by Rayola Kelley
Q: What does it mean to Scripturally overcome?
A: According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, “overcoming” points to the idea of prevailing over something in a mighty way. It implies rendering something to an inferior position, to enslave, or to master something.
The Bible is clear that we must overcome three things: the flesh, the world, and Satan. It gives us examples and instructions on how to overcome all three. For example, Jesus left us the example of what it means to overcome. Ezekiel 14:14 gives us an example of three men, (Daniel, Noah, and Job) who would have been delivered in times of great judgment because they were overcomers, and Jesus gave us simple instructions as to how to overcome, as well as the power of His Spirit to do so.
To overcome the flesh, we have the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He struggled greatly against the weakness of His flesh. He overcame it by submitting to the will of the Father. For Daniel, who lived in the midst of a pagan, decadent society, he purposed in his heart to remain true to the simple, pure ways of God. In the end, he possessed an excellent spirit. It is for this reason that Jesus told those who wanted to be His disciples that they first had to deny self the right to choose fleshly appetites over the will of God. As Jesus stated so eloquently during His temptation in the wilderness, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out the mouth of God.” Romans 13:14 tells us that we must put on the Lord Jesus and not make any provision for the flesh. We do this by walking in the Spirit. We clearly must take captive our fleshly appetites to overcome the deadly ways and works of the flesh. (Daniel 1:8; 6:3; Matthew 4:4; 16:24; 26:38-46; Galatians 4:16; Hebrews 5:7).
When it comes to overcoming the world, we can get insight into it when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Satan showed the glories of the kingdoms of the world to Jesus and offered it all to Him if He would bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). Jesus knew this was an attempt of the enemy to detour Him from His real mission. He did not come to gain the world by bowing down to its glory and serving its many whims and demands, but to lose His life to the ways of the world so that He could overcome it. He also knew that there was a greater glory awaiting Him and that He would never compromise the heavenly to experience the temporary (1 John 2:15-17). The Lord knew that in due time He would subdue the world and reign over it. After all, the world’s glory is temporary. It will fade with each age as it spirals downward into a cesspool of destruction and ruin to eventually come to a complete demise. Meanwhile, in each age, it must always redefine its glory through deception.
A good example of a man who overcame the world was Noah. Noah lived in the midst of a wicked world. The way he overcame it was by walking with God (Genesis 6:8-9). It takes faith to walk with God. Out of active faith comes obedience to what one knows to be right before the Lord. We see this in Noah’s life. He obeyed the Lord and built an ark. Due to His faith, it was accounted unto Noah as righteousness. It is for this reason that the Apostle Peter stated in 2 Peter 2:5, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Hebrews 11:7 goes on to say that because of his faith, Noah condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness.
Faith brings the contrast of righteousness into the world. It walks according to a rhythm that is contrary to the present age. It sees beyond the present and walks according to the future. It is for this reason that genuine faith in Christ overcomes the world. For the flesh, one must submit to the will of God in a matter, but to overcome the world, one must by faith carry out the will of God to ensure that all matters are counted as being righteous (1 John 2:17; 5:4).
We must separate from the influence of the world by refusing to touch any unclean thing. Jesus gives us insight into how to do this when He told those who followed Him to pick up their personal cross. He added that what will it profit a man if he gains the world, but loses his soul(Matthew 16:24-25). The Apostle Paul reveals what type of effect the cross-bearing life has when it comes to the world in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Our final enemy we must overcome is Satan. We know Peter was sifted by Satan and Job was tested by him. It is clear that Satan has a role in refining the Christian’s faith. Jesus told Peter in relationship to Satan sifting him that once he was converted, he needed to strengthen his brethren. We know it is because of the steadfast patience of Job’s faith that he was able to endure to the end of the test (Luke 22:31-32; James 5:10-11).
Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). In His temptation, Jesus overcame Satan with the Word. We read in 1 John 2:13-14 that the young men overcame the wicked one because the Word of God abided in them. It is clear that the Word is a capable weapon against Satan, but one must recognize its authority and submit to the Author of it through obedience.
James 4:7 states, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Hence, enters Jesus’ final exhortation to those who want to be His disciples, they must follow Him. There are only two ways to resist the devil—in humility you follow Jesus, as you take the Word of God by faith and lift it up in abiding confidence that the enemy has already been defeated at the cross of Christ.
For the flesh, we must take its lusts captive to overcome. When it comes to the world, we must prevail over its many influences in a mighty way, but for Satan, he must be rendered ineffective and inferior in light of Christ. He cannot stand up against Jesus’ authority as God, he cannot withstand the truth of the Word for he is a liar, and he cannot continue to stand when faith endures to the end and is accounted as righteousness in lieu of his many lies and accusations.
The Bible is clear—we must overcome. It is also clear that you cannot study the concept of overcoming unless you study it according to the book of Revelation. This book will give you much-needed insight into overcoming. Even as you study the churches in the first three chapters of Revelation, you will see that most of them needed to overcome one of the three enemies of man’s soul.
In conclusion, I have often stated, “Overcoming is not an option for the Christian. As believers, we must overcome.”