THE VICTORY – THREEFOLD AND THREE TENSE
[A Study in 1 John]
“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4) The experience of Light, Love and Life, as depicted by the Apostle, beautiful in its simplicity and wholly satisfying, is not altogether easy of attainment. It has its enemies. Hence the words, “victory” and “overcome” (l John 2:13,14; 4:4; 5:4, 5).
The Abiding Life is a life of victory.
And the victory is well within our reach, since the resources are of His own providing. Nay, they are Himself: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).
The Threefold Enemy
A study of the above citations reveals a threefold enemy: the wicked one; the world; the self-life, that in us to which the former two direct the appeal of their blandishments. Scripture uniformly lists the three: “the world, the flesh, the devil.”
There is no difficulty in correlating this threefold enemy with the threefold Gospel. They are actively and aggressively opposed to allegiance to GOD the Father; to faith in, confession of, devotion to, GOD the Son; to life in, and surrender to, the HOLY SPIRIT. They are the threefold enemy of the threefold experience of Life, Light and Love. And yet, sad to say, many confessed followers of CHRIST, children of grace, destined for glory, not only “fall” for their subtleties but glibly declare that they “can see no harm in them.”
1. THE WICKED ONE
Himself fallen into a state of open rebellion against GOD, he is not content that any man should own allegiance to GOD. Jealous of fealty [allegience] to Him he came to our first parents with a threefold temptation (Genesis 3:6) . We read of nothing evil in itself that he asked them to do. His purpose was to sever the life-cord between GOD and man, diverting man’s allegiance from GOD to himself. This he accomplished, as history eloquently attests. And today he is doing all possible to prevent a reunion. When, however, such a union is set up through the saving grace of GOD, he does all in his power to disrupt it, making his appeal through the world without and to the flesh within.
2. THE WORLD
The Greek word [cosmos] means world order or system. It is anything and everything that leaves GOD out. It is a system of thinking and living that does not count GOD essential. It proposes to satisfy man, intellectually, morally, spiritually, socially, economically, apart from GOD. In creed and conduct it is anti-christian; it has its own way of believing and living.
So the Apostle, when once he has mentioned the matter of overcoming the wicked one, links with him the world system he has set up and warns GOD’s children against it: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:15- 17).
Note that the threefold temptation used in Eden is here ascribed to the world. But the Apostle continues, passing from conduct to creed (vs. 18 ff).
The world is “antichrist” in its attitude of denying the Deity of CHRIST and the Fatherhood of GOD, solely through Him. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (vv. 22, 23).
Soon John returns to the same subject, warning against the world’s anti-christian creed of unbelief and the spirits actuating it: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of GOD: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:1-3).
If believers, through the years and particularly in our day, had taken seriously these warnings, continuing to abide in Him and in the anointing of His Spirit (I John 2:24-27), the world could not have dictated the denials of essential Christian truth which now stalk, unblushing and unrebuked, through the pulpits and counsels of the Church. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4). Faith in whom? JESUS as the Son of GOD (vs. 5). It is a great conflict; the promise is: “To him that overcometh.”
3. THE FLESH
What movings the self-life, with its unworthy passions and purposes, has within us. How often we have felt them, been shamed by them, realized our own impotence before them. The flesh in us is the enemy of the Spirit in us, the one “lusting” against the other. The sin of pampering the self-life is that we thereby defeat the gracious purposes of the Spirit in us checkmating His every move to transform us into His likeness. Thus life continues on a fleshly basis, unbeautified, unsanctified. But more. It is the flesh to which the world and the wicked one make their appeal.
Thus we become their easy dupes. We have paved the way for worldly creed and worldly conduct to creep into our lives, much to the satisfaction of Satan. Why does any Christian ever deny the [doctrine of Christ’s] Blood? or the Resurrection? Only through the pride and conceit of the flesh. And who are pleased by such denials? Only Satan and his world-system.
The antidote, so persistently urged by the Apostle, is the Abiding Life. As one has well said, “Detachment from the world results from attachment to CHRIST.” As we abide in Him, the Spirit quickens His life and nature in us, we have His mind and walk in His ways. Therefore, John urgently pleads, “Abide!” “Abide!”
Part 1 of 3
From LIFE, LOVE and LIGHT: The Gospel of John and First Epistle of John. By Norman B. Harrison, D.D. Pastor, Bible Teacher and Evangelist. Minneapolis: The Harrison Service, 1929. Edited and republished courtesy of http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/
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