.

When the world looks at the commands of the OT and NT they seem intolerable – very often Christianity is perceived as a list if rules and regulations -[ unfortunately the Church sometims adds rules that are unbiblical] – but to the one born of God, God’s commands are not burdensome because he has overcome the world.

The Spiritual birth experience is something from outside this world which transplants us into the kingdom of God — into God’s family.  The hold of our old life dominated by the things of this world is broken – the world loses it facinaction and appeal — God’s commands become a delight rather than a drudge.

ILLUS.: Remember your courting days – washing dishes was a pain but washing dishes together with the love of your life suddenly became a delight – because in the words of the song “Love – Love changes everything…”

Do you love God like that!! You can only love God like that IF you are born from above!

The passage ends in v.5 with the affirmation again of belief in Jesus.

STOTT [p.175] “Christian believers are God’s children born from above.

God’s children are loved by all who love God.

Those who love God also keep his commandments.

They keep his commandments because they overcome the world,

 …. and they overcome the world because they are born of God.”

The new birth brings us into a relationship with Jesus Christ – it is this new life in Christ that is characterised by belief [trust] — love  — obedience. It is not one or the other BUT ALL three!!


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