He That Overcometh
By John Gavazzoni
Over the past sixty three plus years (since the Lord drew me to Himself) I've probably been exposed to as much that can be said about, preached and written about, and generally theorized concerning, the subject of the believer as an overcomer as most Christians, and I'm quite sure, quite a bit more than most. End result: well, frankly, generally, looking back, I'm not that impressed.
Mostly, the collective effect of the above sources, inevitably left me reaching down into, and searching about within, myself to find a greater determination to succeed at becoming an overcomer. THAT is "not of faith." Back in my evangelistic, gospel singer days I used to sing a song that began with, "I wonder have I given my best for Jesus, who died upon the cruel tree." Let me tell you, the last thing God needs, or expects from me, for his kingdom sake, is MY best.
Enter the beloved disciple, John, breaking through all the confusion and obfuscation, with typical explicitness. John's understanding re: overcoming is expressed very succinctly and explicitly, and while the dictionary defines "explicit" as leaving nothing merely implied, John does leave us, paradoxically, wondering just what might be the far-reaching inferences to be drawn from his very compact identification of what makes one an overcomer.
While it is generally thought that overcoming pertains to prevailing in the face of, and conquering, the world, the flesh and the devil, John narrows it down to the world, that is, the present adversarial orderly arrangement, the dominant contrarian system, which confronts the believer on every hand during his eonian journey.
He does so because "the world" encompasses, and sums up, the influences coming from the devil and the flesh. It is ever the world (in the sense that the New Testament uses the word when it uses it in a negative sense) that confronts the believer as his or her enemy. So "Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For the things of the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world." And "whosever therefore, will be a friend of the world, is an enemy of God."
Allow me to insist that the clear inference to be drawn from John's identification of what is specifically characteristic of the one who overcomes the world, is that believing that Jesus is the Son of God is exactly, and fundamentally, what this present, evil dominant system is against. The system fears that one and only faith-stance.
We are staying the course when we cannot be removed from that faith-insistence. The world is meant to be victoriously confronted by the believer, and we do so exactly, and only, as John prescribes. That prescription for victory is intrinsic to, and carries within itself, all other faith imperatives. Get the force of John's statement: "Who is he that overcometh the world, BUT he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." (emphasis, mine). The "but" there in the KJV conveys "except," that is, "none other than."
If God has sent His Son, Jesus, into this world, then write over this old world, "defeated, conquered; overcome," as that Reality evokes faith in each and every one for whom, to whom, and for whose benefit, He was sent. And know this: God sent Him to be believed on, and it will be so. What God intends will be.
I speak of a faith-stance, and of staying the course, not merely a one-time, so-called "act of faith." Jonathan Mitchell brings out the tense of the Greek in that passage as a believing that is continual and progressive. From brother Mitchell's translation: "Now who is the person continuously overcoming (or: progressively conquering) the ordered System (world; secular realm; religious arrangement) if not the one continuously believing and trusting that Jesus is (continuously exists being) the Son of God (God's Son, or: the Son who is God)?"
Lest the reader think I am calling for a faith traced to man's choosing, remember also another related statement on our subject by the Lord, Himself: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." At the heart of the contrariety of the world's system is unbelief in Jesus' uniquely/only-begotten Sonship. That He also, of course, has overcome, as the Author and Finisher of our faith.