John 15:18-16:4 | When the World Hates Christians | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 15:18–16:4
I’d ask you to turn to John 15. Our text for the morning will bring us through John 15 and into chapter 16, verse 4. We’re in the series called friends of Jesus in the world. Please follow along as I read John 15, verse 18, through chapter 16, verse 4. Jesus, speaking to his disciples:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
Again, this is one of the reasons that we preach verse by verse through the Bible because if we just picked and chose on our own the things that we wanted to preach, we probably wouldn’t preach a message called “When the World Hates You.” But it’s revealed in Scripture, is it not? And so, we need to hear it. We need to understand how the world views us, and not just how but why.
Why are we Christians hated? And what happens after that? What happens now that we are hated? What do we do with that? What does the Lord do with that information? This is a text that I’ll admit is often foreign to us in 21st century America. And not just 21st century America, ever since America was founded. This has been a rather foreign reality to Americans. We have been in an environment where we’re not hated as much as people around the rest of the world are and we’re not hated as much as people throughout Christian history have been hated.
In a sense we’re a very, very, very, very, very small minority. And lest we think that our experience is normal and everybody else’s is abnormal, this text would show us that our experience is actually rather abnormal and, my friends, shouldn’t be counted on forever. Our experience of receiving relatively little hatred compared to most people throughout time and in the world, our experience of receiving relatively little hatred should not be seen as the norm. It’s rather abnormal.
And I think that we should know this passage, have it in our bones, have it in our hearts, before the greater hatred comes. Jesus is equipping his disciples for what life will look like apart from him. Now, as soon as I say that, I also don’t want to pretend that we haven’t experienced any of this at all. We have. We do. It might not be to the degree that our brothers and sisters around the world have experienced it, but we have received hatred from the world. And that may be happening even right now in your life.
Enough with the introduction. I’m just really excited to get into the text. Jesus has a lot to teach us here. He has a lot to teach us about how to view his mission, how to view him, how to view the Holy Spirit, how to view the world, how the world views us. There’s a lot in this passage.
We’ve been largely shielded from this, as I mentioned, but we must know what the Lord says about this. So, this morning I want to answer two questions. So I want to give you two answers to help Christians deal with the world’s hatred. Two answers to help Christians deal with the world’s hatred. And at the end I want to ask you one question. You can take a lot of application out as the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart, but I want to ask you one question at the very end of this. So, two answers to help Christians deal with the world’s hatred, and there’s a coming question at the end.
1. Why Does the World Hate Christians?
- The World Hates Christians Because the World Hates Christ
Number one, why does the world hate Christians? Why does the world hate Christians? We’ll see that in verses 18 through 25, and there are a few reasons. The first reason is this: because the world hates Christ. Verses 18-20 spell that out. So why does the world hate Christians? The first reason is because the world hates Christ. Verse 18, Jesus speaking: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
Jesus, saying this to the disciples: Guys, if the world hates you when I leave, know that it’s hated me before it hates you. What he’s basically trying to tell them is, don’t think that it’s abnormal. Don’t be surprised by this. And I think sometimes we are surprised when people hate us or dislike us for what we stand for. We think, I mean, I’m so nice. I’m not mean to them. I just shared the gospel with them. We’re kind of surprised that the world would hate us.
Well, Jesus is basically hoping the disciples aren’t surprised by this. If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. The world here, the term for world: It’s people who hold to the values that are in opposition to God. People who hold to values that are in opposition to God and his will.
The word “hate”: to feel antipathy toward or aversion toward. To feel antipathy or aversion toward. The tense of this verb that Jesus uses in verse 18, it’s the perfect tense. The idea: The world has hated me—that’s a finished reality—the world’s hated me, and the consequences are going to continue. The world’s hated me and they will just keep hating me, and they’re going to direct their hatred toward me toward you. If the world hates you, know that it’s hated me before it hated you.
Verse 19: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.” That’s obvious. If you stood for and embraced and prized the things the world prizes, then they would love you. As long as you believe what we teach, we love you. You teach something else, something else that actually tells us that we’re wrong, we do the opposite of loving you. We feel antipathy toward you. We feel an aversion toward you.
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” So Jesus is saying, if you’re like the world, they’re going to love you, and then he shows who’s responsible for our receiving hatred. He is. He says he chose us out of the world. And before you start blaming Jesus for this, the glory to come is worth any persecution in the meantime. He has chosen us for a reward, chosen us for an eternity with him, chosen us to, yes, suffer for him, but to be glorified with him. He’s a good Savior to choose us.
I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Now, today the world does not hate “fake Jesus.” Fake Jesus is the one who looks more like Santa Claus than the actual person that lived on earth 2,000 years ago. He knows when you’re naughty or nice; he’s keeping a list; but in all reality, even the naughty kids are going to get something. The world doesn’t hate that Jesus.
The world doesn’t hate the Jesus that’s more of a genie than a lord. They’re not crazy about the Jesus who’s a lord, who actually has the audacity to tell people what to believe and what to think. But they love the Jesus that is kind of the motivator, the therapist, the genie. But the Lord of the Scriptures, that is the one that’s hated. A caricature of him is not hated.
So what’s important for us is to know we’re actually following the actual Lord, not a fake version of him and that when we speak of him, we speak of the actual Lord, not a version of the Lord that we want to be easy to digest. We have to declare who he actually is and what he says. And when you do this, it doesn’t always bring friends.
Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” So, to take the end of that first, if you preach the message of the gospel to people, show the beauty of Christ and how he saves sinners, and show that he does declare that men are in sin and he calls them to come to him, if you preach that message and they respond, they respond to your word as if they’re responding to his word.
But the beginning of that is, remember the word that I said to you, a servant’s not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they’ll also persecute you. So, from even before Christ came, they killed and murdered the prophets who prophesied of their sin, coming judgment and salvation that’s available if they would humble themselves before a holy God.
So the prophets came with a message of bad news and a message of good news, and they didn’t want to hear anything that spoke about them being sinful and evil. So they persecuted the prophets and killed the prophets. And Jesus came and they did the same thing to him. Persecuted the prophets, persecuted the fathers, persecuted Jesus when he came.
And so Jesus is saying, all of the fathers were persecuted—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—in their own way, in some way were challenged as followers of God. Then the prophets come, and they are murdered. And then Jesus says, I come and they’re persecuting me. He doesn’t want believers to think, okay, then once I’m gone, you guys, I mean, they’re just going to love you.
He wants us to have the sobering reality that we’re coming in the line of Isaiah. We’re in the line of Jeremiah. We’re in the line of Jesus. We’re in the line of Peter. We’re in the line of Andrew. We’re in the line of James. We’re in the line of Thomas Cranmer. We’re in the line of John Rogers. We’re in the line of Lady Jane Grey. We’re in the line of people who’ve been hated for Christ, and he doesn’t want his disciples to be surprised by that.
Sinclair Ferguson says, “The Christian who does not anticipate opposition is the Christian who doesn’t yet understand the nature of the Christian life.”
- The World Hates Christians Because the World Doesn’t Know God
Another reason the world hates Christians is because the world doesn’t know God. This is according to Jesus. So why does the world hate Christians? Because the world hates Christ. Secondly, because the world doesn’t know God. Verse 21: “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name [who I am], because they do not know him who sent me.”
He says, all these things they do to you, and that “you” is a plural. All these things they do to you disciples, all these things they do to you church, all these things they do to you, Christians, they do on account of my name. They do because you stand for who I am and what I stand for. The more you embrace what Christ says and who Christ is, the more hatred comes.
Now, you can take the particularities of Christ that are welcomed by the world—he loves, he searches after, he guides—you can take all of those and leave off the hard parts that the world doesn’t like—he convicts of sin, he will judge—you can take just the good parts, the politically correct parts, and people wouldn’t hate you. But if you actually embrace the name—all he is, all he’s done, all he says—that’s when the hatred comes.
And the temptation for us, I believe, is to water down the message, to make the message more palatable. So if you come to this church, we won’t talk at all about sin. We’ll just call it mistakes. We won’t ever say that you’re lost. We’ll just always and only say that you’re loved. We won’t preach the full gospel because we want it to be easily digested.
But Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples, they’re going to hate you, so change the message. Hire a PR firm to tell you what would really appeal to the audience. He doesn’t say that. He says, if you stand for what’s true in my name, if you stand for who I am, you’re going to be hated.
This is a sobering message. And I’ll just kind of give you a heads up, there’s not a lot of encouragement the rest of the way through chapter 16, verse 4. The encouragement from Jesus comes a little bit later, and we’ll get to that in the coming weeks.
But as we go through this, I want you to see how the hatred of the world doesn’t affect Jesus’ plan one bit. And he anticipates and he even expects the disciples not to be daunted by it either. The world doesn’t know God. They’re approving of a god of their own making, but the one true God who sends his one and only Son and who is the image of the invisible God, who is God himself in another person, the world hates him because he stands for exactly who God is, and he communicates God’s message, the message of the Father, Son and Spirit, the message of salvation. The message that the world is in sin and there’s a Savior made available who loves sinners, loves to save sinners and rescue sinners, and so the world doesn’t know that God.
And so when they hate you who stands for that God, it just shows that they don’t know God. They don’t know the actual God, the real God. In Romans 10 Paul says about the Jews, they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. They had a zeal for God, but it wasn’t the actual, true God. It wasn’t for the word that he spoke, the will that he had. It wasn’t the actual God. They didn’t submit to his actual will. They didn’t know him.
- The World Hates Christians Because Christ Reveals Sin
Third reason the world hates Christians, found in verses 22-25, is because Christ reveals sin, and by the way, so do Christians. The message of the gospel starts with the bad news that we are all at enmity with God at the beginning. Christ reveals sin. Christians do the same. So the world doesn’t look upon that favorably.
If there’s any sin, maybe the foremost sin in today’s age is to tell someone they’re wrong. Now, think about that. You go on Facebook, and if anybody says, I see what you wrote there—and even in a kind, soft-spoken, gracious spirit—I see what you wrote there, but actually the facts are this, and what you said there is wrong. Whew! Backlash. How dare you tell me that I have ever been wrong about anything is the posture of the world.
Now, magnify that—not just what you said is wrong, but who you are in your innermost being is wrong and contrary to the world’s god. Try that one on for size, but that’s all of us. We’re not saying we’re right, you’re wrong. We’re saying we’re in there with you. We’re all wrong in our being. We’re all crippled. We all want our own way. We’re all prideful. That’s all of us.
But we’ve been rescued, not because we’re smarter than you and you just don’t get it yet. We’ve been rescued. We’ve had our eyes opened to the beauty of Christ who saved us by none of our doing. We are not better than you in any way. We are not better than the world in any way. He just saved us. He changed us. He shed his love on us. And he’s given us the message to share with them that would save them.
But the message of being wrong is not popular today. But that’s at the heart of the gospel. The reason they hated Jesus is because he came to the most religious people on the face of the planet at the time and said you need to be started over. You need to be born again. And they didn’t say, oh, you’re from heaven. All right we’ll sit here and listen to what you have to say. They hated that message. We have the same message. It hasn’t changed. The world hates Christians because Christ, and subsequently Christians, reveal sin.
Verse 22: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” Even before Christ came they were guilty of sin. We know that from the Old Testament. What Christ is saying here is that he came to highlight clearly that they are in sin. The world is in sin. And he came to be their Savior, but they have to acknowledge their guilt first. He says, if I would not have come, they wouldn’t have been guilty of rejecting me. But I’ve come, shown them their guilt, and they’ve rejected. All the more guilty.
There’s a principle in the Scriptures that the more truth you have that you reject, the more severe the judgment. And Christ is simply saying, I came at a certain point in human history and acknowledged that they were in guilt. They were guilty. They were in sin and they rejected. That compounds their guilt. That’s the essence of what he’s saying here.
Christ came and when Nicodemus came to him, he didn’t say, Nicodemus, you are a great teacher of Israel. You’ve got so many things going for you. I mean, you’re so attractive. You’re so smart. You’re so intelligent. I love you. Why don’t you just start following me? He told Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, that you must be born again. You must be changed.
When we present the gospel, it starts with God is holy and you have opposed him. And that’s the same reality that we had to understand. Again, we’re no better than anybody else that we preach the gospel to ever. We can identify with them. That’s us. That’s why we still even acknowledge that we continue in sin. We’re no better than anyone.
But when you preach a gospel message that says I was bound in sin, I believe, my friend, that you are as well, but there is a great Savior who desires for men to repent and be brought to him, no matter how softly you speak that, how tenderly, and that is truly your heart, it still won’t be accepted by everyone because all they’ll hear is that there’s something wrong with them.
Francis Schafer said, “If I had an hour to spend with someone [someone who’s not a Christian], I would spend 55 minutes talking to them about their sin.” Because people don’t believe that. They don’t believe that they’re in need in that sense. That’s why only the message of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a true gospel message. If you try to change it to where Jesus Christ is kind of a therapist—hey, hang in there; lose more weight; balance that budget—but that doesn’t solve the problem that we all have of needing to be recreated.
So Jesus comes preaching a message saying, you’re not what you should be, but I can make you new. I love you. I’ve come to die for you. I can make you new. But you have to submit to that reality.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.” So the Jews of the day thought that they hated Jesus but worshiped God. He’s saying the two go hand in hand. You hate Christ, you hate me, you hate God the Father. That’s the words of Jesus Christ. That’s what he says. You cannot hate Christ, deny Christ, believe that you have the Father, have a reconciled relationship with the Father. To hate one is to hate the other.
John, our gospel writer, wrote later in his first epistle, 1 John 2:23: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” How you view the Son is how you view the Father. You embrace the Son, you embrace the Father. You reject the Son, you reject the Father.
Verse 24, speaking of his works that he did: “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” So Jesus is saying, I came doing miracles and works, and earlier in John we learn that one of the things that puzzled the people who saw the works was that no one’s ever done miracles like this. He’s unique. He’s different. We’ve seen amazing things but not like this. He’s different.
And so Jesus says, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.” He’s saying, because I came and did those amazing works and they still rejected, they are guilty. If I just came as a normal man and just kind of lived the normal way and didn’t do any miracles, then there’s not really as much guilt. Still in sin, but now they’re rejecting based on the words I’ve said and the works that I’ve done.
You cannot deny the miraculous works of Christ and believe that you are still worshiping Christ or embracing him. One of our founding fathers is to be commended for a lot of things, Thomas Jefferson; but his view of the Bible he is not to be commended for. Thomas Jefferson cut out the miraculous elements of the Bible, cut out the miraculous elements of the New Testament because he believed that the message of Jesus was more important than what Jesus did, and he found those things hard to believe.
Smithsonian Magazine says this about Thomas Jefferson’s Bible: “Much of the material Jefferson elected not to include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread. He eschewed anything that he perceived as contrary to reason. His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection.”
If you hold to that view, you’re not a Christian. A Christian believes in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You see that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Thomas Jefferson worshiped a god of his own imagination, and it even happens today. But to take what Jesus has done and to reject it, you’re basically saying, I’m okay with Jesus being a human but not God.
If God created the Sea of Galilee, could not God walk on it? Yes. So to say, I don’t believe he did that is to say that Jesus is not God. Okay with him being human and a great teacher and men should really follow the thing he said about love your neighbor. You can pick and choose your way to hell in a sense, or you can submit to exactly who Christ has said that he is. That’s really the only options.
These people at this time didn’t submit themselves to Christ. They criticized his works. They made excuse. They denied his works. And Jesus continues, verse 25: “But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” And what Jesus does here is he goes back to Psalm 69, which is known as a Messianic psalm. Read Psalm 69, and as you go through it, write Jesus in the margins every time you see something in Jesus’ life.
Psalm 69 was a psalm that prophesied about Jesus, I mean, everywhere through that psalm. One of the things it says is that they who hated me without a cause were more than the number of hairs on my head. So lot’s of people hated me without a reason. They are no good reasons to hate Jesus. If you are rightly thinking, there is no good reason to hate Jesus. But he’s saying, I’m the fulfillment of Psalm 69. They hated me without a cause.
Listen to this verse as if you’ve never heard it before, and tell me whether Jesus should be hated or not. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And the world hates him because to believe in him, to trust in him, to embrace who he is, is to say at the beginning, I deserve to be condemned, but I embrace the one the Father sent because I know the Father loves the world and I know the Son loves the world. That’s what it means to believe.
But that one who gave his own Son, the Son who gave his own life is the one who’s hated without a cause. The world hates Christ. The world therefore hates Christians. They rejected Christ’s works and words. They rejected the Father who sent him, and Jesus does not want his disciples surprised by this.
Now, I want to be clear, I would never teach you that you should want to be hated. I would never teach you to be an arrogant Christian; and if people hate you, you say, well they hated Christ, they’ll hate me. No, you’re just arrogant and a jerk. Colossians 4, Paul tells us how to speak the gospel. Paul tells us how to speak to unbelievers, as though our speech was seasoned with salt, giving grace to those who hear.
You know what grace means, right? Unmerited favor. When we speak to the world of their condition and the hope that they can have, we speak to them in a way that’s better than they deserve. Why? Because we had the gospel spoken to us, and we were treated better than we deserve. So we preach a difficult, truthful, bold message, and we do it from hearts of love and words sprinkled with salt and grace.
But I think sometimes we think that if I just preach the truth in love, people will like me, because remember love, love, like me. If you preach the truth in love, you’ll still be hated. This is what the New Testament over and over would teach. Paul in Romans 9 wishes that he could go to hell if it meant salvation for the Jews of his time, people that he knew. That’s love, and they still rejected Paul.
So it makes no difference how much love you bring into the mix, there will still be animosity if you preach the exact gospel message. But that’s not a reason to say, well, then they’re going to hate me no matter what, so I’m going to take love out of it, and I’m just going to be a bold person for Christ and just hammer people. That’s not the right response either.
Preach the truth in love and let the chips fall where they may. Some will be won to Christ. Some will be repelled by Christ. It’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. As we preach the gospel, we’re going to be a savor of life to some—that smells good—and we’re going to be a savor of death to others—I hate that smell. But we keep preaching. We keep preaching.
At some point, someone told you the gospel and took a risk on how you would treat them. Whether that was your mom at 5 years old, a professor at 23, a friend at 37, a spouse at 52, at some point someone told you the actual gospel message and took a risk, but they did it because they had been changed and wanted you to know as well.
And some of you I know your testimony. You treated Christians poorly who told you that gospel message, and then at one point, God opened your eyes and the gospel became an aroma of life to you.
You may think, you know, unbelievers don’t really hate me. They don’t. I mean, I’ve hiked with Jim for 20 years. Jim’s not a Christian. He doesn’t hate me. We’re friends. We’re golf buddies. We do this together and do that together. Well, what does Jim think about Jesus? He’s fine with him. He knows he’s my Savior. Does Jim know that you believe that Jesus should be his Savior? Well, yeah.
Does Jim know that you believe he needs Jesus and Jesus alone to be his Savior? Well, we don’t really talk about that very much. Does Jim know that you believe that your Savior is also the coming judge who will judge Jim if he does not submit to him? Well, no. Then of course Jim doesn’t hate you. And I’m not saying that he will if you tell him that message. He might. He might also love you as a friend like he’s never loved you before.
The test of whether or not unbelievers around us accept or reject us is not determined when the full gospel is absent but when it’s present. The test of whether or not those unbelievers who you’re around reject or accept you is not given when the gospel is absent; it’s when it’s present.
So you can be around unbelievers for a long time and look just like them, talk like them, and the only difference is you do something different on Sunday morning. Well, of course, there’s going to be no hatred there. It’s when the gospel’s present—the full gospel. God’s holy, man is sinful, Christ came to die and calls everyone everywhere to repent and believe. That’s when you see what they’ll do with your relationship.
The more you live committed to Christ personally and the more you make the message of reconciliation clear to unbelievers, chances are the more you’ll be hated. And again, that’s not something that we relish. I’m not excited to tell you about that. I’m not going to start some campaign on our website saying, go be hated. That’s not the point. But the point also is not to try not to be hated at all costs. So I’m not going to share the gospel because I don’t want to be hated. That’s not the point either.
The point Jesus would have is, keep proclaiming the gospel, and whatever happens will happen. Remember when Jesus launched his disciples in the world? All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go make disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all I’ve commanded you, and listen, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.
He knew what the response would be and he comforts us with his presence. He doesn’t say, you know what, I’ll be hated; you don’t need to go through that. He calls us to carry out his gospel message and he promises his comforting presence. He promises his peace. So we don’t hope for hate, but it is a reality that will happen.
So why does the world hate Christians? We’ve gone through that. Next, what happens when the world hates Christians?
2. What Happens When the World Hates Christians?
So we learned why, but now what happens? What is God’s response? What is Christ’s response? He says, guys, they’re gonna hate you. Here’s why. Now, here’s what to do about it. First, what does Christ do? Here’s the response from heaven when the world hates Christians.
- The Holy Spirit Will Witness About Christ
And what do we learn in verse 26? But the Father and Son are going to make sure the Spirit is present when the Son goes back to heaven to declare that gospel message. Verse 26: “But when the Helper comes …” Now remember, this is in light of Jesus going back to heaven, ascending to heaven. “But when the Helper comes [the Spirit], whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
So what happens when the world hates Christians? The Holy Spirit keeps preaching the gospel to the world. That’s what we’re saying. That’s what Jesus is saying. What happens when the world hates us? The message doesn’t stop. Well, time to pack up and go. They’re just not having it. No, the Holy Spirit keeps preaching the gospel message. The Holy Spirit that comes from the Father whom the Son sends.
You see the unity and purpose of the Trinity here? The Father’s like, I’m bringing my Son back to glorify him, but I’m going to send my Spirit because they still need to hear the reconciling message of my love for sinners, and he sends the Holy Spirit, even though they hate Christ and hate Christ’s followers. But the Father sends the Spirit from himself, and the Son is the one that says I’m sending the Spirit as well.
Talk about the love of God for the world. After Christ was rejected, God the Father and God the Son make sure that God the Holy Spirit keeps preaching that message of grace. What a Savior. What a gracious God. What a gracious Father. What a gracious Son. What a gracious Holy Spirit.
So the Holy Spirit will witness about Christ. What happens when the world hates Christians? First, the Holy Spirit will witness about Christ. How does the Spirit do this? Glad you asked.
- Christians Will Witness About Christ
Verse 27, Christians will witness about Christ. Verse 27: “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” Now let’s take the second part of that verse: “because you’ve been with me from the beginning.” Jesus is saying to his immediate disciples present in the upper room, you’re going to go and bear witness about me and I’m going to start this thing with you because you’ve been with me from the beginning.
That’s why 1 John starts—John starts his letter to the churches—that which we’ve seen and held and touched, that’s what we make known to you. John’s saying, I was there. I saw him before he died and after he died and when he rose again. I was there. I’ve seen him. I’ve touched him, and I’m the one declaring this message to you. And surprise, surprise, the Holy Spirit has seen to it that 1 John has stood the test of time, and we have it 2,000 years later.
The apostles were the first preachers because they were there with him before he died and after he rose again. That’s why in Acts 1 when Judas is gone and he’s committed suicide and rejected Christ ultimately, that’s why in Acts 1 when they’re going to get a twelfth apostle, one of the factors in that decision making is that it would be someone who was with Christ at the beginning, so they choose Mathias, someone who was with Christ from the beginning.
I love Merrill Tenney’s quote. He says this: “The apostles were committed to the transmission of sober facts. They were not creating fictional legend.” Why did Christ start with the disciples? Because it shows the credibility of the gospel message. These guys were with me before and they were cowardly, timid sinners. I died, rose again, went to heaven; they went and changed the world with their boldness. Something had happened to them.
And it was credible because people knew them before and after. Something happened to these guys. Yes, union with Christ happened. So Christ says, you’ll be my witness because you’ve been with me from the beginning. God always sees to it that the people of God are the witnesses about God. This has been the way it’s been.
Isaiah 43, verses 10 and 12, listen to this. Isaiah is written to the nation of Judah who had largely sinned against God, and Christ shows them the judgment that’s coming for them, but he also shows them that he’s going to be their Savior. He’s chosen them specifically. He set his love on them. One of the things he’s chosen them to do is to be his witnesses to the rest of the world, to the rest of the nations. You see that played out in Isaiah.
Listen to Isaiah 43:10 and 12: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord.” These are the people of God at the time. “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen.’”
By the way, side note, I’ll pause here. Notice in the doctrine of God’s choosing how much that is linked to the ones he’s chosen being his witnesses. He doesn’t just choose them to go to heaven and not hell. He chooses them not only to be saved, but to declare his worth to the nations.
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen. . . . I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I am God.’”
Isaiah 44:8: “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” God is telling the people that he’s saved they will be his witnesses. Fast forward to Jesus with his disciples. I have saved you. I have made you my friends. The world’s going to hate you. You will be my witnesses.
Now, right there we might say, okay, Judah—got it, disciples—got it; but now we’ve got Bibles and the disciples’ testimony. We don’t need to be his witnesses anymore. Oh, contraire. 1 Peter 2:9, listen: “But you,” and he’s writing to the church, not just pastors. “But you are a chosen race [hear that word “chosen”?], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” Why? Why are those things true? So “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
You are chosen to proclaim his excellencies. This is always the way God uses the people of God. He saves them, makes them witnesses. Saves them, makes them witnesses. Today, saves them, makes them witnesses. The Spirit witnesses about Christ through the people of Christ. So you see those first two subpoints there, you see those connected. The Holy Spirit will witness about Christ, and Christians will witness about Christ.
God has determined for the Holy Spirit to witness about Christ through the people of Christ. That’s his plan. What else will happen, finally? What else will happen when the world hates Christians?
- Christ Will Prepare Christians to Endure
Now, here’s what I’m telling you. He tells his disciples, his friends whom he loves, guys, they hated me, they’re going to hate you. And he doesn’t say, come, sit on my lap and let me pat your back. He doesn’t say that and we want that. And just so you know, he will give a lot of comforting words throughout the rest of the gospels even in Acts. He’ll give them comforting words, but right now he doesn’t do it yet. They’re going to hate you, but the Holy Spirit’s going to witness, you’re going to witness, and I want you to endure. That’s the message for today. That’s what he’s saying.
Chapter 16, verse 1: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” So I’m telling you this so that when the time comes you’re not surprised by the hatred and so you don’t fall away. You say, this is hard and painful and I can lose my life, but he told me this was going to happen, and I’m staying with him. I’ve said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
“They will put you out of the synagogues.” And by the end of the first century, by the way, basically all Christians were out of Jewish synagogues. “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
Now, to be put out of the synagogue, that was a huge deal. That impacted you socially, that impacted you religiously in a sense, but now you have a new Lord so you’re fine with it, and it impacted you economically. It impacted your family, your relationship with your family because they were still in the synagogue. They were living this whole lifestyle.
Some of you have been rescued out of false religion and you know how it dominates everything; and so when you come out of it, it’s like you’re dead to me. You’re dead to us. This is the idea. They put you out of the synagogue; you’re dead to us. That’s why it was such a threat that they made to people, where in John 9 they take the man born blind who had been saved or healed by Jesus; they put him out of the synagogue.
That’s why earlier in John we learn that many people were believing in Jesus, but for fear of those who threatened them with putting them out of the synagogue, they wouldn’t declare it. This was a huge deal. And he tells the disciples, listen, guys, they’re going to put you out of the synagogues. And more than that, the hour is coming that whoever kills you will think he’s offering service to God.
Throughout the ages of church history it hasn’t been the out-and-out pagans who have martyred Christians; it’s been religious people who’ve martyred Christians, starting with Jewish leaders in the first century. You can trace it to the reformation where Rome murdered many, many, many Christians, and even to today you see Islam murdering Christ-followers. The norm is that religious people would murder the children of God, thinking that they’re offering service to God. Jesus prophesied about all this. He said all this would happen.
Verse 3: “And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” They’ll think they’re offering service to God, but they don’t know God or else they wouldn’t do this. Or else they wouldn’t, in the words of the New Testament, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. And they wouldn’t have murdered his followers.
Verse 4, notice Jesus: “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes [the hour of these things happening] you may remember that I told them to you.” He doesn’t give them a lot of comfort here. He doesn’t say, actually, guys, some people will suffer; you guys probably won’t. He doesn’t say, you’ll suffer but this or that. He will do that, and I can’t wait to get to that part. But right now he just lets it lie for a little bit.
I’ve said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you. Haven’t we seen this in the upper room? Jesus is always telling the disciples, later on you’ll look back and you’ll connect all the dots. That’s what he’s doing here. And he expects that later on they’ll look back and connect all the dots, and that’s not going to cause them to go, we better run away. It’s going to cause them to go, he said this would happen, it’s happening, he said he’d be with us, we’re standing firm.
That’s what Jesus wants in response to this teaching. If you look at persecution throughout the New Testament and the calls of the apostles even to the church to endure persecution, there are two common applications. Two common applications. And one is not run. One is endure. You know what the second one is? Rejoice. What?
John Bunyan was in prison for years because he preached the gospel, and they said we’ll let you out and go be with your family if you would just recant. And he said no. The application for enduring persecution is endure and rejoice. Rejoice that you were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.
You see that in Acts 4. The disciples were beaten, told not to preach anymore. They go back to the church and they’re rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Are we even close to this? I don’t know. This is so foreign, isn’t it?
I’ve said these things to you, that when the hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. What happens when Christians are hated? Jesus clarifies the mission. The Spirit keeps proclaiming Christ through the people of Christ, and he calls us to endure.
Kostenberger said this: “Rather than destroy their faith, persecutions thus have the potential of deepening the disciples’ trust as they remember Jesus’ prediction.” If we think that persecution and hatred will be foreign, we’ll be tempted to check out. Oh, this whole thing isn’t working. This whole following Jesus thing isn’t working. But if we remember, no, this is what he said would happen. I can trust him. He went through it for the glory set before him.
The disciples, this cowardly group of men who denied Jesus even when he was on the cross—only John was around, everyone else fled—that group came back after the resurrection and met with Jesus, and then you couldn’t stop them from preaching because they knew what to expect and they stood with their resurrected Lord.
So I told you I’d ask you one question at the end. One question: Is Jesus worth any hatred that you receive? And I know on the outside we’re all nodding and saying yes, but my prayer as your pastor would be that from the heart you would say, yes, he’s worthy of anything that I ever suffer in his name, from the heart. Anyone can follow Jesus in sunshine and roses, but who can follow him to the cross and then to glory? Is Jesus worth it?
If you’re not a follower of Christ, maybe you’re a new visitor, you’re not a Christian, you came with someone, I acknowledge that this is a pretty heavy message from the Lord himself; but let me say this to you: Maybe in the past, maybe today your heart does not like the things that Jesus teaches, the things that God says. But I want to put those things in place for you. I want to show you the bigger picture.
All men and women, the Bible says, have rebelled; and you can argue that point or not but, like I often say, babies come out pinching and hitting as they grow up. No one needs to teach them to do that. We need to teach them to do the good things. We kind of start doing our own thing and then it just compounds.
Jesus comes, the Father’s only Son, to demonstrate the love of the Father, to come to people who have been alienated, rejected him. He comes to those people out of love for them, out of a desire to glorify his own name, show himself as a Savior. He comes to those people and says, repent, just admit where you are, and I’ll be gracious to you.
And so he’s coming to those who are rebellious toward him and toward his Father. And he comes, not with rebellion of his own, not with judgment immediately; he comes with grace and opportunity. He comes to a group who have not wanted to submit to him, the Creator; and he’s come to them to say, I will forgive your sin, make you my child, the Father is saying to the sinner, through my own Son, through his death.
Listen to Colossians 1:21, God speaking to Christians, but it shows us what our life was like before. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” verse 22, yet—there doesn’t have to be a yet; that can be the end of the story. You were hostile in mind, doing evil deeds—end of story for you. But that’s not our Lord, that’s not the Lord I put before you today. “[Y]ou who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [yet] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
Jesus came to die for his enemies so that he would receive their judgment and they won’t. So that they can stand one day before the God whom they have offended as children of his, and he looks down at them and he says, no guilt at all. Not even a little. Not even a hint. That’s what Jesus came to do.
And as we take that message to the world our Lord is simply telling his followers it’s not always going to be popular. But I want you, if you’re not a Christian, to see the beauty of this Christ, the grace and the love of this Christ who preaches a hard message, yes, but so that you would be saved and reconciled to his Father. And if you believe that he died for you, rose again, actually has the power to give life and grant life and overcome sin, overcome death, because he’s the Creator after all—if you believe that message, acknowledge your sin and trust in him.
I was doing my notes for today thinking about how difficult this section is in John—the hatred of the world—and thinking how weird it is in a sense for us to call people not following Christ currently to come to this one who warns of these difficult things. But I don’t think it’s odd. If you’re not a Christian, you know all that he’s done for you, all that could happen if you follow him, but listen, that is the only real and lasting and joyful option. Embrace Christ, follow him where he leads, and let him take you home, home to God.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan, who I mentioned earlier, wrote—it’s a story about a boy named Christian who goes through the gate of salvation and is now living his Christian life. In order to get to the Celestial City, in order to one day hopefully find the Celestial City where God is, the King is, and Christian has been going through some difficult times, and he is staying at the home of Interpreter, the Holy Spirit. And Interpreter takes him up to look at the palace over at the Celestial City where the King is. And here’s the scene of what Christian and Interpreter see.
The Interpreter now took Christian out of the house and through his garden to the place from which they could see a beautiful palace not very far off. The roof of that palace was flat, and upon it a number of people were walking about dressed in garments that shone brightly like gold.
“Is that one of the King’s palaces,” asked little Christian. “Yes, but it’s not easy for anyone to enter it.”
Outside the palace Christian saw a great crowd of men who looked as if they wished to go in but were afraid to do so. Then he saw some other men in armor who were standing around the doorway. They had fierce, cruel faces, and the men who were outside dared not try to pass by them.
A little way from the door a man was sitting at a table with a book before him in which he wrote the names of anyone who tried to get into the palace. Little Christian felt very much interested in all of this, and he hoped that one of the men would be brave enough to go into the palace while he was there watching.
“Why does not the King drive away the wicked soldiers?” he said. “Good question. He could drive them away, and then all those people could go into the palace. He could do it quite easily,” replied Interpreter, “but he wishes to see how many of the people really care about entering the palace. Those who love the King with all their hearts are not afraid of the soldiers. We can wait for a little while and you will see someone go in.”
So they sat down upon the grass and little Christian watched the people. Presently a man came out from the crowd and went toward the table near the doorway. His name was written in the Book, and then he put on his helmet and drew his sword and rushed in among the soldiers. He fought with them for a long time, and Christian thought he would be killed. But although he received many wounds, he got into the palace at last, and then all the people on the roof began to sing, “Come in, come in, eternal glory thou shalt win.”
Little Christian smiled. “Does that mean we are not to be frightened because the King will help us and take us safely into his city?” “Yes,” said Interpreter.
I’ll leave you with 1 Peter 5:8-11:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Father, your word is not always easy to hear, easy to digest, but I pray that you would make it the most real thing to us, that our hearts would resonate with it, that whether we are in the midst of little opposition or great persecution that we can always say Jesus is worth it all. Lord, we thank you for ultimately coming from heaven, leaving the glory, going to the cross, being crucified by men who you created, by men who you loved. We thank you for enduring that for us.
And we thank you that we are not a religion of martyrdom. We are a group of people with a relationship with the eternal God who has a secure and firm future. I pray that you would bring that to remembrance as we go throughout this week. Lord, let us be faithful, let us love the world, let us declare you to the world, and let us stand strong no matter what opposition comes our way. I pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.
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