The “world” (kosmos) is the system where we live that is without God and exists in a constant state of rebellion against God. We are naturally part of this world system and are destined to perish with it when the wrath of God is revealed.
But, John tells us that, “everyone born of God overcomes the world.” In fact, John says this three times in three quick, progressive sentences:
- “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.”
- “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
- “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Each of these statements of “overcomes the world” is intentional and focused on an important truth of the Christian’s conquest over the rebellious system and their escape from a world destined to damnation.
First, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world,” translates the Greek word pan as “everyone,” but its meaning is “whatever” or “everything.” So, the sense here is not the person who is born of God, but the birth itself. It is not us who overcome the world, but the “birth” God gave us. The verb “overcomes” is nikao (“to conquer,” “to carry off the victory,” “to gain a victory,” “overcome”) in the present tense which means it is a victory that is taking place. The person with the birth from God, or the birth itself, is presently progressing and achieving the victory over the world. Again, note the focus of this first of three “overcomes the world” is the new birth that is presently overcoming the world.
Second, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith,” literally says in the Greek, “The victory that is victorious over the world, our faith.” Here the same verb nikao (where the Nike shoe company gets its name, “victory”), or “overcome,” is in the aorist tense which makes this verb “overcome” a reference to a past event. John describes this past event as “even our faith.” This victory has been secured and is a reference to something the believer has done in the past. It could be their faith in Jesus at the born again experience, but that would be a repeat of what is identified in the first “overcomes the world.” So, this is more likely a reference to the believer’s faith in the Truth and their rejection of the false teachers and the temptation to follow false philosophies of the world. Either way, this “overcome the world” is a past event where the believers demonstrated their faith in the Truth. This act of faith has separated them from the world and seems very similar to the faith of the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11 who also overcame a wide variety of worldly situations “by faith.” These worldly situations that tempted the faith of the heroes of Hebrews 11 included moral pressure, physical persecution and intellectual compromise. But, by an act of faith at some point in their life these heroes overcame the world at that moment in time.
Third, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Like the first “overcomes” described above, this verb “overcomes” is in the present tense which describes the continuous “conquering” the Christian experiences over the rebellious world system. This continuous victory is an ongoing experience for “he who believes the Jesus is the Son of God.” Once again, correct doctrine is crucial for the Christian’s continuing victorious experience while living in this fallen world (kosmos). Any doctrinal deviation away from their conviction to the eternal deity of the man Jesus and his involvement in God’s plan including creation, salvation and kingdom reign will interfere with the continuation of the believer’s current victory in the war zone of the kosmos where they must live the rest of their lives.