Sermon: Boldness for Christ in a Hostile World John 15:18–16:4

Boldness for Christ in a Hostile World

John 15:18–16:4

Truth Taught- To serve Jesus faithfully in this hostile world will result in persecution.

Introduction

In what’s known as Jesus’ farewell discourse He brings some vital subjects to His follower’s attention.  If you remember, He has told us to take confidence in the plan of God concerning the cross.  Do not be troubled in this world because the cross has meaning and purpose.  He told them that He would not leave us as orphans but would send to us another helper who would lead us into all truth, namely, the Holy Spirit.  He explained how it is that we are to abide in Him.  He explained to His disciples that abiding is done as we read and study His Word.  Now, all these things are very good and very positive.  However, in our text today we’ll discover something that may come as a shock to us.  Jesus tells us that we should not be caught off guard when we encounter resistance to the Gospel message.  We should not ever be deceived to think that as we proclaim the Good News everyone will always like us.  Here, He gives His followers a reality check.  He says that if they follow Him closely that the world will hate them.

Our Lord wants us to realize that this is the natural reaction to Gospel truth.  He tells us that we should not be surprised when we are hated because of the truth of Christ.  His reason is that they hated Him first and will hate us second.

Here in America we have been somewhat sheltered from the type of persecution that other Christians are experiencing in the world.  Currently there are Christians in other places in the world encountering massive persecution and even death for their faith.  I’ve often wondered why we are not persecuted like others?  I’m not sure if I know the entire answer to this question but I think part of the answer may lie with the message we proclaim.

Consider the words of Peter Kusmic, a Yogoslavian Christian who suffered under Communist persecution:

So much popular Western evangelical religiosity is so shallow and selfish.  It promises so much and demands so little.  It offers success, personal happiness, peace of mind, material prosperity; but it hardly speaks of repentance, sacrifice, self-denial, holy lifestyle and willingness to die for Christ. [1]

Do you think Peter Kusmic is right?  If he is, he is basically saying that the reason we are not persecuted is that our message and values are basically in line with the world’s so why would anyone ever persecute us if we are in essence agreeing with them?

I don’t hope for persecution.  However, I want our message to be a message worthy to be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Human Need

Our lives must reflect the call of Jesus Christ to radical holiness and a radical Christian witness so that we are not, at least, seeking to fit in with our culture but seeking to obey Jesus Christ.

Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may teach our children also.’

John 15:18–16:4 (ESV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 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. 20 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. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 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. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 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. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

16 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

  1. The World Hates Jesus Because it Hates to Be Reminded of the Reality of Sin and Judgment

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 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. 20 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. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 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. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 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. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

There is a world system that is opposed to God.  This world is in line with the evil one.  They follow his commands and do his bidding.  Because their value system and worldview are different they will persecute all who seek to live outside of their rules.  We see that according to Jesus one overarching defining characteristic of the world is their hatred of Him.

Our Lord desires to let the disciples in on a truth.  He doesn’t want them to fall away do to the fact that the world hates them because of their commitment to Christ.

How does the world show its hatred of Jesus?

The name of Jesus is a slang curse word, People avoid any exposure to the Bible, When confronted with the Bible’s teaching they react in outrage.  Jesus went out to the people healing them and teaching them.  However, in the end they chose a murderer over Jesus and beat and murdered Christ.

The early church began with persecution and it has never stopped.  Just reread Acts and discover how many of the Apostles were arrested beaten and even martyred. Remember Acts 3 where Peter and John dramatically healed the crippled man.  They found themselves in jail because they were teaching in the name of Christ.  Steven comes to mind and man who loved others was viciously murdered because of his faith in Christ.

Reasons Jesus gives us for the world’s hatred of Him and of us…

  1. 19 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.

Jesus chose us and removed us from the world.  We no longer belong to the satanic world system but have been chosen by God and taken out of the world by means of our salvation in Christ.

This is the biblical doctrine of election and predestination that the world hates so much.  Jesus has given His people amazing privileges that the world doesn’t experience.

  1. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me

Because we love and are committed to Jesus the world hates us.  It’s because of Jesus and the fact that we bear His name that the world hates us so much.  Rather than abhorring persecution so much the Christian should take encouragement and even find joy in the fact that the world hates us simply because we bear the name of Christ.  When we are persecuted simply because of our faith in Jesus, our love for Him, and the power of His kingdom are at work in us.

The bishop J C Ryle wrote this concerning this passage…
Persecution, in short, is like the Goldsmith’s hallmark on real silver and gold: it is one of the marks of a converted man. [2]

Jesus ends the text under point #1 by saying that they hated Him without a cause…

25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

This really shows how twisted the world’s thinking truly is.

Our Lord here is referring to the Pharisees as they justify their murderous actions by referring back to God’s Law and by calling it their law.  They could kill God’s Son and feel good about it.  They could murder Jesus and quote Scripture as they did it.  Do you see how evil and fallen human nature truly is?

If we are to love the world and boldly seek the salvation of others we must have help.  We need God to give us the help we need to not care what the world thinks.  Whether lost people agree or disagree we must be faithful to obey Jesus’ commands in the midst of potential persecution.

  1. The Helper We Need to Overcome Our Fear of Man in a Hostile World

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

We must understand that the persecution Jesus tells us about is not imagined.  He tells us that if we are faithful we will experience it in some manner or another.  He knows that if His followers are going to be faithful and bold witnesses for Christ in a hostile environment we are going to need some supernatural help.  Notice what the answer is.

Concerning our faithful and bold witnessing for Jesus let’s look to see what the Holy Spirit does for us in this area…
A. Helper- This is translated from the Greek word paraklete which means the One who comes alongside of us as our helper.

  1. Spirit of Truth- The Holy Spirit came into the world so that the truth may be know, remembered, and that it would overcome. I pray the Holy Spirit is working in your life to give you a bold confidence in God’s Word as the truth.
  2. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father. The Father has sent Him to continue Jesus’ mission through us.

When we are filled with the Spirit, as the Bible says, then we will do the things Jesus did.

Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Then Paul will spend the rest of the book showing us what people look like who are filled with the Spirit.

  1. The World Does Not Know Jesus or His Father

16 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

Anticipating hostility and persecution Jesus again has His followers in mind…

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away

The phrase falling away comes from the Greek word skandalizo, which carries with it the idea of being offended by Jesus and this persecution to the degree of apostatizing or abandoning the faith.

Notice the two specific ways they will initially be persecuted…
A. They will put you out of the synagogues.

The religious leaders who wanted to silence Jesus will also put the Apostles out of the synagogues.  They will all be excommunicated from Judaism.  In Israel excommunication is to be separated from the religious society and from society itself.  To be put out means there was no more worship in the temple and no more buying or selling.  The one put out could not see family and friends.  They were cast out entirely.

Is Jesus worth more to you than family and friends?

  1. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

All this came true just as Jesus said it would.  Steven was martyred by pious Jews.  The Apostle Paul before his conversion went to the Jewish leaders for their approval and then set out to murder and imprison Christians and thought he was doing this for God.

Acts 26:9–11 (ESV)

“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

All one needs to do is read through portions of Fox’s Book of Martyrs or look at missionary websites at the struggles believers have had throughout the history of the church and in other countries.

The Example of Peter and John…
Acts 4:1–31 (ESV)

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

       “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples plot in vain?

26    The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They proclaimed Jesus’ message with boldness.  They did not pray that the persecution would end but that God would grant them even more boldness to proclaim the truths of the Gospel.

Application

What keeps us from proclaiming the Gospel message with boldness?  The answer, at least in America, is not fear of persecution and death.  The answer is the fear of man.  The fear of man is a sinful view of what others think of us.

 [1] Phillips, John Volume 2: Reformed Expository Commentary

[2] Phillips John Reformed Expository Commentary 317

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