Believers Are Overcomers

Good morning!

If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We will be continuing our study through the book of 1 John where John has taught us so much but today he highlights once again some of the characteristics of a true believer. However, today John calls true believers, “Overcomers" and he is going to emphasize how to recognize them. In 1 John 5:1-5 John says….

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Followers of Jesus Christ are identified by many designations in God’s word, including the title of Believers, Christians, Children, children of God, children of light, children of promise, sons of the day, sons of the kingdom, friends of Jesus Christ, brethren, my personal favorite "sheep," saints, soldiers, witnesses, stewards, fellow citizens, lights in the world, the elect, the chosen, the called, ambassadors of Christ, heirs, branches in the vine, members of the body of Christ, living stones, the beloved of God, followers of Christ, sons of Abraham, disciples, letters of Christ, servants of Christ, the godly, the people of God, a royal priesthood, the salt of the earth, vessels for honor, the righteous, aliens and strangers, and members of God’s household. Well, that was just some of the names given to followers of Jesus Christ.

Each of those names reveal something of the character, blessings, and privileges of believers. But John reveals yet another title for Christians in this passage; he calls them "Overcomers." John says that believers are victors, winners, and conquerors. The term overcomers, appears twice in verse 4 and once in verse 5. Obviously it must be one of John’s favorite terms for believers since occurs 24 of 28 in the New Testament in his writings. The word overcomer means "to conquer," "to gain the victory," or "to defeat."

The term "overcomer" was a popular term among the Greeks, who believed that ultimate victory could not be achieved by mortals, but only by the greek gods. The Greeks even had a goddess of victory named Nike who supposedly aided Zeus in his battle against the Titans; and no, it wasn’t their performance apparel that allowed Nike and Zeus to win.

Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s amazing that John associates the same term "overcomers" to Christians as the Greeks associated with their gods. However, in Jesus Christ, believers are invincible and unconquerable, so that

“neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate [them] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38–39).

The use of the term overcomers must have been very baffling to the Greeks but, it is indeed a fitting and right term for believers.

John says that believers are overcomers but, what are we overcomers of? We are overcomers of Satan! Earlier in this letter in chapter 2 verse 13-14, John wrote that spiritual young men overcome the Devil through the power of the Word. In John’s revelation, the tribulation saints "overcame" Satan because of

“the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death" (Rev. 12:11).

In 1 John 4:1-4, John also says that believers have overcome Satan’s servants as well.

Believers have also overcome death. Paul concluded this magnificent point in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 where he wrote;

"But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God grants believers victory over death through Jesus Christ, who “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us… " (Gal. 3:13).

Finally, as John notes three times in just two verses, Christians have overcome the world. Remember the world is the invisible spiritual system of evil, which is hostile to God and is ruled by Satan. Citizens of this world are dominated by carnal ambition, pride, greed, selfishness, and pleasure, all of which constitute

“the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life”

which John highlighted earlier in this letter.

However, believers are no longer part of the world system because they now have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Colossians 1:13, God

“rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

As a result,

“our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).

Although we still live in the world, Christians do not have an ongoing relationship to it; we are "aliens and strangers" in it. Our new natures, along with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, drive us away from the world and toward God. The world’s allurements no longer captivate our hearts nor will we love what it has to offer.

Far from being captivated with the world, believers should be struggling against it. The apostle Paul is a clear example of someone who faced intense opposition from the world. But that hostility did not defeat him, because the world had no hold on him. Paul says,

“I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Even when those who loved Paul begged him not to go to Jerusalem, where they knew he would be arrested, he replied,

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).

Paul knew that his ultimate triumph over the world was certain. He wrote, in Corinthians 4:17-18,

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

He also put it more specifically in Philippians 1:21,

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

So, all believers are invincible overcomers—not in themselves or by their own power, but in Jesus Christ and by His power. Although our ultimate victory is assured, we will still lose some of the battles. At times, we will succumb to Satan’s temptations, the world’s allurements, and the corruption of our own lusts, and fall into sin. But if believers are not always victorious in the skirmishes of this life, how can we be sure that we are truly believers and overcomers? Well, John reiterates and enriches three familiar themes he covered earlier in this letter which characterize an overcomer: 1) faith in the truth, 2) love for God and others, and 3) obedience to God’s Word.

Let’s take a look at how overcomers have...

FAITH IN THE TRUTH

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God … For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1a, 4–5)

The foundational mark of an overcomer is believing that Jesus is the Christ; believing He is the true Messiah. That abbreviated statement in verse 1 implies all that is true about Him; that “Jesus is the Son of God,” the second person of the Trinity, who came to earth to die and rise to accomplish salvation for sinners. Only the one who believes in the truth about Jesus Christ is born of God, overcomes the world. Therefore, all who are born of God are overcomers, and only those who believe in Jesus Christ are born of God.

In John 1:12, he writes,

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

Also in John 14:6, the Lord Himself declared,

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

In Acts 4:12 Peter told the hostile Jewish authorities that

"there is salvation in no one else (referring to Jesus); for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5-6,

"There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time."

Any teaching that people can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ is an absolute lie from Satan himself. There is no other way to be saved from eternal separation from God.

The verb tenses in verse 1 reveals a significant theological truth. The verb "believes" is a present tense which means that verse 1 literally reads,

"Whoever is believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God."

This is such a critical point! Contrary to Arminian theology, continual faith is the result of the new birth, not its cause. Christians do not keep themselves born again by believing, nor do they lose their salvation if they stop believing; it is their perseverance in the faith that gives evidence that they have been born again. The faith that God grants in regeneration is permanent, and cannot be lost. Nor, as some teach, can it die, for dead faith does not save. As John MacArthur says, "There is no such thing as an "unbelieving believer.”

The question sometimes occasionally arises concerning those who "profess faith in Christ," but then quote "stop believing in Him." Well, Jesus Christ described such people in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:5-7, 20-22 where He says,

"Others (referring to seeds) fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.… The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

Therefore, such false, temporary faith produces no fruit, in contrast, genuine saving faith produces the fruit that proves one’s new birth.

Earlier in this epistle, John explained that those who permanently fall away from the faith were never redeemed in the first place:

"They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us" (1 Jn. 2:19).

Their "professed faith" was never true saving faith. Saving faith is not mere intellectual knowledge of gospel facts, but involves a wholehearted, permanent commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

As previously noted, the content of saving faith, is that Jesus is the Christ; He is its object. Those who are born of God believe the truth about Christ. Those who do not believe this truth are liars and antichrists. As John warned earlier

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (1 Jn. 2:22).

Then, making it unmistakably clear that no one can come to the Father apart from Jesus Christ, John added in verse 23,

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also."

Those who reject Jesus Christ will never see heaven, since anyone who "does not confess Jesus, is not from God." Let me just make it very clear, rejection of Jesus Christ doesn’t just include an outright hostile rejection; it includes all who do not accept Him as Lord and Savior.

John adds emphasis by repeating in verses 4 and 5 the same truth from verse 1; that those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been born of God … overcome the world, and gain the victory over it through their faith. The phrase "our faith" literally reads, "the faith of us." John is referring to the personal faith of individual believers that makes saints overcomers.

Christians are victorious overcomers from the moment of salvation, when they are granted a faith that will never fail to embrace the gospel. They may experience times of doubt; they may even cry out like David did in Psalms 13:1,

"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?"

But true saving faith will never fail, because those who possess it, have triumphed over every foe because of Christ. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11—testify that true faith endures every trial and emerges victorious over them all.

John says that overcomers have a …

LOVE FOR GOD AND OTHERS

whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. (5:1b)

The primary mark of an overcomer involves the doctrinal test of believing the truth of the Christian faith. The second mark is whether an overcomer loves both the Father and the child born of Him. True salvation brings people not only into a faith relationship with God, but also into a love relationship with Him and His children. John has emphasized this truth throughout this letter. For example, in 2:10-11, John says,

"The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes."

In 3:10 and 3:14, he says,

"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. …We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death."

In 4:7-8 John says,

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

And finally, John says in 4:20-21,

"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

This kind of love is not simply emotional or sentimental. It is a desire to honor, please, and obey God. When this love is directed toward people, it is the love of the will, a choice to do so, love that sacrificially meets the needs of others. Paul described this love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 like this,

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

John now says that overcomers desire to …….

OBEY GOD’S WORD

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (5:2–3)

This opening statement in verse 2, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God," is the corollary to the truth John expressed in verse 1. Just as it is impossible to love God without loving His children, so also is it impossible to truly love His children apart from loving Him. Those twin priorities of loving God and other Christians mark all who have been born again.

The proof of genuine faith is sustained through loving obedience. It is a love of God and a desire to observe His commandments. It is a genuine saving faith that produces love resulting in obedience. Therefore, believers are those who believe God is who Scripture reveals Him to be. They are also those who will respond in love, praise, and adoration. Let’s do a quick word study. The word John uses here "observe" translates a present tense verb which has the connotation of "to accomplish," "to carry out," or "to practice." It indicates that a believers’ obedience is to be continuous and will always be the general direction of their lives. John also uses the word "keep" which translates a present tense verse which has the connotation of keeping watch over, guarding, or preserving. So, a true believer, the one who truly loves God, will view God’s commandments as a precious treasure, to be guarded at all costs. True believers will both practice obedience and protect the truths of God’s Word.

This biblical principle that those who truly love God will obey Him, permeates Scripture. It is a foundational theme throughout the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 13:4 Moses commanded Israel,

"You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him."

Samuel rebuked Saul’s disobedience in 1 Samuel 15:22, by reminding him that

"to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13,

"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person."

God commanded Israel through the prophet Jeremiah,

"Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you" (Jer. 7:23).

Obedience was also a foundational theme throughout the New Testament and especially in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 12:50 Jesus said,

"Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

He pronounced "blessed … those who hear the word of God and observe it." In John 8:31 Jesus challenged those who professed faith in Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." To His disciples in the upper room He stated plainly, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Jesus continues to repeat this truth several times throughout this same discourse in John. In John 14:21,

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

In verses 23-24, Jesus says,

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.… He who does not love Me does not keep My words."

In John 15:10, He says,

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love."

And in verse 14,

"You are My friends if you do what I command you.”

So, what does this obedience look like? Well it is not an external, ritualistic, legalistic compliance. Nor is it unwilling, partial, inconsistent, or grudging obedience. According to Romans 6:17, loving obedience comes from the heart. And according to 1 Peter 5:2, loving obedience is a willing obedience. Galatians 3:10 says loving obedience is total obedience. And lastly, in Psalms 119:54, loving obedience is joyful obedience.

And here today, John tells us that overcomers do not find "His commandments … burdensome." In Matthew 11:28–30 Jesus invited weary sinners,

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Throughout Psalm 119, the psalmist repeatedly expressed his delight in God’s law.

"I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches." (v. 14).

"I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word." (v. 16).

"Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors." (v. 24).

"O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." (v. 97).

"How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (v. 103).

In summary, overcomers are those who love God and obey His law, because they want to honor Him for He is holy, perfect and so desires our best. Overcomers are obedient out of loving adoration for their Heavenly Father.

We have spent this entire message talking about what characterizes an overcomer: faith in the truth, love for God and others, and obedience to God’s Word. Before we conclude this message, let’s talk about how God delights in overcomers.

Because God does delight in overcomers, He pours out rich blessings on us. These rich blessings can be seen in the letters to the seven churches found in the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3. These letters contain delightful, special gifts that God promises to all overcomers.

The first promise to overcomers is found in the letter to the church at Ephesus. In Revelation 2:7 Jesus said,

"To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God."

After Adam and Eve sinned, God drove them from the Garden of Eden, in part so that they would not

"take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"

in their sinful state (Gen. 3:22). The tree of life symbolizes eternal life and eternal life represents everlasting life in Heaven in the very presence of God. Therefore, this promise to overcomers is that they will live forever in heaven worshipping the one true God face to face.

The second promise is the opposite side of the same coin. In the letter to the church at Smyrna, Jesus promised,

"He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death" (Rev. 2:11).

The fall of man resulted not only in physical death, but also in the second death—eternal punishment in hell (Rev. 20:14). Although overcomers will experience the first death (physical death), we will not die spiritually. The second death has no power over believers, since God has granted us eternal life and promised us Heaven.

The letter to the church at Pergamum reveals two more promises from Christ to overcomers:

"To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it" (Rev. 2:17).

First, the "hidden manna" pictures God’s supplying His people’s needs. For Israel, the manna was a visible, tangible manifestation of God’s provision. For Christians, Jesus Christ, "the bread that came down out of heaven" (John 6:41), is God’s provision for all their needs. Second, the "white stone" was given to victorious athletes in the games, and served as an admission pass to a special celebration for the winners. God promises overcomers admittance to the eternal victory celebration in heaven. God has given believers admission to Heaven!

In Revelation 2:26-28, the overcomers in the church at Thyatira also received two promises. First, Jesus assured them in verses 26 and 27,

"He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father."

According to Psalm 2:8–9, Jesus Christ Himself will rule the nations with a rod of iron. The Lord will delegate His authority to believers and during His millennial kingdom, they will reign with Him as undershepherds. In verse 28, Christ promises them the "morning star." Since He is the morning star, this promise is a promise of Christ Himself in all His fullness.

In Revelation 3:1, John tells us the church at Sardis was so filled with unregenerate people that the Lord declared it to be dead. However, there were some who were redeemed. To those overcomers, Christ addressed the three-part promise,

"He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."

White symbolizes purity and it is fitting for those clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:27). Having had our sins washed in the blood of the Lamb, we will one day be freed from the remainder of sin that still entangles us and given perfect holiness and purity.

Because He has purified them from their sins, Christ also promises not to erase overcomers’ names from the Book of Life. In ancient times, rulers kept a register of their city’s citizens. Those who had committed particularly heinous crimes might have had their names purged from that register, thus making them outcasts. But under no circumstances will Christ blot out a true Christian’s name from the roll of those whose names were

"written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain"

according to Revelation 13:8, because

"He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

Far from blotting their names from the Book of Life, Jesus promised in Revelation 3:5 to "confess" every overcomer’s "name before [His] Father and before His angels," reaffirming that they belong to Him. He made that same promise in Matthew 10:32 where He said,

"Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

In Revelation 3:12, Jesus Christ promised the overcomers in the faithful church at Philadelphia,

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name."

A "pillar" suggests stability and permanence. The New Testament pictures the church metaphorically as God’s temple of which each believer is an integral, permanent part.

Jesus’ assurance that believers "will not go out" from heaven further reinforces the truth of their absolute, eternal security. His words were especially meaningful to the Philadelphians, since their city was in a region prone to earthquakes and they sometimes had to flee for their lives. But no one who enters heaven will ever be forced to leave.

In Revelation 3:12 Jesus continues to highlight the believers’ eternal security, when He says,

"I will write on him (referring to overcomers) the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God (highlighting our heavenly citizenship], and My new name (a reference of His love for His possession)."

How glorious to be God’s possession and have His name written on us!

And in Revelation 3:21, the final promise is addressed to the overcomers in the lukewarm church at Laodicea. This final promise is like the crescendo on the Hallelujah Chorus! It is wonderfully glorious, almost too far beyond imagination, yet, it is true. As if all the previous ones weren’t enough, Jesus makes this staggering promise;

"He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

As He shares His Father’s throne, so will overcomers share His throne and reign victoriously with Him forever. Now that should jolt all of us to the core of our soul! We will be seated with Jesus Christ on His throne!!!

Truly, this has been such an encouraging message for me to preach! What a great reminder that as God’s Children, we are Overcomers! As Overcomers, God has and will shower us with blessings now and forever! Take what we have learned or relearned today and bask in the reality that we will one day see Jesus Christ face to face in all His glory as we live eternally with Him!

John says….

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?