John 16:33, "These things I
have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have
tribulations: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
I John 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
This morning, it behooves us again to take notice of the fact that Scripture no
where contradicts itself, and whenever cursory glances seem to indicate such
contradictions, they exist in our minds and not on the page itself. However,
whenever we find what seems to be conflicting information, it does us well to
investigate the verses/passages deeply as such study often yields the golden
nuggets of God's wisdom in the penning of the book. There are rich details that
we often glance over, but being prompted out of that state - by a question or
otherwise - can oftentimes give us good, rich thoughts that we did not have
Looking at the two verses above, they seem to indicate that Christ overcame the
world, and our faith overcomes the world. Obviously if language means anything
at all, our faith and Christ's person are not full equitable: they are not equal
or the same. So, how are we to rightly divide what is being said? How many
layers of thought are involved when trying to rightly divide this? Let us
proceed into a multi-layered progression based on the "nuts and bolts" of the
verse to arrive at a Scripturally balanced and rightly divided (God willing)
In the first verse, Christ plainly states that in Him is peace. In other words a
position "in Christ" yields a position of peace. Scripture plainly declares us
"in Christ" in many places as far back as before the foundation of the world.
(Ephesians 1:4) Therefore, we have had peace from a covenant standpoint since
before our actual existence. This covenant peace does not nullify the necessity
of Christ's actual coming and literal suffering for us, for that legally
rendered peace between God (the offended) and the elect family of God (the
offenders). However, God's people, being in Christ, were legally at peace with
God by the meritorious work of the Son. (I Corinthians 15:22)
By the plain words of Christ, peace comes "in Him," and we are verily in Him
both covenantly and legally by His work. Yet, there is another necessary layer
to this discussion of position that John offers in the second verse above. I
John 5:4 declares that "whatsoever" is born of God overcometh the world.
Consider the difference between "whatsoever" and "whosoever." Sometimes John, in
his first epistle, switches between the two words. In one sense, "whosoever"
refers to the man that has been born again, but in another sense, "whatsoever"
refers to the actual new man/new nature that a regenerated person has. When John
says "whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world," he reveals that the vital
work of salvation that began in the portals of eternity and was sealed at
Calvary is made real and effectual to the heir of grace by being born of God.
This changed heart, renewed mind, and new nature is completely not of this
world. Being not of this world, it cannot be vanquished by this world nor
Christ encourages His disciples not to fear those that can destroy the body, but
rather to fear him that can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
When the world kills a person, what have they done? All they have done is
destroyed the body: taken the life breath of natural existence from a natural
body. Therefore, they have killed the body, but the new creature that is stamped
and marked upon his inward parts immediately flies back to God, at rest and
peace in the blissful abode of heaven. Can the world stop that? No, the world
cannot, and the "whatsoever is born of God" can never be undone in an heir of
grace once God has touched the inside. Regeneration never has to be
re-regenerated. It is done once for all time in that person, just as Christ's
offering was once for all time for His people. (Hebrews 10:14)
Therefore, a position of peace comes from being in Christ, which we are in many
different ways. Christ goes on to say that He has overcome the world, and that
victory (what the word overcome means) is seen by a brilliant stroke of love and
mercy when He destroyed death and him that had the power over death by actually
tasting death for us. (Hebrews 2:9, 15) Generally, one thinks of a victory
coming in the opposite fashion. If a general wants to defeat his foes, he kills
them, rather than being killed. If a king wants to expand his empire and
kingdom, he puts down his rivals by exacting servitude upon them. Christ,
however, won the victory by submitting to the most excruciating and shameful
woes ever undergone. By the journey's end, His visage was marred more than any
man's visage had ever been marred. (Isaiah 52:14) Yet, by experiencing this
shameful course, He put down all rule, authority, power, or principality that
could have rightfully or justly kept Him from His loved ones.
Justly, we deserved to die in separation from God forever. Now we do not.
Justly, the devil could have made a case against us for all of our black marks
and imperfections. Now he cannot, for our blights are gone forever, as God
Himself remembers them no more against us. (Hebrews 8:12) Therefore, what was
agreed on in covenant was made real and manifest by Christ legally. Due to this
great sacrifice and overcoming the world, the vital aspect of our salvation will
be just as real to every child of grace as His literal appearing is right now in
heaven for us. (Hebrews 9:24) Therefore, this entire position of peace and
overcoming that we have hinges upon the success of Christ, which He gloriously
triumphed in to every jot and tittle.
Now, inevitably the question arises, how about our faith? What do we make of
that last phrase that says our faith overcomes the world? Interestingly enough,
the first phrase of I John 5:4 that we have already looked at describes the
overcoming as past perfect tense (overcometh), much like the "believeth" in
I John 5:1 is in past perfect tense. Using this tense, overcoming has already
happened, but the second phrase uses present tense "this is the victory" to show
where our faith comes in. We are already, past tense, conquerors through the
work of Christ and vital union with Him in the new birth. How do we seize upon
that blessedness now in the present tense? The utilization of faith, that stems
from that new man, brings victory today.
Indeed, our victory in the portals of eternity stands sure forever, but today is
a day (present tense) for us to utilize what has already been done for us. How
can we keep the evils of the world from driving us to depression and despair?
How can we stare at the bleak and icy hand of death without mortal dread and
fear? How do we keep from thinking that we are all alone in this cold and weary
world, and most importantly, how do we keep from always thinking in terms of
"poor, pitiful me?"
For us today to walk in peace, we need to utilize the faith that God has given
us to see things as they really are. The way things really are is that we are
loved by God in so many different facets that there is nothing to fear in this
present, evil world. Our home with Him is forever secure, and our state with Him
is ever sure. What can the world do? Absolutely nothing to change that! Is that
worth rejoicing in today, getting the faith gear in motion to walk as a
victorious son or daughter of God? Undeniably it is! The way we feel the victory
that Christ already has won to win our daily battles is to wield the faith and
knowledge that this world is not our home, nor can it stand in the way of God's
ultimate pleasure to us. By so doing, we minimize the trivial points of
depression and exalt the spiritual bounty that God has blessed us to enjoy. May
we be found exercising the faith that springs from the new man enjoying the
benefits of our position in Christ and having peace with God and one another no
matter what the world may do or say.