STEADFAST FAITHFULNESS

 

Week of April 29, 2007

 

Bible Verses:  John 15:18-16:4.

 

Biblical Truth: Christians should anticipate the world’s hating them, continue to testify of Jesus during times of persecution, and remain steadfast and faithful.

 

Hated by the World: John 15:18-25.

 

[18]  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. [19]  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. [20]  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. [21]  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. [22]  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. [23]  He who hates Me hates My Father also. [24]  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. [25]  But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”   [NASU]

 

[18-19]  The purpose of these verses is to eliminate the surprise factor when persecution does break out. The world, as usual in John, refers to the created moral order in active rebellion against God. The ultimate reason for the world’s hatred of Jesus is that He testifies that its deeds are evil. Christ’s followers will be hated by the same world, partly because they are associated with the One who is supremely hated, and partly because, as they increase in the intimacy, love, obedience and fruitfulness depicted in the preceding verses, they will have the same effect on the world as their Master. They, too, will appear alien. The world loves its own in a moral sense. The world is a society of rebels, and therefore finds it hard to tolerate those who are in joyful allegiance to the king to whom all loyalty is due. Christians do not belong in the world because Jesus has chosen them out of the world. Former rebels who have by the grace of the King been won back to loving allegiance to their rightful monarch are not likely to prove popular with those who persist in rebellion. Christians cannot think of themselves as intrinsically superior. They are ever conscious that by nature they are, with all others, children of wrath [Eph. 2:3]. But having been chosen out of the world, having been drawn by the Messiah’s love into the group referred to as the Messiah’s own who are still in the world [13:1], their newly found alien status makes them pariahs in that world. This verse is a good example of the way John can give emphasis by repeating a word. Here he makes world linger in the mind by using the word five times in a single verse.

 

[20]  The words that Jesus now exhorts His disciples to remember are a quotation from 13:16. The principle was there applied to the primacy of humility and of mutual service. Here the same principle is applied to persecution. Those who preach Jesus’ gospel and live in progressive conformity to His own life and teaching will attract the same antagonism that He did. It is probably better to take the second “if” clause in this verse as a parallel contrast to verse 19. The argument then runs: “If they persecuted me (and many of them did), they will persecute you also; if they obeyed my teaching (and some of them did), they will obey yours also.” This means that human beings belonging to the world divide around Jesus’ followers and their message exactly as they divided around Jesus and His message. Note, in the midst of the promise of persecution, there is also the promise of success. There will be some in the world who will hear and keep the words of the disciples.

 

[21]  The cause of the opposition outlined in verses 18-20 is now specified: Jesus says it is for My name’s sake. Responses to Jesus’ disciples, whether for good or for ill, finally turn not on who they are but on who Jesus is. This points out the close identification Jesus sees between Himself and His followers. This opposition arises from the world not knowing the One who sent Me. The implication is that if they had truly known God, they would have recognized the revelation of God in Jesus. Failure to recognize who Jesus is therefore constitutes damning evidence that these people lacked a true knowledge of God even though they claimed otherwise. The thought is expanded in verses 22-24.

 

[22-24]   The idea is not that if Jesus had not come the people would have continued in sinless perfection. As if the coming of Jesus introduced for the first time sin and its attendant guilt before God. Rather, by coming and speaking to them Jesus incited the most central and controlling of sins: rejection of God’s gracious revelation, rebellion against God, decisive preference for darkness rather than light. The thought parallels several denunciations in the Synoptic Gospels, where Jesus’ Galilean contemporaries are strongly criticized for their lack of repentance, and told they will face more severe judgment than pagan cities like Tyre and Sidon, indeed worse punishment than Sodom, proverbial for wickedness [Mt. 11:20-24]. Jesus has done among them the works which no one else did [24], yet despite so many signs they still would not believe in Him [12:37]. Religious interest that pursues signs may be suspicious [4:48], and faith based on sight is intrinsically inferior [20:29]; even so, it is infinitely better than no faith, and the signs and works of Jesus make a legitimate claim on faith [5:36; 10:38]. Rejection of Jesus’ words [22] and works [24] is thus the rejection of the clearest light, the fullest revelation; and therefore it incurs the most central, deep-stained guilt. Whether the people recognized it or not, Jesus’ work was nothing less than God’s work. In Jesus’ speech God’s words were heard [5:19-24]; in Jesus’ works God’s activity was seen [4:34]; indeed, in Jesus God Himself was seen [14:9]. Jesus is the one who narrates God on the plane of human existence [1:18]. Thus to hate Jesus is to hate God, just as to accept Jesus is to accept His Father [13:20]. So tightly is Jesus bound up with His Father, both in His person and in His words and deeds, that every attitude directed toward Him is no less directed toward God. This profound Christology means that the people of the world have no excuse for their sin [22]. Whatever pretence the world might have conjured up to justify its evil before the coming of Christ, it has entirely lost now that this sublime revelation from God Himself has come. This revelation simultaneously exposes sin and provides its remedy; the world that rejects it hates the exposure [3:19-21] and thus denies any need for a remedy.

 

[25]  None of the hatred displayed by the world should be thought of as jeopardizing God’s redemptive plan. Even this hateful rejection serves to fulfill the word that is written in their Law. Insistence that it is their Law does not mean Jesus and His disciples fail to recognize its authority; indeed, Jesus repeatedly appeals to those same Scriptures in defense of His claims. The point, rather, is ironical: the Jews’ own Scriptures condemn their position. Thus the hatred of the world against Jesus is not only unjustified, but those who hate are condemned out of their own Bible, even while they unwittingly fulfill their own Scriptures by the course they adopt. Thus the Jews exercised a hatred toward Jesus which lacks any reasonable foundation.

 

Testifying for Jesus: John 15:26-27.

 

[26]  “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, [27]  and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”    [NASU]

 

[26]  The word translated Helper has the meaning “called to the side of”. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as sent to supply the need of His followers after His departure. Notice that whereas in 14:16 Jesus said that the Father would give the Spirit in response to His prayer, and in 14:26 that the Father would send Him in Christ’s name, now Jesus says that He Himself will send Him from the Father. It is plain that the Spirit is regarded as being connected in the most intimate fashion with both the Father and the Son. The passage is not concerned with the eternal mutual relationships of the Persons of the Trinity, but with the work the Spirit would do in this world as a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. The particular function of the Spirit which occupies us here is that of witness to Christ. This witness must always be about Jesus. It brings before the world the truth of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, in His word, His works, His death and resurrection, with all its potential for both blessing and judgment. As this witness proceeds, it will force a division in the world that is an extension of Jesus’ own divisive ministry. Such a vision entails the expectation of opposition, and therefore the remaining verses in this section [16:1-4] prepare the believers to face it.

 

[27]  The apostles are linked closely with the Spirit in this activity of witness. Their witness is linked with that of the Holy Spirit. They cannot simply relax and leave it all to the Spirit. They have a particular function in bearing witness in that they were with Jesus from the very beginning. There is a responsibility resting on all Christians to bear their witness to the facts of saving grace. But the really significant witness is that of the Holy Spirit, for He alone can bring home to the hearts of men the truth and the significance of all this.

 

Martyred for God: John 16:1-4.

 

[1]  “These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. [2]  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. [3]  And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me. [4]  But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”    [NASU]

 

[1]  The work of the Holy Spirit in the church is done in the context of persecution. The Spirit is not a guide and a helper for those on a straight way perfectly able to manage on their own. He comes to assist men caught up in the thick of battle, and tried beyond their strength. Jesus makes it quite plain that the way before His followers is a hard and a difficult way. The disciples will undergo sore trials and Jesus is preparing them for them so that they will not be taken by surprise and overcome in the collapse of a starry-eyed optimism.

 

[2]  Their enemies will make them outcasts which indicates the loss of all fellowship. It is not persecution by a secular state that is in mind, but that set in motion by religious authorities. The words an hour is coming refer to a time future to that of Jesus’ ministry. But the hour language suggests that this time is bound up with the death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. That is, after all, the crucial turning point after which the hostility of the world will begin to be redirected from Jesus (in the flesh) to Jesus’ disciples. The onset of the kingdom is also the onset of persecution for those who live under its rule. John treats the persecution with intense irony. These religious persecutors think they are offering service to God. They are profoundly deluded. Yet at the same time the death of Christians by persecution truly is an offering to God.

 

[3]  The reason for the action of the persecutors is their complete ignorance both of the Father and of the Son. Characteristically this passage links the two together. The Father is known as He really is only through the revelation made in the Son. To be ignorant of the one is therefore necessarily to be ignorant of the other. In this Gospel the ignorance of the Jews is always regarded as culpable, because they ought to have known the truth.

 

[4]  Jesus gives the reason for His warning at this particular time. It had not been necessary for Him to say these things earlier because He had been with them. His presence in the flesh had meant that He could give guidance day by day, and it also meant that the venom of the enemy would be directed against Him rather than them. The removal of the Master would transform the situation. Now the hostility will be directed at them. Therefore on the threshold of His departure from them Jesus tells them plainly what is going to happen so that they will not be overtaken by surprise. When the trials come they will know that they are no more than Jesus had predicted. Thus, instead of being a difficulty to faith, the trials would actually strengthen faith. When the trials came they would remember that what is happening to them is not outside either His knowledge or His control. This section of discourse ends with an indication that things were changing.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      If love is to characterize our relationship with other believers, hate will characterize the world’s relationship with believers. What reasons does Jesus give for the world’s hatred?

 

2.      Jesus uses two names for the Holy Spirit in verse 26: Helper and Spirit of truth. What does each name tell us about the critical work of the Spirit in the lives of believers?

 

3.      What does Jesus say is the ultimate reason that His followers are persecuted? What evidence of this do you see in the persecution of believers today?

 

References:

The Gospel According to John, D. A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.