Sharing in Christ’s Victory

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).  One significant effect of the work of Christ was to destroy the works of the devil.  Therefore, one way in which we experience Christ in our union with Him is to share in His victory over the devil.  In 1 John 3 the apostle explains this participation in Christ’s victory as putting an end to the practice of sinning.  “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (3:8).  The practice of sinning is a participation in the work of the devil.  This does not mean that we need the devil in order to practice sin.  Human beings are sufficiently evil enough to get along in that department without the devil’s encouragement.  Yet, the practice of sin is a participation in the devil’s work.

This does not mean that Christians never sin.  John is very clear, earlier in the letter, that God has made provision for our sins as His children (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).  What it does mean is well articulated by Ian Hamilton in his brief commentary on the letters of John: “Sin is no longer the pattern that shapes their lives.  It is an unwelcome, unholy intruder, not an honored guest.”[1]

How do we experience this victory over sin?  John’s answer is the new birth and the new principle of life that is sown in our souls as those who are born of God: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (3:9, emphasis mine).  When the Holy Spirit regenerates us (John 3:8) He makes us “alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5).  In other words, the Spirit unites us to the life of Christ, which not only makes us alive, but defines our lives.  A person’s life cannot be defined both by Christ and by sin.  The way John says this is “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

The only way to share in Christ’s victory over sin is to abide in Christ as your life, and for Christ, by His Word and Spirit, to abide in you (1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 24; 4:12, 13; cf. John 5:38; 6:56; 8:31; 15:1-10).  In this way you will have communion with the Triune God (1 John 4:15-16) and the life principle of holiness will increase and the deathly principle of sin will diminish.  Holy Spirit-created faith is the victory that overcomes the world because it unites us to Christ (1 John 5:4).  Here are John’s concluding words to this letter.  May they be your comfort and encouragement.  “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but He who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:18-21).

 

[1] Ian Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2008), 40.

     
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    Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
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