Victory and Nike
The transition from “son of thunder” to “apostle of love” would be a notable growth process in its own right. The youngest apostle had become the teacher of the next generation. It’s a great story – just perfect for a Hallmark movie night! Yet, I believe there is another lens through which John can be understood – the apostle of victory.
This proposed paradigm isn’t offered on a whim. During the summer of 2020 – yes, that COVID year! – I decided to conduct a study of First, Second, and Third John as part of my personal devotions. This included reading these simple, short seven chapters scores of times while also making a personal translation directly from the text (not for preaching – just for personal edification!).
During this journey, I was amazed at the number of times a certain word kept appearing. John used the words nike / nikao (νικη / νικαω) in his writings constantly.
This word, along with its cognates, occurs twenty-six times in the New Testament. Amazingly, twenty-one times this word is used by John. It is a favorite word, almost a distinctive word, for him.
In its verb form, the word means “to conquer, to overcome.” It’s a word of victory. It carries the idea of both athletic and military metaphors. An example of its usage is found once from the lips of Jesus in Luke 11.22. In that passage, Jesus describes a fully-armed “strong man” who is overcome by one who is stronger. He is relating a military metaphor in how the Strong One (Jesus) would overcome the fully-armed enemy (Satan) and then spoil him (as described by Paul in Colossians 2).
In the mythology of the day, Nike was the Greek goddess of Victory (Roman name, Victoria). Today’s Nike corporation has a logo (the infamous swoosh) that resembles one of the wings of the goddess. The company, at its core, is all about helping its customers be victorious in their pursuits!
Yet, long before we were told to “just do it!” John had a passion for being victorious also. John reminds us today that we can be overcomers because of Who resides in us. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world…
In my studies of his writings, I observed that he used this word regularly in all his literature (the gospel, the epistles, and Revelation). Whether he was writing about the past (Jesus’ earthly ministry), the present (the churches in Asia Minor), or the future (the book of Revelation), this concept of “overcoming” and “victory” ties his thoughts together. For me, John had become the apostle of victory.
I have been encouraged and challenged to see that John was more than just a “son of thunder” or an “apostle of love.” What started out as a simple translation process had become an enlightening journey in learning about John’s theology of victory.
So, with that background and context in place, I invite you to be reminded of that great truth – and great promise – of being an overcomer.
With the introduction behind us, it’s time to explore our position in Christ and understand who these overcoming promises belong to.
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