Love, Friendship, Hate, and Witness
John 15:12-27; Rom 1:18-21
Turn to John 15. If you have already read this passage, it is a mixture of four topics: love, friendship, hate, and witness; which is why the simple title this morning. So, let’s read through it and then we will try to understand what the Lord is sharing with His disciples.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would abide, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 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. 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. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. 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. But this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without cause.’
When the Advocate 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, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
John 15:12-27 (LSB)
How do we sort out such words in this passage such as love, friendship, and hate? And get up tomorrow and know how we are to live. I mean do you walk into work tomorrow and say, I love you everyone, Jesus has called me His friend. And everyone looks at you and says, we hate you. Is this what the Lord has in mind when He says that we are to be His witnesses? So, let’s try to sort this out as I believe we do need to realize that Jesus is speaking specifically to His disciples here, yet we can also strive to do all that He is commanding them. Because when we become believers we too become part of this privileged alliance, and because we too will face a similar opposition, and we too have the responsibility to witness for Christ. So, in this passage, I have selected four areas to study.
- A Privileged Position (John 15:12-17)
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you … You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
John 15:12, 14 (LSB)
This is a group that we have been brought into by Christ. There is no downplaying the privilege of this or trying to underestimate the responsibility of this, as there might be that tendency. Because this group obviously demands loyalty and perseverance and great effort. I mean when the gym teacher says, you have been chosen for the school soccer team. Or the drama teacher says that you have been chosen to take the lead part in the school play. Or the boss says that he has chosen you to oversee this department. Sure, it is a great honour, but it also is likely a time when we must take a deep breath and step up. Guess what, the hockey coach says, you’re on the powerplay. The music teacher says you are going to sing the solo in the concert (deep breath). And when Jesus chooses us as His followers, there ought to be the sense that wow this is great; but there also needs to be the sense of Lord, (sigh) what do I need to do? How do I need to study and prepare for this assignment? Or Lord, how much time do I need to be in prayer so that I can do this well? What parts of my life do I need to cut out to maximize my energies towards that for which You have called me to?
See, Jesus has called us, and our life pursuit is to become more and more like Him, and as He has laid down His life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for Him. Not in the same sense of course, as Christ has laid down His life for our sin so that we could live. But we are to have that mindset of giving all, of death, of dying to self. This is why Paul said such things that we are to die with Christ. And our mandate is extremely clear here.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would abide, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”
John 15:16-17 (LSB)
This is such a mark of the true branch, isn’t it? That we would be known as a people of love, of commitment, compassion and care. And this being chosen by Christ ought not to individualize us. That it might separate us as believers. No, it really should draw us together. True, each believer has been uniquely gifted, but our striving, our purpose is the same, as we are all under Christ, we are all marching to the same drum. This is why even though this morning I am preaching: there are also those greeting; those who fed a family after a funeral last week; there are those teaching children this morning; there are those who have shared this morning; there are those who were here practicing Friday night to do worship this morning; there are those who are working in the nursery; there are those who are taking a special interest in someone here this morning; there are those who are having someone over for lunch today; and others have done several things for the sake of ministry this week. Yes, all different, but all for the same cause, all for the ministry and the glory of Christ.
You know, I wonder what it might be like in heaven when much of this begins to sink in, and you look around the place that Jesus has prepared, and we think wow, Jesus you called me? Believer, this morning, don’t hide from Christ. Step up, take a deep breath, and say Lord whatever You desire from me. Lord, You want me to be baptized, I will be baptized. Lord, you want me to be part of this ministry, I will be. Lord, You want me to speak to that person, I will. Lord, You want me to do this, I will do it. For Jesus has called us into a circle of friendship to love and to give and to care, to bear much fruit, and even to be continually asking Him for more responsibility, for a deeper walk, a greater love.
You know, I was thinking about friendship, how our whole lives can change because of a friendship. On Thursday, June 17, ‘2021, I received a call from a friend I knew from Friday night hockey, Larry Teeple. On Friday, June 25, I wrote in my journal, sent my resume to Elim Bible Chapel today. On Wednesday, July 7, I wrote, meeting with the Elim elders tonight. On Wednesday, July 14, received an offer from Elim. On Saturday, July 18, I wrote, officially gave Elim a “yes.” Three days later I wrote, received a call from a church in Guelph. I guess it wasn’t from a friend. It’s true, I didn’t know anyone there, didn’t play hockey with any of those guys. And here the Saviour of the world, the Creator of all things has called us friends, has set His love upon us, calls us into His circle, and gives us an assignment, such a privileged position! To live this life of ministry, of loving others, of having a part in the divine plan of God. Don’t hide from that. It is such a privileged place. Secondly:
- A Predetermined Opposition (John 15:18-21, 23)
I think this was the hardest for me to figure out, especially just thinking of walking into that secular workplace tomorrow or that high school. As what does this mean? The world hates you. I have talked about how friendships have a way of influencing us. But this can also happen to us as we encounter unbelievers as well. When I was in my mid-twenties, I applied for a job at Cash and Carry in Chatham. It was a building material business like a Home Depot or something today. I applied and received a call from an unchristian man who asked me to come in for an interview. He had already talked to my old boss in Stratford, who too was not a believer, who told Mike if he had the chance, he would hire me again. So, I worked there for about seven years and knew a little bit about everything. Electrical, plumbing, quoting the price of a deck. You name it, I did it. I knew everything. I just didn’t do any of it myself. But I knew everything that was needed. I later got really into power tools and sold an incredible number of industrial tools to contractors who probably had no idea I had never used any of them before in my life. But I loved it.
But then Mike, my boss, was leaving as he had purchased the Beaver Lumber across town, which eventually became a Home Hardware. And he was hoping to have within the store a large kitchen sales area and asked me if I would consider going with him and heading up the kitchen cabinet department. I didn’t know anything about kitchen cabinets. So, I asked the kitchen guy at my current place, who was getting close to retirement, what he thought. And he said Mark, if I was your age and had that opportunity, I would grab it. And this older kitchen guy was another non-Christian as well, and though I was leaving, he cheered for me and wished me the best. So, I say all this to say that I was working for a non-believer. I was about to go on a new adventure with the same non-believer. I got advice from a non-believer. And I got the original job from a recommendation from a non-believer. All these men whom I would have considered friends, and who truly cared for me and wanted me to do well as a young guy. And eventually, Mike, who treated me so fairly for many more years, was a man I dearly loved and felt bad about leaving when I went into full-time ministry. And yet when Jesus speaks about the unbelieving world, He says, the world will hate you. How do we reconcile that? With these men who helped me. And what is to be my response in all this? Well, notice:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
John 15:18 (LSB)
This Greek word translated “if” could be translated “whether.” Whether the world hates you. Though in (vs 19) it is even stronger.
“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.”
John 15:19 (LSB)
Yet when we consider a verse like Romans 12:18 that says, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, being at peace with all men.” So, the assumption must be in the Romans passage that to some extent, this is possible. Why would Paul tell us to be at peace with some unbelievers if it were not possible? So here I believe is the teaching. Will everyone who is not a Christina hate us? No, for we have all had kind school teachers and encouraging sports coaches, fair bosses, and good neighbours, who have loved us and been kind to us. So, when Jesus says that the world will hate you, He is inferring the world system, the world’s mentality, the world’s philosophy. Yes, it will reject Christ, and therefore, will reject the followers of Christ. It does not mean that every individual unbeliever will hate every Christian. But it does mean that when we receive Christ we will be butting heads with the thinking and the philosophy of the world. And therefore, yes, the world will oppose us.
So, there are two extremes that we can fall into here. One is to be naïve and believe that people are generally good when they are not, and neither am I. For apart from Christ I have a natural slant to be selfish and to sin. We cannot be naïve to believe that the world has a natural attraction to Christianity, it does not. For there are forces against God that will fight tooth and nail against Christianity. By nature, the world will oppose Christian virtues and beliefs. They may make claims that there are reasons for opposing Christian ideals, but they do not need reasons, as the natural man will not accept the things of God. So, it does not matter to the world that evolution makes no sense, for the world is going to naturally gravitate to any belief that will relieve them of any kind of accountability before a supreme God. So, in some cases, we could argue for the existence of God until we are blue in the face to a university class, but unless their hearts are moved by God, they will reject it, even if the argument should make sense to them. In other words, the whole homosexual movement, transsexuals, and those who claim that some may be transitioning back and forth from male to female should make no sense to anyone. Yet because it opposes the Bible, people will gravitate to that thinking.
As the world being in opposition to faith in God is assumed throughout all the Bible. Genesis 3:15 tells us that since creation Satan’s goal is to destroy Christ. And since Satan is called the ruler of this world. The result, a predetermined, ongoing opposition to Christianity today. So yes, there is a real opposition against Christianity and against Christ. And therefore, a real opposition towards any who claim Christ. And if you do not realize that, you are naïve and not thinking about what Jesus is warning about when it says that the world will hate you.
However, though we cannot be naïve, I do not believe that the verse means that every non-believer hates the Christian. For we see many times in the Scriptures of non-believers bringing blessing to people who serve God. Even in the Old Testament context, how the chief jailor favoured Joseph. I think of how King Darius ran down to the lion’s den to make sure that God had saved Daniel because he loved Daniel. These were unbelievers who loved some of God’s children. In Colossians 4:5-6. Paul said:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, redeeming the time. Let your words always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person.”
Col 4:5-6 (LSB)
Paul would not have given us this command if being good and kind had no meaning or reason or influence. So as one extreme might to be naïve, yet another extreme is to be a Christian with a chip on your shoulder, thinking poor me, everybody hates me. That cannot be our attitude at all, for we have been given so much by Christ. And we understand that yes, we may find favour with some, but that generally the world will oppose us and our beliefs, and that many will actually hate us because of our relationship with Christ. But we have such a privileged position. The Christian should be the last one to ever have a pity party for himself, for there is no greater place to be than part of those whom the Lord has chosen to be on His team and is using for His glory. And even when we are hated and when because of our faith do not get the promotion, or the times we might be made fun of, it should remind us of the joy of being part of what our Lord experienced. Yes, a privileged position and assignment, and yes, a predetermined opposition. Leading to:
- A Powerful Witness (John 15:26-27)
“When the Advocate 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, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
John 15:26-27 (LSB)
There is work being done on two fronts here, isn’t there? Verse 26, the Holy Spirit will bear witness about Christ, and verse 27, and so will we. What an encouragement to know that as you walk into that workplace or that classroom, the Holy Spirit walks in with you. I was thinking that maybe next time you are sitting in that cafeteria and someone opposes you about your Christianity, just say to them, do you not realize that I am not alone here? That the Holy Spirit is here with me. Remember when the young David stood before the giant Goliath. And Goliath was almost embarrassed that his opposition was this small, weak kid, and he said stuff like, what are you coming at me with sticks? And David said:
“[Goliath], you come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have reproached. This day Yahweh will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the camp of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is Yahweh’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
1 Sam 17:45-47 (LSB)
So next time when that guy or gal in the cafeteria ridicules you because you are a Christian, you can say, well wait a minute buster blibby, let me tell, no, no do that! But know that inside, that when you defend God and His Word, and you determine to live for Christ and are willing to share that with others, you carry a big stick, a big stick, for the Holy Spirit is with you. And whether that person, or group, or classroom, or office agrees with you or not, know that what you have done is right and good. And even if you get completely rejected and embarrassed, may you be able to say with Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego, even if we are shot down, we will serve God.
And do not miss part of the effectiveness of this witness. Going back to the first part of the passage, we are to love. Because those folks may reject our message. But even if they do, leave with them the love of Christ. That they might realize that you dearly love them. That your words are words of hope to them. That whether they reject them or not, they sense that you want the best for them and that this is why you want them to love Christ. Because Christ has changed you, and you want Christ to change them. A powerful witness. Finally, we will notice such:
- A Poor Predicament (John 15:22, 24-25; Rom 1:18-21)
May we not miss the terrible place where these folks who have rejected Christ find themselves.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin … 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. But this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without cause.’”
John 15:22, 24-25 (LSB)
- A. Carson wrote that:
“[Jesus pointed to] the most central and controlling of sins: rejection of God’s gracious revelation, rebelling against God, decisive preference for darkness rather than light.”
- A. Carson, The Gospel According to John 526
This is a description of those who opposed Christ. And we must understand that this would include those who openly opposed Him, such as many of the Pharisees. Plus, those who were indifferent towards Him. In other words, they basically found other things in life more valuable than Christ. And those who did not come defiantly against Christ, but were just unwilling to let go of sin or life or family to follow Him. And in this case, they were able to see Christ firsthand. They saw His works and His miracles. They heard His teaching, yet quickly or eventually each turned away. Not completely unlike those today, though they have not seen Christ firsthand, nor have they walked with Him physically, but the Bible speaks of even those who have encountered Christ in other ways, who are also considered to be without excuse. Those who have sat in church and heard the truth of God’s Word, or those who have had parents who lived for Christ. It either has drawn them to Christ as Saviour and Lord or despite it, they have rejected the truth. Or for some, it has only motivated toward some kind of lip service without really serving Christ.
But what about those who have never heard? Those even in Canada today who have never been in church. And certainly, those around the world who have never heard the message of Christ. Are they without excuse? Well, the Bible teaches that they are. But how can that be true? In Romans 1:18, the Bible says that man will be judged for his suppressing of the truth. But what about those who do not have the truth? For how could someone suppress the truth that they have never heard in church or from a Christian Mom or Dad? Or have never had anyone share with them the gospel? Turn to Romans 1. I do not usually like to do this, to weigh in too heavily on another passage, but I believe it will help us understand more fully these two verses in John 15. Look at the end (vs 18), men who suppress the truth; then end (vs 20), so that they are without excuse. So how can the Bible say this and how can God do this when they do not have the truth to suppress?
It says (vs 21) that they did not glorify Him or give thanks to Him. Well how could they glorify Him and why would they give thanks to Him, if they were not aware of God? Well look carefully at (vs 21) it actually says that even though they knew God. Well no, they do not know God. But the Bible says that they did know God, even though they had not heard about Him. Verse 19, “that which is known about God is evident within them,” (vs 20) “for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, both His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen” by them. And this is why he says (vs 21) “for even though they knew God.” So, for even the one who has had no Bible teaching, no Bible exposure, (vs 19) says that God is [still] evident to them, (vs 20) His power is still clearly seen by them, and (vs 21) therefore, they did know God. Well, how could they ever know that God is the Creator and that He is divine and powerful without being told?. Well end (vs19), what does it say? God made it evident to them. That’s it! Somehow through creation, through conscience, through His image, God made it evident to them.
So, you could say to your work-mate or you could say to your neighbor, God made you, God is powerful, and give to them some of the evidence that God is divine and that He made all things. But actually it says that God has already made this evident to them. They already know this. So, when we share with them that God is the Creator and the all-powerful God of the universe. That they should fall down and worship before Him. They actually already know this, for this is the exact truth that they have been suppressing. So, when Jesus says to the crowds who rejected Him that if He had not spoken to them, they would not have sinned. He is pinpointing their core problem, that of suppressing the truth. And when Jesus said that He had done these works before, Paul in the book of Romans said that they had already seen the creation of God. The same result, they suppressed the truth. All are without excuse. For God has made His existence known to all men and women. Some directly through Christ, some through His Word, but to all through His creation.
When we read in Romans 1:19 tells us that God has made this evident to them. What does that teach us about our unsaved friends and family? It actually teaches us that they already know about God. The truth is actually already there. Now they may not know the gospel that can save them, though some would. They may not know that Christ came and died for their sin so that they could be forgiven, though some would. But there must be some way in which they know about God because the Bible says so, but because of their sin, it is being suppressed. So, the core problem is suppression. Man’s natural, inward, human rebellion against His Creator, that only the Spirit of God could ever free him from. Verse 26, “When the Advocate 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.” In closing this morning, I thought it would be good to spend a few moments praying for those we know who are in such a poor predicament, and who are suppressing this saving truth about God. So, for the next few moments, let’s pray for specific individuals whom we love, asking that many of you would pray in one or two sentences that (vs 26) the Spirit of truth might break that hardness and suppressing that heart. Someone who is without excuse that you dearly care for. Let’s hear from many of you and after you have prayed I will close. Lord, would You use the power of the Spirit of truth to break that suppression this day in the lives of those You have placed before us to bear witness to? For You are a powerful God. And all God’s people said, amen.