THE TWO OVERCOMINGS
D. M. PANTON
THE FIRST OVERCOMING.
The first of the two great overcomings named in Scripture is our Lord's. "Be of good cheer ; I have overcome the world" (John 16: 33). The 'world' is all the mass of temptation, allurements to sin, ungodly habits, ungodly life, which make up our present environment: by steadily, unceasingly, and completely resisting its pressure, Jesus overcame. The term is most expressive, an 'overcomer'; it implies pressure, resistance, battle, victory, over that which calls for beating down and subduing; it is constant effort carried through to a victorious issue. Never to sin, in spite of fierce and unceasing temptation, is to be an absolute overcomer; and One only ever so overcame - Jesus Christ.
Now this conquest of our Lord is the victory of all His saints. "God giveth us the victory through out Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15: 57): for "this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5: 4). Not 'will' overcome, but 'hath' overcome (R. V.); yet not 'Christ,' but 'we' : for faith transfers Christ's conquest to me: I have overcome in Christ; for He and I are one. "The conflict and suffering which we now have is not the real battle, but only the celebration of the victory" (Luther). From the first moment of faith the victory of every disciple is an assured fact: "whatsoever is begotten of God" - the whole mass of the regenerate - "overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." Our Lord inflicted a deadly wound upon the world of evil; the head of the Serpent is bruised, and its writhings are but symptoms of a mortal agony; and sin in the flesh (indwelling sin) was executed once for all upon the cross: and all this perfect and eternal victory is mine by simple faith.
THE SECOND OVERCOMING.
But another great overcoming is named in Scripture; not past, but present and future; and not for salvation, but for reward. Seven times our Lord invokes every member of His Churches to become an overcomer; attaching peculiar reward to each believer who achieves it, and warnings of tangible displeasure to all who fail. For every believer has against him evil men, the whole mass of worldly atmosphere and tradition, his own flesh, dragging him down, evil spirits, incessantly active; and, as only dead fish swim with the stream, so a living soul has against it the pressure of an entire world. Intensely true is that word of Mr. Moody :- "The reason why so many Christians fail all through life is just this - they underestimate the strength of the enemy." Therefore our Lord's invocation, in substance seven times repeated, is this :- "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches" (Rev. 3: 21).
We thus arrive at God's duplex truth. Compared with the world, all believers are overcomers; compared with one another, some are overcomers, and some are not: for the first overcoming is by simple faith, whereas the second is by unswerving obedience. The second overcoming, no more than the first, is a sudden act, or the victory of a moment, or a rush of holy emotion; it is a confirmed habit of goodness, - the long wind, the hard biceps, the iron muscle of the unwavering, unswerving runner; it is not a victorious battle, but a victorious campaign. It is on this ground that our Lord is rewarded, and certain selected believers with Him. "Therefore [in consequence of suffering] I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong ; because He poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53: 12) : "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity ; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Heb. 1: 9). Responsibility fulfilled, and not privilege possessed, is the ground of all reward. Without a holy violence, blessedly aggressive until the end, there can be no entrance on the Millennial Reign of reward ; unless we storm it, we shall never enter it: for "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force" (Matt. 11: 12). By His sufferings and His death, and not by the glory He had before the world was - and as the Servant of Jehovah, not as the Son of God - our Lord acquires the vast heritage (Ps. 2: 8) which other conquerors have won by the cannon and the dreadnought: so also, for the disciple, power and glory and thrones lie open; the world is to be the 'spoil' that shall be divided: but the path to Olivet is the hard, rugged, narrow road that lies across Calvary. "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations" (Rev. 2: 26).
Now the practical import of it all is tremendous. All discipleship is a battle; it is a battle that can be won; it is a battle which can issue in a victory the greatest that can now be won in the universe; and it is a battle that every disciple can win. For we start with 'the full assurance of faith.' "Having therefore boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near in full assurance of FAITH" (Heb. 10: 19). Our eternal life, based on the covering blood of the Atonement, is as sure as God. But a vast vista opens up beyond. "Show the same diligence unto the full assurance of HOPE even to the end: that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience [perseverance - Ed.] inherit the promises" (Heb. 6: 11). I am not to hope that I am saved, but to believe it: on the contrary, I am not to believe I have won the prize, but to hope that I shall win it. For only 'the end' can reveal how I have run. But the more battles won, and the more mileage covered, the more we can mature to the full assurance of hope. "WE ARE WELL ABLE TO OVERCOME" (Num. 13: 30).