“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”
(1 John 1:8).
So, we are all sinners, and we continue to struggle
with sin even after we are saved.
We will never know a total absence of sin
until we are with the
Lord in glory:
“When Christ appears,
we shall be like him”
(1 John 3:2).
“We know [with confidence] that
anyone born of God does not habitually sin;
but He (Jesus) who was born of God [carefully]
keeps and protects him,
and the evil one does not touch him”
(1 John 5:18, AMP)
John writes chapter 5
of his first
letter to encourage believers by
assurance of their position in Christ--
a position that is eternally secure.
He explains that he has written to those who have believed in Jesus so that they may know (or understand with certainty) that they have (in the present tense) eternal life (1 John 5:13). John emphasizes in this context that there are “three that bear record in heaven” (1 John 5:7, KJV). That threefold testimony affirms that the believer in Jesus Christ indeed has eternal life.
John begins this section of his epistle by asserting that the one believing that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and is loved by God the Father (1 John 5:1). If God loves His children, then His children ought also to love God’s children. Believers can know they are loving God’s children by obeying what He told them to do (1 John 5:2)—by expressing that love as God has designed. God’s instructions are not burdensome or too difficult to obey (1 John 5:3). John reminds believers that they have already overcome the world by their faith in Christ (1 John 5:4), because all who have believed in Jesus have overcome the world (1 John 5:5). John appeals to important witnesses to this fact, stating that “there are three that bear record in heaven” (1 John 5:7, KJV).
In John 5:6a, John explains that Jesus came by water and by blood—emphasizing that to Jesus’ human birth was added His perfect and sinless blood, enabling Him to be the substitute for sin. John points to the Spirit of God who testifies to this fact, and His word can be trusted (1 John 5:6b). In fact, John affirms that there are three that bear record (1 John 5:7). And this is where we have some differences in the various translations.
The KJV specifies that the
“three that bear record in heaven”
Father, the Word, and the
Holy Ghost, and that those three are one
(1 John 5:7).
In the next verse, the KJV says,
"There are three that bear witness in earth,
the spirit, and the water, and the blood,”
and that these three agree
(1 John 5:8).
Other translations (like the ASV, NASB, ESV, etc.) do not contain the heaven-and-earth phrases and note that the three that bear record are the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 John 5:7–8). These three witnesses agree that Jesus is God come in the flesh (e.g., 1 John 4:2).
First John 5:7–8 is thus an example of a textual variant (the KJV was translated from different manuscripts than were the ASV, NASB, ESV, etc.). Depending on which translation is read, the reader will understand that either there are six witnesses:
the Father, Son, and Spirit in heaven; and the spirit, water, and blood on earth
or there are three witnesses:
the Spirit of God, the water (of normal, fleshly birth), and the (sinless, perfect) blood (NIV, etc.)
In either of these readings, God bears record that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Consequently, the one who has believed in Jesus is secure in his or her salvation, as God also bears witness that the believing one has eternal life (1 John 5:10–13).
The idea that Christians are overcomers is a theme throughout the apostle John’s writings. He mentions believers overcoming the devil or the “the evil one” in 1 John 2:13–14. In the book of Revelation, John refers to believers as victorious conquerors multiple times (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). The apostle is not implying that only certain “super-Christians” are overcomers; rather, every true believer is an overcomer because he has been born of God: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, ESV).
John states that “our faith”
is the victory that overcomes the world.
The original Greek terms translated
as “our faith”
in 1 John 5:4 refer to putting our trust in the
saving work of Jesus Christ
or believing in the gospel’s message.
Anyone who believes in Jesus for salvation and trusts in Christ’s atoning work on the cross—His death and resurrection—shares in His victory over sin (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15), death (Acts 2:24), and the forces of evil at work in the world (1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14). Through faith, we believe in Jesus Christ and are born of God (Galatians 2:16). Through faith, we surrender our wills to His. Our faith is the key to victory. The only way to overcome the world is through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
At salvation, Christians are “hidden with Christ in God” through the work of the Holy Spirit, who baptizes all believers into one body—the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–13). We are “in Christ,” and He is “in us” (Colossians 1:27). John explains that we are overcomers because, as children of God, His Spirit lives in us: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world”
We Christians will still battle with sin and darkness because we live in a fallen world. John makes it clear that life here on earth can be challenging: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16–17, ESV).
Jesus assures us that our salvation is secure (John 3:15–16; 10:28). The Holy Spirit guarantees that we belong to God and seals us for the “day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). But in the meantime, we must “live by faith in the Son of God” who loves us and gave His life for us (Galatians 2:20). Only then can we exclaim, like Paul, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
We can draw strength and encouragement from Scripture, knowing that the ultimate, eternal victory has already been accomplished in Jesus. The victory is won—past tense—through our union with Christ and our identification with Him. But we continue to overcome this world in our daily life experiences by walking in faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in “the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” to be with us and carry us through all “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword. . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37). We triumph in any and every situation, “facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need,” through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:12, ESV).
Our faith, explains Paul, is a protective piece of spiritual armor in this life: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, ESV).
No force of evil,
no weapon of darkness can
overcome the person who trusts in Christ.
On the contrary,
our faith in Jesus is the victory that
overcomes the world.