This Sunday’s sermon audio can be found here. Thank you to Pastor Childers for the wonderful message. Below are my notes from the sermon. I pray they help you in your study and pursuit of Christ’s glory. If you’re not attending a church regularly, you’re welcome to enjoy worship with our church family at Miller Heights Baptist Church.
Continuing our study in John, we studied John 15:18 – 16:4.
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
16 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3 And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
John 15:18 – 16:4, KJV
A Snapshot of Christian Persecution
Conservative estimates put the number of Christian martyrs in 2018 at 4,136. Last year, there were an estimated 1,266 church attacks. At the moment, roughly 245 million of the world’s Christians (about 1 in 9 Christians) live in countries that actively persecute or are openly hostile of the followers of Christ.
On July 22nd, 2018 Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested by Iranian authorities and placed in one of the worlds most notorious prisons, for the crime of “promoting Zionist Christianity.” During the arrest, he was beaten/tortured with a cattle prod type device. His son was also beaten/abused during the arrest. This all happened despite the official arrest report citing Pastor Nadarkhani as putting up no resistance.
In Tanzania, four new believers were attacked and murdered explicitly because they converted to Christianity. Tanzania is notorious for church burnings and was ranked 33rd on Open Door’s 2017 list of countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
February 2015 saw one of the most infamous instances of Christian persecution, when 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Ghanaian man were executed by ISIS terrorists. In April of 2015, Fox News reported that ISIS posted another video showing the execution of another 30 Ethiopian Christians.
Persecution and martyrdom isn’t something relegated to the past and Roman Colosseum, but the relative luxury and comfort we enjoy as Christians in America can lull us into thinking that Jesus’ words here in John 15 and 16 don’t apply to us.
Remember that Jesus’ words here are spoken just hours prior to his betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion…knowing all of it was coming. Looking back through John 15, we can see that true Christians will bare fruit, love one another, and be hated by the world.
It can be easy to read John and only focus on the spectacular promises of Jesus for our future, but that isn’t the only side of life here on earth as His follower. Graciously, Jesus warns us of future events and helps prepare us for life without his physical presence until His return.
Two primary points can be drawn from this passage: 1) Christians should expect the world’s hatred, and 2) Christians can endure the world’s hatred.
Christian’s Should Expect The World’s Hatred
The ‘if’ in verse 15:18 can be translated as ‘since.’ The world’s hatred is assumed. Verse 16:2 foreshadows the persecution the disciples experienced after Jesus’ ascension. Acts bears out Jesus’ prediction. 1 Peter 4 recognizes the reality of Christian persecution. We should expect the world’s hatred.
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.1 Peter 4:12-19
13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.1 John 3:13, KJV
2 Timothy takes this expectation a step further and makes persecution a promise.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.2 Timothy 3:12, KJV
While we expect the persecution of the world, and the ‘how’ or severity of that persecution will fluctuate, the ‘why’ of persecution will never change. As Jesus explains, the world hates us because we don’t serve it, and because we are against it. The why of persecution stems from the world’s hatred of Christ, so in many ways we can be comforted by not having to take such persecution personally. As the disciples illustrated in Acts 5, after being stoned for their faith, they praised God for being counted worth to suffer dishonor in the name of Christ.
The world persecutes Christians because it hates Christ, and because it doesn’t know God. Verse 21-24 illustrate the true ‘why’ of persecution. Jesus exposed the sin of the world, in so doing, removing the excuse the world has to continue in sin.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.John 15:19, KJV
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.James 4:4, KJV
All of this makes us wonder, not necessarily whether the world hates you, but whether the world loves you? Asking this of ourselves is a great start to highlighting potential areas of repentance in our lives.
Christians do not seek persecution, but obedience to the commands of Christ. Additionally, how spectacular that we serve a God gracious enough to expose the sin of the world, and also provide the solution.
Christians Can Endure the World’s Hatred
Chapter 16, verse 1, shows us that Jesus’ message isn’t a discouraging one, but one meant to bolster. It is a reminder for us to have endurance. This is because one of the greatest dangers for a Christian in the race of life is weakness in the face of adversity and persecution.
But how spectacular is it that the world hates Christ without a cause (John 15:25), and that even in persecution, God is sovereign. Psalm 69 is a wonderful acknowledgement of the control God has over the hardships of this life.
As John Bunyan said:
It is not what enemies will, nor what they are resolved upon, but what God will, and what God appoints; that shall be done. . . . No enemy can bring suffering upon a man when the will of God is otherwise, so no man can save himself out of their hands when God will deliver him up for his glory . . . [just as Jesus showed Peter “by what death he would glorify God,” John 21:19]. We shall or shall not suffer, even as it pleaseth him.Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel, 722. For a meditation on the theological problems involved with this biblical view, see John Piper, “The Pleasure of God in All That He Does,” in The Pleasures of God (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2012), 33–59.
John 15:26 also reminds us that we are not alone. The spirit of truth, the Counselor, is with us in these trials. The spirit testifies as Jesus testified, and as we testify about Jesus and what He has done for us.
Endurance is exemplified in this story from North Korea. In short, Christians were caught in worship, watched their children executed in front of them, and were executed horrifically with a steamroller while they sang their favorite hymn…none rejecting their faith.
Compromise your faith for nothing! Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India that worked for 53 years without a break, had a few questions she asked to ensure the dedication of assistants that came through the country, and these questions are great to ask of ourselves as we pursue the spread of the Gospel in our lives:
- Do you truly desire to live a crucified life?
- Does the thought of hardship draw or repel you?
- Can you recall any experiences that made you aware of your connection to a suffering/crucified Lord?
As American Christians, we live in an incredibly abnormal time in history, and it will likely not last much longer. In light of the luxury America provides us, compared to the rest of the world, what is our devotion to Christ costing us? Do we stand out? Are we strange to the world? Are we genuine disciples of Jesus? How much are you willing to give to the cause of Christ?
Regardless of our answers to these questions, we are to repent of our desire for world approval over Christ approval, anytime it ever comes up. We pray for endurance, faith, and joy. We pray for all the saints suffering now, and for those who will suffer in the future.