As I write, it’s the weekend of the 2020 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Once again the two Mercedes cars have dominated qualifying for the race. Many would agree that in Lewis Hamilton Mercedes has the best driver – and one of the greatest drivers of all time. However, what also sets both cars apart over the last few years is that the engine in their car is just more powerful than the engine in other cars. What is in that car –both driver and engine – is greater than what is in the rest.
In today’s reading, St John talks about the nature of contested truth in our world. Even in the early decades of the church, what Christians believed was under attack, both within and outside the church. So how can we tell what is true spiritual wisdom? How can we prevail in the spiritual battle? His advice rests on one profound truth: ‘The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (v4).
In other words, it’s not a fair fight. Yes, there are competing spiritual forces in the world, and that will sometimes cause turbulence for followers of Jesus. But the Spirit of the Almighty Lord of the Universe is just bigger and better, more loving and powerful, than anything else.
The fact that this divine Presence dwells in us is even more significant – we are not just evaluating two external spiritual forces – rather God by His Spirit dwells in us, and no other power can overcome that or take it away from us.
This is a huge encouragement. There are many days we feel weak. There are days we might doubt whether we can cope, or even whether we can hold fast to God. But the greater truth is that God holds fast to us, and that His Spirit in us is greater than anything that opposes us.
There is another footnote here. The particular challenge facing the followers of Jesus that John was writing to was those who denied that Jesus was a real, material human being at all (v3). The influence of Greek thought made it popular to believe that Jesus was just a spirit, because a good God simply couldn’t lower himself to become flesh and blood.
But nothing could be further from the truth. God came into this ‘dirty’ world in real flesh and blood form, and in so doing gave it hope. This same God inhabits our own flesh-and-blood bodies too. God’s solution is not to avoid the mess of this world but to engage with it and to make it whole.
Today, let’s give thanks that God is slowly making us whole; that by His grace we can hold fast, because He holds fast to us; and above all, that ‘the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.’