In his cross, Christ conquered sin; in his resurrection, he conquered death. All the evil of the world, and all penalties of evil, including death, are overcome by the victory of the Lord. At Easter, we celebrate that victory with joy.
The Epistle points out that Christ’s victory is ours. Here’s how it goes. We have faith that Jesus is the Christ. In this faith, we are begotten by God. In being begotten by God, we conquer the world. And in conquering the world, we love God, we love the children of God, and we keep God’s commandments obediently.
But these lines in the Epistle look like joy-destroyers, don’t they? If we don’t keep God’s commandments, if we don’t love God’s children, we don’t conquer the world. And if we don’t, then we aren’t begotten of God, and we don’t really have faith.
And it gets worse.
In another place, this Epistle tells us that anyone who says he doesn’t have sin is a liar (I John 1:8). So it seems that there is a Catch-22 here. If you sin, you don’t conquer. You lose. But if you try claiming that you don’t sin, you are guilty of lying, which is a sin; and so you don’t conquer. It seems that, either way, whether you think you sin or think you don’t sin, you lose.
So what happened to our victory? And where is joy?
The solution is to notice what faith is. Faith is the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the one who – the one who what? The one who conquers sin and death.
So here is the message. We are saved from sin and death by believing that we are saved from sin and death – by Christ. There is no Catch-22. Even in our sinful state, where truth forces us to confess our disobedience and our failures in love, we are conquerors – over the sin and death in ourselves – as long as we believe that Christ won the victory for us.
This faith is what God requires of us. The Epistle is right: it isn’t burdensome.
And so here is our joy: As long as we believe that Christ won the victory for us, the victory of Christ is ours.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.