Both the Gospel of John and 1 John make use of wordplay in the original Greek language that is not always easy to render in English. In today’s reading, the proper sense of the passage is retained in English, but the more subtle word connections might be missed.
In verses 4 and 5, the verb “overcome” (nikon) is related linguistically to the word “victory” (nike) while the word “faith” (pistis) is related to the phrase “the one who believes” (pisteuon). The verses could be rendered more literally: “The power that overpowers the world is the belief of the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” In other words, faith in Jesus as God’s Son enables believers to overcome the powers of this world.
How then does faith in Jesus give victory? Verses 6 and 8 have confounded biblical interpreters for centuries, in particular, the meaning of Jesus coming “by water and blood.” What is clear, however, is that the cluster of words (“testimony,” “Spirit,” “water,” and “blood”) all occur in the description of Jesus’ crucifixion in John 19:30–35. After Jesus gave up His Spirit when He died, the Gospel reports that a soldier “pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true” (John 19:34–35).
We can be sure, then, that our reading in 1 John declares that full Christian victory is found in the cross of Christ. That is the overwhelming testimony of the Apostles and God. Whoever trusts in the message of Jesus and His atoning death has “life in his Son” (v. 11). In fact, this is why in 1 John it was written: “that you may know that you have eternal life” (v. 13).