John 15:18-27 - The Relationship of Believers to the World: Persecution

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  • Last week we talked about The Relationship of Believers to Believers, this week, Christ turns to the hatred of the world.  Why does the world hate Christians?
·         (1) because it first hated Christ, and we belong to Him (1 John 3:13), (2) because we no longer belong to the world (1 John 4:5 and John 17:14), (3) because the world has rejected His Word (v. 20), (4) because the world does not know the Father (John 16:1-3), (5) because the world’s sin has been exposed by Christ.

Jesus had openly taught His disciples that one day persecution would come.  He mentioned it in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:10–12, 44) and in His “commissioning sermon” when He sent out the disciples to minister (Matt. 10:16–23).  In His sermon denouncing the Pharisees, Jesus openly said that they would persecute and kill God’s servants (Matt. 23:34–35).

A.                 The Reality of the World’s Hatred (v.18).

1.                  “If the world hates you, “Know that it hated Me before it hated you…”  (v.18a). 

a)                  The meaning of the word “if”

(1)                 The meaning of the word “if” in this verse should be translated since.  “Since the world hates you”: there is no question about the world hating the believer.  It will hate him.

b)                  The “world” refers to unbelievers.

(1)                 The “world” refers to the unbeliever: the unredeemed, the lost, those who have never trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:2, 8)
(2)                 The “world” stands for every person whose thoughts and lives are centered upon...
(a)                 the lust of the flesh (food, clothes, money, immorality (Galatians 5:16-21.)
(b)                the lust of the eyes (evil and immoral thoughts, coveting, seeing and desiring people and things).
(c)                 the pride of life (position, honor, fame, self-centeredness, boasting (2 Tim. 3:1-5.)

John said "Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."  (1 John 2:15-17, NASB95)

2.                  “Know that it hated Me before it hated you…”  (v.18b).

a)                  The believer is to “know” something – the world hated Christ first.

(1)                 The believer is not to think some strange thing is happening to him; don’t become discouraged.

Peter says that’s "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; " (1 Peter 4:11-12, NASB95)

Johns says in his epistle to "not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you."  (1 John 3:13)

(2)                 The believer is to take heart, for Christ was victorious over the hatred. 

We need to remember what Christ has gone through "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  (Hebrews 12:3)

Jesus himself suffered "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings."  (Hebrews 2:10, NASB95)

Christ has brought us to God "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."  (1 Peter 3:18, NASB95)

Christ paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed."  (Isaiah 53:5, NASB95)

B.                The Reasons for the World’s Hatred (v.19-24).

1.                  “If you were of the world, the world would love its own… you are not of the world…  I chose you out of the world…”  (v.19).

a)                  Reason 1: Because believers are new creatures (v.19).

(1)                 Believers are called out from the world.  Believers are in the world, but they are not of the world but to be separated from the world:

We need to remember Christ has made us new "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)

We need to separate ourselves from that which is not of God "Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty."  (2Cor.6:17-18)

The Apostle Paul says that we are to "withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”  (2 Thessalonians 3:6, NKJV)

(2)                 And because of believer’s separation from the world, the world does not love believers but rejects them.
(3)                 The believer longer wants to live the “old life” (1 Peter 4:1–4).  We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13–16), but a dark world does not want light and a decaying world does not want salt!

2.                  “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…”  (v.20).

a)                  Reason 2: Because believers are identified with Christ (v.20).

(1)                 The servant is not above persecution: no servant is above his Lord.  The Lord suffered persecution; therefore, the believer will suffer persecution.  It is to be expected.  This principle is seen in some of the other images of the relationship between Christ and His own.
(a)                 He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep; and when they attack the Shepherd, it affects the sheep (Matt. 26:31).  He is the Master (Teacher) and we are the disciples, the learners.
(b)                But it is encouraging to know that when God’s people are persecuted, our Lord enters into their suffering (Acts 9:1-9)
(2)                 What the Lord stands for, we stand for…  Whatever there was about Him that caused men to persecute Him, the same is in us.  Christians strive to conform ourselves to the Lord:

Paul urges us because of "the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Romans 12:1-2, NASB95)

Jesus’ prayer to the Father was "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."  (John 17:14, NASB95)

Paul gives a comforting statement, he says "persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh."  (2 Corinthians 4:9-11, NASB95)

3.                  “All these things they will do to you… because they do not know Him who sent Me…”  (v.21).

a)                  Reason 3: Because the world does not really know God (v.21).

(1)                 The world is deceived in its concept and belief of God.  The world conceives God to be the One who fulfills their earthly desires and lusts (John 6:2, 26).
(a)                 They came to be healed or to watch the healings.  Many people today come to church to be entertained (2Tim.4:3).  Few come for what Jesus could do for them spiritually. 
(b)                They followed Him because of the things Jesus had given them. Job did not do this (Job 1:1,6-12,20-23). 

(2)                 This hatred of the world is sin grounded in their ignorance of God.   

Listen to the ignorance of the Men of Athens, Paul said "for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:" (Acts 17:23)

Paul speaks about those who think they know God but are alienated from Him "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;" (Ephesians 4:17-18, NKJV)

False teachers have this characteristic, "For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."  (2 Timothy 3:6-7, NKJV)

Speaking the truth to religious people will cause hatred, Jesus said "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."  (John 16:2-3, NKJV)

b)                  Reason 4: Because the world is convicted of sin (v.22-24) – two things:

(1)                 The Lord’s Word, life and works convict (v.22-24).  Once again, Jesus emphasized His words and His works.  
(a)                 This has been emphasized throughout the Gospel of John (John 3:2; 5:36–38; 10:24–27; 14:10–11).  The people had no excuse (“cloak”) for their sin. 
(b)                They had seen His works and heard His word, but they would not admit the truth.  All of the evidence had been presented, but they were not honest enough to receive it and act on it.
(2)                 The Lord has already dealt with the Pharisees on this issue (John 9:39–41).
(a)                 They had to admit that Jesus had healed the man born blind, but they would not follow the evidence to its logical conclusion and put their trust in Him.  Jesus told them that they were the ones who were blind!
(b)                But since they admitted that they had seen a miracle, this made their sin even worse.  They were not sinning in ignorance; they were sinning against a flood of light.

C.                The Guilt of the World (v.25).

1.                  “They hated Me without a cause…” (v.25).

a)                  They are without cause.

(1)                 In John 15:25, Jesus quoted Psalms 35:19 and 69:4.  The Word assured Him that the hatred of the world was not because of anything He had done to deliberately provoke such opposition. 
(2)                 We today can turn to passages like (Phil.1:28–30; 2Tim.2:9–12; Heb.12:3–4; and 1Pet.4:12ff).  We also have the encouraging words of our Lord found in the Gospels.

Paul says to not be "terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.  For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me."  (Philippians 1:28-30, NKJV)

Paul said that he suffers "trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us."  (2 Timothy 2:9-12, NKJV).

When we feel like giving up, we nee to "consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin."  (Hebrews 12:3-4, NKJV)


D.                The Promise of Victory Over the World (v.26-27).

1.                  “But when the Helper comes…  He will testify of Me…”  (v.26).

a)                  Victory through the Holy Spirit.

(1)                 He is the comforter—the Truth—the Witness.

Speaking to the disciples, Jesus said "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;" (Matthew 10:19)

Jesus said a similar thing in Luke Gospel that "when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."  (Luke 12:11-12, NKJV)

I love what Jesus says in Luke 21:15 "for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist."  (Luke 21:15, NKJV)

Christians have the wisdom of the Spirit "These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."  (1 Corinthians 2:13, NKJV)

2.                  “You will also bear witness, because you have been with Me…”  (v.27)

a)                  Victory through one’s own witness and fellowship with Christ (v.27).

(1)                 Mary had chosen the right thing to do… to sit and be with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
(2)                 Peter and John (Acts 4:13-31).
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