World Conquerors by Faith
“This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4.
1, 2. (a) What has been the common experience of would-be world conquerors? (b) how has one world conqueror differed from these? (c) Why is the conquest by this One and his followers beyond compare?
HISTORY tells of many would-be world conquerors. But, finally, all of these had to bow in defeat. Mighty Pharaoh of Egypt, boastful Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Alexander the Great, the Caesars of Rome, Napoleon, Hitler—their glory was indeed short-lived! However, there is one world conqueror whose glory will never fade. He boasted of no armed hordes of warriors, no great armadas of ships. Yet his conquest has been complete, and for the eternal good of those who acknowledge his kingship.
2 Many stumbled over this powerful conqueror, for they thought him to be nothing more than a humble carpenter’s son. His own countrymen despised him. When the Roman imperial power killed him, his few followers were scattered. Yet this man—Jesus Christ—is beyond compare as a world conqueror. On the eve of his execution he could tell his disciples: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33; Mark 6:3; Isa. 53:3) Moreover, he said that they, too, would conquer the world. But how? As one of his beloved followers later put it: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4.
THE CONQUEST BY FAITH
3. What is this faith that conquers?
3 What kind of conquest is this conquest by faith? Well, to have faith means to be so thoroughly convinced concerning things unseen or things of the future that these become a reality to the believer. True Christian faith, far different from credulity built on shifting sands of emotion or superstition, is built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ. Like ‘gold, silver and precious stones,’ it is incombustible. (1 Cor. 3:11-14) It is convinced of the existence of the one living God Jehovah and that he will vindicate his position as Sovereign Lord of the universe. This faith is anchored in the promises of the God “who cannot lie.” It looks intently to Jesus as its Perfecter and as God’s Chief Agent for fulfilling all of His grand purposes in connection with his kingdom.—Titus 1:2; Heb. 11:1, 6; 12:2.
4. When and how may we conquer by faith?
4 As long as we hold unflinchingly to this faith, we may say that we have conquered the world. No, we do not have to wait until Har–Magedon to make that conquest. We launch out on world conquest when we turn around from following the ways of the world and, on the basis of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, dedicate our lives to Jehovah and receive water baptism. Thus we make a conquest by faith. It is, however, a conquest that we must maintain ‘through thick and thin,’ out of appreciation for the love shown to us by Jehovah and his Son.
5. (a) How may we be “more than conquerors”? (b) What conviction is an essential part of our faith?
5 Speaking for all such conquerors, the apostle Paul declares: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Then, expressing our unwavering conviction of Jehovah’s inseparable love for us, which is so essential a part of our faith, he says: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other [creation], shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:35, 37-39, American Standard Version.
THE EXEMPLARY CONQUEROR
6. On what was Jesus’ conquest based?
6 Jesus himself illustrated, while here on earth, how we may complete this conquest by faith. He knew God’s Word. He found delight in that Word, and became skilled in using it as “the sword of the spirit.” (Eph. 6:17) Under temptation by Satan in the wilderness, he three times turned back the adversary, saying, “It is written.” His conquest was based on adherence to the Word of God. So must ours be.—Matt. 4:3-11.
7. How did Jesus launch out on his campaign of conquest?
7 As John the Baptizer’s work came to a close, Jesus launched out on his major campaign of conquest. “From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 4:17) An electrifying message this! God’s kingdom was indeed at hand, in the person of the anointed Jesus himself. Throughout Galilee, in the Roman province of Perea and on into Jerusalem itself, Jesus preached the glad tidings as world conqueror and Messiah. Thousands listened. Many became his followers. But the ruling class, and especially the religious leaders, became his bitter opponents.
8. What shows that Jesus never faltered in his conquest?
8 Jesus did not waver in his integrity, for he knew that he must be a conqueror down to the end. When finally he faced death on a torture stake and the Roman governor questioned him with regard to his kingship, he could reply: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Faithfully, he continued to bear witness to Kingdom truth. To the last he never faltered in making known his Father’s name, and he sanctified that precious name in the face of every reproach Satan could hurl against it. Thus, as world conqueror, Jesus could exclaim with his dying breath: “It [God’s work for him on earth] has been accomplished!”—John 19:30; 17:6, 20.
FAITH THAT MOVES MOUNTAINS
9. What kind of faith could Jesus’ disciples have, and how was this their experience?
9 Jesus told his disciples: “Truly I say to you, If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20) Would this be the experience of his disciples? Why, yes! And especially from the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. For it was then, the 50th day from Jesus’ resurrection to spirit life, that a miracle occurred among about 120 of his disciples who were assembled in a house in Jerusalem. Jehovah’s spirit was poured out on them, empowering them to speak in many tongues about “the magnificent things of God.”—Acts 2:1-11.
10, 11. (a) How did Jesus’ disciples start to share in his conquest? (b) Why was theirs an all-conquering faith?
10 The spirit also empowered Peter to explain from God’s Word what all of this meant. Jesus’ conquest had been rewarded by his being exalted to the right hand of God in heaven. Now it was their privilege to share in his conquest. This they started to do by bearing thorough witness to the multi-tongued crowd that had come together, exhorting them to repent, be baptized and embrace the grand Kingdom promises held out to them through the Word of God. “On that day about three thousand souls were added,” and these continued to be made strong in faith through daily instruction provided at the spacious temple area, as well as in private homes.—Acts 2:14-47.
11 Were the religious leaders pleased at this manifestation of faith? On the contrary! They arrested Peter and John, and demanded that they stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. Back came the faith-filled reply of those apostles: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” They would permit nothing to stand in the way of their all-conquering faith. When they were released they continued giving forth the witness with great power!—Acts 4:18-21, 33.
12. (a) What angelic support sustained the disciples’ conquest? (b) Their having holy spirit was dependent on what?
12 Filled with jealousy, the high priest and his henchmen now had all the apostles thrown into prison. This called for divine action. During the night the angel of Jehovah brought them out again and told them to “keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” When day dawned, there they were again, teaching in the temple area! Once more they were arrested and taken into the hall of the Sanhedrin, where the high priest declared: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of [Jesus’] name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” The answer of those apostles rang out courageously: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. . . . We are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:17-32) Yes, their having holy spirit was dependent on their continuing to witness zealously concerning Jehovah’s Sovereignty!
13. In those early days of Christianity, how did victorious faith win out?
13 Those religious leaders wanted to do away with the apostles, but the Giver of holy spirit guided the course of events otherwise. The respected Law teacher Gamaliel spoke up in these words: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.” So they simply flogged the apostles, told them to stop preaching and let them go. Was victorious faith winning out? Certainly it was, for the record goes on to say: “And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:33-42.
THE CONTINUING CONQUEST BY FAITH
14. Despite persecution, how was Jesus’ prophecy at Acts 1:8 fulfilled?
14 There was no stopping of that thorough witness. It must be given to the extent that Jesus himself had prophesied—“in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Persecution served only to extend the witness, for “those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:1, 4) Soon the persecutor Saul became the apostle Paul, and the first Gentiles received the gift of the holy spirit. The good news spread like wildfire into more and more new territories. As Paul and his companions entered Europe, opposers there cried out: “These men that have overturned the inhabited earth are present here also.” (Acts 17:6) Thus, with the passage of about 30 years of Kingdom witnessing, the good news came to be “preached in all creation that is under heaven.”—Col. 1:23.
15. What help and encouragement was given to those who wavered in their faith?
15 However, as the end of the Jewish system of things approached, it appears that some of those Christians began to grow weary. They let down their spiritual guard and began to waver in their conquest by faith. But they were not without help. Faithful elders in the Christian congregation gave them needed encouragement. One of these, the apostle Paul, continually exhorted them to endure in faith. He encouraged them to make their Christian hope “an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” (Heb. 6:19) He declared: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” (Heb. 10:39) At all costs they must complete their Christian conquest! Those who held fast to their faith survived when the Jewish “system of things” perished in 70 C.E.
FURTHER TRIALS OF FAITH
16. (a) For how long did the apostle John endure in his conquest by faith? (b) Of what did he warn?
16 However, further trials of faith were in store for loyal Christians. John, whose service as an apostle of Jesus Christ extended over some 68 years, tells of these. In two of his letters, John warns of the “antichrist” that appears in the “last hour,” and identifies him as “the one that denies the Father and the Son.” Then John ties this “antichrist” in with the “many false prophets [that] have gone forth into the world.” (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:1-3) That antichrist no doubt disputed the urgency of the “good news” and tried to turn Christians to the materialistic, pleasure-seeking ways of the world.
17. How and why must Christians persevere in their conquest?
17 Integrity-keeping Christians had “conquered the wicked one,” but now, even at a late date, their faith was endangered from another direction. The apostle wrote them in plain terms: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:13, 15-17) Truly, it has never been the will of God for Christians to get mixed up in the immoral, materialistic ways of Satan’s world. Rather, they must persevere in conquering by faith.
18. How do we accomplish our conquest by faith?
18 In this same letter, John describes the tie that binds all Christians world wide into an indivisible unity, saying: “Whoever makes the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God remains in union with such one and he in union with God. And we ourselves have come to know and have believed the love that God has in our case. God is love, and he that remains in love remains in union with God and God remains in union with him.” (1 John 4:15, 16) What a grand privilege to be united with the supreme Sovereign of all the universe through his Son Jesus Christ, the One whose blood “cleanses us from all sin”! (1 John 1:7) Therein lies our conquest by faith: To keep on loving God and Christ, being co-workers with them in the worldwide harvest work that is now drawing rapidly to its close.—1 Cor. 3:9.
19. What identifies world conquerors by faith?
19 John goes on to say: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) In this connection Jesus told his followers: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) How truly that did become an identifying mark of Christians in John’s day, and what a marvelous identifying mark it is in our day! For never since the first century has there been on earth a people just like Jehovah’s Christian witnesses—united in a bond of love that surmounts all barriers of language, tribe and race.
20. At this world’s end, how may you show yourself to be a world conqueror?
20 Also, at the end of this system of things, there is the command conveyed in Jesus’ prophecy that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) This grand witness, now reaching its climax on an earth-wide scale, has served to identify those who have conquered the world. Concerning all such integrity-keeping servants of God, the apostle writes: “And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith. Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?” This faith in Jesus as the Son of God may be demonstrated down to this day by actively obeying Jesus’ postresurrection command to his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (1 John 5:4, 5; Matt. 28:19) Are you thus showing yourself to be a world conqueror?