The apostle John told the saints of his time, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even 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).
There is a common phrase that many of today's Christians use that says "Victory in Christ" which is based on this verse of scripture found in 1 John. While this phrase doesn't actually appear in the Bible it's designed more to describe a biblical idea rather than to cite official scripture. However, it is relatively modern in origin because it was not in use as little as fifty years ago.
This phrase is used to emphasize the Protestant doctrine that once a person has accepted Christ into their life they are guaranteed a place in heaven no matter what they do. As one minister put it, "At conversion Christ satisfies the claims of the sacred, unchangeable law by counting His righteousness to the sinner's credit. The past is forgiven, not because the sinner has obeyed God's law, but in spite of the fact that he has not obeyed. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:28)."
Another preacher has stated, "in Christ you are [victorious], not based upon your performance but because you are trusting in His! You and I have won not because of our moral performance but because of His finished performance through the cross. His victory is yours and it cannot be taken away from you. We'll get angry with our spouses, we'll bark at the kids, we'll gossip about our neighbor, we'll entertain thoughts about that attractive co-worker, and so on and so on, but such unprofitable behavior does not remove our names from God's winners circle. Your hope is not in yourself and your ability to perform. You have been set free from those expectations of yourself and others."
Yet another pastor has taught, "Christians are involved in a life or death struggle. It has been going on ever since the devil was kicked out of heaven. Satan is real, very real! He is ready and willing to use all at his disposal to destroy us. The amazing thing about this battle is that we are guaranteed victory. The battles fought now are just simply the devil fighting out of desperation."
Because of statements like these, when Christians talk about achieving victory in Christ what they are referring to is the belief that once God has claimed us as His own, it doesn't matter what we or anyone else does, we cannot be prevented from living eternally with God in heaven. Without gaining this belief in Christ, Protestants teach that everyone else will live eternally with the devil in hell. It is in this sense that they say Christ has given us the victory over the Satan.
But this phrase is also used to signify the kind of life Christians have while living here on earth. One preacher explained it this way: "you must realize that Victory is in season RIGHT NOW! Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Not next week, or sometime in the distant future. Today! His children [are] to stake their claim to victory TODAY. Right Now!! How do I know? Because the Bible tells us we 'can do all things through Christ, which strengthens' us! Right now, the devil is plotting and conniving, setting traps and placing snares, to entangle and destroy the children of God. Right now, this very moment in time, is when the people of God must stake their claim to the God-inspired, Christ-honoring, Holy Ghost empowered victories over the world, the flesh, and the devil."
Another minister has said, "Is it only at death that we gain the victory? In this life do we live defeated [and] only at the end gain the victory? Oh, no. How do we gain the victory in this life? We must be humble and give up and let Jesus take over. Let go and let God. We must resist Satan, Give him no place to stand! If the devil has a place in your life it is because you gave it to him! To resist the devil; go to the Lord for help in getting these things out of your life. It may take years sometimes, but through God's power you can drive back the enemy and throw him into the sea of fire!"
To many Christians, Victory in Christ has come to mean having the ability defeat Satan's influence over us while we are still alive on earth. It means having the power to overcome the temptations of the world and resisting the ungodly desires of the flesh so that we become "a new creature in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17) whereby we no longer have any desire to sin but desire to walk according to a new, holier lifestyle (Romans 6:4).
As another minister said, "As a born again believer, you have been given unimaginable power from God. He did not call us to be defeated and trodden under foot by the Devil. Neither the Devil nor the world has any authority over you. God tells us in Ephesians 6:11-12, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles (schemings) of the Devil. And in James 4:7, 10 He tells us, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The victory is yours. . . you are a victorious Christian soldier."
However, Christians also teach that this victory is not accomplished because of any effort on our part but strictly because of Christ Himself working through us (Philippians 4:13). And because of this we can be confident that Christ will perform this victory in our life (Philippians 1:6). This is how many Christians understand Paul's words when he said "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith... that Jesus is the Son of God."
From these and many other scriptural passages, it would seem that the phrase "Victory in Christ" is biblically based. However, as we examine it more closely we find it contains numerous problems for those who accept its premise.
In its broadest sense, Victory in Christ is meant to give us the hope and assurance that nothing we do can keep us from going to heaven. What that clearly means is that no matter what Satan does in our life, all of his efforts against us are more than useless, they're a complete waste of his time and effort. If he has already been defeated in preventing us from being with God eternally then there is no point to him tempting us once we've accepted Christ as our Savior.
Christian ministers teach that even if we do get angry with our spouses, bark at the kids, gossip about our neighbor, and entertain thoughts about our attractive co-worker, such unchristian behavior can't remove our names from God's winners circle. The clear implication of this doctrine is that once we've accepted Christ, God is no longer interested in how we behave because He's going to save us whether we listen to Satan or not. As we have just seen one minister say, our victory over Satan is not dependant on our ability to perform acts of righteousness.
In fact, just the opposite is true. Christian ministers teach we have been set free from the expectation of doing what is right, meaning that we are saved, not because we chose to resist Satan but only because of our faith in Christ. However, if that is true, then it also means that Christians are free to sin all they want without worrying about offending God. In that case, when Satan tempts a saved Christian to sin, it has no meaning because they have been released from the consequences of their sins by the blood of Christ. Therefore, for Satan to entice us to behave wickedly would be sheer folly on his part and be utterly meaningless, that is, if we truly had Victory in Christ.
However, the problem is that not one Christian believes this. Instead, they believe we must live a holier, more spiritual, Christ-like life by obeying God's commandments and that His ultimate goal is to make us holy even as He is holy (Leviticus 11:45. 1 Peter 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 4:7). To do that we are commanded to become the servants of holiness (Romans 6:19), cleansing ourselves from all filthiness (2 Corinthians 7:1) until we become unblamable and holy before God (1 Thessalonians 3:13) without which no man can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
At the same time, Christians are also taught that Satan is hard at work trying to prevent us from becoming holy, righteous, and perfect. As we have already seen, they believe "Christians are involved in a life or death struggle. Satan is real [and] he is ready and willing to use all at his disposal to destroy us" and that "the devil is plotting and conniving, setting traps and placing snares, to entangle and destroy the children of God."
But, if Victory in Christ means that Satan has already been defeated, meaning that he is incapable of preventing us from living with God eternally no matter what we do, then there's no point to him tempting a saved Christian to sin. If what Christians believe about Victory in Christ is true then even Satan's best efforts are no more effective than a gnat flying around a person's head. It may be a little annoying but it doesn't do us any harm, in which case he cannot destroy us, no matter how hard he plots or how many traps and snares he sets to entangle us in sin. Therefore, according to the phrase "victory in Christ," Christians should never have to worry about Satan in their life. The problem is that Protestant ministers are continually teaching their believers to worry about Satan and his influence over them.
But there is another problem with this phrase because Protestant ministers teach that our victory over Satan happens at the very moment of our acceptance of Christ which is usually long before we ever make it to heaven.
As we have already read, one minister proclaimed that this victory doesn't come at some time in the distant future, "it comes TODAY, Right Now!!" As others have put it, "through God's power you can drive back the enemy and throw him into the sea of fire!"and that "neither the Devil nor the world has any authority over you." As another minister has explained, all we need do is just resist Satan and he will flee from us. If that is true, then that would be real victory over the Devil because he would no longer have any power or authority to make us sin. Therefore, we should expect to see all Christians living a sinless life.
However, that's not what we see happening in the life of Christians. And, In fact, Protestant ministers admit that living a sinless life is impossible. But if that is true then it cannot be said that Christians are capable of being victorious in driving back the enemy and throwing him into the sea of fire, nor can it accurately be said that the Devil nor the world has any authority over us.
To illustrate the problem with this phrase, imagine someone trying to sink a life jacket made out of Styrofoam. No matter how hard they try to keep it under the water, it will always pop back up to the surface as soon as the pressure is removed. While Satan will employ every pressure to keep us down in sin, if we truly have Victory in Christ, then the very moment Satan eases his pressure on us we should automatically rise to a Christ-like state. In fact, Victory in Christ means that Satan no longer has the power to keep us down in sin.
But, if Satan is capable of setting traps and snares that can entangle us in sin and destroying the children of God then obviously he has the power to keep us from living the kind of life God wants for us. Therefore, when we do fall into Satan's traps and engage in sinful behavior, instead of us driving him back, he claims us as his own because we are still willing to follow his ways rather than those of God. And whenever that happens in the life of a Christian it is Satan who wins the victory over Christ.
The answer that most ministers give for why Satan has so much power in the life of a Christian while saying that Satan has no power over us, is that it is our fault, not God's. One preacher explained, "How do we gain the victory in this life? One way is by putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6). This recognition gives us the edge; it gives us power to do good and to fight 'the good fight' as Paul says; it encourages us and makes us more willing to persevere in the Christian life." As we have already seen another preacher declares "We must resist Satan, Give him no place to stand! If the devil has a place in your life it is because you gave it to him!"
According to this logic God merely equips us with the proper tools to fight against the Devil. If we lose the struggle it's not God's fault but ours because we failed to adequately use what God has given us.
But this argument is at odds with the belief that it is Christ working through us that gives us power over Satan. As we have already read, they teach "in Christ you are [victorious], not based upon your performance but because you are trusting in His!" Still another minister has stated, "It is ironic that we must surrender, declare that we are defeated so that God can give us the victory. We must be humble and give up and let Jesus take over. Let go and let God. "
Most Christians are taught that the reason we sin is because we are powerless to break Satan's hold on us. Therefore, Christians are told that to have victory over the Devil we must rely totally on God's power to defeat him. If we believe there is nothing we can do to save ourselves then we must also believe there is nothing we can do to defeat Satan. And, indeed, nearly all Christian ministers teach that it is Christ who gives us that victory as a free gift for believing on His name. But if that is true then there is no need for us to put on the armor of God or surrender ourselves to Him because our victory over the devil is not achieved because of anything we do but it is a result of HIS power alone.
But, if we say that it is Christ who gives us the victory then God shouldn't need our cooperation. Perhaps we can understand why by means of an illustration. When someone buys a puppy, it is an animal that makes a mess anytime and anywhere it wants to because that's the way it most naturally behaves. However, its owner then takes steps to teach the animal where and when to go. Such teaching techniques might include swatting the puppy with a rolled up newspaper and/or rubbing the dog's nose in its own mess. After a few days or weeks of doing this the puppy is "trained" how to behave as its master desires. Dogs are also taught in a relatively short time how to sit, lay, beg, and do other things on command. Furthermore, the owner doesn't need the dog's permission or cooperation. Instead, the owner keeps applying discipline until the dog eventually becomes obedient.
Man is also an animal who is naturally inclined to sin but he is much more intelligent and more easily trained than a dog. When he accepts Christ into his life he has been bought by Christ's blood and accepts God as his new master. Despite our tendency to make a mess of our life through sin, it should be extremely easy for God to "train" us how to behave as He wants. Perhaps He might need to swat us a few times with some spiritual newspaper or rub our noses in our own messes, but whatever technique He might use, there is no reason to believe that He can't get us to do His bidding on command in a very short period of time. After all, as God, if He could make the entire universe in six days, He should have no trouble whatsoever getting His believers to lead a sinless life in less than a year.
However, for more than 2,000 years millions of people have been desperately trying to give themselves to God and yet, in all of that time, there is not one person whom Christians can point to as having actually been able to completely conquer sin. And if we say that God must depend on our efforts in order for Him to give us victory over Satan and, no matter how faithful we strive to be it's never enough to gain that victory then that means Satan is more powerful than Christ because he can more easily get us to follow him rather than God. By anyone's standards, that means it is Satan who has achieved total victory over man, not the other way around.
It is demeaning to say that God can't defeat Satan's influence in our life unless we first completely and totally surrender ourselves to Him. It is contradictory to say that we are incapable of living according to God's ways while saying that God can't save us unless we first do what He asks of us. It is double talk to say that He won't work in our life without our permission because by definition, when we accept Christ as our personal Savior we have already agreed to make Him the Lord and Master of our life, which is all the permission He needs to do with us as He pleases.
Then what did Paul mean when he said that "whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith?"
When writing to the Corinthians Paul taught them about the reality of the resurrection of the dead, meaning that our physical bodies will someday rise from the grave. Then, beginning in verse 54 he concluded by saying, "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15: 54,55, see Isaiah 25:8). Then, in verse 57 he adds, "thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The victory Paul is talking about is Christ's victory over death which He accomplished through His atonement on the cross and His glorious resurrection from the tomb. Because of that great sacrificial act, just as death came upon all men because of what one man did in the garden of Eden, so all men will be resurrected because of what one man did in the garden of Gethsemane (1 Corinthians 15:21,22). As Paul explained, "if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching [is in] vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:13,14, emphasis added).
If Christ had not risen from the grave then our faith in Him would be meaningless. Without the resurrection all men would remain in the grave and Satan would have claim over us forever. It is the resurrection of Christ that has given Him - and us - total victory over Satan's eternal grasp. No matter how bad we might sin, Satan cannot keep us in the grave. All he can do at this point is limit the inheritance we'll receive in the resurrection.
Those who have faith in Christ and obey His commandments will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 25:34). On the other hand, the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:12; Ephesians 5:5) but will inherit something far less. Therefore, Satan continues to tempt us to sin, not to keep us in the grave but to prevent us from inheriting all that the Father has.
When Paul says that we will have victory in overcoming the world because of our faith, he doesn't mean that we will completely defeat Satan's power over us. It means as we continue to exercise our faith in Christ and strive to keep His commandments, with His help we can grow in righteousness, holiness, and perfection. In this way we become more and more victorious in overcoming the ways of the world.
Even though Satan still has the power to tempt us, when we do commit sin now and then, because of our faith in Christ we can repent and have those sins wiped away as though we had never committed them. In this way our faith helps us to overcome the temptations of Satan and the world thereby defeating his efforts to keep us from the inheritance God has prepared for those who love Him.
This, then, is the real Victory in Christ.
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