Overcome the World in Christ

One of the most tender sections of scripture concerns John chapters thirteen through sixteen. Pastors and theologians refer to those three chapters as the upper room discourse. In these chapters, the apostle John records for us Jesus’s voluminous teaching on the third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. These are Christ’s famous last words to his apostles prior to his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The emotion is deep and rich in these chapters, which reveals the Father’s heart toward his little ones.

Because Jesus reveals the Father, it comes as no surprise that our Savior includes warnings about the present age. In fact, the very last words of our Saviour to the apostles constitute both a word of encouragement and warning. Before Jesus and his apostles leave the upper room for the Garden of Gethsemane, he declares the following truth to them:“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV). What kind of a father forgets to remind his children of the dangers to come? The answer goes without saying. A bad father forgets to warn his children.

Jesus makes a crucial distinction to his apostles about the world and himself. He tells them that they will have tribulation in the world, but peace in him (John 16:33, ESV). The world will hate them, but he loves them. According to Jesus, peace and the world are like oil and water. They do not mix; however, true peace can be had in him by his Spirit (John 14:26-27, ESV). This peace is not a false one because our Saviour reminds the apostles that he has overcome the world (John 16:33b, ESV). In Christ, the apostles overcome the world regardless of how the world treats them (John 16:1-4, ESV). The Lord secures their victory and ours through his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. His going away enables the Holy Spirit to come upon the apostles and the church in full (John 14:16-17; Acts 2:1-4, ESV).

Because the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles and the church on Pentecost, this demonstrates how the believers are in Christ and how Christ is in them. At the risk of getting too technical, it is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is one of three persons within the Trinity. He is fully God just like the Father and the Son. These three are one in essence. Now, I know that those previous sentences may cause one to roll the eyes. My reason for emphasizing the Spirit’s equality with the Father and the Son has more to do with recognizing the implications of such a doctrine. If the Holy Spirit really is equal with the Father and the Son, then it is precisely because of the doctrine of the Trinity that all followers of Christ can say for a fact that they are in Christ and he is in them.

It is time to pull the threads together. Jesus ends the upper room discourse by saying that he has overcome the world. Early on, he tells the apostles that the Holy Spirit will come and indwell them. Jesus explains that the Spirit will testify to the apostles about the Father and the Son. Furthermore, the Spirit will confirm and perform the words and the works of Christ in their lives. This means that the Holy Spirit is Christ overcoming in the lives of the apostles and the church. It is also true to say that Christ overcomes in believers and the church by the work and person of the Holy Spirit. Christ gained the victory for his redeemed while the Spirit applies the victory to the redeemed. Of course, this takes place by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Do you realize that in Christ by the Spirit there is a sense in which you have overcome the world? The grave cannot hold you forever because Christ’s resurrection ensures yours. The enemy is no longer able to bring an accusation against you and make it stick (Rev 12:10-11, ESV). Through faith in Jesus, you have crossed over from death to life, you have access to all the spiritual blessings and promises of the word, and you have access into his presence (John 5:24; 2 Cor. 1:20-22; Ephesians 1:3; and Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV). These are real and sure promises to stand upon through the trials and tribulations in this present age.

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