Summary: A sermon on overcoming the world and the importance of baptism.
1 John 5:4-10a. October, 1927. Vol. 1. Page 47.
Shortly before our Lord departed this earth, He said to His disciples: “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” A little child sometimes takes courage to cross a seemingly dangerous place by seeing its father go before. More than such encouragement is given us in Christ, who as a man passed through all trials and temptations that we pass through and overcame them all. He not only shows us the way, but has made a way and carries us over the path through all trials and temptations to overcome the world, as He overcame - “I live and ye shall live also.”Of this overcoming the world John speaks here when he asks the question:
Who is He that Overcometh the World?
The inspired Apostle answers the question himself by saying, “Whoever is born of God overcometh the world. He who is born into this world is not to find rest and peace and joy and an everlasting home in it, but something that he must fight with and overcome. He enters (the lists?) For a pitched battle and if he does not win this battle, he might with real cause curse the day he was born, for they who do not overcome the world, shall not stand in judgment, but fear the dreadful sentence: Depart ye cursed etc. They may ask them for mercy, but hear only: Depart. They may ask for blessing and receive a curse. They may ask to be sent to a good place and be sent to fire. They may ask for a short sentence and receive an everlasting one. They may ask for a good company and have only devils to torment them. Surely it were better for such a one that he had never been born, as Jesus said of Judas.
Neither does natural birth fit you out for such a battle, but rather does this word of John condemn all naturally born man and woman not fit to enter life eternal when they be born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus. People are often unduly proud of their birth and prate much of their glorious ancestors and the blue blood that flows in their veins. Surely we have nothing to boast of by birth, but sin, whether born high or low. David was a king, yet not proud of his birth, for he says: Behold I was shapen in iniquity, etc. With these words God condemns all man’s achievements: Ye must be born again.
The world with all its wisdom, science, and inventions can give us nothing to assist us in the battle that lies before us. The world presents to us only such things as we must overcome, that we must (put?) aside as worthless to our salvation, as Jesus says, Let a man deny himself, etc. The godless are burdened and held fast to this world by it’s riches, cares, trials, etc. The man who overcomes sits on top. He rules his possessions and is not ruled by them. He rules over wealth and is not ruled by it. With Paul he counts all things for dross that he may gain Christ.
But how can we become such conquerors? The hands, feet, eyes, wisdom etc. given by my mother in birth were of no avail. We must be born of God. We may ask with Nicodemus: How can these things be? To which Jesus answers, “Except ye be born of water and the spirit etc.” Nothing that you have done or can do can give you this birth. To be born of God must come of the will of Him who gives us birth and not of our own. It is something that no man can buy, nor earn. It is given by of God.
Therefore John does not tell us how to be born of God, but points only to the manifestation of this birth, our faith. He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God is born of God, as Jesus also says to Nicodemus when he asks: How can these things be: as Moses lifted up etc. We see and know the means by which God gives faith, namely the Word of God, as Paul says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” The gospel is the power of God. Baptism is a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Now I may know that I live and have the new birth, because I believe in it, but I do not know how I came by this birth, as little as we know where the wind comes from, or a child knows how it was born. It only knows it lives, as St. Paul says: I live, yet not I, but Christ dwelleth in me.