1 John 5:4 (ESV) … “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
For the eighth and final time in his letter, John addresses an aspect of the new birth by use of the word gennaō (2:29; 3:9 twice, 4:7; 5:1 three times; 5:4). Everyone who has been born of God is able to keep God’s commands because he has been given power by God to overcome the negative influences that would prevent such obedience. Because of the new birth, the believer is given supernatural power to withstand the forces of the world. As the epistle states earlier (cf. 2:15–17; 3:1, 13; 4:1–6), “world” often has an ethical dimension representing humanity, which is at war with God and his people. Just as Jesus states that he has overcome the world in John’s Gospel (16:33b), here believers are said to overcome the world.
The translation of v. 4 in English obscures the Greek wordplay. The NIV translates the Greek verb nikaō as “overcome” but translates the Greek noun nikē as “victory.” A translation that keeps the root the same in English would read: “For everyone born of God conquers the world. This is the conquering that has conquered the world, even our faith.”167 John uses the present tense, which indicates that believers are currently experiencing the victory.
It should be noted that v. 4 contains the only occurrence of the noun he pistis (“the faith”) in the Johannine writings. Every other time he favors the verb pisteuo (“believe”). It seems clear from the context that his use of “faith” differs slightly from the Pauline usage and stresses the idea of confession, the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Marshall writes, “The fact that we hold the true faith from our hearts is the means whereby the power of the new world operates in us and enables us to overcome the world.” The particular nature of the victory is variously understood.171 It could refer to (1) Christ’s once-for-all victory on the cross over Satan, sin, and the world; (2) the believers’ victory over the heretics;173 or (3) the victory that occurs at the conversion of the individual believer. R. Brown finds it difficult to decide between these three choices and admits, “I see no way to be certain as to which past action John means here.”175 Ultimately, these three elements are all included in the final victory. The ground of our victory is Christ’s death and resurrection. From that work believers will have victory over all that is in opposition to God. Daily victory is also granted to the individual believer, but he must exercise faith in Christ and be active in his pursuit of God.
In Christ & Friends Always,