By John C. Carpenter
Just prior to His apprehension, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples, Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:32-33). What did Christ mean when He said He had overcome the world, and what does Christ's overcoming the world mean for the believer in Christ?
In order to understand the meaning and significance of "overcoming," we must first understand something about the "world." Holy Scriptures give us much information about the "world" and its influence, although we can only touch on the highlights here. The Scriptures describe believers as the light of the world... (Mat 5:14), while Christ instructs us that ...the care [distractions]of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the [gospel] word, (Mat 13:22) and can cause the believer to become unfruitful. In the parable of the tares which refers to the end of the world, The field is the world (Mat 13:38), while the harvest refers tothe end of the world (Mat 13:39). Jesus also tells us that, As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (Mat 13:40). Jesus taught His disciples, For whosoever will save [keep] his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:25-26). The Lord also taught that the source of offences, or stumbling blocks for the believer, is the world (Mat 18:7), and that the kingdom of heaven was prepared for believers from the foundation of the world (Mat 25:34). Christ instructed His disciples to ...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). John the Baptist came to bear witness that Christ was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not (John 1:10). When John saw Jesus, he also said, ...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus taught, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved(John 3:16-17). Jesus told some Jews, The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil (John 7:7), and later, to other Jews, ...Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world(John 8:23). Referring to the Holy Spirit, Christ said, Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:17). Christ later added, when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove [convict] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). In an effort to encourage His own disciples, Jesus told them, If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:18-19). Paul taught as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Rom 5:12). Paul additionally instructs all Gentile believers in humility, saying, be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Rom 12:2-3). Paul taught believers in Corinth, Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God (1 Cor 2:12), and thatthe saints shall judge the world? (1 Cor 6:2). Referring to unbelievers, Paul taught, In whom the god of this world [the devil, Satan]hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them (2 Cor 4:4). Paul warned believers in Colossae, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col 2:8). The apostle Simon Peter wrote that believers are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through [because of] lust (2 Pet 1:4). The apostle John described Christ as the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). The apostle John instructed, Love not the world [kosmos: inhabitation, adorning, decoration], neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). The apostle John clarifies in these verses that: (1) the Christian is instructed not to love the world, (2) any man who loves the world does not love God the Father, and (3) everything in the world consists of and involves either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life, or some combination of the three. In this third point, it should be particularly noted that all that is in the world, or worldliness, is characterized by "flesh," "eyes," and "pride," and refers to man's human characteristics, which include man's interactions, activities, works and creations, and not to the physical world itself. When Christ instructs us not to love the world nor the things of the world, He is instructing us not to love "human" tendencies and characteristics.
In order to better understand worldliness involving flesh, eyes, and pride, we must first go back in time. Holy Scriptures instruct us that, in the beginning, after the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that ispleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree [staff or stick which makes firm] of life also in the midst of the garden, andthe tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:8-9). In this garden that God planted, we read that there are four trees: a tree that is pleasant to the sight, a tree that is good for food, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life [in the midst of the garden]. When one examines three of these trees, we find the same three characteristics that we find in the "world." I believe that the tree that is "pleasant to the sight" represents worldly characteristics which involve the "lust of the eyes," the tree that is "good for food" represents worldly characteristics which involve the "lust of the flesh," and, lastly, the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" represents worldly characteristics which involve the "pride of life." In Holy Scriptures, worldly "knowledge" that excludes God and His wisdom is often associated with pride, and its eventual result, rebellion against God (1 Cor 8:1; Rom 2:20; Rom 10:2; 1 Cor 8:7). The fourth tree, the tree of life [in the midst of the garden], not only represents Jesus Christ, who was in the beginning with God (John 1:2), but also represents the eternal life available only through faith in Christ. Christ said, ...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of [eternal] life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev 2:7). In the Garden east in Eden, the three trees involving the eyes, flesh, and pride represent the worldly "temptations" that were initially presented to Adam and Eve (and later to all mankind) by the serpent (Gen 3:1-8), who represents the devil, or satan (Rev 12:9). Although Adam and Eve gave in to [responded to, failed, did not overcome] the temptation presented to them (Gen 3:6-7), God had predestined that one man, Christ, would later not only be tempted in the same manner as Adam and Eve (Heb 2:18), but would get the victory over, would overcome, all of Satan's temptations.
Although Adam and Eve did not achieve victory over their temptation, Jesus Christ would overcome His temptations. Holy Scriptures instruct us, Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested, assayed, proven] of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread [temptation involving the lust of the flesh]. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone [temptation involving the pride of life]. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him [let Christ "see"] all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them [temptation involving the lust of the eyes];And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Mat 4:1-11). Immediately after Christ overcame the three temptations presented to Him by the devil, the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.
Not only was Jesus Christ tempted of the devil, but Holy Scriptures make it clear that each and every Christian will be tempted to "worldliness" by the devil. Teaching His disciples how to pray, Jesus said, ...lead us not into temptation [prove, solicit, to experience evil],but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever (Mat 6:13). The apostle Paul taught, There hath notemptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Cor 10:13). Scriptures tell us, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man (James 1:13). The apostle James referred to the tribulation, as well as the dangers, of worldly temptations when he wrote, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers [various] temptations [to worldliness]; Knowing this, that the trying [trial, testing] of your faith worketh patience (James 1:2-3). James later added, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship [fondness] of the world is enmity [hostile opposition] with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy [adversary, foe] of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist [these worldly temptations of] the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (James 4:3-10). Referring to worldly temptations, the apostle Peter wrote, Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through [because of] manifold [various] temptations: That the trial [testing] of your faith [faithfulness],being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:6-7). James and Peter both knew well the necessity, value, and dangers of temptation. It is clear that believers will be tempted by their own lust to worldliness, or sin. The apostle James clarifies the dynamics when he explained every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15). Giving in to lust results in sin, and sin results in death.All temptation to sin involves either the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life, or some combination of the three. We should ask, though, how are believers to resist the temptations of the devil? I believe Jesus gave us the answer.
Jesus Christ instructed His disciples, as well as all believers, how to resist worldly temptations when He said, ...If any man will come after me [in importance, in priority; i.e., living as Christ did], let him deny himself, andtake up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:24-26). The Lord clarified that to "come after Him [in importance]" means to "lose our life for Christ's sake," and to lose our life for Christ's sake means we are to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him. So what does it mean to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ? The answer to this question is found in the temptations of Christ found in the book of Matthew. Christ was tempted with all the kingdoms [king, royalty, rule, reigning] of the world, and the glory of them (Mat 4:8). "All the kingdoms of the world" probably refers to any type of relationship in which an individual is "king," and thereby rules and reigns over others, as well as the glory that the ruling and reigning may result in. This instruction probably refers to Christ's desire that believers humbly submit to and serve others rather than to authoritatively rule and reign over them leading to glory. This was a temptation involving the "lust of the eyes." When the believer is tempted with the "lust of the eyes," he or she is instructed by Christ to "deny" himself of these kingdoms. Christ is instructing us to deny ourselves of relationships in which our rule over others would bring us glory. This instruction should be obeyed in all relationships with others, including family, work, and social relationships. Christ was also tempted to command that these stones be made bread [food] (Mat 4:3). "Commanding these stones to be made bread" represents feeding the flesh to satisfy physical, fleshly, hunger. This was a temptation involving the "lust of the flesh." When the believer is tempted with the lust of the flesh, he or she is instructed by Christ to "take up his cross." Taking up your cross is clearly a reference to crucifixion, and what Scriptures clarify is to be crucified is the "flesh." Scriptures warn us against the dangers of the flesh. They teach us, Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), and It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing... (John 6:63). Christians are instructed to ...walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom 8:1), to ...make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof(Rom 13:14), and to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and [human] spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God(2 Cor 7:1). The apostle Paul shed light on exactly what was to be crucified when he taught that they that are Christ's have crucified [extinguished, subdued] the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal 5:24). Christ was lastly tempted to cast thyself down: for it is written, He [God the Father] shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone (Mat 4:6). Christ knew that if He needed His Father's help, angels would be sent to catch and protect Him from "dashing his foot against a stone." This was a temptation for Christ to use His supernatural powers and his special relationship with His Heavenly Father to His advantage and for His protection. This was a temptation involving the "pride of life." When the believer is tempted with the "pride of life," Christ instructs the believer to "follow me." To "follow Christ" means the believer is to live as Christ did. Christ explained how He lived, and what lifestyle the believer was to "follow," when He said, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek [gentle, humble] and lowly [of low degree, humble] in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls(Mat 11:29). We are warned Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Prov 16:18). Scriptures instruct the Christian to ...all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Pet 5:5), and Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Pet 5:6). Christ specifically taught the necessity of humility when he said, Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mat 18:4), and Blessed are the meek [mild, humble]: for they shall inherit the earth(Mat 5:5). "Follow me" means we are to lead a life of meekness and humility, as Christ did. The believer in Christ resists the worldly temptations of the devil when he or she loses [voluntarily gives up] his or her life. To lose our life means we place Christ first and live as He did, and we live as Christ did when we deny ourselves of worldly kingdoms and their glory, we take up our cross and crucify our flesh, and we follow Christ by leading a life of humility and service. I believe this is what Scriptures mean when they instruct the believer to ...Resist [stand against, oppose] the [worldly temptations of the] devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Although resisting is a struggle, Christ clarified the reward for losing our life when He said whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it [eternally].
Although the believer is certainly instructed by Scriptures to "resist" the temptations of the devil, it is not successful resisting that makes the believer an "overcomer." The apostle John taught, For whatsoever is born of God [the believer in Christ] overcometh [subdues, conquers, gets the victory over]the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even [specifically] our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5). The believer in Christ does not become an "overcomer" by successfully, victoriously, and continually denying himself of worldly kingdoms and their glory, crucifying the flesh, and living a life of humility. The believer can only become an overcomer by being born again as evidenced by faith in Jesus Christ. The believer automatically becomes a sinless, righteous, victorious, overcomer when he or she comes to faith in Christ, who overcame all temptation (John 16:33), who was sinless (2 Cor 5:21), and who became sin for us and in our place. The apostle Paul clarifies, For he [God the Father] hath made him [Christ] to be [become] sin for us [in our place], who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5:21). This overcoming, victory and righteousness through faith in Christ certainly has many rewards for the believer, as Holy Scriptures point out.
Holy Scriptures abundantly teach that the rewards for the believer who becomes an overcomer through faith in Christ are numerous. Christ said: (1) ...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev 2:7), (2) ...He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death (Rev 2:11), (3) ...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Rev 2:17), (4) he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations (Rev 2:26), (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels (Rev 3:5), (6) Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (Rev 3:12), and (7) To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Rev 3:21). Although Adam and Eve were overcome by the temptations of the devil, Jesus Christ overcame, was victorious, over all worldly temptations presented to Him by the devil. Because Christ could say “I have overcome the world”,each and every individual who comes to faith in Christ can also say "I have overcome the world." Among the many rewards of having overcoming faith in Christ, God the Father gave us possibly the greatest reward when He said, He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Rev 21:7).  AMEN.
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Wait on the
LORD: be of
good courage,
and he shall
strengthen thine heart: wait, I
say, on
the LORD"
(Psa 27:14)

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