We shall overcome!

 

The title of the song of the civil rights movement of the sixties and seventies in the US should apply to God’s people in every age. We are the true overcomers! We shall overcome all our enemies just as Christ overcomes all his.

A word study of “overcome” “overcame” and “overcometh” gives us 35 references half of which are in the books of I John and Revelation which is no coincidence as both were written in the context of persecution.

In the Old Testament history books you would expect the word to be used in the context of battle and so it is-Joshua hearing the people cavorting around the golden calf, sadly overcome by idolatry, says to Moses that it does not sound like the noise of battle and a people either overcoming or being overcome. Later Caleb encourages Israel to go up and possess the land by overcoming all her enemies (Num.13:30). Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel so he and the Moabites can overcome them ( Num.22:10).In  a much later civil war a confederacy of Israel and Syria could not overcome Judah under Ahaz (II Kings 16:5). The later Old Testament books of Song of Songs and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah have the word used of overpowering love (Song 6:5) and drunkenness where wine overcomes (Is.28:1 and Jer.23:9). In all these instances a powerful force seeks to vanquish a weaker one.

When we come to the gospels the first and very significant reference is used by Christ speaking to the Jewish leaders concerning exorcism of evil spirits in a parable where he, as the stronger man, overcomes Satan, the strong man, and plunders his house (Luke 11:22). The central work of the incarnate Christ was to destroy Satan and his works (Heb.2:14). Later in his ministry Christ clearly teaches that he has overcome the world-he has lived in it amongst all its sinful people  headed by Satan and overcome by never sinning. His overcoming included his being crowned with thorns !

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Evil spirits fight back and overcome the vagabond exorcist sons of Sceva  in the comical account of Acts 19:16!

The theology of overcoming  is Paul’s subject  in Romans where first he teaches that God can never be judged successfully and he is always justified in all his works (Rom.3:4). Later in the epistle he expounds the significance of Christ’s victory and shows how it is bequeathed to us. In  the marvellous verse Romans 8:37 we are called “hyper-conquerors,” the literal meaning of the Greek HUPERNIKAO , we gain a decisive victory through him that loved us, who overcame all his and our enemies in the cross! One way in which we overcome is by not returning evil done to us, for if we do, evil wins getting the sinful response it wants (Rom 12:24).

Before we come to the decisive verses in I John and Revelation, Peter reminds his readers that sin is a power that overcomes people and enslaves them (II Peter 2:19-20 c.f.Rom.6:16-17). This truth is key as humanity are either slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness (Rom.6:14).

The apostle John, the apostle of love, particularly addressing the young believing men, says they have overcome the wicked one, and I would guess this is in relation to their remaining pure from sexual sin (I John 2:13-14). When we come to I John 5:4-5 we reach the climactic core of our victory in Christ. Whoever is born again overcomes the world, sin and Satan by their faith, by their being united to Christ who also overcame defeating sin, death, hell and Satan by his perfect life and obedience unto death FOR US and then granted that same power TO US through his Spirit in regeneration.

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Incidentally when Paul or John wrote, the crown they would have been thinking about was the laurel wreath given to the victor in the Olympic stadium. As believers we strive honestly not just according to the rules of sport or of our government but by God’s rules in his word.

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Christ has, in principle, defeated all his enemies in the cross with Satan being  judged a  liar and murderer and death overcome, but his public victory is in the future  Rev.17:14, 20:14 (c.f. I Cor.15:24-28)

The reward for overcomers is a recurrent theme in Revelation (2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7)

The rewards include eating of the tree of life and the hidden manna, being given a white stone and a new name, white raiment, power over the nations, having Christ confess us before the Father, being made a pillar, sitting on thrones and inheriting the new heaven and earth.

This victory is ours even though we are overcome physically and killed by antichrist (Rev.11:7 and 13:7). The gracious means of our overcoming are outlined in Rev.12:11 and are the blood of the lamb (our justification), the word of our testimony (confession) and not loving our lives unto death (in other words loving Christ more than life itself and being wholly consecrated to him).

Dear fellow Christian this is our heritage in Christ whether we live or die, we live and die unto the Lord. For however long we must battle against sin, the world, the flesh and the devil , we shall by his grace overcome, win the victory and be crowned, just as Christ our forerunner is gone ahead of us into glory.

 

 

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