daily biblical sermons

This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, after Epiphany, January 10, 2020
1 John 5:5-13, Psalm 147, Luke 5:12-16

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; these three agree … God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:4-8, 11b-13).



Today St. John tells us, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4). This means that the one that overcomes the world is “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). Why is it that faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God enables us to overcome the world? It is because Jesus is the Savior of the world sent to us by God to help us overcome the temptations of the world that draw us away from God and alienate us from him so that the world conquers us, instead of us conquering the world, and so we lose our life with God.



This is what happened in the first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where they lived in peace and harmony with God. They turned away from God by sin, became alienated from him, lost their intimacy with him and his gift of righteousness and heavenly peace in their heart.



Christ was then sent in the fullness of time to redeem us, to save us by atoning for our sins with his sacrificial death on the cross, which made full reparation for them before God so that all that put their faith in him might have his suffering and death credited to their personal account by God as paying their debt of suffering and death that they have with God in punishment for their sins.



So when we put our faith in Christ, our alienation from God is overcome, and we are reconciled with God. Therefore God, seeing that our sins have been justly paid for and that the penalty for them has been duly and justly served for us by his divine/human Son on the cross, he justifies us, which means that he declares us henceforth righteous, reckoning to us his own righteousness.



Therefore by putting our faith in Christ and then immediately beginning to follow his normative biblically revealed moral law, which the grace of our justification now enables and also obliges us to keep, we grow in sanctification and friendship with God. In this way we have overcome the world with its temptations, pulls, desires, and passions that lead us into sin that separates us from God. What enabled us to overcome the world? Our faith gave us victory over the world. “And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).



We see here that the Christian is not to go along with the evil temptations of the world, nor is he to go along with the false teaching of the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age, the spirit of worldliness). It is precisely the evil teachings of the Zeitgeist that we must overcome and have victory over. God sent us a Savior not only to save us but also to teach us the truth, and with his truth we can overcome the spirit of the age, which is a worldly spirit.



This is very important today, because many misguided Christians are mistaking the spirit of the world for the Spirit of God, falsely imagining that the Holy Spirit always speaks through the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist. The truth is that the spirit of the age needs to be tested and discerned by the Spirit of God and the teachings contained in his inspired word in the Scriptures. In many cases today the spirit of the age is in direct opposition to divine revelation and the divinely revealed moral law of God. Examples of this are many. One of the main examples is the whole LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) ideology that seems to be reigning supreme now among liberals, the Democrat Party in the United States, and in the colleges and universities of this country (USA).



The LGBT ideology has become the ideology of the Left, of radical liberals, who do not hold themselves bound by biblical teaching or basic Christian moral values, especially in the area of sexuality. Such people wholeheartedly embrace homosexual relationships and choosing and changing your gender as legitimate diversity that needs to be protected and tolerated as an acceptable lifestyle. And even some dissident Catholics believe that it is virtuous to affirm the normality and goodness of homosexual relationships as an acceptable Christian lifestyle. These same dissident Catholics also affirm abortion, which enables people to live a free sexual life, having sex with whomever and whenever they want, without fear of the consequences (unwanted children).



They defend these so-called “rights” as though they were “human rights,” which, of course, they are not, since they are moral evils, and a moral evil can never become a human right or a woman’s right or “women’s reproductive rights.” These are simply empty phrases that are being invented and spread about by those that have rejected basic Christian moral values in the area of sexuality. They are proclaiming as good what God in the inspired Scriptures teaches is evil, namely murdering their own children in the womb (Exodus 20:13 “Thou shalt not kill” KJV) and the abomination of homosexual relationships, which God condemns in the inspired Scriptures (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:22-28).



People that follow this false teaching have not overcome the world, but rather the world has overcome them. They have completely confused the role of Christianity in the world, thinking it to be to reinterpret the Bible in order to bring it up-to-date with the spirit of the world (the Zeitgeist), when what they should be doing is the exact opposite, namely preaching divine law, revealed in the Scriptures, in order to inform and correct the mistaken moral values of the world that is erroneously following the spirit of the age (the Zeitgeist). Instead of teaching and correcting the world by their preaching, they are correcting God’s divinely revealed moral law in the Scriptures in order to align it with the false teaching of the world. The world has had victory over them; not they over the world.



St. John also tells us today that Jesus came “by water and blood … not with the water only but with the water and the blood” (1 John 5:6). The Gnostics of St. John’s time accepted that Jesus was baptized with the Spirit, but they denied that he truly died on the cross. Therefore this is probably what St. John means by stressing that he came not only with the water (his baptism), but also with the blood (his death on the cross). Also the water and the blood mean our own baptism and our reception of the blood of Christ in the Eucharist, which proclaims the death of Christ.



In our baptism with faith we are justified, because it is our faith plus baptism that enables God to declare us righteous, since the atoning death of his Son on the cross made full reparation for our sins, for “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). When we put our faith in Christ and are baptized, God sees that Christ paid our penalty for our sins for us, and so he declares us righteous, and we therefore become righteous, with God’s own righteousness reckoned to us. This is what happens in baptism with faith. Two things are involved here, water and blood, namely our baptism with faith and Christ’s redeeming death.



Finally today St. John tells us something most important, “That God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life” (1 John 5:11-12). How is it that eternal life for us is in the Son of God? “And this life is in his Son – whose doctrine hath revealed it; whose merits have procured it; whose Spirit hath imparted the beginning of it; and whose example will conduct us to the complete possession of it” (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821).



Therefore “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life” (1 John 5:12). Who is it then who has life? It is he “that hath the saving knowledge of him [Jesus] communicated by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation … that hath living faith in him, working by love … and hereby hath a real interest in him, as a wife hath in her husband … and vital union with him, such as a branch hath with the tree in which it grows … and … hath a conformity to him; hath in him the mind that was in Christ, and walks as he walked … such a one in these respects having the Son, hath life – hath spiritual life here, and is entitled to, made in a degree meet for, and has an earnest of, eternal life hereafter” (Joseph Benson).

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