It is the world that lies in the believer’s way to heaven, and is the great impediment to our entrance there. But he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God believes therein that Jesus came from God to be the Savior of the world, and powerfully to conduct us from the world to heaven, and to God, who is fully to be enjoyed there. And he who so believes must needs by this faith overcome the world.
For, the believer must be well satisfied that this world is a vehement enemy to his soul, to his holiness, his salvation, and his blessedness. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16). He sees it must be a great part of the Savior’s work, and of his own salvation, to be redeemed and rescued from this malignant world. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (Galatians 1:4). The believer sees in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth that this world is to be renounced and overcome.
The believer perceives that the Lord Jesus conquered the world, not for himself only, but for his followers; and they must study to be partakers of his victory. Be of good cheer, for Jesus has overcome the world!
The believer is taught and influenced by the Lord Jesus’s death to be mortified and crucified to the world. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world (Galatians 6:14). He is begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to the lively hope of a blessed world above (1 Peter 1:3). He knows that the Savior has gone to heaven, and is there preparing a place for his serious believers (John 14:2). He knows that his Savior will come again thence, and will put an end to this world, and judge the inhabitants of it, and receive his believers to his presence and glory (John 14:3).
He is possessed with a spirit and disposition that cannot be satisfied with this world, that look beyond it, and are still tending, striving, and pressing, towards the world in heaven. In this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven (2 Corinthians 5:2). So that it is the Christian religion that affords its proselytes a universal empire.
It is the Christian revelation that is the great means of conquering the world, and gaining another that is most pure and peaceful, blessed and eternal. It is there, in that revelation, that we see what are the occasion and ground of the quarrel and contest between the holy God and this rebellious world. It is there that we meet with sacred doctrine (both speculative and practical), quite contrary to the tenor, temper, and tendency of this world. It is by that doctrine that a spirit is communicated and diffused which is superior and adverse to the spirit of the world.
It is there, in that revelation, we see that the Savior himself was not of this world that his kingdom was not and is not so, that it must be separated from the world and gathered out of it for heaven and for God. There we see that the Savior designs not this world for the inheritance and portion of his saved company. As he has gone to heaven himself, so he assures them he goes to prepare for their residence there, as designing they should always dwell with him, and allowing them to believe that if in this life, and this world only, they had hope in him, they should at last be but miserable. It is there that the eternal blessed world is most clearly revealed and proposed to our affection and pursuit.
It is there, in that revelation, that we are furnished with the best arms and artillery against the assaults and attempts of the world. It is there that we are taught how the world may be out-shot in its own bow, or its artillery turned against itself; and its oppositions, encounters, and persecutions, be made serviceable to our conquest of the world, and to our motion and ascent to the higher heavenly world: and there we are encouraged by a whole army and cloud of holy soldiers, who have in their several ages, posts, and stations, overcome the world, and won the crown.
It is the real Christian that is the proper hero, who vanquishes the world and rejoices in a universal victory. Nor does he (for he is far superior to the Grecian monarch) mourn that there is not another world to be subdued, but lays hold on the eternal world of life, and in a sacred sense takes the kingdom of heaven by violence too.
Who in all the world but the believer on Jesus Christ can thus overcome the world?
– Matthew Henry on 1 John 5:5; updated and reformatted by The Sandwich.