Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Subduing the World

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
In the beginning, when God created man and woman, He blessed them and gave them this mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

How do we subdue the earth? The apostle John gives us the answer: “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” The same Greek word, niké, is behind both “victory” and “overcome.” You might recognize the word niké as the name of a popular brand of sports shoes. Literally, it means to subdue. It is about forcefully bringing something into subjection.

When God created man, there was still much on earth that needed to be brought into line with His plan. So He gave man, who was created in His image, the authority to do just that. By the time Adam was done, the whole world was to look just like the Garden of Eden. Of course, we know that Adam and Eve disconnected from God and hooked up with satan, and God’s plan for the earth was dealt a severe blow. But we also know that God sent His Son into the world to destroy the works of the devil and reconcile us back to the Father. The works of the devil were destroyed at the Cross, and we have been made more than conquerors (hypernikeo) through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). It is by faith that we receive this victory.

God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion. That is, He put all things under the feet of Jesus, subjecting them to Him! (Ephesians 1:19-22). Not only that, but God has also raised us up together and made us sit together in Christ at the right hand of the Father. All things have been subdued and placed under the dominion of Christ — and of us, too, since we are seated in Christ on the throne of heaven. All of this we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder John calls our faith the victory that overcomes the world!

Now, notice that John speaks about this victory, this overcoming, in two tenses. There is the past tense, the act by which the world has been overcome. This is what happened at the Cross on our behalf — the mighty act of redemption that not only set us free and reconciled us to God, but also destroyed the works of the devil. We stand in this great victory by faith. It is this act and this faith that John refers to when he says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.”

But there is also a second tense that John uses to talk about this victory. It is a present and continuing sense: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world … Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The victory has been won, the enemy has been subdued and put under the feet of Jesus, and the works of the devil have been destroyed. Our work now is simply a “cleanup” operation, enforcing the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies.

As we continue in our faith in Jesus Christ, we will keep overcoming the world again and again, subduing it and bringing it under the lordship of Christ and the dominion of God’s kingdom. Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.