Faith Is the Victory (1 John 5)
- Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching
- Hymns: LSB #469, 566, 781, 490
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
This week's hymn blog post is “Faith Is the Victory”. An Evangelical hymn of praise that takes our text this morning and applies it to the spiritual warfare in our Christian life. We'll focus our thoughts on the words of this hymn. They can be found on your bulletin insert.
“Encamped along the hills of light, ye Christian soldiers, rise. And press the battle ere the night shall veil the glowing skies. Against the foe in vales below let all our strength be hurled. Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world.”
The hymn begins with our current situation. We are at war against the devil's schemes. A war for our very soul. This is what we have to overcome. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
We are “encamped along the hills of light.” The devil stays in the valley below because He is the father of darkness. He cannot stand to be in the light. In the valley below, the devil, his demons and his human followers strive to attack us from the shadows. They attack from the shadows “because their works are evil.”
But we encamp among the light. We remind ourselves of this as we begin the Service of Prayer and Preaching: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!” Jesus tells you, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” We fight while there is light. Like Joshua when he went up to fight the five kings of the Amorites who were attacking Gibeon. Joshua faithfully commanded the sun to stand still. And it stood still until Israel destroyed the Amorites. Doing the Lord's work. Believing His promises for that work.
Sometimes we even charge the shadows. Making use of the heavenly armor God has given us. Because “the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation,” we charge without fear even into the valley of the shadow of death. Following our Lord's battle orders, we find comfort for the battle. After all, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
“His banner over us is love, our sword the Word of God. We tread the road the saints above with shouts of triumph trod. By faith, they like a whirlwind's breath, swept on o'er every field. The faith by which they conquered death is still our shining shield.”
Even in the midst of the battle, we find ourselves at home. We can say with the Shunammite, in Song of Solomon 2:4, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” This cosmic battle in which we are engaged is not a war fought out of hatred or aggression. We fight out of love. As Christian soldiers, we love our enemies. Despite what they think of us. Because we have God's truth on our side.
Our one weapon is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” “Forever, O LORD, Your Word is firmly set in the heavens.” With this trusty weapon, we battle the darkest of foes. Knowing our God's love for us. And His love for our enemies. In this battle, we don't seek to kill and destroy. We seek for our enemies to switch sides. We switched sides at our Baptism. Because the love of God's Word resides in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
With His Word, we know that we are not alone in the fight. “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” All those who have gone before us. Whose record has been left for us as examples for us in our battle. Whether they are saints in the Bible or saints in the annals of history. These are our brothers and sisters who have fought the same fight before us. One day future generations of Christians may read about our fight for help as they fight their battles.
Cardinal George, the late Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, once said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Cardinal George saw the “great cloud of witnesses” running throughout world history. Our children and grandchildren may see the fulfillment of Cardinal George's expectation. And hopefully they will remain with the Church so that they may hear and believe the Word of faith which overcomes the world in the hour of its great and future calamity.
St. John asks, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” One woman shouted to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You.” Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” In God's Word we find our joy. We are certain of our salvation. “'Christ the Lord is ris'n today!' All on earth with angels say; raise your joys and triumphs high; sing, ye heav'ns; and earth, reply.” We make our joyful noise because we know we will overcome the world. Just as faithful saints have overcome the world throughout history. Just as faithful saints will overcome the world in the future.
“On every hand the foe we find drawn up in dread array. Let tents of ease be left behind, and onward to the fray. Salvation's helmet on each head, with truth all girt about, the earth shall tremble 'neath our tread, and echo with our shout.”
In our spiritual warfare, we find ourselves surrounded by our soul's enemies. Very much like Elisha as he dwelt in Dothan. The king of Syria sent horses, chariots and a great army to seize one man. Sound familiar? When Elisha's servant saw the army approaching, he feared greatly. But Elisha said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed for his servant's eyes to be opened. God opened his eyes and he saw the mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire from God.
As we see our enemies surround us, we believe that they themselves are ringed by God's holy angels protecting us. God never leaves us without protection. He gives us the shield of faith to protect us and deflect the devil's fiery darts. He also gives us the helmet of salvation and the belt of truth. With this spiritual armor, which covers us from head to toe, God protects us against our enemies. And His protection rattles the very foundations of the earth. Echoing the triumphant Christian's cry, “Hail the Lord of earth and Heaven! Praise to Thee by both be given. Thee we greet triumphant now; hail, the resurrection, thou!”
“To him that overcomes the foe, white raiment shall be giv'n. Before the angels he shall know his name confessed in Heav'n. Then onward from the hill of light, our hearts with love aflame, we'll vanquish all the hosts of night, in Jesus' conq'ering name.”
Jesus promised the Church in Sardis, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Everyone who conquers. Everyone who overcomes. Everyone who believes. These will be clothed in white garments. Being conquerors, overcoming this fallen, sinful world, believe God's Word and confess Jesus' name before men. And Jesus promised, “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in Heaven.” And you, who have acknowledged Jesus' name by confessing the Apostles' Creed this morning, will be among the great multitude in Heaven. Clothed in white robes made white in the blood of the Lamb. Waving palm branches of victory. Having overcome the Great Tribulation, we will celebrate in Heaven where nothing will harm us anymore.
We continue this acknowledgement as we “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted.” His name is exalted. He has obtained the victory for us. He has given us the white raiment already. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb when we were baptized. Jesus “came by water and blood.” So by water and blood you have been born of God. You have been given the victorious faith that will vanquish all the dark, evil foes in Jesus' conquering name. As the Reformation's anthem reminds us, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, we tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us. This world's prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He's judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.” That little word is the name of Jesus spoken in faith.
Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Encamped along God's battle lines, we hurl all our strength at the enemy. Strength that comes in the simple name of Jesus. Firmly believing in Jesus' love, we overcome the world because He has overcome the world. And He gives us the victory as He brings us to faith in Him so that we are clothed in the pure whiteness of His glory. Glory that vanquishes all the hosts of night.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Amen.