We are currently looking at the Farewell Discourse, which is part of the Upper Room Discourse. This is the last night of our Lord's earthly life. He has gathered His disciples together to teach them things that they need to know in His absence.
Yeshua has shocked His disciples by telling them that He is leaving them and that where He is going they cannot come. The disciples have also been shaken by our Lord's words that one of them is about to betray Him, and that Peter is going to deny Him, repeatedly. They have asked a number of questions, but it is very clear that they have no grasp of what is about to happen to Yeshua, or to them.
We have just finished looking at John 15:1-17, which deal with the metaphor of the Vine and the Branches. It is my understanding that this passage on fruit bearing deals with the subject of discipleship. Fruit bearing is a mark of discipleship. In this text He is commanding believers to abide in Him. To "abide" in Christ is to "make our home" in Him. Abiding in Him is not automatic; it is something which believers are commanded to do, and which takes effort and action on our part. Yeshua tells us that we abide in Him by allowing His word to abide in us and by keeping His commandments. Three times in this section He tells believers to love one another:
These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:17 ESV
This is NOT a suggestion, it's a commandment. You cannot live out the Christian life, you cannot abide in Christ, you cannot be a disciple of Christ, without a commitment to loving other believers.
Lazarus revisits this theme in 1 John:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:11-12 ESV
Our love for one another identifies us as the Lord's disciples.
The scholars are divided over whether verse 17 goes with the verses before it, or those which follow it. Maybe both sides are right and this is best seen as a transition verse, linking what has gone before with what follows. Notice the next verse:
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18 ESV
What I want you to notice here is the contrast between verse 17 and 18, "Love one another" vs "The world hates you." In this text (John 15:18-25) Yeshua tells His disciples that in their service to Him they can expect hatred, rejection, and persecution. In contrast to Yeshua's love for His disciples is the world's hatred for them. Comparison was a major feature of ancient elaboration; Yeshua turns from the subject of love in God's community to that of hatred in the world's.
In our text for today Yeshua is warning His disciples about and explaining the obstacles their mission will face. They will be "hated" (John 15:18) and "persecuted" (John 15:20) but such hatred and persecution are logical since they already hated and persecuted Yeshua. So essentially, our Lord is promising them persecution as a result of hatred.
Abiding in Christ is the source of their life, their fruit-bearing, and of their fellowship, both with God and with their fellow Christians. But abiding in Him is also the reason the world will hate them. The same hatred for Yeshua, which prompts unbelievers to call for His crucifixion will soon be vented upon those who have identified with Yeshua.
Our text falls into two sections: The world's hatred of Christians (John 15:18-25); and our responsibility to the hostile world, namely, to bear witness of Christ (John 15:26-27).
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you: John 15:18 ESV
The Greek construction, "If the world hates you," does not express doubt. This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective. It could be better translated, "Since the world hates you." There is no question but that the world will hate disciples since it hated Yeshua.
"If the world hates you"—the word "hate" is from the Greek word miseo which means: "hatred, to detest, to persecute." This word miseo is used 7 times in these 10 verses. "Hates you" is a present active indicative; the world continues to hate them. In the series of 4 sentences in verses 18-21, Yeshua repeats that the world's hatred for His disciples is a rejection of Him and His word.
The word "world" is from the Greek term kosmos. If you look up all of Lazarus' uses of kosmos you will see that he uses the term in three different senses. It can refer to the habitable part of the world in which Yeshua ministered. "World" can also refer to the spiritually corrupt world system dominated by Satan. Thirdly, "world" can refer to the elect of God, who are living in the world. Here it is used of the moral order in rebellion against God.
Morris writes, "The word kosmos [world] has an especially Johannine ring about it in the New Testament. Altogether it occurs 185 times, of which 78 occurrences are in John, 24 in the Johannine Epistles, and 3 in Revelation. Its occurrence in the Synoptic Gospels is not frequent (Matthew 8 times, Mark and Luke 3 times each). It occurs in the Pauline Epistles a total of 47 times. It is thus a word of some importance for John and to a lesser extent for Paul, but it is not much used by other New Testament writers." (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971])
Carson writes, "The world, as commonly in John, refers to the created moral order in active rebellion against God."
"Know that it has hated me before it hated you"—thinking about Yeshua's life why would anyone hate Him? He was kind and loving, He fed people, He healed people, He delivered people from demons. Why would anyone hate Him?
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. John 7:7 ESV
Yeshua is talking to His unbelieving brothers when He says, "The world cannot hate you" you're part of it. You fit into this world, but it hates Me. And why does it hate Me? Not because of my works, but because I testify of it that its deeds are evil. It was Yeshua's words not His actions that generated this kind of response.
Believer, the world hated Christ. The Jewish religious leaders were plotting to arrest and kill Yeshua at that very moment. And if they hated Christ, they will hate us if we are like Christ. There will be a point at which the disciples' loving obedience to Yeshua makes them so much like Him, that the world will respond to them just as it responded to Yeshua Himself. Yeshua had told them earlier:
It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:25 ESV
Do you notice that? They called Yeshua the prince of demons, how much more shall they hate those of His household? Yeshua told them that this hatred was coming:
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. Matthew 24:9 ESV
Abiding in Christ has many benefits, but one of the painful side effects is that because the world hates our Lord, it will likewise hate us. Believer, the world hates us because of Christ. With all this hatred coming from the world it is really important that within the church we love each other.
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. John 15:19 ESV
"If you were of the world"—this is a second class conditional sentence, which is called "contrary to fact." This should be translated "If you were of the world, which you are not, then the world would love you, but it does not."
In chapter 8 Yeshua had distinguished Himself from the world in addressing His Jewish opponents:
He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. John 8:23 ESV
Yeshua was not of this world and neither are His disciples.
Again Yeshua says, "The world hates you." Why does the world hate us? It's because we are not like them. Like Yeshua we are not of the world:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:15-16 ESV
The same theme also occurs in 1 John:
They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:5-6 ESV
Believer, the world hates us, "Because you are not of the world"-because we are not of this world we should differ with the world about all of the important things in life. They are interested in money. They are interested in property. They're interested in social status and position. All of those things the world is immensely interested in because they have absolutely no interest in the things that really matter. Because we are not of the world we shouldn't love the things of the world:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV
We can't love God and the world because they are mutually exclusive. And if you find that the world doesn't hate you it may be because you are very much like them. Because if you love the Lord and keep his commandments the world will hate you.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Yeshua will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
That's clear enough isn't it? Plato who wrote hundreds of years before the coming of our Lord and the apostles said, "That if a truly righteous man ever appeared on earth he would be scourged, imprisoned and hanged."
The world hates Christ and they hate those who are like him. And so the Christian should not feel strange when he is opposed by his friends, by his family members, by his mother or by his father, or by his sister or his brother, or by his children. He is opposed by them for the simple reason that the world's spirit is different from the Christian spirit.
D. A. Carson points out that, "We see the world's hatred in those who claim to be liberal and tolerant of differing viewpoints, but who are not so tolerant when it comes to Christian absolutes." [Yeshua' Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer [Baker], pp. 116-117)]
We see this everywhere in our society, unbelievers will be tolerant until you tell them that Yeshua is the only way to God. Then they will accuse you of being intolerant. They will be friendly until you make it clear that God has absolute moral standards and that our culture's standards are wrong. If you say, Homosexuality is a sin or gender identity tampering is evil, or same sex marriage is sin they will go nuts on you. You might even get arrested for hate speech.
Believer, if you live in obedience to Yeshua, you will threaten unbelievers in your family, at school, or at work, because your godly life will expose their sin. As a result, they will attack you falsely. Be ready for the onslaught!
"But I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you"-we were in the same mess as the rest of the world until the Lord showed His amazing grace to us. The Psalmist describes this beautifully in Psalm 40:
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Psalms 40:2-3 ESV
The reason we are not part of the world is because we were chosen out of it. There we go again with that "chosen" idea. It is everywhere in this gospel. We are what we are because we were chosen by God to be his children:
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Yeshua the Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV
"According to the purpose of His will"—the word "purpose" is a Greek word that means: "good pleasure." It means that God's choice of us, His predestining of us to be His children, was apart from any cause in us, but was independent and unaffected. By sovereign will, by sovereign decree, He chose those who were to be the members of His family totally apart from the will of any man, totally apart from any human consideration and purely on the basis of His own will.
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. John 15:20 ESV
Yeshua reminded the disciples of the principle that He had mentioned when He washed their feet:
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. John 13:16 ESV
By common assent, "a slave occupies" an inferior role to that of "his master".
As I said last week the word "servant" here should be slave. Even though the disciples are his friends they are still viewed as slaves, he is our master.
"If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours"-these are both first class conditional sentences which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective. The term "persecuted" is from the Greek word dioko which means, "to pursue" or "chase away." Over time it came to mean "to harass" or "treat in an evil manner" or "to pursue as a wild animal." Persecution is the norm for followers of Christ in a fallen world.
Abiding in Christ will result in the "fruit" of being Christ-like. Thus, when the world observes Yeshua living in and through His disciples, unbelievers will respond to them just as they once responded to the Lord Yeshua.
"If they kept my word, they will also keep yours"-those who reject the Lord Yeshua will reject His disciples and persecute them. Those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah will also accept them.
But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:21 ESV
"On account of my name"-is a standard formula used in the Gospels to express Yeshua's entire teaching, character, and identity. So "on account of my name" here equivalent to "because of me". Responses to Yeshua's disciples, whether for good or evil, come about because of who Yeshua is. Those of the world "do not know him who sent me." The implication is that if they had truly known God, they would have recognized the revelation of God in Yeshua. Yeshua came into the world to reveal the Father to men:
Yeshua said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? John 14:9 ESV
In rejecting Yeshua they have rejected the Father also. His name is the divine Name- Yahweh. The world has rejected His divinity and thereby rejected the One True God.
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. John 15:22 ESV
"If I had not come"-this is another second class conditional sentence, which means "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If I had not come back and spoken to them, which I did, then they would not have sin, which they do."
He doesn't mean that the Jews would be sinless if he hadn't come. Paul clearly taught:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 ESV
So he is not saying that if he had not come and spoken to these people they would be sinless; rather he is saying that if he had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of the sin of rejecting him and the Father he came to reveal. Rejecting Yeshua is the unpardonable sin for which there can be no forgiveness.
Whoever hates me hates my Father also. John 15:23 ESV
The opposite was stated positively in 13:20:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." John 13:20 ESV
Verse 23 would be absolutely shocking and scandalous to the Jews: "Whoever hates me hates my Father also." The Jews falsely assumed that they had a relationship with God based upon: their ancestry and their keeping of the Law of Moses. So the very ones who believe that they love God have demonstrated that they hate Him, and the proof of this is the fact that they hate Yeshua.
What does this verse say about modern day Jews? John Hagee says that the Jews don't need Yeshua because they have a covenant with God. Well the Bible says that if you hate Yeshua you hate the Father also. This is why Yeshua called the Jews the synagogue of Satan:
Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Revelation 3:9 ESV
Who would say they were Jews, but weren't? Physical Israel. Yeshua said that an unbelieving Jew was of the synagogue of Satan. Yeshua is quoting here from Isaiah 60:
The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the LORD, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 60:14 ESV
If we were an Old Covenant Jew, we would understand this prophecy of Isaiah as our Gentile enemies being subservient to us. But Yeshua uses this verse and applies it to the Church, that is true Israel, and it is Old Covenant Israel that is persecuting the Church. Yeshua said that the Old Covenant Jews were going to come and bow before the feet of the Church, the true Israel of God.
Because the Christians are in Christ, hatred of them is hatred of Christ, and hatred of Christ is hatred of the Father who sent him.
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. John 15:24 ESV
This is another second class conditional sentence which means "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If I had not done the works among them which no one else did (but which I did), then they would not have sin, which they do."
His point was that by coming into the world, and by preaching and working miracles, He had confronted people with their rebellion against God. Yeshua's words and works were the Father's who had sent Him. Therefore the world's rejection of Yeshua's words and works constituted rejection of God the Father. To hate Yeshua amounted to hating God. This is another strong implication of Yeshua's deity.
"But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father"-these are both perfect active indicatives which show a settled attitude. To reject Yeshua is to reject the Father. Whether the people recognized it or not, Yeshua's work was nothing less than God's work. In Yeshua's speech God's words were heard (5:19ff.); in Yeshua's works God's activity was seen (4:34); in Yeshua God himself was seen (14:9). Yeshua is the one who narrates Yahweh on the plane of human existence:
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. John 1:18 ESV
"He has made him known"—the Greek word is exegesato from which we get "exegete." It means: "to explain, interpret, give the meaning." The Son has exegeted, He has explained, interpreted, or narrated the Father to human kind. So you want to know about Yahweh? Yeshua exegetes Yahweh. He displays His glory; He dispenses His grace; and He defines Yahweh. Thus to hate Yeshua is to hate God, just as to accept Yeshua is to accept his Father.
So why was it that the Jews rejected Yeshua? Was God caught off guard by the unbelief of the Jews and their persecution of his people? The ultimate reason for the world's rejection of Yeshua and his revelation of the Father is found in the Hebrew Scriptures:
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' John 15:25 ESV
The world's hatred did not jeopardize God's redemptive plan. Its hatred was part of what God predicted would accompany Messiah's mission. The Jews' own Scriptures condemned their unbelief.
Yeshua is quoting here from Psalms 35:19 or 69:4, or perhaps both. Psalms 35 is David's lament to Yahweh over his persecution. In Psalm 35:19, David cries out:
Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause. Psalms 35:19 ESV
Psalm 69 is a similar lament in which David tells God in verse 4:
More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? Psalms 69:4 ESV
David said, "They hated me without a cause." But that text is brought over into the New Testament, Psalm 69, and is one of the great psalms that is applied to the Lord Yeshua, typically, because David, the son of David, is a picture of the greater son of David, the Lord Yeshua. And the experiences of David anticipate the experiences of the Lord Yeshua. And David was often hated without a cause. That is, the only cause was David's relationship to the God whom he served.
The hatred of Yeshua and the persecution of his people was all part of God's plan. Listen to the sermon of Peter on Pentecost:
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Yeshua of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Yeshua, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:22-23 ESV
By the plan of God, you killed Him. Hating Yeshua was in the plan. In chapter 4 of the book of Acts in verses 23 to 31, we see the same thing. It was within the purpose of God that they hated Christ and killed Him:
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27-28 ESV
So our Lord is saying to his disciples, It's part of the plan that they would hate Me without a cause. It was, in fact, God's plan to employ Jewish unbelief as the occasion to bring the gospel to the Gentiles:
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Romans 11:11 ESV
What is interesting is how both these Psalms lamenting unjust persecution end. They end praising God for His goodness to His faithful servant:
Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, "Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!" Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long. Psalms 35:27-28 ESV
Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it. Psalms 69:34-36 ESV
It is Yeshua's promise that the persecution of the righteous for His sake will not go unnoticed by God and that He will deliver them in the end.
Let me point out something else in this verse:
But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' John 15:25 ESV
The words "without a cause" are from the Greek word dorea. Paul uses this same word in:
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Yeshua, Romans 3:24 ESV
The word "gift" here is dorea. So Christ was persecuted "without a cause" and we are justified "without a cause".
So after the death of Christ were the disciples hated and persecuted as Yeshua said they would be? Well all but one of the apostles were eventually killed for their faith, as was Paul, who became a disciple later and listed as highlights of his ministry:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 2 Corinthians 11:24-25 ESV
"At the hands of the Jews"-the first opposition that Christians faced came from the Jews. This is because the church came out of Judaism and all of its earliest members were Jews. "Forty lashes less one" was a distinctive punishment handed out by synagogue authorities.
All through the book of Acts we see Jewish persecution of Christians.
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. Acts 5:17-18 ESV
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit." Acts 7:59 ESV
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1 ESV
So the earlier Christians suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews. They were hated and persecuted just as the Lord said they would be.
Later in the book of Acts, the gospel spread into the Mediterranean world. And it isn't long before the Gentiles begin to persecute believers. The Romans carry on that persecution for almost 300 years. Don't know if it is accurate or not but there is a Roman Catholic source that says, "In all of church history, about 70 million Christians have been killed for their faith."
What about today, are things any different today?
More Christians have been killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the previous 1,900 years combined, and the trend is accelerating. Today, Christians continue to face imprisonment, torture and death for their faith in Yeshua. The World Watch List lists the top 10 countries that persecute Christians as, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea [Air-a-tree-a] , Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran.
The World Watch List is an annual report on the global persecution of Christians ranking the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Released at the beginning of each year, the list uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide.
215 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the countries on the World Watch List. This represents 1 in 12 Christians worldwide. North Korea is ranked #1 for the 16th consecutive year (since 2002). During the World Watch List 2018 reporting period: 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked. Islamic oppression fuels persecution in 8 of the top 10 countries.
So what can we do about the persecution of believers? How can we help to stop this? We can't. The Lord said that his disciples would be hated by the world and nothing has changed. Notice what Paul wrote:
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, Philippians 1:29 ESV
The verse says, "It has been granted"-that is the Greek verb charizomai, which comes from charis, which means grace. So charizomai is grace. The noun form is used for spiritual gifts. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, "Charizomai primarily denotes to show favor or kindness as in Galatians 3:18; to give freely, bestow graciously." Suffering is a grace gift from God.
Paul compares suffering with salvation. He says they are both grace gifts. Salvation is a gift, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, and so is suffering. He doesn't say that suffering is punishment or that it is something that has happened to you by chance. God gives suffering as graciously and lovingly as He gives you the faith to believe in His Son.
How can Paul say that suffering is a gift of God? This should show us how far we have come from the thinking of Christians in the first century. God giving suffering as a gracious gift doesn't make any sense to us.
Evidently suffering, in some way or degree, is essential to the formation of Christian character. Now, suffering may differ today (at least in America) in meaning from its meaning in the early days of the church. By that I mean it may not mean bodily torment, imprisonment, starvation or a torturous death, but it will always be the price we pay when we live uncompromisingly for the gospel of Yeshua Christ. When we abide in Christ the world will hate us and persecute us just like they did Christ.
We suffer to bring about continued dependence on the grace and power of God. Suffering is designed to cause us to walk by God's ability, power, and provision, rather than by our own. It causes us to turn from our resources to His resources.