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Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews write,
1 John 5:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Who is the one who conquers the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Who is the one, etc. Where is there one who can pretend to have obtained a victory over the world, except he who believes in the Savior? All else is worldly and is governed by worldly aims and principles. A man may indeed gain a victory over one worldly passion; he may subdue someone’s evil propensity; he may abandon the gay circle, may break away from habits of profaneness, may leave the company of the unprincipled and polluted; but still, unless he has faith in the Son of God, the spirit of the world will reign supreme in his soul in some form. The appeal which John so confidently made in his time may be as confidently made now. We may ask, as he did, where is there one who shows that he has obtained a complete victory over the world, except the true Christian? Where is there one whose end and aim is not the present life? Where is there one who shows that all his purposes regarding this world are made subordinate to the world to come? There are those now, as there were then, who break away from one form of sin, and from one circle of sinful companions; there are those who change the ardent passions of youth for the soberness of middle or advanced life; there are those who see the folly of profaneness, and of gaiety, and intemperance; there are those who are disappointed in some scheme of ambition, and who withdraw from political conflicts; there are those who are satiated with pageantry, and who, oppressed with the cares of state, as Diocletian and Charles V. were, retire from public life; and there are those whose hearts are crushed and broken by losses, and by the death, or what is worse than death, by the ingratitude of their children, and who cease to cherish the fond hope that their family will be honored, and their name perpetuated in those whom they tenderly loved—but still there is no victory over the world. Their deep dejection, sadness, brokenness of spirit, lamentations, and want of cheerfulness all show that the spirit of the world still reigns in their hearts. If the calamities which have come upon them could be withdrawn; if the days of prosperity could be restored, they would show as much of the spirit of the world as ever they did and would pursue its follies and its vanities as greedily as they had done before. Not many years or months elapse before the worldly mother who has followed one daughter to the grave, will introduce another into the gay world with all the brilliancy which fashion prescribes; not long will a worldly father mourn over the death of a son before, in the whirl of business and the exciting scenes of ambition, he will show that his heart is as much wedded to the world as it ever was. If such sorrows and disappointments conduct to the Savior, as they sometimes do; if they lead the troubled mind to seek peace in his blood, and support in the hope of heaven, then a real victory is obtained over the world; and then, when the hand of affliction is withdrawn, it is seen that there has been a work of grace in the soul that has effectually changed all its feelings, and secured a triumph that shall be eternal.
Daniel L. Akin,
In v. 5 John rhetorically asks who is able to overcome the world except he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. The interrogative pronoun “who” (tis) individualizes the question, asking for the personal identification of one who overcomes the world. Whereas in v. 1 the content of true faith affirmed that Jesus is the Christ, here true faith affirms that Jesus is the Son of God, which suggests that John considered these two titles virtual synonyms. Such a confession was aimed at countering the heretical tendencies of the false teachers because they denied that Jesus was the Son of God. For John, saving faith must have as its foundation belief in the incarnation of the Son of God and all that entails the entire career of the Son. As Hiebert asserts, “This article of faith underlies all the other parts of the Christian message; to destroy this truth is to destroy the whole gospel and effectively to nullify God’s provision for victory over sin and the world.” On the other hand, acceptance of the apostolic message assures the believer of the victory.
John has already encouraged his readers in their dealings with the false teachers: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). In Rev 12:11 we also see comfort given to those who persevere: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink back from death.” Paul similarly assures us that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37) and that we should thank God because “he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).
Stott aptly summarizes this section: “Christian believers are God’s children, born from above. God’s children are loved by all who love God. Those who love God also keep his commands. They keep his commands because they overcome the world, and they overcome the world because they are Christian believers, born from above.”
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James to Jude, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 338.
 Hiebert, “An Exposition of 1 John 5:1–12,” 222.
 Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 194. Stott, Letters of John, 177–78.