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Jesus was picky about choosing His friends. There is a clear difference between His friends and friends of the world. John 15:18, 19 says,
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, because of this the world hates you.
Being a missionary kid, I remember as a teenager resenting the fact that I did not fit into the world. I did not do many of the things that “normal” teenagers did, nor did I think the way they did. I simply did not fit into their way of life, and it was often a lonely road. When I went to Bible College, where I found many other missionary kids and preacher’s kids, I felt much more at home.
But that was not destined to last long, because within a few years God began to teach me things that were quite different from what was being taught in the church. So once again I was led away on the road less traveled. But by this time I was married, and so I did not need other friends as much as before.
Today we see a great clash of culture between the world and those who believe the words and commands of Jesus. The hatred of the world is becoming more and more evident. It is fast becoming a crime to criticize the lifestyle of the world or to label it as ungodly or sinful. It appears that the Kingdom lifestyle, based upon the law, the prophets, and the gospels, torments the world with fear that Christians may force them to live a godly life.
Meanwhile, many in the church have adopted the lifestyle of the world and have rejected the commands of the Father and His Son. Such is evidence that many who claim to be “Christians” have not been chosen out of the world by the sovereign will of God. Hence, they have no real sense of being different. They prefer the world’s lifestyle and its “values,” even if for only six days a week.
1 John 2:15-17 says,
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
The fallen nature of man loves the lifestyle of the world where sin is allowed and often encouraged. Those who are experiencing a change of nature (heart) are different, and the world looks upon them with some suspicion, hoping such people will never become the majority.
John 15:20, 21 continues,
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.
In Jesus’ day, the persecutors were the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Today, most of the hard-core persecution comes from Islamists who hate Jesus in spite of the Koran’s respect for Him as the right-hand man of Mohammed. The Communist philosophy goes farther, seeking to eradicate all religion and religious culture, which they consider to be “superstition.”
The church too has persecuted its “heretics,” including many righteous men who pointed out the sins and errors of the church leaders. In this they fulfilled the prophetic pattern of Saul’s persecution of David.
There are many levels of persecution, but ultimately, these are all based upon the fact that they hate Jesus, despise His law (love) and commands, and feel compelled to treat His disciples in the same manner. Jesus said that they would do this, “because they do not know the One who sent Me.” So Jesus foretold the difficulty of the church’s journey from “Egypt” to the “Promised Land.” As in the case of Israel before them, and for the same reasons, most have lived and died without receiving the promises.
John 15:22 says,
22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
Jesus was setting forth a general principle that applied specifically to the Jews of His time, those who had rejected Him and His word. Ignorance of His word provides at least some excuse, and even the Apostle Paul recognized this, saying in 1 Tim. 1:13,
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.
Not only Paul, but the Jews as a whole, being deceived by their leaders, also could claim an excuse, for they too will receive mercy in their own time when God finally chooses them as well. All will be chosen eventually, some sooner than others. Those who are chosen early are called to bless those who are called later.
There are many levels of ignorance. Only God Himself can know precisely how to deal with those on each level. Yet it is clear that those to whom the word was preached are more liable for rejecting the word than those who were afar off, those who had no opportunity to hear the word. We are judged according to our level of opportunity. That is also why most of the world must appear before the Great White Throne, where every knee will bow when the nature of Christ is revealed.
John 15:23, 24 says,
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.
Judaism has claimed to love God from the beginning, while continuing to hate Jesus and reject His word. Jesus said that they cannot hate Him and love His Father at the same time. Again, the apostle writes in 1 John 2:23,
23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
In other words, no one—not even a Jew—can claim to “have the Father” while denying the Son. John sums it up in 1 John 5:1,
1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born [begotten] of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
In fact, we may take this a step further, for John again tells us that no one can claim to have God if he hates his brother. 1 John 4:20 says,
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
The chief priests not only rejected Jesus but also hated Him. In crucifying Him, they did not manifest the love of God. No one crucifies another out of a heart of love, regardless of how they may claim to have zeal in defending God and His honor.
John 15:25 concludes,
25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, “They hated Me without a cause.”
This prophecy comes from Psalm 69:4,
4 Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies…
This is one of David’s prophetic psalms about his own persecution that foreshadowed Christ’s crucifixion in the future. Psalm 69:21 says, “they also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” The word translated “gall” is actually poppies, or opium, which Jesus refused to drink (Matt. 27:34).
Again, Psalm 69:25 prophesied of Judas,
25 May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents.
Peter quoted this in Acts 1:20, applying it to Judas. So we see how Jesus quoted Psalm 69:4, “They hated me without a cause.” He applied it to the Jewish leaders who were about to crucify Him, motivated by hatred that did not reflect the love of God.
The chapter concludes with 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 testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
Testimony is designed to give evidence of the truth, that which a person has seen or heard. The “Helper” (parakletos) is the Holy Spirit, that is, “the Spirit of truth.” The Holy Spirit’s main role is to impart truth and to testify about Jesus, so that those who believe the truth and experience its transforming power in their lives may also bear witness to the same truth.