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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 7, 2019
Persecuted by the World
John 15:18 – 16:4a
Turn in your Bible to John 15:18. This text we will study this morning may challenge your understanding of the gospel and your commitment to it.
Over the past several weeks we have been examining the passage of Scripture often referred to as the Upper Room Discourse. Jesus has met with His disciples for their last Passover together before His betrayal and crucifixion. Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet. Judas has left to perform his evil betrayal. Jesus has established the ordinance of Communion by using elements of the Passover meal to ordain a memorial to the sacrifice He was about to make to free them from their bondage to sin and remembering His promise to return. (See: The Final Passover, Part 1 & The Final Passover, Part 2)
The disciples were sorrowful at the thought of Jesus going away and Jesus has been comforting them. The promise of His preparing a place for them in heaven. The promise of His return for them. (See: The Promise of Heaven). The promise of the coming of another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. (See: Comfort for Those Who Believe, Part 1 & Comfort for Those Who Believe, Part 2). The promise of a continuing relationship with them in which He would be the vine and they would be the branches that would abide in Him and bear much fruit. The promise of answered prayer and Jesus’ intercession for them. The revelation that Jesus was their friend and He would consider them to be His friends if they obeyed Him. (See: Abiding in Christ). All of these promises comforted them, and they continue to bring comfort to us in our own day.
Last week we examined the relationship Jesus said they were to have with each another. The command to love one another as Jesus had loved them would be a challenge because that standard is so much higher than just loving your neighbor as you love yourself, but it also brought much comfort. (See: Loving One Another). Both are still true for Christians today.
The section we will examine this morning would not bring direct comfort. It was a warning given to keep them from stumbling later when they faced hardships in the future. Their changed relationship with God and each other in following Jesus Christ would bring about a changed relationship with everyone else too. This is still true today and it has ramifications in our understanding of the Gospel
Americans tend to be pragmatic. In the past, Americans also tended to be an idealistic people. Tragically, much of the idealism has been lost and we have become even more pragmatic. The reality of this is seen in modern politics where there are few statesmen who will stand up for what is right simply because it is right while there are many politicians whose direction is determined by the latest political wind. Even more tragic is that this pragmatism has affected the church resulting in a perverted gospel message.
In order to attract people, many evangelists and pastors will tone down or even eliminate the negative aspects of the gospel, including the passage we are studying today. They will instead present a man centered gospel that promises a wonderful, healthy, comfortable life. A popular evangelistic line is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That is a good sales line that leaves undefined what is wonderful, and most people will then assume that to be a pleasant life as they would like it to be. Such a favorable message will be well received and many will respond to it, but it can also be a dangerous distortion that easily slips into another gospel that brings the curse Paul speaks of in Galatians 1:9. The reality is that you may not like what God determines is wonderful for your good in life, and when life exposes such a message to be a half truth, some will be confused, others will be disappointed or feeling betrayed, and some will turn away and reject Christ leaving them still in their sins. Then there will be those that will not figure out they have the wrong Christ and a false gospel until they stand before God to be judged and He tells them to depart from Him.
The gospel message is not about man, but about how our Holy God is willing to deal with His sinful creatures. It is a message of redemption, forgiveness and adoption of sinners into God’s family. It is a message of radical change from death to life, from slavery to sin to slavery to righteousness, and from worldliness to godliness. Such radical change is positive in every respect except for the reaction of the wicked toward you. Jesus, unlike so many evangelists and preachers in our time, did not leave His disciples with any false illusions. He was clear about what He was offering, what it would take to receive it, and the consequences of believing and following Him. John 15:18-16:4 is a warning about negative consequences.
The Hatred of the World – John 15:18-21
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.”
Hatred for Christ. The hatred the disciples would experience would arise because of the world’s hatred for Christ Himself. This hatred for Christ has been obvious throughout our study of the life of Christ. The hatred of the religious leaders toward Christ began even before He started His public ministry, for they hated John the Baptist who came as Jesus’ forerunner. Why did they hate John? Because John called for them to repent of their sins and they refused to acknowledge that they had need to repent of anything, after all, weren’t they the leaders of God’s people, Israel? Weren’t they the ones that had and taught the law of Moses to the people? Who then was this that would challenge them so? That same attitude carried over to Jesus very quickly since Jesus preached the same message, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
When Jesus cleansed the Temple the first time as recorded in John 2, the religious leaders developed even more hatred for Him. They were making a lot of money in their corrupt temple trade. They were making a profit from the money-changing scam so that people could pay the required temple tax. They made money by their scheme of allowing only officially approved animals for the sacrifices, which they sold for a higher price. They were upset by Jesus interrupting their businesses conducted in the temple. By John 3, Nicodemus, one of the rulers of the Jews, comes to Jesus at night, at least partly because of fear of what the other Pharisees would think or do. Jesus does many miraculous healings, but the Jews are angry with Jesus and persecute Him when Jesus heals on the Sabbath (John 5). That hatred just becomes more intense over the course of His ministry and there were several failed attempts to murder Him by stoning (John 8:59; 10:31). After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they become very serious in their plotting to murder Him and Lazarus (John 11:53; 12:10).
Jesus’ teaching came directly from the Father, so He did not hold to the views and ideas of either the Pharisees or Sadducees. They in turn rejected Jesus as being a qualified teacher. They were jealous of the attention and acclaim the people gave to Jesus. They were greatly offended when Jesus would apply the law to them or would demonstrate their unrighteousness. They were incensed when Jesus declared Himself to be equal with God. The disciples had been with Jesus since early in His public ministry, so the hatred expressed against Him was something of which they had first hand knowledge.
People still hate the Lord Jesus Christ. They don’t like the fact that His teachings do not match their own. They don’t like their sinfulness being exposed by either teaching which reveals their transgressions or by a life example which shows their evil by contrast. They reject Jesus’ claims because they want to be autonomous and do not want Jesus to have authority over them. To this can be added the very real Satanic element of the devil’s hatred for Jesus that gets expressed through those under his control.
Hatred for His Followers. Those who hate Jesus will also hate Jesus’ followers for the same reasons. They don’t want their sinfulness to be exposed. The teachings of Jesus’ proclaimed by His followers contradict their own doctrine and expose their falsehood and lies. The life of a follower of Christ will also expose the sinfulness of others because of the contrast between them. You can have white sheets that look pretty good until you compare them to new sheets that are clean. Suddenly, the old sheets are seen for how dirty and stained they really are. So it is with many in false religions and cults. They look pretty good until contrasted with true righteousness. People reject Christ’s claim to be God in human flesh, so they also reject those that believe Jesus’ claims as being foolish or even dangerous.
People love those that are like themselves and dislike those that are not like them. The greater the contrast, the greater the dislike. Most of us have experienced this to one degree or another. You’re the only Christian in a group of people, and suddenly there is a tension because you are not laughing at their dirty jokes. Your co-workers start talking bad about you because your Christian work ethic is causing them to look like they are only mediocre employees (which they are, but would refuse to admit it). You are graded down in school because you write a paper that refutes the evolutionary, humanistic philosophy of the teacher. Sometimes you can feel like the only cat in a dog show.
The world loves those that espouse and live by the standards of the world, but the world hates those that contradict its teachings and standards. That is why the world hates Christians so much. God has chosen us out of the world and we are no longer like everyone else around us. We are different from them, even described as aliens and strangers, and the world reacts to us.
Jesus is direct. If a person hates Him, then that person will hate those that follow Him. They persecuted Him, so expect to be persecuted yourself. The opposite is also true. If they loved Jesus and kept His word, then they would keep that of the apostles too. However they treat Jesus will be how they treat His followers.
The reason for this hatred is simple. They do not know God the Father who sent Jesus (vs. 21). They may be very religious people and make all sorts of claims about how much they love God, but the truth will be seen in their actions. The Jewish leaders of that time made much claim to love God and keep His commandments, but their lives were lived in contradiction to God’s laws. Those who love the Father will love the child born of the Father (1 John 5:1), but they persecuted Jesus. They loved a god of their own imagination which they could manipulate to their own desires so that they could do evil and claim it to be good. Nothing has changed. It is still the same way today.
People who hate Christians do so because they do not know the God who created them. They have a different god of their own making. Some will be direct in their rejection of the God of the Bible. Others will give lip service to Him out of either tradition or feigning it for the sake of family, friends or position. Still others will even use the Bible, but they will do so just as the Pharisees and Sadducees did. They reinterpret it and pervert it so as not to have to believe what it actually says. They take the precepts of God and exchange them for laws of their own making. They believe in a caricature of God according to their own desires instead of how God has actually revealed Himself to be in His word.
This is not a pleasant thought, but it is the truth. 2 Timothy 3:12 states, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
The Christian life is not one that is to be marked by ease of life. There are no promises that you will have great health, wealth and prosperity. You could have a multitude of medical problems, poverty and adversity. Success by the world’s standards is not the mark of success as a Christian. Success as a Christian is marked by faithfulness to Christ, and enduring persecution will be part of that. We can be thankful that severe persecution is not upon us in the United States at the present time, but it is the normal way of life for Christians around the globe. In Islamic and communist countries Christians gather together in small groups to worship at the risk of their lives. Both Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors maintain maps or lists of the countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian
In the normal proclaiming of the gospel, we are negligent if we do not warn those considering the claims of Christ about this reality of the hatred of the world toward those who follow Him. If they truly understand the gospel and believe its claims, such warning will not deter them, but it will strengthen their resolve when persecution comes and they suffer for the sake of Christ Jesus.
The Witnesses that Condemn – John 15:22-25
Jesus continues on in verses 22-25 to explain the condemnation that is upon those that who reject Him. 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.”
Witness of Speech (22-23). Jesus had come and revealed the words of God to them, but they rejected what He said. The idea that if Jesus had not spoken to them “they would not have sin” does not mean they would have no sin at all, for they already had the law of Moses which condemned them for their sin (John 5:45). It is the idea that their sinfulness would not have increased due to the additional revelation that had come to them through Jesus. But the revelation Jesus had given to them that He had received from the Father left them without excuse. They were not ignorant in anyway. They claimed to love the Father, but that claim was proven to be false by Jesus. They not only rejected the message He gave to them from the Father, but their hatred of the Son proved their hatred of the Father. If they loved God the Father, they would have also loved His Son.
Witness of Actions (24). The same is true of Jesus’ actions. He had done marvelous works among them that no one else could do. These were miracles that only God Himself could do. Jesus had demonstrated that He had authority over disease, sickness, demons, nature, and even death as well as authority to forgive sins. Again, the idea here is not that if Jesus had not performed the miracles they would have been sinless, but that the miracles increased their culpability. They would have no excuse. They saw the miracles that Jesus did that were contrary to the laws of physics, but instead of praising God for His mercy and grace, they claimed that Jesus was doing it by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons (Matthew 12:24). Their reaction proved their hatred for Jesus and the Father.
Witness of Scripture (25). All of this was in keeping with what the Scriptures has already said. “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.’” They would hate the Messiah without any just cause. The quote comes from either Psalm 35:19 or Psalm 69:4. Both Psalms could have been in mind. In Psalm 35 the suffering is at the hands of those who had forgotten the past good things that had been done for them. In Psalm 69 the persecution is coming from those that cannot stand David’s zeal for the Lord. Jesus was persecuted by those who had forgotten and rejected the good things Jesus had done for them because they could not stand Jesus’ zeal for the Father. They hated Jesus without cause other than their own sinfulness.
The Witness of the Spirit – John 15:26
Jesus brings back up the subject of the Holy Spirit who would be sent to them in verse 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.”
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is explained here as being someone that would testify of Jesus. Jesus’ departure from them would not end the witness about Him. It was the hope of the religious leaders that in killing Jesus they would put an end to their enemy and His influence. They could not have been more wrong. They would still be fighting God Himself even after Jesus ascended into heaven for the Holy Spirit’s ministry includes bearing witness of Jesus.
This passage also gives us an understanding of the identity and purpose of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father in His name. Jesus states here that He would send the Holy Spirit. Jesus states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, but Jesus also said in John 8:42 that He Himself proceeded from the Father. Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11 all refer to the Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus or the Spirit of Christ. All of these demonstrate once again that the eternal Godhead is triune. One eternal Godhead existing in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent and proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
Jesus once again refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper since He is the one that would come alongside them to help them. Jesus also refers to Him again as the Spirit of truth. This was important for the Spirit was being sent to bear witness of Jesus and what He bears witness to must be true. We will see in our study next week that part of the Spirit’s witness will take place through the disciples He has been sent to help.
The Witness of the Disciples – John 15:27
In addition to the Holy Spirit, the disciples were also to bear witness, “and you [will] bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” There is some question as to whether this is an indicative stating they were already bearing witness, or an imperative giving them a command they were to follow. I think this is a command they were to carry out after the resurrection. It would be frightening for them to bear witness of Jesus. He had just said that those that hated Him would hate them too, but they were to do it anyway despite the persecution that would come. The Holy Spirit would help them in doing this, but the reason cited here for doing so is that they were the ones who had been with Him from the beginning. They were eyewitnesses. They had not come later and been fooled. They were on hand to experience all that Jesus had said and done. John later described in 1 John 1:1-2 his own experience with Jesus, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life – 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” John was present to see, hear and even touch Jesus. His witness would be true.
We are also called to be witnesses of Jesus. No, we cannot tell people our personal experience of being with Jesus since the beginning, because we were not. But we can be faithful to declare the witness of those who were with Jesus from the beginning that is recorded in the Bible. And we can tell others of our own personal walk with the Lord. Yes, it is still frightening because the fact still remains that doing so will bring about the hatred of those who hate Jesus. But that is what we are to do regardless of the consequences.
Prepared for the Future – John 16:1-4
Jesus was direct with the disciples about the persecution they would face because He did not want them to stumble when the persecution came. John 16:1 “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.”
These very things did happen to the disciples. Saul of Tarsus, who later became the Apostle Paul, was one of those that persecuted the church in this very manner. The story of this is told in Acts 8 & 9. Saul was a zealous Pharisee who believed that he was serving God by persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. Not until Jesus revealed Himself and confronted Paul in a special revelation did Saul change his mind and become a follower of Christ.
The disciples would have their faith tested in the near future for they would suffer this kind of persecution, but because they would remember Jesus’ warning about it, they were not shaken. Instead, they became bold in faith.
Peter was bold in his preaching on the day of Pentecost and after as recorded in Acts 2 & 3. He did not mince words. The result was that the people would cry out in repentance and many were saved. Not long after this Peter and John were arrested, and though threatened, they boldly proclaimed that they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard (Acts 4). They were being Jesus’ witnesses. It was not long before they were arrested again and threatened. Again, Peter boldly proclaimed that they “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and after they had been flogged they “went their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). The persecution recorded in Acts 8 did not slow the early church down. It just caused it to spread around the world.
This is the way it has always been with true Christianity. The unrighteous hate the righteous, but the righteous continue to live holy lives and proclaim Jesus Christ wherever they go. Some who persecute Christians do so believing they are serving God because they have a false God or a perverted understanding of the true God. They persecute God’s children because they do not know the true God or Jesus. Those who love God would not do such things.
The persecution you endure may not be the physical threats that so many others have had to endure and do endure in many places around the world, but persecution is part of the Christian life. In a pluralistic society such as ours which still has religious freedom, such persecution usually comes in the form of being called names, mocked, excluded by people and groups. It may escalate to slander, unfair discrimination, lack of advancement and even job loss, and being sued. All of these have become common in the United States. And even here, it does on occasion escalate to destruction of property, theft, physical attack and even martyrdom. If you are not being persecuted to some degree, then you have reason to wonder why. Perhaps God is just being very gracious to you at the present, in which case, thank Him for His mercy. But perhaps it is because you are more like the world than Christ. The world loves those who are like it. If that is the case, ask God to change you and step out in faith to obey Jesus’ commands and then, as you demonstrate more of Christ living in and through you, be prepared for the reaction as you join in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering (Philippians 3:10). Remember, Jesus said you would be blessed if you do and that you should rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven would be great (Matthew 5:10-12).
Sermon Notes – 4/7/2019
Persecuted by the World – John 15:18-16:4a
The Upper Room Discourse occurs after Jesus establishes ________________ & is comforting His disciples
The disciples are to love one another as _________loved them – the same standard applies to us
Americans still tend to be pragmatic, but have lost much of their __________
Evangelists & pastors today often tend to _______________the gospel in order to attract more people
The gospel message is about God’s __________in redeeming and changing sinful man to become righteous
The Hatred of the World – John 15:18-21
Hatred for Christ
The hatred of the religious leaders for Christ began with their hatred of His ____________- John the Baptist
Jesus’ message of repentance was the same and their hatred ____________over the course of His ministry
Jesus’ message came from the Father, but in jealousy they ____________ both His message and Him
People still ________ Christ for similar reasons – exposure of their own sinfulness, desire for autonomy
Hatred for His Followers
Those who hate Jesus will hate His ______________ for similar reasons
People love those that are like themselves and ____________ those that are not like them
The world loves those that live by its standards, but hates those that _____________its teachings and values
______________ a person treats Jesus is how he will treat His followers
People hate Jesus and His followers because they ___________________ God the Father who sent Him
Success as a Christian will be marked by _________________to Christ – and persecution from the ungodly
It is negligence to not explain all the consequences of following Christ – including the ______________ones
The Witnesses that Condemn – John 15:22-25
Witness of Speech (22-23).
The law already condemned them for their sin – Jesus’ teaching ____________their sin & removed excuses
Their claim to love the Father was proven ____________ by their hatred of His Son
Witness of Actions (24).
The miracles Jesus did could only come from _______, so they increased their culpability & left no excuses
Instead of praising God for Jesus’ physics defying miracles, they accused Him of doing it by ____________
Witness of Scripture (25)
The Witness of the Spirit – John 15:26
The witness of Jesus would be _________________ after His departure by the witness of the Holy Spirit
The eternal Godhead is __________- One Godhead existing in three persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Jesus again calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of ___________” and the Helper – one who comes alongside
The Witness of the Disciples – John 15:27
Jesus commands them to ____________of Him as eyewitnesses – though that would have been frightening
The Holy Spirit would help them – and after Pentecost, they were very _________ in proclaiming Jesus
1 John 1:1-2 – The apostle describes his own _____________ with Jesus
We are also to testify of the apostolic witness in the Scriptures and about our own ____________with Christ
Prepared for the Future – John 16:1-4
What Jesus said did ________to the Apostles – but they were not shaken because Jesus told them in advance
Peter and the other Apostles became bold in their preaching – and _________even when suffering for Christ
Christians are still _________________ today – but we press on to live holy lives and proclaim Jesus
Persecution may be physical, but it also comes in many other forms – mocking, _______, discrimination, etc.
If you are without persecution in some form, then why?
If it is God’s graciousness, then __________ Him for His mercy to you
If it is because you are too much like the world, then pray for God to ___________you and step out in faith
Matthew 5:10-12 – ____________are the persecuted. Do not fear the fellowship of His suffering (Phil. 3:10)
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “world” is used 2) Talk with your parents about what it means to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake. How have they dealt with persecution?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of John 15:18-6:4? How has pragmatism changed the proclamation of the gospel? Why did Jesus warn the disciples about future persecution? Why did the Jewish religious leaders hate Jesus? Why do people hate Jesus now? Why do people hate Jesus’ followers? Have people hated you since becoming a Christian? What will happen to those who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus? How does persecution fit in with the presentation of the gospel? Should you warn people you are witnessing to about persecution they may receive if they follow Christ? Why or why not? What did Jesus mean in verses 22 that “they would not have sin” if He had not spoken to them / done works among them? What did Jesus speech / works bring upon them? How did their hatred toward Jesus fulfill Scripture? What purpose is given in verse 26 about the coming of the Holy Spirit? What would He do? Where does the Holy Spirit come from? Did the disciples obey Jesus’ command to be His witnesses? What effect did Jesus warning have on them when they were persecuted? Do you experience persecution? If so, why and how? If not, why not?
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